Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bordeaux En Primeur 2015 Vintage - More Left Bank!

Tasting at Château Lafite Rothschild
The 2015 vintage for Bordeaux is a very exciting one! After tasting at more châteaux on the Left Bank and participating in the Union des Grands Crus event for Pessac-Léognan, I would characterize the vintage for the Left Bank as follows: Ripe and fruit-driven, with structure and weight to last.

These are very approachable wines! If you like Napa Cabernets, 2015 will be a wonderful vintage to venture out and try Bordeaux. These wines are soft and generous, with unmistakable backbone and muscle.

With very few exceptions, Bordeaux 2015 wines are are eminently drinkable even now. In comparison to 2012, another fruit-driven vintage, the 2015 wines have much more heft to them. Many of the wines I tasted can lay down for years and evolve in the bottle for more character and complexity.

Pessac-Léognan on the Left Bank is an important appellation for Bordeaux, and the wines at the Union des Grands Crus tastings were very promising. Harvest is usually earlier for this appellation since the climate is milder and 2015 was no exception, starting at the end of August. It was very hot and dry until mid-September with unusually heavy rain, but by then most of Pessac's Cabernet Sauvignon had been collected. With lighter frames than wines from Saint-Julien, Saint-Estèphe, or Pauillac, these beauties from Pessac-Léognan will delight. The 2015 wines may take some more time to open up and present their fragrant aromas on the palate, and I look forward very much to tasting them in the years to come.

Standout Wines:
At Château Pontet-Canet
  • Pontet-Canet (Pauillac): Pontet-Canet delivers yet again! Ripe bing cherries, blackcurrants, cassis, hints of green notes (bell pepper), vanilla and nutmeg, an undertone of tobacco juice. Very silky on the palate: The initial to mid-palate is delightfully lifted with cherries and perfumed violets; the finish is toasted with oak spices. It's silky without being plush. Elegant yet giving. I was really happy about this one! 
  • Ducru-Beaucaillou (Saint-Julien): Deep, ripe black cherries and boysenberries, vanilla, and cedar smoke. The chewy and slightly grippy tannins will integrate beautifully with the perfumed fruit with years, but it is already drinking smoothly with a velvety texture.   
  • Léoville Barton: (Saint-Julien): This showed beautifully on second tasting - very smooth and juicy sweet, chock full of cherries and vanilla that last through the finish. 
  • Lynch-Bages: (Pauillac): Even better on second tasting as well. Black cherries and currants, coffee and cola with violets and a bit of leather beneath. This one has unabashedly bigger tannins that will continue to integrate with the concentrated fruit over time, but it's already soft and silky, with a steel backbone. 
Excellent Wines:
  • Pape Clément (Pessac-Léognan): Enticing nose full of ripe red plums and cherries with vanilla and an earthy undertone. It is extremely elegant, as one would expect Pape Clément to be. Full promise on the fruit has yet to show on the palate, and I can't wait to see how it evolves. 
  • Latour-Martillac (Pessac-Léognan): Very balanced; bold with ripe red plums and cherries and vanilla. It's generous but not dense, and has the acidity to last. 
  • Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac-Léognan): Beautiful nose with high notes of plums and black cherries, vanilla, a light cedar toast. Palate is more earthy with really chewy tannins - its excellent structure will show well in the coming years.
  • Les Carmes Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan): Juicy yet linear, with raspberries, red currants with vanilla and a hint of the vegetal. Big, grippy tannins will integrate with the fruit very nicely. Demure but emerging with intent. 
  • Le Petit Caillou (Pauillac): This is the entry level wine of Ducru-Beaucaillou. This "Little Pebbles" ("Caillou" means "pebbles") knocked my socks off, and it's ~$15 a bottle. It's expansive, rich and generous, full-bodied and well structured. If it had even more acidity, it could last quite awhile. This is superb for its price point. Buy a couple of 6-packs for your next dinner party, or keep them for yourself! 
Trio of tastings at Château Lafite Rothschild
Lafite Rothschild: This deserves a section for itself. Lafite is often very closed in youth, so historically it hasn't tended to "show well" during En primeur. The 2015 sample I tasted at Château Lafite Rothschild, in an airy room overlooking the beautiful grounds, was truly drinkable. Imagine! A First Growth Bordeaux, drinkable, this young! It is fine-boned but sinewy, demure and elegant. Very composed and serene. The tannins are slightly chewy, and the wine is not tight but rather a bit coy. It definitely is more floral than fruit-driven right now, with beautiful crushed violets. I look forward very much to seeing how this 2015 Lafite will show in the coming years as the fruit evolves.

Note: Almost everyone I spoke with has indicated disappointment with Lafite Rothschild. Perhaps the high expectations for the 2015 vintage combined with the stratospheric expectations for a First Growth wine are converging. Nonetheless, I found it extremely well made and a lovely contrast to many of the (excellent) much bigger wines I'd been tasting.

Next Up: Right Bank, and Sauternes & Barsac!

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