Bordeaux 2015: The Vintage Report
There is nothing as dull as a thorough day by day metrological account of a vintage, so we’ll spare you the details and stick to the salient points. A cold winter preceded an early and rapid budburst; aided by the ‘strongest, longest and broadest spring anticyclone on record’. A warm period at the end of May and beginning of June resulted in a fast and ‘efficient’ flowering. All was going perfectly according to plan, although a worrying lack of precipitation was beginning to cause some concern.
Now came the heat… June and July were both exceptionally hot and dry. Initially the vines coped well with what transpired to be the 4th hottest July in 100 years, but eventually some vines, particularly on the more porous soils began to suffer hydric stress. To the relief of everyone, especially those with forest fires approaching their properties - August provided some welcome showers and cooler conditions. Véraison was completed by the second week of August, the earliest in Bordeaux since the 2009 vintage. So far so good…
Up to this point there wasn’t much to pick between the various communes of Bordeaux. September reshuffled the deck. A deluge in the northern Medoc, on the weekend of the marathon (12th and 13th) changed the potential in St Estephe. Most estates recorded over 100mm in little over a 24 hour period. The rains were localised and petered out as they moved further south, to the point that there was little to no rain even in St Julien and Margaux. The Right Bank was unscathed. Baptiste Guinaudeau recounts how he saw ominous black clouds to the west and feared the worst, but the rain never materialised. Following the mid-September depression, fine weather returned with cool nights and sunny days (Sept 20th-1st Oct). There were some sporadic downpours in the Medoc on the 3rd and 4th of October, but by in large there was a relaxed atmosphere and no real sense of urgency.
As one vigneron appositely pointed out, the 2015 vintage had everything in perfect measure, but not necessarily in the normal order. July made the must and August’s rains revived a crop under severe hydric stress. It was unconventional, but it worked, and the proof is in the tastings. The northern Medoc certainly had the most difficult harvest. The wines here are often good, but lack the opulence and concentration of more southerly communes and the Right Bank. The difference between St Estephe and neighbouring Pauillac is quite staggering. Wines such as Mouton Rothschild, Lynch Bages and Pichon Lalande display no signs of dilution – these are hugely impressive wines. Further south in St Julien, wines such as Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Las Cases and Leoville Barton have clearly succeeded. The Margaux appellation is as inconsistent as always. The conditions were favourable, yet some estates just can’t get it right… Chateau Margaux is a clear contender for wine of the vintage. Palmer, Rauzan Segla and Brane Cantenac are all excellent. Pessac Leognan is another blessed region in 2015, although not all chateaux have coped with the conditions. The Haut Brion and La Mission range is quite stunning, and there are strong performances from Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Haut Bailly and the superb Picque Caillou.
And over on the Right Bank there were more than a few success stories: Lafleur, Petrus, Cheval Blanc and Ausone are all possible wines of the vintage. There are also sensational showings from Canon, VCC, Eglise Clinet, Evangile, Tertre Roteboeuf, La Fleur Petrus, Figeac, Angelus, Le Dome and Roc de Cambes. Some commentators may be tempted to say this is a Right Bank and Graves vintage, or Right Bank, Graves and Margaux vintage, however, we feel that it is slightly more complex. It is not another 1998. Yes there are many outstanding wines in Pomerol and St Emilion, and there are also one or two disappointments. And unlike 1998, the Medoc is actually very strong. There are some more ‘classical’ wines from parts of Pauillac, St Estephe and the far north, but these are high quality wines. Some Pauillacs and St Juliens are amongst the best wines of the vintage. So it is another Bordeaux vintage, a vintage where the best estates on the best terroirs have made the finest wines.
Our buying team has compiled a list of their favourite wines of the vintage. There are two categories: ‘money no object’ (purely based of quality), and ‘best value’ (offering excellent value for money and expected to be under £500/12)
Money No Object:
Lafleur, Petrus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Evangile, Eglise Clinet, La Fleur Petrus, Tertre Roteboeuf, Pensees de Lafleur, Chapelle d’Ausone, Vieux Chateau Certan, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Lalande, Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Las Cases, Palmer, Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Le Dome, Beauséjour Duffau Lagarrosse, Angelus and Yquem.
Best Value (likely to be sub £500/12 and offering excellent QPR):
Domaine de Chevalier, Picque Caillou, Smith Haut Lafitte, Roc de Cambes, Grand Village, Acte 7, Canon, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Gazin, Reynon, La Chenade, Montlandrie, Les Cruzelles, Petite Eglise, L’If, Grande Maye, Teyssier, Lafleur Gazin, Cantemerle, Reserve de la Comtesse, Croix de Beaucaillou, Capbern, Ormes de Pez, Lafon Rochet, Gruaud Larose, Gloria, Leoville Barton, Grand Puy Lacoste, Haut Batailley, Rauzan Segla, Brane Cantenac, Lacoste Borie, de Malle and Petit Védrines.