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The power of the elements. Unique in character, Cos d’Estournel Blanc evokes the coolness of sea spray and salty sea winds whipping one’s face while also conjuring the warmth and richness of the land. A generous, lively wine, it brings to mind a slice of bread spread thickly with quince jam, a sun-drenched stall of autumn fruit or sudden recollections of the sweetest summer moments.
Full report of Bordeaux 2015 by Andrew Caillard MW “Next in line in a great series of vintages; 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2015.
2015 is a wonderful Bordeaux vintage without the hype or hysteria associated with 2009 and 2010. The wines are generally expressive and generous with wonderful concentration and structure. Given another year in barrel, the wines should gain more complexity and fruit volume. Châteaux, in all sub-regions, are enthusiastic about the beautiful fragrance, clear fruit aromas and lively energy of the wines, and believe the vintage to be the best since 2010. More than once, the expression “a vintage of the decade” was mentioned. I have tasted through most of the top wines, some on more than one occasion, and I am convinced that this is a vintage worth supporting. It’s a very successful vintage.
The weather conditions were generally ideal with perfect flowering and set for spring. A hot, dry, sunny period in June and July kept the vines in balance; Near-drought conditions resulted in excellent cluster development. Veraison (in which the grape berries change from green and hard to colored and fleshy) began towards the end of July. Light rains refreshed the canopies and hydrated the grape clusters. Cooler weather arrived in August with above average precipitation. Northern Médoc was exposed to heavy rains, but no berry splitting or significant disease pressure was reported. The cooler conditions leading up to harvest in September allowed the grapes to retain their aromatic potential and ripen relatively evenly.
Red wines from the Right Bank and the Left Bank are generally impressive in their concentration, vigor and freshness. Although all wines are tasted extremely young, it is easy to see the quality and dimension of the vintage. Merlot performed particularly well, with many Châteaux picking intermittently over a three-week window to achieve optimal freshness, flesh and maturity. Cabernet Franc, its companion in many wines, gives an attractive “tannin seam” and structural vigor. Observers are already calling it a right bank year (St Emilion & Pomerol). Ch Vieux Château Certan, described as “La Force Tranquille”, and Château Petrus were my two top Right Bank wines, followed by Château Ausone. All have a buoyancy and precision that bodes well for the future.
The southern left bank (Margaux and Pessac-Léognan) also found some beautiful concentrated wines. The alcoholic strength and tannic maturity seem to correlate with this impression. Cabernet Sauvignon, typically “needing to take its time”, produced wines of beautiful aromaticity, concentration and vitality. The success of this variety depended on the sophistication of harvesting and selection during blending. Château Margaux and Château Palmer are amazing wines. Château Haut Brion and Château La Mission Haut Brion made dense chocolate styles. Château Haut Bailly is particularly refined and nicely balanced.
At Château Batailley, the introduction of a second wine and greater attention to differentiation led to one of the best vintages in its history. Many small refinements and decisions in the vineyard and cellar have allowed several large châteaux in St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe to make beautiful wines too. The difficult selection process is particularly evident on the Left Bank. Château Margaux and Château Cos d’Estournel have chosen to rigorously defend their first wines through very careful picking and selection. Only 35% and 39% (respectively) of the harvest were dedicated to their Grand Vin. Ch Cheval Blanc de St Emilion represented 95.1% of the harvest, leaving no reason to make Petit Cheval in 2015.
The attention to detail in the vineyard, especially after the August rains, and the huge investments in optical sorting machines (costing around 200,000 euros each) at harvest ensured that the grapes were in good condition before vinification. It’s quite incredible how the fruit arrives in the cellar these days. Attention to detail has become the norm within the Grand Cru Classé community. The First Growth Estates with their huge financial investments in vineyard practices and cellars, have all produced impressive wines this year. Perhaps the most evocative of all is Château Margaux. The death of the estate's longtime winemaker, Paul Pontallier, on Easter Sunday from cancer shook the Bordeaux wine community. He was a man for all seasons. He brought out the best in his people and their wines, whatever the vintage offered. 2015 Château Margaux, in all likelihood, will be the greatest vintage in its modern history.
Despite the somber mood of this year’s En Primeurs 2015 tastings, the energy of spring brought a feeling of renewal. Buds in the vines, white and pink flowers in full bloom, pure chirping of baby birds and vibrant new wines of the vintage promised the animation and maturation of life. The colors, densities, flavors and tannic quality of the young red wines suggest a great vintage in the making. It is one of the most curious practices in the wine trade to comment on unfinished wine, but somehow the predictions become more or less right. Over the next year, the wines will develop more complexity, richness and volume in fruit barrels. The tannins, oak and fruit will integrate more.
The sweet aperitif/dessert wines of Sauternes and Barsac also performed very well. The combination of uniform maturation and optimal outbreaks of botrytis cinerea produced magnificent wines. Some are calling it the best vintage since 2001, arguably the greatest vintage in recent memory. While Ch d’Yquem looked stunning, the elegant Ch Climens style, still in many parts, will look wonderful. Typically, this wine is tasted from multiple barrels, and my notes are a composite of eight different elements. The scent, dynamism, freshness and line are incredible. Dry whites, primarily Sauvignon Blanc or Gris dominant, are refreshing styles with an appealing freshness and vibrancy. Ch Haut Brion Blanc is an amazing wine, but its release price will reflect its rarity.
Châteaux will likely bring out the vintage in two installments to capture the appetite of the global wine trade. Early bids will likely be a bit higher than last year's opening prices. This will go against the advice of traders who have been operating with very low margins for many years. The weakening of the pound sterling and the Australian dollar against the euro may be a stumbling block for some buyers, but there will be value and opportunity in this upcoming open season. For Australian buyers, this is absolutely the best way to buy Bordeaux. Provenance is guaranteed, allocations confirmed and the price will always be lower than future imports, due to the structure of the Bordeaux market.
Better market conditions in China and the United States, combined with a significant vintage both in quantity and quality, will allow Bordeaux to regain momentum after a four-year period of stagnation and uncertainty. The game of cat and mouse between the Châteaux, the merchants and the wine trade begins now. Whatever the outcome, Bordeaux will continue to be the benchmark for great wines for many decades to come. There is something completely unique, invigorating and evocative about mature Bordeaux wines. The best of 2015 will be transformative and delicious to drink. All you need is patience, moderately deep pockets, and the willingness to buy!
Margaux/ Beautiful wines with magnificent fruit density and fine, sinuous tannins. It’s been a few years since Margaux shone so brightly. Ch Margaux, Ch Palmer, Ch Rauzan Segla, Ch Rauzan Gassies, Alter Ego de Cg Palmer. Ch Pavillon Rouge, Ch Malescot de St Exupery, Ch D’Angludet, Ch Kirwan, Ch Cantenac Brown and Ch Brand Cantenac are highlights.