Mon 11 Apr 2016

Bordeaux 2015: First Impressions

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I am just back from a six-day visit to Bordeaux tasting the 2015 vintage.

Traditionally the Bordeaux châteaux and merchants open their doors to the wine trade in early April to show off the fruits of the latest vintage, and this year there was a particularly strong attendance from wine merchants around the globe, no doubt attracted by talk of the best vintage for a number of years.

View from Château Léoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien

View from Château Léoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien

I tasted several hundred wines from across the communes and appellations of Bordeaux, from Pauillac to Pomerol, Sauternes to Saint-Emilion, and from Bourg to Barsac. Many wines were tasted at the châteaux, but also at an excellent tasting organised by the Union de Grands Crus at the new stadium just outside Bordeaux, and at tastings put on by various négociants (merchants). This gave me the opportunity to taste many wines several times, a necessity when the wines are so young and can vary considerably depending on the freshness of barrel samples presented. As a result of these tastings I now feel I have a good ‘handle’ on the 2015 vintage.

What is clear is that 2015 is a very good vintage, unquestionably the best for claret since 2010. The wines have attractive balance, with perfumed bouquet, fresh, fleshy fruit and silky tannins. Whilst the wines do not have the weight of the 2009s and 2010s, they have real charm and vibrancy of fruit. French winemakers sometimes use the term ‘peps’ for wines that display freshness and vitality, and I think that the word neatly sums up the 2015 vintage.

Quality can be found at all levels in 2015, from first growths down to petits châteaux, and the wines will provide a great deal of drinking pleasure for members in the years to come.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac

The most consistent left bank wines are those of the southern Médoc, with Margaux and Saint-Julien performing particularly well. Pauillac produced some outstanding wines, but there is less consistency here (and in Saint-Estèphe) and we will be particularly selective in our purchases from the northern Médoc this year. Pessac-Léognan and Graves made some lovely wines, and our forthcoming en primeur offers will provide members with plenty of choice, both of reds and dry whites.

On the right bank, the wines of Saint-Emilion are excellent, displaying ripe merlot character, and fine tannin texture. Pomerol is slightly less consistent, but nevertheless produced some delicious wines with good ageing potential.

The vineyards of Saint-Emilion, viewed from Château Ausone

The vineyards of Saint-Emilion, viewed from Château Ausone

Finally, Sauternes and Barsac have enjoyed a very fine vintage, with plenty of noble rot, backed up with balancing freshness.

Bérénice Lurton at Château Climens, Barsac

Bérénice Lurton at Château Climens, Barsac

We will be offering an en primeur selection from top châteaux towards the end of the month, and this will be followed up with our main offer in June.

Tim Sykes
Head of Buying

Comments

  1. Dr Brian R Carson says:

    Interesting news. I look forward to receiving details of the offers when available

  2. Ewing Grainger says:

    Just created some room from my reserves in anticipation.

  3. David swindlehurst says:

    Interesting! Have you seen the article in the Times on Saturday April 9th , which was less than enthusiastic and suggested a large price hike for “underwhelming wines”

  4. John Boodle says:

    It would be useful if the top chateaux part of the offer included the opportunity of buying some of the wines in half-bottles, if possible, as I believe this has not been available previously.

  5. Hi Tim
    I’d certainly concur with your analysis on Bordeaux 2015 – real beauty and seduction in the best wines [and there’s a lot of good wines at all levels]. Margaux looks excellent, as is St Julien in parts, Pessac-Léognan very good [white & red] and some wonderful wines in St Emilion and the Bordeaux côtes [esp Castillon]. Some Pomerol’s impressive [but a little variability as you say]. Sauternes looks to have had a lovely vintage. Distinctly tricky in the Northern Médoc and St Estèphe with dilution as a result of September rains. 2014 a much safer bet there….
    Jeremy
    http://www.winewordsandvideotape.com

  6. David Froome says:

    Could you please comment on the opposing views on this vintage of “The Times'” wine correspondent expressed in his article on Page 3 of The Times dated Saturday 9th April?

  7. mark newstead says:

    I would really welcome a greater choice of half bottles for the Bordeaux en primeur offerings. You do offer a few already but a few more would be very welcome.

  8. David Beattie says:

    Like Mr Swindlehurst, I should be interested to see Mr Sykes’ comments on the Times article on 9 April and on what, if anything, may have lain behind the views expressed in it.

  9. Tim Sykes says:

    I saw the article in The Times and was slightly perplexed by the tone. I disagree with the comment that “2015 is certainly not an outstanding year” – in my view it is a very good to outstanding year, with the caveat that quality is less homogenous than in some other top vintages, as I mentioned in my comments on the vintage. Stylistically 2015 is not a vintage of deeply coloured, highly concentrated wines (unlike 2010 and 2009), but the best wines are delicious and I think members will enjoy them.

    To some extent I suspect that the article in The Times was firing a shot across the bows of the decision makers in Bordeaux to try to persuade them to take a sensible approach to pricing in 2015. We know that prices will be higher this year, but by how much it is impossible to say at this stage. With the exchange rate 10-12% less favourable this year compared with last, clearly prices are going to be at least that much higher, but it is inevitable that there will be increases in the release prices due to the fact that 2015 is superior to 2014 and any of the three preceding vintages.

  10. Jeremy Philips says:

    Jane McQuitty seems to be supporting the view that 2015 is not a good year. Why should there be such a difference of opinion amongst the experts?

  11. Malcolm Adam says:

    I second the requests for more choice of half bottles please (for Burgundy, Rhone, Tuscany etc too). Depending on vintage performance and availability, how about: Ormes de Pez/Capbern/Tronquoy; GPL; Belgrave/Moulin Riche/Croix de Beaucaillou; Brane/Giscours; Poujeaux/Chasse; Chevalier/Malartic; Berliquet/Grand Corbin Despagne; Bourgneuf/Domaine de L’Eglise; Madame de Pitray/La Dauphine/Reynon/Haura.

    Having 12 halves in reserves is more practical now that a lot of fine wines are offered in sixes: the rules on reserves withdrawal mean it is difficult to take less than 3 bottles at a time, so 12 halves give you 4 shots at enjoying wines made to evolve over time rather than 2.

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