Bordeaux 2015: Beauties and the Beast

Bordeaux 2015: Beauties and the Beast

Saturday 10th March 2018
by Tom Jenkins

Not even the ‘Beast from the East’ could dampen spirits at our annual Bordeaux tasting. Our stoic growers packed their finest winter woollies and put on another great show.

The Royal Society of Chemistry in Burlington House played host for the 2015s, and for those, and there were many, who braved the snow, were treated to a spectacular selection from this luxurious vintage. There were star wines wherever you looked, the sumptuous Calon Segur proved that those who wrote off St Estephe were a little hasty – this was packed with charming sweet fruit and rippled with muscle. Domaine de Chevalier was gloriously decadent and polished, the Mouton brace of d’Armailhac and Clerc Milon were a sheer joy, brimming with lavish fruit, they are glorious expressions of this vintage.

Pichon Comtesse and Grand Puy Lacoste provide more classical examples of 2015. Both are unmistakably Pauillac with notes of violets and pure crème de cassis, but the plushness and the generosity of the vintage are found on the mid-palate and on the silky tannins. During our primeur tastings we were struck by the successes at Beychevelle and Brane Cantenac, so we were delighted that Romain Ducolomb and Marie Hélène Dussech were able to present their sensational wines to our guests. It really feels like there’s been a renaissance at these chateaux and they are now consistently achieving the potential of their terroir.

As it has already been well documented, two of the most successful communes in 2015 were St Emilion and Margaux, and the Wertheimer brothers have a foot in both appellations. Nicolas Audebert has inherited the keys of Rauzan Segla and Canon from John Kolasa and in his first full vintage in charge has produced two of the standout wines of 2015. There was a scramble to get these wines en primeur and there was almost a stampede to get to these samples… They certainly live up to their billing - plush, refined, nuanced and effortlessly graceful; those lucky enough to have these in the cellar can be well pleased!

Our Right Bank room included the 100 point Belair Monange, the outstanding Vieux Chateau Certan, the grandiose L’Eglise Clinet and the sensational range from the Guinaudeau family. It is recognition if it were needed of the Moueix family’s hard work at Belair Monange. Since their very first vintage in 2008, we’ve been admirers; the 2015 confirms its status amongst the elite St Emilions. Guillaume Thienpont presented Vieux Chateau Certan and the mighty impressive Gravette de Certan 2015. Both were beautiful expressions of their noble terroir and the vintage conditions; they were fragrant, perfumed examples with a plushness, but nothing excessive.

Constance Durantou was back by popular demand. Denis’ wines always cause excitement and usually a bit of chaos such is the scrum to get to the table. We decided to just show Montlandrie, the family’s estate high up on the hills above Castillon and the grand vin, L’Eglise Clinet. Montlandrie has moved into another gear since Denis’ plantings have been incorporated into the blend. The 2015 is sensational, and we’re pleased to report that the 2017 is even better!

And finally, but by no means least Baptiste and Julie Guinaudeau calmly presented their whole range, unflustered by the jostling for their wines, seamlessly pouring and conversing with a legion of enthusiasts. Grand Village red and white were the most humble wines in either room, however, they were not remotely out of place. They may hail from a modest commune, but the winemaking and attention to detail is first class. The seventh incarnation of Acte is the best to date, well it was until the Acte 8 came along. Anyway, the lucky number 7 is enchanting. On one level it is packed with joyous fruit and a pure cashmere texture, but look a little closer and you start to see the hallmarks of Lafleur and the massale selection Bouchet vines that now form a sizeable part of the blend. As a finale, it seemed fitting to end with Pensees and Lafleur, two of our favourite wines of 2015. After a string of vintages where Cabernet Franc was the most successful varietal, Merlot came back in style. You have all the wonderful aromatics and lift that we expect from these unique Bouchet clones with the voluptuousness and texture of outstanding Merlot – a real treat for all!

Enormous thanks to all our friends from Bordeaux for enduring the Siberian weather and presenting their outstanding wines with such charm and good humour.