Bordeaux 2015 - love at first sight

Bordeaux 2015 - love at first sight

Monday 29th February 2016
by Tom Jenkins

We are just back from a three day reconnaissance mission, scoping the latest Bordeaux vintage. Some Chateaux have finished their assemblage and were prepared to show us their final blend, others were more circumspect; either way, the technical directors, cellar masters and general managers we met with were all beaming about their 2015s.

We cannot claim to have tasted widely enough to give a thorough verdict on the vintage. Our team will head back to Bordeaux at the beginning of April for more comprehensive primeur tastings. But what we can tell you, based on the samples we did taste, is that 2015 is a very ‘sexy’, enticing style.

2015 is perhaps at its very best in Pomerol. Merlots here are as good as some vignerons have ever seen. Baptiste Guinaudeau of Chateau Lafleur is of this view. Alas, we were not allowed to try Lafleur, but he described it as possessing the ‘same level of concentration as the 2009, but with more charm’. We tasted at L’Eglise Clinet, a near neighbour on the plateau, and the wine was bursting with aromas of sloe and ripe Langley Bullace. Denis’ wine has a heady, aromatic and intoxicating bouquet. The palate is deep, concentrated and possesses the most wonderfully sweet mid-palate of blue fruit and plums. Although it is opulent and seductive, there is wonderful streak of acidity and glorious tannins. It is a mighty impressive Eglise Clinet.

Over on the Côte of St Emilion, the normally philosophical Francois Mitjavile was in an effervescent mood. Tertre Roteboeuf always over-performs in so called ‘challenging’ vintages, but we get the impression that Francois was quite happy with the ideal conditions in St Emilion and in the Côtes de Bourg in 2015. ‘Decadent’ often features in our notes here and 2015 is no exception. These wines are enthralling, captivating and utterly seductive.


Tasting 2015 at Montrose


On the Left Bank it is evident that there is a North South split. There will be good wines made from all the major communes, we are sure of that, however, there is no ignoring the heavy rainfall the northern-most appellations experienced during September. This may have a profound effect on the style of the wines if not necessarily the quality. By chance, we tasted wines from St Estephe, Pauillac and St Julien - all were excellent. St Estephe, which took the brunt of the rain, including one deluge of 120mm in just 24 hours may have some problems with their Merlots. The secret was to harvest as quickly as possible before the waters caused any dilution. Cabernet Sauvignon was clearly the king here. Tasting with Hervé Berland at Chateau Montrose, we were struck by the precision and beauty of the grand vin. This is an estate hell bent on quality. Their 2015 is quite exceptional, although the style is classical, precise, and serious it doesn’t have the same opulence and sweetness of fruit we found in other communes. 

Just a mile or two south at Pichon Lalande, their charming winemaker, Stephanie Danglade presented us with their 2015 next to their sensational 2014. Stephanie and Nicolas Glumineau both feel that the 2015 and 2010 are the greatest modern vintages from this noble Pauillac estate. The 2015 is hugely concentrated, sweet, and utterly engaging, however, next to the laser-like 2014, it perhaps lacked a little of the precision of its predecessor. It is a very impressive wine that bears all the hallmarks of the 2015 vintage.


Justerinis' MD, Chadwick Delaney, tasting at Leoville Poyferre with Didier Thomann. 
 
Venturing still further south into St Julien, we tasted numerous barrels from Leoville Poyferre. Didier Cuvelier along with winemaker, Didier Thomann and consultant oenologist, Michel Rolland have some excellent material to work with. The different terroirs here all lend something quite unique to the artist’s pallet. There are soft, seductive and floral Merlots that would not look out of place in Pomerol; Merlots with real power and tannin; glorious, regal Cabernets with complexity, energy and finesse and of course, the chateau’s signature Petit Verdot with its inky colour and intense notes of violets and spice. If, as is the way in Bordeaux, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, then this could really be something very special…
 
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to taste in Margaux and the Graves. Both these communes had perfect growing seasons and virtually no rain during the vendage. By all accounts these are two of the top performing appellations. We will of course form our own opinion after the UGC tastings.
 
While most 2015s do not have the power or concentration of the 2010s, we cannot recall ever tasting wines with such gloriously sweet mid-palates. It is only natural for vignerons and merchants to make comparisons. For us, there is something of the opulence and roundness of 2009, although the wines are more fragrant and prettier. They are much more charming and attractive than the 2009s at this early stage. The fruit profile is quite unlike anything we have tasted before. It is positively sweet and utterly engaging, yet there is sufficient structure and acidity to support the gloriously perfumed fruit.

 

In conclusion, there is much to be optimistic about - there will be some astonishing wines and the style will win many admirers. However, this should not be seen as a green light for prices to rocket into the stratosphere. The Bordeaux market is still relatively fragile and erroneous prices will almost certainly be met with resistance. There is a real opportunity for Bordeaux to regain its pre-eminence and cement its place amongst drinkers and collectors. We hope that common sense will prevail and this will be a campaign for clients to fall in love with Bordeaux again!

Why not read more about Bordeaux's Turnaround, the 2015 vintage here, including Tom Jenkins' teaser video.