There is no question that 2015 is the strongest vintage that Bordeaux has produced in years. Likewise, the en primeur (futures) campaign will prove to be the most exciting and sought-after since the 2010 vintage. But just how good is 2015 Bordeaux really?
This year, I traveled to Bordeaux to attend the primeur tastings. After tasting nearly 300 wines from the vintage, I think I have a pretty good handle on what to make of it. It was far from easy to process though, as this is not a homogenous year. On the contrary, quality was surprisingly inconsistent in some appellations, and there were some downright disappointing wines from some of the bigger names. The positive far outweighed the negative though, and the best wines from 2015 are some of the best wines I've tasted in years, from any region. Those wines had a combination of pure, ripe fruit and beautiful freshness that maybe has never been seen before in Bordeaux. In that sense, this is a very special vintage, and one for consumers to be very excited about.
The Growing Season
The quality of a vintage always depends on the weather. 2015 began with a very wet winter, as rainfall in January and February was higher than average. By spring though the rainfall average dropped and flowering took place under near-perfect conditions. Temperatures in June and July were high, with extended periods of above-average heat. By August, there was some concern about heat-stress, especially in younger vines, but timely rain helped to cool things off a bit. September's temperatures cooled off nicely to allow the grapes to ripen evenly. Rain was also lower than normal, with the exception of Saint-Estephe, which experienced a ton. Overall, it was a near-perfect harvest season, which began in mid-September for red grapes and continued into October.
Five Things You Should Know
So, it was a good growing season, and people are excited about it. What does that really mean? Here are five things you should know if you are considering buying 2015 Bordeaux (and you should be). Smart buyers will reap huge rewards this year, as there are many incredible wines at all price points. If you buy without doing some homework though, you may be disappointed.
- 2015 is a very good to outstanding vintage. The best wines rival the best of any vintage since 1990, but there is just enough uneven quality to preclude labeling the year as truly outstanding. If you are buying the right wines, you will end up with something very special in your cellar.
- Based on my tastings, the top appellations are Margaux, Pomerol, Pessac-Leognan, St. Emilion and St. Julien. If you simply stick to these, you will be on the right track.
- On the left bank, Margaux really stood out for me. The perfumed aromatics and elegance that are a hallmark of many wines in this appellation was front and center. Many producers here arguably produced their greatest wines ever. Wines that are worth seeking out include: Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac Brown, Dauzac, Desmirail, du Tertre, Giscours, Margaux, Palmer and Prieure-Lichine. Chateau Margaux will be a candidate for wine of the vintage.
- On the right bank, the top wines from Saint-Emilion and Pomerol simply blew me away. And there were many! The only pitfall here is that there were also some wines that were freakishly concentrated and lacked the acidity and freshness that makes this vintage great. Wines that are worth seeing out (run, don't walk!) include Angelus, Ausone, Canon, Clinet, Destieux, Evangile, La Croix de Gay, Lafleur, Lafleur-Petrus, Pavie, Petit Village, Petrus, Soutard, Trotanoy and Villemaurine. One sip of Angelus and Clinet was enough to make me fall in love.
- Overall, the vintage will be priced well and will generally be between 10% to 15% higher than the 2014 vintage. While this will not apply to all wines (some will be higher and some lower), I believe that smart buyers will find many tremendous values. I also expect greater demand than there has been in years, so I expect prices to rise over the next few years, making this the first time in a while where buying futures makes sense.