Bordeaux 2015 En Primeur: Vintage Update

Bordeaux 2015 En Primeur has begun. Find out more about the vintage, critic opinions and the major appellations…

Bordeaux 2015 en primeur

Bordeaux 2015 Vintage

Bordeaux 2015 appears to be a strong vintage. It is neither a left or right bank vintage, a Merlot or Cabernet vintage, a red or white vintage. There is outstanding quality in all areas, but it is not across the board. As Tim Atkin has advised: “This is a vintage from which to pick and choose with care.”

Since we released our Early Opinions Blog, the critics have begun to release their views. Jancis Robinson described the barrel samples she tasted during En Primeur week as: “generally charming 2015 Bordeaux.” Below you’ll find a summary of what other critics are saying about the 2015 vintage:

“The 2015 vintage in Bordeaux is very good, and in some specific places, very, very good. It’s easily the best vintage since 2010.” – Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast

“The whole of Médoc has done very well and my line is Bordeaux is back.” – Steven Spurrier

“It’s a great vintage with a clutch of potentially spectacular wines, some of which are the best I’ve tasted since I started tasting from barrel in 1997. However, it’s complicated in that there is not the blanket consistency of say 2005, 2009 or 2010.” – Neal Martin

“This is a vintage where you don’t have to spend silly money to get satisfaction…  Mid-range properties like the consistently fine Brane-Cantenac excelled this year, as did Lascombes, Labégorce, Beychevelle, Branaire-Ducru, Léoville-Barton, Cantemerle and many others.” – Adam Lechmere, Wine Searcher

“It is clear that 2015 is a great vintage – I would compare it to 2005 and 2009 in quality. This vintage has the added benefit, like the 2009, of being enjoyable even in its youth, which is a real bonus for wine lovers… This year will be a go-to vintage for wine collectors.” – Jeannie Cho Lee MW

“My early view is that 2015 is unquestionably great in parts and therefore far from homogenous. Certainly, stunning wines have been made and several châteaux have arguably made their best ever wines, including Pontet Canet, Cos and Canon.” – John Stimpfig, Decanter

“To sum up, this is not as opulent or as long-lived a vintage as 2005, 2009 or 2010, but it is superior to 2014 and I am very taken with the wines because the best are stunningly pure, magnificently focused and exceptionally refined, particularly on the Left Bank where the alcohols hover around 13%. There is no doubt that the Right Bank fared very well, with slightly more favourable climatic conditions and the resulting wines are lush and showy, underpinned, once again, by thrilling acidity.” – Matthew Jukes

Critic Scores

At time of writing, James Suckling, Wine Spectator and Jancis Robinson have released scores and tasting notes for Bordeaux 2015. Our website consolidates critic scores and notes into one place, allowing you to easily compare opinions and reach an informed decision without trawling hundreds of reviews across multiple websites and publications. View the scores here.

Releases & Alerts

There has been speculation as to when the Bordeaux 2015 releases will start and how long the campaign will last. At time of writing the big guns have not been released, however others have begun. Whether the first growths and their peers will extend the campaign by waiting until after Vinexpo Hong Kong at the end of May, as some have suggested, remains to be seen. As usual the Bordelaise remain tight-lipped.

If you haven’t already, you can set alerts on wines via our website before they are released. This will make sure you are updated the instant your target wines are released. Find the wines and set alerts from here. The links within this article will take you to the individual wines mentioned also.

Prices

In our view we expect prices to increase anywhere between 15 to 40% on 2014, depending on the ambition of the proprietor. Jeannie Cho Lee MW suggested: “I am cautiously optimistic that the Bordeaux châteaux will not price this vintage too high given the declining demand in China, the shaky global economy and the huge stock of unsold previous four vintages. This vintage needs to move.”

It is too early to make a call on the basis of what has been released so far. We await a benchmark. But what we can say is that, as many critics and experts have already said, there is value to be found in Bordeaux 2015. There have already been a number of high score to price ratio wines released.

Jancis Robinson recently suggested that consumers look towards the following, in her words, “dependable fine Bordeaux” (all of which for the 2015 vintage have received solid scores from Wine Spectator, James Suckling, Jancis Robinson or a mixture of the three):

En Primeur Week

The FINE+RARE team travelled to Bordeaux during En Primeur Week to try the wines and gather market insight. In a nutshell winemakers said that the early flowering followed by the hot summer has resulted in excellent healthy fruit. Many alluded to shrivelling of the berries due to dry conditions, resulting in super concentration in the wines.  But the most commonly used descriptors were freshness and balance. To find out what the experts are saying and what the winemakers told us, read on…

St Estephe

The tasting at Lafon-Rochet epitomised the variance in the vintage; late season rains meant some exceptional wines and some less so. Châteaux with deep-rooted old vines and cooler, well-drained sites shone but quantities may be limited…

Aymeric de Gironde, general director at Cos d’Estournel, reported that only 39% of the harvest made it into their grand vin: “the lowest ever at Cos.” But Jancis Robinson reported that: “It would seem that Cos d’Estournel vinyeards must have been in especially good shape because their wines… were particularly successful in 2015.”

Jancis Robinson concluded: “Yields in St-Estèphe were the highest in 10 years but I encountered evidence that this is an appellation with some real dynamism with a few newish properties really trying hard.

Montrose is already looking like one of the vintage’s superstars judging by scores reported so far, and Calon-Ségur said the 2015 was “on a par with the greatest years.” It is clear that there are real gems to be had from this appellation, perfectly highlighted by Steven Spurrier’s assessment:

“I’ve been more and more impressed by St-Estèphe. The fruit in St-Estèphe is very good. St-Julien and Pauillac of course set a high benchmark, but if I had to choose just two Médoc appellations [in 2015] I’d go Margaux and St-Estèphe.”

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Pauillac

Scores so far make Pauillac 2015 an extremely interesting prospect.

According to Grand-Puy-Lacoste: “the weather conditions throughout the whole of the growing cycle of the vine were particularly favourable, contributing to making this a great vintage” in Pauillac. Sentiments echoed by Jean-Michel Combe, winemaker at Pontet Canet, who called the vintage a “a gift from nature.”

Despite the hot vintage, critics and experts have noted that the wines on show were not super-charged, maintaining an elegant purity and a freshness that Christian Seely of Pichon Baron described as “really surprising.” Jean-Charles Cazes of Lynch Bages put it perfectly: “the wines are ripe, but not in your face.”

James Molesworth of Wine Spectator sang the praises of Pichon Lalande: “Beware the hype if someone tells you ’15 is equal to or better than ’10 (or 2009) – except perhaps at Pichon Lalande. With the new cellar, changes in the vineyard and Glumineau now running the show, 2015 is the first chance the new Pichon Lalande has had to shine.”

Jancis Robinson allegedly bowed to winemaker Philippe Dhalluin of Mouton Rothschild after sampling the quality of his wine and Steven Spurrier “swooned” over Pontet-Canet.

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St-Julien

September rainfall was higher in St-Julien than in Margaux. Although the buzz around Margaux has been significantly louder, praise for St-Julien appears to be growing. As described above, Steven Spurrier said that it has “set a high benchmark”, Tim Atkin’s recently published scores for the region didn’t drop beneath 91 points and Jancis Robinson has summed them up as follows:

“St-Julien producers reported lower alcohol levels in 2015 than in 2009. One generalisation about the 2015s was how fruity they were. There were certainly tannins, but in most cases the tannins were attractively ripe and friendly.”

Jancis Robinson spoke a lot about the charm of the wines, highlighting Ducru-Beaucaillou, a château that has in her words: “continued its winning streak.” Her view was echoed by James Molesworth of Wine Spectator, who said of Ducru-Beaucaillou: “It looks to be one of the more impressive Left Bank wines of the vintage.” Which will put it up with Leoville-Poyferre, a wine that he said: “should be among the upper echelon of Left Bank wines when it fully knits.”

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Margaux

Margaux is the commune that critics and experts are most excited about for the 2015 vintage. This admiration should put these wines firmly in the upper echelon for collectors. Here is what is being said:

Thomas Duroux of Palmer described the vintage as “somewhere between 05 and 09, close to 05 because of the exuberance of fruit, close to 09 because of the fabulous ripeness of the tannins.”

Jancis Robinson released her scores for the Margaux commune before any other, saying: “We’re beginning with Margaux because it was notably successful in 2015.” She went on to say “I can’t remember the commune of Margaux performing so consistently well as it did in 2015 in any other vintage…” and “The unforced character of the 2015 vintage seemed to suit the true style of the commune particularly well.”

“Margaux [commune] was the driest and therefore had the best shot… I’m very impressed with Margaux. It has very beautiful florality.” – Steven Spurrier

“Margaux’s winegrowers are happy… 2015 is sure to offer an example of that quality in which Margaux remains unrivalled: harmony.” – Gonzague Lurton, President of the Syndicat Viticole de Margaux

[2015 from the Margaux commune are]…rich and generous, with soft tannic matter and impressive flavours. What really characterises them is the extra sunshine. This is a vintage that highlights the notion of terroir, and its diverse expression.” – Eric Boissenot, who has worked at four of the five First Growth châteaux

“These will be generous, voluptuous wines… for many years to come!” – Alexander Van Beek, Giscours and du Tertre

“I think Château Margaux has set the bar for the vintage overall.” – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

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Pessac-Leognan & Graves

There are differing opinions on homogeneity of the vintage here. Jane Anson said: “I have never found such consistency in the red wines of the Graves appellation.” While Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier suggested that the significant spread of the harvest has resulted in a “large choice” of styles. However, what is agreed upon is that the wines are strongly terroir-driven and of impressive quality:

“Pessac-Léognan did very well.” – Bill Blatch

“In general, the early buzz says Pessac and Margaux reds lead the way on the Left Bank… While Bordeaux’s two banks saw differences in the 2015 vintage, Pessac-Léognan dodged the late rains that hit the upper Médoc, giving it more in common both weather-wise and qualitatively with the Right Bank.” – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

“There are some wonderful wines out there across both of these appellations and many of them are going to offer great value.” – Jane Anson

“To the end of July, it was like 2005. Then it became more like 2009 and finally closer to 2010. However, in the final analysis, it ended up like no other vintage. To me it is utterly unique… You have a power in it but a softness and balance that is unique and I love the style of 2015.” – Veronique Sanders, Haut-Bailly

“Everything was perfectly on time… it’s a wonderful vintage, no doubt about that… it’s one of the greatest Mission we’ve ever made.” – Jean-Philippe Delmas, Haut-Brion. A source also told us that only 590 cases of Haut-Brion Blanc were produced – considerably lower than average.

“I tasted many a good 2015 from Pessac-Léognan and a few from Graves on its southern boundary… I was particularly taken by the nearby property Ch Le Pape, recently acquired by Haut-Bailly’s owner American banker Bob Wilmers.” – Jancis Robinson

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St Emilion

James Suckling highlighted St Emilion as one of “the best appellations”  very early. He has picked out sixteen potential hundred pointers from this vintage and 75% of those are right bank, shared equally between St Emilion and Pomerol. He is not alone in his enthusiasm for St Emilion 2015:

“…extremely impressive dark, thick, powerful style on the St Emilion Côte and parts of the plateau.” – Bill Blatch

“Quality was so good at Château Cheval Blanc that for the first time since 1988 there aren’t enough barrels of lesser wine to market the second cheaper bottling, Le Petit Cheval.” – Elin McCoy, Bloomberg

“The tannins are like cashmere… this is a very interesting vintage for the consumer… the wine is so good… between 2005 and 2010, very charming wine.” – Hubert de Boüard, Angelus

“I was worried by how dry the vintage was – especially at the end of July. But the August rain saved the day. It was a good easy harvest with perfect conditions. Blending was very easy this year, each barrel was good.” – Pauline Vauthier, Ausone

“It was warm, but no comparison to ’03. The heat was not really an issue. It was the drought. But in general, the yields were normal for all the estates… Once again, I can say this is the best Quintus we have ever made.” – Jean-Philippe Delmas, Quintus

“I have been here for 15 years and it’s the best vintage we have produced.” Emmanuel de Saint Salvy, Bellefont-Belcier

“2005 is massive, 2010 is muscular and I’d categorise our 2015 as more elegant and accessible than both 2005 and 2015.” – Otto Rettenmaier, La Tour Figeac

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Pomerol

Six of James Suckling’s sixteen potential hundred pointers hail from Pomerol. These six also include Tim Atkin’s two highest scorers Lafleur and Pétrus. James Molesworth of Wine Spectator has described Vieux Château Certan as “a stunner” and said that  Pétrus 2015  “should rival the twin towers of ’09 and ’10.” Pomerol 2015 is causing quite a stir:

“It’s 20 percent of the blend for VCC, which is high in a warm year, because heat can really cook Cab Franc. But it is terrific in drought. And that is what is so interesting about ’15. The year was so dry, but the freshness is there because it was cool enough at the end, and the growing season was long enough… 2015 is 2015, it isn’t like any other vintage.” – Alexandre Thienpont, Vieux Château Certan

“The quality of the tannins is amazing… the level of complexity and level of aromas is much higher [than 2010]…” – Olivier Berrouet, Pétrus

“In Pomerol, Château Hosanna and Certan de May from the J-P Moueix stable are perfumed and beautifully balanced.” – Adam Lechmere, Wine-Searcher

“This vintage reminds me of 2005, but also has similarities to 2010, but with more minerality. The climate was great.” – Jeremy Chasseuil, Feytit-Clinet

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Sauternes & Barsac

Bill Blatch described 2015 as “a dream vintage for Sauternes.” Localised rainfall early in the botrytis process set up perfect conditions and dry weather during picking resulted in excellent fruit. Blatch suggested the wines would be not only “lovely in youth” but would also have the ability to “age very well.” Although focus will be on the reds, the sweet wines look to be potentially very strong…

“The sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes are also extremely promising, with more, but lighter, periods of rain than in the Médoc that were spread out and perfectly alternated with sunny, windy weather that spurred successive waves of botrytis.” – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

“Barsacs generally lighter and more refined, Sauternes much bigger and fleshy and creamy…. It’s an outstanding vintage, with many fleshy, rich wines but with good acidity levels so as to avoid coming off as heavy or cloying.” – Ian D’Agata, Decanter

“….focused, pure, fresh, rich and elegant.” – Denis Dubourdieu, Professor of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux

“I think 2015 will be one of the great Sauternes and Barsac vintages.” – Berenice Lurton, Climens

“I would say the 2015 is in the top three of the last 30 years.” – Sandrine Garbay, d’Yquem

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Whites

Denis Dubourdieu, Professor of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux, has described the 2015 whites as “tremendous” with lower acidity than the 2014s. Rainfall refreshed the vintage as the vines were drawing nourishment for themselves rather than the grapes when it came. Bill Blatch has said that the whites would be: “absolutely pure and have similar refreshing acidity to the very sprightly 2007s and 2012s.” He also noted that oak is being used far more sparingly than for either of those vintages. James Molesworth of Wine Spectator concluded that: “Dry whites look very, very strong, with Sauvignon Blanc harvested under ideal conditions.”

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View our Bordeaux 2015 En Primeur website for releases, critic scores, news and curated lists: Bordeaux 2015 En Primeur