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    2015 Bordeaux Vintage Assessment and Tasting Notes   “The great and the merely good....”

    The day we flew back from Bordeaux a colleague said to me that he had felt a greater sense of satisfaction and optimism last year than this year. I had some empathy with his comments having been battling with my own thoughts on whether we were tasting a great Bordeaux vintage or just a very good one.

     It is, I guess, about expectation. With the 2014′s, against a rather skeptical set of early media reviews, we were pleasantly surprised to taste a vintage with some very promising wines.  Given the early pronouncements from the Bordeaux media machine, for the 2015s only the finest barrel samples would measure up.

    In 20 years of tasting Bordeaux en primeur I don’t think I have ever concluded an en primeur tasting week with this question still in doubt in my mind. Great vintages indelibly mark your memory with certainty – vintages such as 2000, 2005, 2009 & 2010. So, on balance, I guess the answer must be “no”, 2015 is not universally a ‘great’ Bordeaux vintage.

    But such is the complexity of this question, and it is probably a futile one anyway, as we know there are no great wines only great bottles so the idea of extending this generalization to the breadth of an entire Bordeaux crop is surely inappropriate.

    What we can categorically report is that some estates have produced monumental wines in 2015, and unique wines which will delight Bordeaux lovers sooner than they might have expected. Also this is a vintage which will show significant gains from barrel aging, and lift many wines from very good to great.  There is much to be optimistic about but selection remains key.

     

     Vintage characteristics

    The style of the vintage is feminine, refreshing, elegant, seductive and vibrant. These are not, on the whole, big bruising monsters though they are built to last. In the same way great Pinots seem to age for ever, longevity does not need to come from enormous structure, it comes from balance and harmony, these characteristics we found time and time again.

    Burgundian was an adjective I used of all places at Cos D’Estournel, a chateau whose wines have been known in some vintages, such as 2009, for huge concentration. The skill of a wine-making team is to retain and reflect the best characteristics of the fruit they are blessed with, having let Mother Nature do its bit with their given terroirs.

    The Merlot grape has been particularly successful benefiting most from the climatic vagaries in September and October. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were also exceptional at many estates particularly those with superior drainage and where the precipitation was less prevalent. The Right Bank and Graves regions are exceptional and with the added embellishments of a year in cask are destined for greatness. The pinnacle probably in Pomerol, VCC was a revelation. Saint Emilion is also very fine, possibly superior to 2009 at several estates, though many will ultimately fall short of the off the charts 2010.  There will be some great value to be had from lesser known estates in Saint Emilion and Pomerol as well as from the satellite communes of Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac and Cotes de Castillon.

    2010 was the benchmark year for the Graves region, and whilst it would be difficult to ascertain the same level in 2015, it could well be that this vintage will give more pleasure, in its immediacy and charm. On several occasions I had an unerring feeling that you underrate this vintage at your peril with our final visit at Chateau Haut Brion certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons, an extraordinary range!

    The Medoc is much less uniform and rarely hits the same dizzy heights. We could be witnessing however, the birth of a very fine Margaux vintage. The level is consistently very high and this is where the word homogeneity can be used.

     

     Factors affecting the style of the vintage

    2015 was overall a very dry year with hydric stress a major concern in July. August brought welcome relief, rejuvenating the water table and unblocking the evolution. By this time, when veraison, the change of colour, takes place, the berry size had already been set, small with thick skins, this is where the vintage’s tell-tale ripeness and silky textures come from.

    The harvest conditions were ideal, again generally dry with cool nights, helping shape the vintage’s freshness and aromatics. The Merlot crop would be picked in ideal conditions and at the vigneron’s leisure, aiming for optimum ripeness per plot. Many of the top chateaux now have the currency to dissect and elevate dozens of different plots independently, all helping to improve the final assemblage. At Cheval Blanc we spoke with Pierre Olivier Clouet, the technical director, who explained that they had taken practically a whole month to pick, the result being almost every plot at perfect ripeness. Each plot is fermented separately. Barrel samples of each are blended together in many different combinations and tasted blind to select which blend works best for the first and second wine. The final assemblage for the first wine, consisted of all the plots except two which were ultimately discarded and sold off in bulk. And so for the first time since 1988 there will be no second wine at Chateau Cheval Blanc, a tribute to the overall consistency and quality of the harvest.

    This is extraordinary scenario but a familiar tale in this vintage, in general the percentage of first wine was comparatively at most chateaux and so there should be good volumes.

    Two properties which stood out for me are deeply embroiled in bio-dynamic viticulture. Chateau Pontet-Canet and Chateau Palmer. Here the yields were quite low, 30 hl/ha and 37 hl/ha, this is due to the vines being allowed to find their own natural vigour. According to Jean Michel Comme, the technical director at Chateau Pontet-Canet, green harvesting, the cutting back of shoots to reduce the number bearing fruit, is an artificial way of reducing yields and sends signals to the vine roots to compensate and quicken growth. This creates a confusion and imbalance. It takes several years to correct this and it appears according to the quality of the wine here that a naturally low yield is preferable to a manipulated one. At Chateau Palmer Thomas Durroux explained that they had gradually reduced the yields over a number of years before implementing the bio-dynamic philosophy, and were happy to see the lower yields maintained.

     

    Should we buy this vintage?

    Demand for Bordeaux wines has improved this year so far, the prices have found a firm floor. Reduced and more reasonable en primeur pricing has worked acceptably well in the last three vintages, though it is too early to validate for the 2014′s which will not land until next year. With current exchange rates falling against the Sterling I suspect they will look to have been a good buy.

    There are other valid reasons to buy en primeur other than price but with the fallout from the Bordeaux wine market collapse in 2012 still fresh in the memory, leaving consumers in negative equity for their 2009′s, 10′s & 11′s, it is paramount that market prices are considered when pricing these new wines.

    We did hear some snippets of good sense on our rounds but almost unanimously talk on this subject is met with a Gallic shrug.

    The market will take an increase and I think we can expect one, 10% would be fair but 20% disappointing, any more than this with weak sterling could be regretful.

    A much increased task force was sent out to Bordeaux to taste this vintage. There were much bigger groups from the key merchants, whereas one or two  representatives had be sent to assess the wines in the previous three or four vintages, this year even the office cleaner had turned out.

    This of course sends a clear message to the chateaux. Bordeaux wines are still of great interest to merchants and their customers.

    If the wines are released at anywhere near the 2014 prices they will get snapped up and there will be an active secondary market. This is good for the trade and consumers but not for the chateaux. Many of the top chateaux will be happy to sit on these wines. We did hear that there is likely to be a very restricted first tranche, hopefully it will be sufficient to service clients who bought last year. We also heard that the Americans are primed and ready to launch…

    Given the nature of the vintage, you need a merchant who has experience in en primeur tasting and one that you can trust, both in terms of selection and the ability to ensure delivery of your purchase in 2 years’ time. We remain at your disposal to discuss any of your questions and requirements.

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    My Today

    Managing Director of the Nickolls and Perks, Will Gardener has over 30 years’ experience in the wine trade, taking the reins from father David in 2000. A broad knowledge is heightened in the traditional wine regions of Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy and a soft spot for Vintage Port has never diminished since those teenage days around the family Christmas table.

    A particular fascination with hunting out great values from these and many other French, Spanish and Italian vineyards. Outside of work, food and wine are still a great joy, as is a belligerent support of Wolverhampton Wanderers and fair weather stroll on the golf course.

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    My Yesterday

    TOP 10 WINES FROM BORDEAUX 2015

     

    Top 10 For Quality

    1. Vieux Chateau Certan – Pomerol

     80% Merlot 19% Cabernet Franc 1% Cabernet Sauvignon- 42 hl/ha

    Intense inky nose, meaty, this rolls on the tongue, very good mid-palate, round, soft, gentle, spicy, this has the acidity of the 2010. Really fine here, this has the extra dimension of the finest wines in this vintage, as per the estates own media this has ‘gentle strength’. A great VCC. Drink 2030-2060  Score: 96-99/100

    vieux-chateaux-certan

    Alexandre Thienpont – VCC

    2. Haut Brion -Pessac Leognan

    50% Merlot 8% Cabernet Franc 42% Cabernet Sauvignon

    Very deep, the nose is refined but very subtle compared to the La Mission, no hint of alcohol even though it is 14.9%! Very fresh on the palate, coating the mouth with dusty tannins as it goes, quite a sizeable block here, but supple too, massive spicy length, goes on and on, Szechuan pepper, zingy, quite brilliant, this will certainly be a candidate for wine of the vintage, and a great Haut Brion. Drink 2030-2060. Score: 96-99/100

     

    3. La Mission Haut Brion – Pessac Leognan

    58% Merlot 7% Cabernet Franc 35% Cabernet Sauvignon

    Very deep right to the rim, sweet fruit on the nose, almost toffee chocolate, wonderful aromatics, as expected great texture, full on the palate, creamy, lowish acidity but the balance overall comes through brilliantly on the finish, very long and dusty a triumph here. This comes across a bit more open and extroverted than the Haut Brion, there really is very little between them this year. Drink 2025-2050. Score: 96-98/100

     

    4. Chateaux Margaux – Margaux 

    8% Cabernet Sauvignon 8% Merlot 3% Petit Verdot 2 % Cabernet Franc – 100% New Oak

    More spice here, deep and mystifying nose, violets, cool fruit, round and seamless, not dense but there is power here, and certainly elegance, epitomizes the vintage with its gentle caress, oak showing a little, lots of chalky tannins, good minerality. The finish is very impressive. Drink 2028-2060. Score: 96-99/100

    chateau-margaux

    5. Chateaux Palmer – Margaux

    50% Cabernet Sauvignon 44% Merlot 6% Petit Verdot

    Nicely deep plum, the nose is more closed, but still revealing complexity, with a underlying richness, soft mints, the texture here is very impressive just sits and unfolds, dense, palate, very ripe tannins. This has mesmerizing and harmonious power and elegance, stands out for a Chateau Palmer and for the vintage, leaves the palate very fresh and alert. Drink 2025-50 Score: 96-99/100

    chateau-palmer

    6. Chateaux Ausone – Saint Emillion

    50% Merlot 50% Cabernet Franc – 85% New Oak – 30 hl/ha

    50-year-old vines at Ausone. Composed perfumed nose, pure and mineral, violet, earth, there is the extra density here, very mineral with lots of freshness too. It is constituently impressive, long spiced finish, a calm wine, linear, will evolve beautifully I suspect. Leaves a real buzz on the finish. Femininity and elegance. Drink 2030-2060  Score: 96-99/100

    chateaux-ausone

    7. Chateaux Angelus – Saint Emillion

    62% Merlot 38% Cabernet Franc

    Very deep colour, lovely intense creamy nose, blueberry, pure and focused, cool fruit, plump big style coating the mouth with plenty of chalky tannins, pain grille, typical of the chateau, it carries well very long. Complex. This is quite extracted compared to some, but the plentiful tannins are very ripe. Reminds me of the brilliant 2005, but it might be even better. Drink 2030-2050 Score: 95-98/100

     

    8. Chateaux L’Eglise Clinet – Pomerol

    90% Merlot 10% Cabernet Franc – 70% New Oak

    Great colour, the nose is bigger than the Petite as you would expect, very pure focused fruit coming through, hints of rose petal and violet, deep dark and exciting, black cherry coming through too, this is a big boy, dense and full, fresh with chalky tannins, textured, serious, savoury and toasty layers unfolding on the finish, for the long haul. Drink 2028-2050. Score: 95-97/100

     

    9. Chateaux Mouton Rothschild – Pauillac

    82% Cabernet Sauvignon 16% Merlot 2% Cabernet Franc 

    Full plum, tight nose with a touch of loganberry, perfumed, vanilla, really elegant and subtly composed, very mouton here strict and layered, soapy perfume on the finish, very ripe dusty tannins, very fine this year, an excellent Mouton. Great length spicy tobacco. Drink 2030-2050. Score: 95-98/100

     

    10. Chateaux Leoville Lascases – Saint Julien

    85% Cabernet Sauvignon 6% Merlot 9% Cabernet Franc – 85% New oak

    Very deep colour, the nose is inky, meaty great Cabernet perfume, minerality, lovely deep blackcurrant fruit, minty earthy, covering the tannins and alcohol with ease, good ripe tannins. Very deep and concentrated, with a remarkable finesse. A fine result and one of the most elegant wines of the vintage, coupling the easy seduction of this vintage with the power of one of the Medoc’s finest terroirs. Score: 95-98/100

     

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    My Tomorrow

    Top 10 2015 Bordeaux Value For Money

     

    1. Chateaux Canon – Saint Emillion

    72% Merlot 28% Cabernet Franc

    Lovely deep colour, perfumed nose, smoky, inky, layered, great mouthfeel, overtly unctuous, very nice balance, very nice all round feeling, lots of dusty tannins, on the finish, very fine with great length. This is lush, but it will live long too, fine balance. This Chateau is back on form, last year was a great success too. Drink 2028-2050. Score: 95-98/100

    chateaux-canon

    2. Chateaux Clos Fourtet - Saint Emillion

    Great colour as deep as any, lovely elegant nose, red fruit compote serious and enticing, lovely ample ripe fruit here, textured, oaky, structured but balanced, this is a very fine effort and fine for the vintage. Clos Fourtet has made some exceptional wines and this is potentially as good as any. Drink 2030-2060. Score: 95-97/100

     

    3. Chateaux Clinet – Pomerol

    Fresh fruit on the nose, pure, touch of redcurrant, plenty of generosity on the palate, this is singing, the fruit is the dominant, dusty chalky finish too plenty of potential a fine Clinet. Drink 2025-2050. Score: 95-97/100

     

    4. Domaine de Chevalier – Pessac Leognan

    Lovely deep purple colour. Nicely composed, complex nose, high toned notes, real class and elegance, lovely cool fruit, this is fine, the sweetness on the palate is exciting. The best wines just have extra layers of silky fruit in the mid-palate. This is a very fine Chevalier, I am feeling it is the best I have ever tasted en primeur! Drink 2025-2050. Score: 93-96/100

     

    5. Chateau Rauzan Segla – Margaux

    63% Cabernet Sauvignon 33% Merlot 3% Petit Verdot 1% Cabernet Franc

    Good deep colour, delicately perfumed nose, nice and complex, silky texture,  really round and refined here, great length this is quite lovely and has an extra but of everything to make it special. A definite buy if the price is reasonable. Drink 2025-2050. Score: 93-96/100

     

    6. Chateau Carmes Haut Brion – Pessac Leognan

    Very deep colour almost black, quite a hit on the nose here, lots of tarry cassis and creamy concentration. The palate is very unctuous, holding well, the fruit is undeniable, fine ripeness, lots of spice on the finish, long and impressive. The acidity is a bit lower but the balance fine. The best Carmes Haut Brion tasted to date. Drink 2024-2040. Score: 93-96/100

     

    7. Chateaux Moulin Saint Georges – Saint Emillion

    80% Merlot 20% Cabernet Franc – 85% New Oak – 35 hl/ha

    Quite rich on the nose, broad, creamy vanilla, this is up a gear in the range, the fruit holds well against the structure, keeping it all going well into the chocolate tinged finish, this is a fine Moulin Saint Georges, the best for many years and a definite buy. The lower yield could be key here. Drink 2025-2040. Score: 91-93/100

     

    8. Chateaux Gloria – Saint Julien

    Very deep colour, intense creamy cassis nose, this is broad and concentrated on the nose, cool and textured fruit here, has good density and ripeness, long and toasty finish this is very good for the chateau and potentially one of the best value wines. Drink 2024-2040. Score: 92-94/100

     

    9. Chateaux Dame de Montrose

    55% Cabernet Sauvignon 41% Merlot 4% Petit Verdot

    Deep Purple, Lovely fresh and enticing nice, lots of spicy plummy fruit, this is impressive very full, loose knit but unctuous stuff. Plump easy and quite a big wine, and surely excellent for a second wine, could be great value. Drink 2021-2030. Score: 90-92/100

     

    10. Chateau Labegorce – Margaux

    Nice deep plum. Touch higher toned, red fruits, nice plump palate, this is deft on the balance, good finish too a great result. An affordable wine and a good keeper, we enjoyed 2001 and magnums of 2003 in Bordeaux, both showed well. Drink 2020-2032. Score: 90-92/100

     

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Will Gardener / Nickolls & Perks, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  24 Wines  from  20 Producers 

Salon 2004 / The colour is surprisingly deep, golden glints, very fast fine bead. The nose is quite light, a hint of lime and cashew nut. It comes accross immediately streamlined, with nothing poking out. Very mineral too. Leaves the palate slowly disyfering the complexity. I feel like this will evolve quite quickly. The texture is impressive too, there is no loss of concentration in what was a big vintage in Champagne. I love the subtlety and serenity in this wine. Beautifully long and elegant. This will be very hard to leave alone. 95-97p

20d 2h ago

Will Gardener / Nickolls & Perks, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  17 Wines  from  15 Producers 

Château Duhart-Milon 2016 / Great deep colour, soy, irony inky-edged nose, lovely perfume, touch of earth and black cherry, the initial impact is salty minerality, this quite tight knit with plenty of fine grained spicy tannins, the oak is apparent too, white pepper, this is a big traditional style seems to lack a little of the plumpness of some, quite linear with plenty of muscle and power. That is Duhart...

2m 12d ago

Will Gardener / Nickolls & Perks, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  35 Wines  from  33 Producers 

2015 was overall a very dry year, with hydric stress a major concern in July. August brought welcome relief, rejuvenating the water table and unblocking the evolution. By this time, when veraison (the change of colour) took place, the berry size had already been set – small with thick skins. This is where the vintage’s tell-tale ripeness and silky textures come from.

The harvest conditions were ideal, again generally dry with cool nights, helping shape the vintage’s freshness and aromatics. The merlot crop would be picked in ideal conditions and at the vigneron’s leisure, aiming for optimum ripeness per plot. Many of the top châteaux now have the means to dissect and elevate dozens of different plots independently, all helping to improve the final assemblage. At Cheval Blanc we spoke with the technical director Pierre Olivier Clouet, who explained that they had taken practically a whole month to pick, with the result being almost every plot at perfect ripeness.

Each plot is fermented separately. Barrel samples of each are blended together in many different combinations and tasted blind to select which blend works best for the first and second wines. The final assemblage for the first wine consisted of all the plots except two that were ultimately discarded and sold off in bulk. And so for the first time since 1988 there will be no second wine at Château Cheval Blanc, a tribute to the overall consistency and quality of the harvest.

This is extraordinary scenario but a familiar tale in this vintage. In

general the percentage of first wine was comparatively high at most

châteaux and so there should be good volumes.

5m 13h ago

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2015, Château Haut-Brion
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion 2015, Château La Mission Haut-Brion
Les Pagodes de Cos 2015, Château Cos d'Estournel
Goulée by Cos d'Estournel 2015, Château Cos d'Estournel
Le Petit Lion 2015, Château Léoville-Las Cases
Clos du Marquis 2015, Château Léoville-Las Cases
Le Marquis de Calon-Ségur 2015, Château Calon-Ségur
Château Carbonnieux 2015, Château Carbonnieux
Château Brane-Cantenac 2015, Château Brane-Cantenac
Château Talbot 2015, Château Talbot
Château Gloria 2015, Château Gloria
Château Rauzan-Gassies 2015, Château Rauzan-Gassies
Château Ferriere 2015, Château Ferriere
Château Labegorce 2015, Château Labegorce
Château Desmirail 2015, Château Desmirail
Château Giscours 2015, Château Giscours
Château Dauzac 2015, Château Dauzac
Château de France 2015, Château de France
Angélique de Monbousquet 2015, Château Monbousquet
Château Bouscat 2015, Château Bouscat
Château La Tour-Martillac 2015, Château La Tour-Martillac
Le Dragon de Quintus 2015, Château Quintus
Potensac 2015, Château Potensac
Château Lalande-Borie 2015, Château Lalande-Borie
Chäteau La Clotte 2015, Château La Clotte
Château Haut-Bergey 2015, Château Haut-Bergey
Château Rahoul 2015, Château Rahoul
Château Haut-Simard 2015, Château Haut-Simard
Château Fonbel 2015, Château Fonbel
Château Chantegrive 2015, Château Chantegrive
Château La Chenade 2015, Château La Chenade
Château les Cruzelles 2015, Château les Cruzelles
Château Capbern 2015, Château Capbern
Château Saint Pierre 2015, Château Saint Pierre
Château Monbrison 2015, Château Monbrison

Will Gardener / Nickolls & Perks, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  12 Wines  from  2 Producers 

"We were delighted to host Anthony Barton for a tasting of some magnificent examples of Châteaux Léoville-Barton and Langoa-Barton.

Anthony’s inimitable style is witty and informative, as well as being gently self-deprecating."

2y 4m ago

Will Gardener / Nickolls & Perks, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  5 Wines  from  1 Producers 

"The seventh generation proprietor of Angélus began his dedicated life’s work in 1980, taking the reins in 1985.

Monsieur de Boüard talked candidly and modestly. Approaching his 35th vintage, he described himself as primarily a farmer rather than a wine maker.

His incredible knowledge and enthusiasm has seen him take on several other successful international winemaking ventures, in Lebanon, Spain, Italy, South Africa, and Thailand. His consultancy work within France is formidable and he has been active within several wine governing bodies in Saint-Émilion and Bordeaux, including INAO and the UGC.

However, it is surely the success of his family's estate under his tenure that is his most remarkable accomplishment. Angélus was promoted in 1996 to Premier Grand Cru and then promoted again in 2012, joining Ausone, Cheval Blanc, and Pavie as Premiers Grands Crus Classés A.

Hubert explained that though the Merlot grape is dominant in percentage terms it is the Cabernet Franc that is the signature of Château Angélus. It thrives in warm vintages with its inate ability to naturally moderate alchohol. It prefers a soil with less clay than Merlot. Hubert cited the difference between the two great Pomerols Pétrus (100% Merlot on clay) and Lafleur (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc): “This is a grape variety that is black and white, either brilliant or hopeless. You have to crop it low. With Cabernet Sauvignon you can make decent wine at 40 or 50 hl/ha, but not with Cabernet Franc, 30 hl/ha at most."

As a pupil of Emile Peynaud, Hubert talked about seeking harmony and quoted Emile: "When looking for a house there are three important requirements: location, location, and location. When you are intent on making a fine wine again you should look three components: harmony, harmony, and harmony.""

2y 5m ago

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