Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bordeaux En Primeur 2015 Vintage - Day 1

Tasting at Châteaux Lascombes!
Greetings from Bordeaux! After tasting ~100 wines and driving all over the Left Bank châteaux and vineyards on a blessedly sunny day, I'd like to share with you my first day of the Bordeaux En Primeur 2015 vintage preview. These are wines not yet released, so it is incredibly exciting to not only taste them to assess quality and potential, but also to visit these historic and beautiful châteaux.

Updates: Please find my more frequent updates on Twitter @SusanRLin (also @BelmontWine). I'll post my blog reports as often as I can, if I'm not completely exhausted!

About Offerings from Belmont Wine Exchange: (Obligatory note, as I am here on behalf of Belmont Wine Exchange to scope out the best!) Because these wines aren't yet released, I won't know exactly what wines and quantities we at Belmont Wine will be able to offer our customers, but that's also why I'm here - to visit the great people at the châteaux and to collaborate with our trusted negotiants to work on hopefully obtaining some allocations for these wonderful wines. The release campaign will likely run through June, and we'll have a much better idea of what we'll be able to procure for the 2015 vintage in the coming weeks.

Appellations Tasted and Visited So Far:

  • Preview of All Appellations (Right & Left Bank) - Warehouse tasting
  • Saint-Estèphe 
  • Pauillac
  • Saint-Julien
  • Margaux

Bordeaux 2015: "Two Vintages In One"
This is what Etienne de Nantes from Cos d'Estournel said to me when I visited, as a preamble to our tasting. 2015 is shaping up to be very interesting, as it was not only hot and dry during the the growing season, it was very wet and rainy just when there were fears that the vines might suffer too much stress from the drought. This was a godsend, although the weather fluctuations affected the appellations and vineyards differently. And of course, each wine has been created in its own way that shapes the character of the final wine. This might explain some of the wines that were slightly on the unbalanced side - outsized, muscular behemoths with huge tannins and taut acidity, but strangely thin on the fruit. So far I've found this incongruence in only a few wines from Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien. But when growers and winemakers got it right, the results are spectacular.

Bordeaux 2015 => Ripe Cherries?
Thus far from my tastings, these 2015 Bordeaux wines are largely characterized by all kinds of cherries: Red to black, and very ripe - kirsch, in many cases. Plums, also. This is unusual for Left Bank Bordeaux given most are Cabernet Sauvignon dominant and the classic profile is dark fruits (blackberry, blackcurrant), with some vegetal (bell pepper, tomato leaf) and earthy elements (tobacco). That said, there was one surprise standout for The Classic Bordeaux Left Bank blend - Saint-Pierre from Saint-Julien - more on that below!

Best Appellation So Far: Margaux
So far, the most consistent appellation showing most beautifully is Margaux. There were no "stinkers" in any of the appellations I tasted the first day, but a few wines definitely lacked the fruit concentration to fill out the big, weighty bodies and enormous tannins (my teeth and lips were getting stuck together) to improve over the years.

The outstanding wines showed, already in their youth, a remarkable approachability and yet possessed the structure to improve and gain complexity in years to come. In other words, they are drinking beautifully in youth - expansive, generous, silky, perfumed - yet have the acidity, tannins, and alcohol in balance to allow the wine to last a long time and gain even more character.

Standout Wines: Here's what I'm really excited about! These are drinking beautifully and will last.

  • Cos d'Estournel (Saint-Estèphe): Lightly leathery but elegantly so. Very smooth, with white pepper on the mid-palate and staying on the finish with ripe red cherries. Fine-boned but assertive. 
  • Lascombes (Margaux): Bursting with ripe cherries, kirsch, vanilla with an astonishing depth. There is a freshness and silkiness that makes it attractive now, but it will gain even more poise and smoothness in the future as the massive fruit and body integrate.  
  • Rauzan-Ségla (Margaux): Very soft and fruit-driven on the palate, very expressive with finessed perfume tinged with vanilla. Ripe cherries and kirsch, boysenberry and a long, beautiful finish. Soft but structured, lifted and perfumed. 
  • Léoville Poyferré (Saint-Julien): Plush yet focused, cherries and kirsch with a frisson of something excitingly metallic. Big tannins are still young and grippy but integrate well; there is plenty of fruit to improve and to last. 
  • Saint-Pierre (Saint-Julien): Surprise! The only Cabernet I tasted with fragrant blackcurrants, coffee, and vanilla. Rich, juicy, dense, yet lifted with refreshing green vegetal aromas. White pepper on the finish. 
  • Pichon Lalande (Pauillac): Ripe bing cherries, kirsch, vanilla, nutmeg. Smooth and elegant; regal yet approachable. Silky and soft without being plush. 
  • Angludet (Margaux): Concentrated ripe cherries with vanilla with an undertone of savoriness. Ripe, plush but focused and structured. Very long and smooth finis with cherry and vanilla notes. 

There were many others that were wonderful, believe me. Here are wines that made it on my list for "Excellent":
  • Calon-Ségur
  • Giscours
  • Gruaud Larose
  • Lagrange
  • Léoville-Barton
  • Talbot
  • Grand-Puy Ducasse
  • Grand-Puy-Lacoste
  • Lynch-Bages
Up Next: Union des Grands Crus (UGC) Tastings for Graves & Pessac-Léognan, as well as more Left Bank châteaux. 

Thanks for joining me, and stay tuned for more about the wines of this fascinating vintage!

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