A summary of the Bordeaux Primeurs
Bordeaux 2015: Day 1
Been up since 5.30 and it’s now past midnight! Exhausting day’s tastings. 8 am L’Evangile, 8.45 Nenin, 9.15 Syndicat Pomerol, 10.15 Syndicat St Emion, 11.00 Pavie, 11.30 Ausone, 12.30 Baguette in a St Emilion boulangerie, drive to Barsac to arrive at Climens at 3.00, 3.45 Yquem, 4.30 UCGB tasting of 26 Sauternes, 7.30 dinner at Ch. Fieuzal and who turns out to be the owner? Lochlan Quinn, who used to be one of our best customers when we had Mijanou restaurant! What a joy! Dinner with lots of vignerons, plying us with their wines.
What’s the verdict on the 2015s? A bit early to tell but generally the wines are the best since 2010 and in some caees may exceed them. Standards are high in more than 80% of the wines I tasted. However you can bet that prices won’t go down! We wait with bated breath as to how much they are going to go up, but I expect demand will be high. As there is not a lot of difference in the quality of the bulk of the wines, in relation to their standing, it’s best to seek out those who are not going to be too greedy with price hikes. More on this tomorrow.
Day 2 of Bordeaux Tastings
The morning at the football stadium to taste 60 wines from Graves, St Emilion and Pomerol, then to taste 10 wines from the house of Moueix in Libourne, then on to Vieux Chateau Certan, Petrus and Cheval Blanc. Standards were generally high with very few duds although some of the top wines did not show better than some of those who were supposed to be beneath them. For me the star of the day was La Fleur Pétrus, a seemless balance of fruit, acidity, elegance and power. Not far behind was the Vieux Château Certan. I repeat once again, there is not a lot between the majority of these wines – standards are high and I suspect prices will rise. When choices have to be made, prices will have a big influence because I think that making choices to buy from tose chateaux who have not been too greeedy will psy off.
Bordeaux 2015: It’s day 3 now
Wednesday morning and it’s time to taste 59 wines from the Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Margaux, St.-Julien, Pauillac and St. Estèphe. It’s now time to assess what we have tasted over the last few days and try to start to get a general impression. With a few more top châteaux to visit in the Médoc, I think that it’s fair to say this is going to be a very good vintage to buy. It’s one of those vintages where it has been hard to make bad wine, but of course, some have succeeded in doing so, but on the whole good to very good wine has been made and some wines are even outstanding. In addition, some perenniel under-achievers have managed to make very acceptable wines. The reason for this is because of the extreme weather conditions experienced during the growing season and everything turning round for the good at exactly the right moment. A wet August injected vigour into the vines which were suffering from extremely dry conditions in July. A huge storm in the middle of harvest on September 16th was immediately followed by a hot dry wind from Africa, which completely saved the crops from rot and this dry weather continued tight up until the middle of October producing ideal conditions for picking ripe, healthy grapes.
We started our journey at Léoville-las-Cases where we tasted Châteaux Potensac, Clos de Marquis, Ch. Léoville-las-Cases and their second wines. All were approachable with the exception of the Grand Vin which as usual, was very austere and would certainly need cellaring for a long time. On to Pichon Lalande, where both the grand and second wines were in keeping with the style of the vintage. Across the road to Pichon Baron to taste a selection from their vineyards – all good but the Grand Vin was outstanding – it had eveything – finesse, elegance, harmony, power and length – an absolute 5 star wine.
On to Ch. Lafite to taste their offerings. Duhart-Milon was better than in most years but both the Carrudes and the Grand Vin were good but perhaps did not come up to my expectations
From Lafite a great visit to Cos d’Estournel to taste their range. Another exciting range where they have managed to achieve wines with balance and harmony with the Grand Vin almost reaching the heights of the Pichon Baron
Onwards to Ch. Montrose whose first and second wines showed good balance but the surprise of the tasting here was the excellent showing of the minor Château owned by the same owners, Ch. Tronquoy Lalande, which showed great harmony and finesse. Although the owners have spent a fortune renovating the château when they bought it in 2006, prices remain relatively modest and if they don’t hike the prices too much in this campaign, it could well be one of the drinking bargains of the vintage.
Finally today, a trip to Ch. Latour, where we tasted Pauillac, Forts de Latour and the Grand Vin 2015 and the newly released Pauillac 2010, (€60 ex cellars), Forts de Latour 2009 (€180 ex cellars) and Ch. Latour 2000 (€680 ex cellars). The older wines were very good. Whether tou can afford them is another matter, but the 2015s were really top class. I have never tasted Ch. Latour en primeur before showing such delicacy and finesse. It certainly vied with Pichon Baron for the highlight of the day.
Onwards tomorrow with more tastings in the Médoc and in the Graves. We have seen some excellent and some not so excellent wines today, but standards are generally well above average. This is certainly the best vintage since 2010, but I am inclined to call it a good rather than a great one. i’ll come to a final decision tomorrow
Bordeaux Primeurs: Day 4
It’s another 5.30 wake up call to get from the centre of Bordeaux to the first tasting at Calon Segur in Sainte-Estèphe by 8 am. Only stopping for a pain chocolat and a croissant on the way, we got there on the dot. The three wines we tasted were very much in character with the nature of the vintage – elegance with a little austerity, but with the Ch. Calon Segur showing that much more complexity.
Onwards to Mouton Rothschild where Armailhac, Clerc Milon and Petit Mouton displayed harmonious characteristics with the Grand Vin standing head and shoulders above them with that extra bit of power and body.
Onwards to Ch. Palmer where both Alter Ego and Palmer itself were in top form. If anything, they were closer together in style as I have ever seen. Both of them are going to turn out to be very fine wines indeed.
The next stop was at Ch. Margaux ŵhere the tasting facility was held in their new cellar, a magnificent building designed by Richard Rogers. Here both the Pavillon (second wine) and the Grand Vin showed excellent finesse, whilst rhe Pavillon Blanc was nice and fruity.
A long drive now through the showers to the south of Bordeaux, to Ch. Haut Bailly – a long time favourite. Here the wines were once again very harmonious without being outstanding, but certainly won’t disappoint. Finally a trip into the suburbs of Bordeaux to visit Ch. Haut Brion. Here by contrast, the wines made this year were extremely sturdy and had a more traditional tone to them. They were also a good degree or so higher in alcohol than their peers (except perhaps for Léoville-las-Cases) and will certainly need more time to become drinkable. The quartet of La Chapelle, Le Clarence, La Mission and the Grand Vin itself exudes power, but there is an underlying harmony to them all. Their (relatively) new estate in Saint Emilion, Quintas, is powerful and complex and its second wine, Le Dragon de Quintas, is smooth and harmonious which shows the great progress being made from the acquisition of two contiguous rather tired estates in the appellation.
Well, thats it for the day. Tomorrow I will sum up and draw my conclusions on the vintage. Yours of the purple tongue, Neville
Bordeaux 2015 Day 5: The last tasting and conclusions
Perhaps I have left the best tasting until last. A visit to Ch. Teyssier to taste with Jonathan Maltus is always an event and this was no exception. Teyssier itself, now running at 15,000 cases a year was fatter and rounder than in the past and La Forge displayed harmonious black fruit flavours. Le Carré characterised the chunkyness of its thick clay terroir., whilst the neaby Les Astéries epitomised the finesse of its lighter soils Vieux Ch. Mazerat was classy, smooth and balanced whilst top wine Le Dôme (80% Cabernet Franc) had the longest finish of all the wines that I tasted this week.
So what are the conclusions of the week? Certainly this was thr best vintage since 2010, but amost certainly behind 2010, 2009 and 2005. The weather was generally extremely cooperative with the making of good wine with the extremes cancelling each other out at precisely the right moment to reverse disasters and to enhance quality. General standards were high and in fact it was difficult to choose what was best as around 80% of the wines had little between them. Accordingly, it’s going to be best to wait for the prices (which for sure won’t go down) and to choose the wines for drinking that will be priced less greedily. I get the feeling that prices will trickle out slowly and it may not be until June or July before we know what going to be good value for money., maybe these?
I’m not going to give out detailed tasting notes or even scores, it’s pointless trying to score barrel samples which have been hurriedly put together for the tasting of the primeurs when they could finish up bearing no resemblance to what eventually appears in the bottle. However, I’ll just give you a litle list of my top picks in their class, but do bear in mind that they may bear no resemblance to what I tasted this week in two years time..
Left Bank: Pichon Longueville Baron, Margaux, Lafite, Tronquoy-Lalande, Clos du Jaugueyron. Right Bank: La Fleut Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, L’Evangile, Domaine Simon Blanchard au Champ, Certan de May, Vieux Ch. Mazerat, Le Dôme. Sauternes and Graves: Climens, Rayne Vigneau, Pape Clément, Haut Brion.
Really, we shold all be tasting these wines in two years time after they have been bottled and then compare them with the tasting notes we did en primeur. The problem is that the traditional negociant system which has been in place on the Bordeaux market ensures that the château owners get their money up front, leaving the negociants to either be holding stock in poor years, or whacking up the prices in the good years. Whichever way, the château owners can’t lose and have become extremely rich without carrying any risk. Just look at the palatial loo at Ch. Latour, which is bigger than my hotel room!
Perhaps the most sensible tasting was at Climens, where Bérénice Lurton took samples from several barriques to show us the elements of each parcel before blending. Here’s a little part of it and maybe that’s the way to go in the future.