2015 Bordeaux from bottle, part 1: Mostly Médoc wines

Margaux shines brightest

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

17 November 2017 – revised, with new video intro, below.

How good are Bordeaux 2015 from bottle? Based on two days of tasting top Médoc wines in early November this year, I would say quite good. It does not seem to reach the heights, on a more generalized level, of the 2016 vintage. In some cases – particularly in the northern Médoc – 2014 rivals and sometimes beats 2015.

The golden nugget in 2015?

As we had discovered from barrel tastings, the Margaux appellation’s veritable heights are unmatched by either 2016 or 2014. I pack many of my top Médoc wines at this early stage from bottle (among those tasted) with Margaux AOC wines.

It was a glorious time – and glorious Indian Summer like weather – tasting through scores of wines, often single blind, on Thursday and Friday, 2-3 November, with noted Bordeaux wine critic and wine author Jane Anson and fellow wine writer Yohan Castaing, whose excellent blog https://www.anthocyanes.fr, is worth reading if you can understand French.

Although we tasted most of the classified growths, along with a few Cru Bourgeois level wines, we did not assess Haut Brion, Latour and Mouton Rothschild. But we got to most all 1855 classification wines, beginning with Château Margaux, which in my book gets wine of the vintage among all Médoc wines tasted.

We ended tastings on Friday 3 November at Château Pichon Longueville Baron, where we assessed many Pauillacs blind, including the Baron, which is excellent in 2015.

Overall the Pauillacs were solid to great, lacking the consistency of 2016. Certainly 2014 can give 2015 in Pauillac a run for its money: from GPL to Pichon Comtesse, 2014 is a vintage that offers high quality at more affordable prices. While I enjoyed many Saint Juliens, I felt they were overall solid to great, but not spectacular with the exceptions of LLC and Ducru Beaucaillou. The big surprise was how well the Saint Estephes did. For example an excellent Calon Segur and an even more surprising Cos d’Estournel that tasted far better now from bottle than from barrel. To me at least.

Upon some reflection, here my overall “top ten” from the Médoc’s classified growths. My list is based only on wines from that region, however, from bottle (although I missed Mouton Rothschild and Latour). In at least a part 2 (if not parts 3 and 4 as well), I will assess wines from Graves, the Right Bank and its satellites, Cru Bourgeois, and Sauternes/Barsac, and their respective top tens… Stay tuned 🙂

1. Château Margaux
2. Château Léoville Las Cases
3. Château Ducru Beaucaillou
4. Château Lafite Rothschild
5. Château Palmer
6. Château Brane Cantenac
7. Château Pontet Canet
8. Château Prieuré Lichine
9. Château Cantenac Brown
10. Château Rauzan Segla

As per usual, wines in bold I liked in particular. When bold and red, even more. And when underlined, too? Wine nirvana!

Depending on whether I taste again in December 2017 in Bordeaux (I will certainly taste in January 2018), there may be three parts to this section.

100 points? Sure.

Morning visits to Châteaux Margaux, Palmer and Lafite Rothschild
As most readers know, each château features at least two wines (first and seconds) but at Lafite, we also tried other wines from the same owner, including Evangile, Duhart Milon, Rieussec … Overall, very positive experiences. With the wine of the vintage candidate shining most bright :-)

At Château Margaux

  • 2015 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Like many of the Margaux I tasted in November 2017, this one from bottle gets a note on the higher end of my rating scale from en primeur. Bottled at the beginning of July, it shows beautiful red berry fruit with focused intensity and licorice, leading to crushed fruit, red and blue, on the palate, with much freshness and twang from the acidity. The energy is matched by a lovely svelte palate that epitomizes Margaux elegance. 50% new barrel and 14% alcohol. Best ever second wine from this estate? (95 pts.)

  • 2015 Château Margaux*– France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    I rarely if ever give 100 points to such young wines, but this one gets it. And while tasting with Jane Anson of Decanter, we both agreed. “If you cannot give 100 points to the top wine from the top appellation in a given vintage, to which wine can you do so?” she quipped. I agree. This was to be Paul Pontallier’s final vintage sadly. And 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the estate. So all the stars aligned to yield an exceptional wine, surely overpriced, but just amazing. 14% alcohol as well, and its August bottling actually muted its glory somewhat in early November, but still: Gorgeous dark fruit aspect on the nose turning to floral (violets) with aeration, and not super ripe with a healthy 3,65 pH. I call it “deep freshness” with Merlots lending opulence to the structure of the Cabernets. The feeling on the palate is tannic suave as you almost want to eat this wine, given the texture. Tannin levels were high, approaching that of 2009. Oak? 100% super integrated, nary a sense of stick. And give credit to the precision of 96 tanks used to afford the most careful parcel by parcel vinification, with only 35 percent of the harvest going into this veritably grand vin. (100 pts.)

All smiles over Palmer 2015? Estate director Thomas Duroux pouring … water for celebrated wine author Jane Anson 🙂

At Château Palmer 

  • 2015 Alter Ego de Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Bottled at the end of August and perhaps more muted now than it would be in January 2018, but still, it fulfills the promise from barrel. At 14% alcohol, the combined richness and elegance, with bright red fruit and floral aspects, even somewhat herbal, leading to a palate of cassis black fruit with a lip smacking juicy aspect. With the Alter Ego, “we focus on aromatic maturity,” said Thomas Duroux and this has it in spades. A real pleasure. Bravo! (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    This blend of 50 percent Cabernet, 44 percent Merlot and 6 percent Petit Verdot has a somewhat tighter aspect as compared to the Alter Ego, with superior depth as well. I love the vivid expressions of ripe fruit, with a rich palate, matched by tannic power on the palate: the 80 tannic index is rather high for the vintage, with 14.2 percent alcohol. In 2015, Palmer takes a back seat to Margaux, as these two wines are often the two top wines of the appellation each year. In any case, the overall sense is a wine that is not quite as pristinely refined as the Margaux, but still a stellar performance of opulence and depth. Estate director Thomas Duroux explains below in video. (96 pts.)

At Château Lafite Rothschild 

  • 2015 Château Duhart-Milon – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    Tasted after Château Palmer and noticeably a climb down. I do think that 2014 rivals this 2015 – and that 2016 will be better. Having said all this, Duhart-Milon is a fine bottle of wine in 2015, both rich and expressive, with smooth tannins and a cool tobacco note on the long finish. I would just say that there have been superior density levels from this wine. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Carruades de Lafite – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    For the lofty price you pay for this second wine, I would pass. About 35% of harvest went to make the Carruades and as estate director said estate director Eric Koehler. He also said that – unlike 2014 – more careful selection was needed because of the rains. Certainly a bit thinner than Duhart even if perhaps a bit more finesse.
    Still, it lacks the veritable stuffing one would expect from a Pauillac of this calibre, even if it is certainly drinkable with what the French call
    buvabilité… A year of selection, he said. (88 pts.)

Three cheers to Evangile and to Lafite Rothschild

  • 2015 Château Lafite Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    Yes, I do realize that tasting young Lafites is not the easiest thing to do. Compared to, say, Mouton or Haut Brion, Lafite Rothschild is far more reticent in expression. And – as one trader said recently – it is getting harder to taste older ones as they are all in China. But I digress. About 40% of the harvest made it into this 2015 vintage. Bottled in June, and here we have more expression indeed than in the Carruades, with lovely finesse on the nose, certainly floral and pencil lead aspects (although you get those, too, in Leoville Las Cases, and even more pronounced at this stage). Time in glass reveals superb elegance and subtle strength through to the finish especially, as the tannins and structure are felt. An excellent wine indeed, but shorter on the finish than the glorious Château Margaux, by comparison, and not quite as dense either. It is as if Lafite is acting as a Margaux in 2015. That is not bad at all, but it does not match up to Margaux as the top first growth. And of course, it ain’t cheap. (96 pts.)
  • 2015 Blason de l’Evangile – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (11/2/2017)
    Here a case of saving the really good stuff for the first wine. The overall negative impression is that of too much stewed fruit for such a young wine. Rich and smooth, yes, but a tad soupy and warm on the finish. Lots of young Cabernet Franc lends some freshness but not enough to make this anything more than a “high 80s” wine at best. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château L’Evangile – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (11/2/2017)
    Wow. Just wow. What opulence, what focused ripe dark fruit and freshness, too, with loads of spicy fun. 14.5% alcohol? Not really felt, and this with 90% new oak. I really loved the 2016, but the 2015 is at least an equal from bottle. The finish is sexy and exciting and long, with the sense of balance following through. Weight and lift. Lifting weights? No, just pleasure. (97 pts.)

Superb Sauternes in the making

  • 2015 Carmes de Rieussec – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes (11/2/2017)
    OK, it is pleasant enough but where is the botrytis? It would be wiser to spend your hard earned money on a lesser known first wine from Sauternes than on this second, which seems more like sweet fruit juice than a Sauternes. (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Rieussec – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes (11/2/2017)
    An excellent Sauternes! One of my preferences from barrel, it fulfills the promise so far, as it will be bottled in January. The tidal wave of density and depth has receded just a bit, and shows more complexity along with gorgeous notes of botrytis spice. There is very pleasing roasted fruit as well as white stone fruit matching that spice, with density and power throughout the palate. About 60% new oak. (95 pts.)

Blind tasting of Margaux classified growths, part 1 (at Château Dauzac)
Overall very good wines here including some of the top in the vintage. Best Prieuré Lichine I have ever tried.

Nice integration of all that pretty new oak at Château Dauzac in 2015

  • 2015 Château Marquis d’Alesme – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Far better from bottle than from cask, which was marked by more austerity. This wine could be worth your while – and wallet. The first of 19 Margaux AOCs tasted blind at Château Dauzac, the Marquis d’Alesme exudes a fresh, floral nose. The palate conveys a robust character, with smooth tannins that get a bit imposing on the finish, but smooth overall. A tad austere on the finish. Give it time. Time in bottle should resolve things of course. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Rauzan-Ségla – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Fulfills the promise from barrel, with a pure expression of fruit and refined tannins, albeit structured and powerful on the finish. There is a kind of iron like richness, as the finish exudes more a strict tannic structure. Still, ripe fruit throughout, with a long finish marked by gorgeous floral aromatics. (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Rauzan-Gassies – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Tasted just after what turned out to be neighbor Rauzan-Segla, this wine seemed more “open knit” both aromatically and on the palate, which is nice and smooth. Lovely expressions of ripe fruit with a tannic grip, as well: the concentration is felt more on the finish, which lingers pleasingly. What is pleasing is that it is performs even better than from barrel. Indeed the oak is already better integrated than it was from cask. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Dauzac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Well, well, well. More than fulfills its promise from barrel, this estate. While the 2014 came across as a bit too oaky and “modern” from bottle when I tasted it last year, the 2015 is just great. I love the deep, floral nose. This has loads of power and fruit, a bit austere on the finish, but that is normal – and will calm down with a few years of bottle aging. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Kirwan – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Of course tasting wines that have been recently bottled means taking into account a certain closed nature, which I found more pronounced with Kirwan. It meets the hopes from barrel however, with ripe fruit concentration on the mid palate, and a smooth tannic grain leading to a long and pleasing finish. Look forward to re-evaluating in January. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Ferrière – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Tasted just after the Kirwan, I though this was a Pauillac. Seems more tannic and edgy, with impressive grip. Like the Kirwan, a bit closed in, but time in glass revealed a bit of menthol along with dark fruit. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Prieuré-Lichine – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Yes, I will go out on a limb and say that this may be the best Prieuré-Lichine I have ever tasted from bottle. More than fulfilling its promise from barrel, this wine conveys aromatic opulence, with white flowers and dark fruit. There is grip and ripe fruit as well throughout the palate. Shows much “stuffing” as well as poise. A truly fine Margaux to please palates – give it at least five years in bottle before cracking open. (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Desmirail – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    The over oaky nose from barrel lives on in bottle, darkening my perspective for this wine that was more optimistic initially. If anything, a charry, oaky nose seems to overcome the fruit and concentration on the palate more than it did from barrel. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château d’Issan – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Issan fulfills its promise from barrel. A hint of oak – maybe I was made more sensitive with the Desmirail, tasted blind just before – but far better balance on the nose. I like this wine’s suave nature and ultra smooth delivery. Perhaps so close to bottling, its evident aromatic charms from barrel were muted. It has tannic backbone, too, so give it time in bottle. May be better in January 2018, but for now, I will be a bit conservative. (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Durfort-Vivens – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Overall, a wine that seems to be getting riper and richer – as opposed to many previous vintages. I like the bout of jammy fruit and even a bit heady on the finish. But it lacks the depth and nuance of the upper echelons in this blind tasting of classified Margaux AOC. First bottle was faulty, but second was sound. (90 pts.)

Getting ready for a blind tasting of Margaux AOC classified growth: Yohan Castaing and Jane Anson

Blind tasting of Margaux classified growths, part 2
More excellent Margaux AOC classified growths tasted blind, at Château Dauzac.

  • 2015 Château Malescot St. Exupéry – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    An excellent Malescot from bottle and clearly better than it was from barrel. Lovely nose, fruit driven, open and floral. This has a very friendly attitude throughout the palate, seemed to embrace the Margaux delicacy while showing underlying depth on the palate. Long finish, too. (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Giscours – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Another bottle, another gorgeous Margaux, with Giscours having more weight than it showed from bottle. It seems downright “tannin driven,” even armored, but with the svelte of Margaux in mind! Ripe red and dark fruits indeed, with a rich overlay on the tannin and long finish. Lovely! (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Château du Tertre – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Tasted blind, Du Tertre seems just a bit simple as compared to some of its peers in 2015. A pleasure in that is conveys both ample structure and ripe fruit, but not quite the depth or potential complexity of the better wines here. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Lascombes – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    In recent years, Lascombes has been lowering its über oak emphasis. And the wine? It has gotten much better. 2015 is a case in point. Thank goodness we asked for a second bottle in this blind tasting, as the first seemed off. So what do you get? Loads of rich, ripe fruit … and freshness, yielding a fine balance. Bravo! I guessed Brane Cantenac and got Lascombes: How about that? (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Brane-Cantenac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    One of the best Branes I can recall. I really liked the 2005 and here we find a similarly structured wine, but with more aromatic depth. More than fulfills its promise from barrel, which was already very high. What do you get from the wine, so close to its bottling? An opulent nose and an opulent palate. And what it shows as well is a rare power that one is more accustomed to getting from, say, Rauzan-Segla. Just a great wine. (96 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Marquis de Terme – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    When I wrote a story about this estate for Decanter last year, I was impressed with the steps being taken to improve quality. For example, their 2014 is more interesting than the 2010, as the selection process has been improved and the vinification is better. From barrel, I liked the sumptuousness, which shows through again in bottle: A lovely, fruit driven nose. Smooth and refined on the palate with a hint of oak. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Pouget – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Along with Desmirail, this estate counts as one of two clear disappointments from the appellation in 2015. An oak dominated nose precedes an oak dominated palate. The finish is drying. What the heck? (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Cantenac Brown – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    The best Cantenac Brown I have ever had. I was not so impressed from barrel and probably misjudged it. Just bottled, it comes across as solid and delicious, showcasing both power and elegance. There is much breadth to this wine. Bravo! (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Boyd-Cantenac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/2/2017)
    Spicy and rich nose. A bit of harder tannin here than was experienced tasting the Cantenac Brown but just chalk that up to resolve in bottle aging. I like the backbone and a certain freshness that I had experienced from barrel. It just lacks the opulence of the Cantenac Brown. (92 pts.)

Blind tasting of Saint Julien at Château Langoa Barton
Very solid to excellent wines here, but the two top Saint Juliens came the next day …

Magali Pourquié of Château Langoa Barton and Sylvain Boivert pouring Saint Julien wines blind

  • 2015 Château Beychevelle – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    In tasting a series of Saint Juliens blind, at the gorgeous estate of Langoa Barton, I could not ignore the feeling that we were not reaching the same peaks as with Margaux. Most of the wines were very good, but not spectacular. In any case, we started on a high note with an excellent Beychevelle, exuding spicy elegance on the nose. The palate comes across somewhat tannic and edgy, but I like the power of this wine, showing much dark fruit and mid palate concentration. Not as seamless in aspect as some of the top Margaux, however. And by comparison, just a tad raw on the finish. From memory, I would think that 2016 is going to be a better vintage. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Gruaud Larose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    Could it be that this bottle was just a bit closed as being too close to bottling? More polite, not as expressive, as the Beychevelle tasted blind just before but I do appreciate the ripeness and depth. Let’s try again in January 2018 and see, but – for now – a more conservative note. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Branaire-Ducru – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    A very good performance from Branaire Ducru from bottle. I get an overall polished impression on the nose, with cassis and some pencil shaving aspects. The palate is initially backwards, but opens up to display ripe black and red fruit: quite nice! A touch steely on the finish but give it bottle age. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Langoa Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    Fellow tasters like it more than I did but it comes across as it did from barrel: medium bodied, with cooler blue fruit, somewhat raw tannins and a hint of underripe. I just do not see it as exciting as some of the better showings from Saint Julien in this vintage… (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Lagrange (St. Julien) – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    I like the “completeness” of this wine. The nose is already showing an interesting bouquet with almost sweet coco aspects, ripe fruits and black olive. The palate has a tannic edge, sure, a bit tannic and even raw on the finish but overall I like the feel of the medium- to full-bodied palate. The steeliness on the finish will mellow with time in bottle. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Léoville Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    Fulfills its promise from barrel, as one of the best Saint Juliens in 2015. Lovely nose, sweet cassis, ripe fruit, and the palate is smooth and yet exudes a contained power. Bravo! (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Talbot – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    Disappointing from barrel and again from bottle at this very early stage, alas. Medium bodied, with a frank attack as from barrel, and there is pleasing bright red fruit to ensure enjoyment, but the wine lacks nuance and depth, especially when compared with its peers in this blind tasting. And I am sorry to say, even a bit of pyrazine is noticeable. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Saint-Pierre – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    After Talbot a wine that is quite tasty indeed. I like the ripe red and black fruit, which engages the taster in a rich fashion. While the oak influence is better integrated now in bottle than it was from barrel, it still feels a bit over present, especially on the finish. And not as deep or as layered as, say, Leoville Barton. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Léoville Poyferré – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/2/2017)
    An engaging nose of ripe fruits and spice. The palate is robust and tannic, leading to a polished power with impressive mid palate poise. The finish is long. (94 pts.)

Blind tasting of Haut Médoc wines at Château Belgrave

Facade at Château Belgrave

  • 2015 Château de Camensac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc (11/2/2017)
    The Haut Médocs tasted blind were solid and we started with a good example that exuded chipper freshness and forward motion. What does that mean? Well, a certain vivacity in ripe red fruit and lip smacking thirst quenching claret – for not too much money. This is not an earth shattering wine, but very good. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Belgrave – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc (11/2/2017)
    In the same vein as Camensac, tasted just before, with overall pleasing ripe fruit and perhaps a bit more depth. The finish is smooth and marked by both cooler blue fruit and darker riper fruit. Fun! (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Tour Carnet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc (11/2/2017)
    There is lots of fruit here but the oak factor overwhelms… It depends on what style you seek because it has substance. I prefer wines like Belgrave over this one, but you pays your money and you takes your choice. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Cantemerle – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc (11/2/2017)
    The bottle seemed a bit faulty so note reserved.
  • 2015 Château La Lagune – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc (11/2/2017)
    The deepest of all the Haut Medocs we tried today blind. The juiciness on the mid palate impresses, too, as does aromatic freshness. OK, the attack is tight and the wine needs time to open up, but just bottled, what can you expect. Very nice wine to cellar for 10 years before it would be ready. (93 pts.)

Non blind tasting of Saint Estephes at Cos d’Estournel: some very pleasant surprises

Close to sunset at Château Cos d’Estournel: Thursday 2 November 2017

  • 2015 Château Cos Labory – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (11/2/2017)
    OK, dear reader, this series of five wines from Saint Estephe surprised not just me but also two experienced Bordeaux tasters: Jane Anson and Yohan Castaing, whose blog Anthocyanes excellent. Anyway, all five were excellent. Starting with Cos Labory and its seductive, tobacco nose. The palate although a bit rude on the attack, settles down to a medium to full-bodied claret, that holds its own. Certainly more substantial than it was from barrel. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Cos d’Estournel – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (11/2/2017)
    I erred on this one, having found it somewhat thin from barrel. Staff at Cos d’Estournel – at least – also expressed surprise at how good it is showing from bottle today. In any case, forgot all the stories about 60mm of rain in Saint Estephe … adversely affecting Saint Estephe. Not here, at least. Deeper and riper, with more tobacco than the Cos Labory, tasted before. I like the palate here more as well. Lovely wine! Svelte. (94 pts.)

Bravo Saint Estèphe: all five at least very good in 2015

  • 2015 Château Montrose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (11/2/2017)
    Although closed in, I could feel the substance and concentration. Certainly a long distant runner for this estate. Already clamped and closed I suppose, conjuring images of 1975, 1986… with almost ferocious tannins. Given how well it showed from barrel and in a tasting last year, I will maintain this lofty score. (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Calon-Ségur – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (11/2/2017)
    Gorgeous with fine Havanna tobacco. The palate has a bit of tannic edge though. A case of the nose welcoming more than the palate, but overall, the palate shows nuance and depth and a long finish. Should turn out great with 10 years in your cellar. (93 pts.)

  • 2015 Château Lafon-Rochet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (11/2/2017)
    Here again, after Calon Segur, a bit of hard tannin, but the overall feeling is cohesive and concentrated. A lovely expression as compared from barrel, here more filled out than expected. Bravo! (92 pts.)

Tasting non blind at châteaux: Ducru, LLC and Pontet Canet

One of the wines of the vintage, from the Médoc to be sure

  • 2015 Château Ducluzeau – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc (11/3/2017)
    Merlot driven smoothness that also is a bit boring. I am sure it is not expensive, but there are other things that would excite me more.
    13,5% alcohol. (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Fourcas-Borie – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc (11/3/2017)
    Ch Fourcas Borie offers you a real deal. Merlot with 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and a whopping 15 percent Petit Verdot this vintage. Lots of verve and nuance, this sap driven wine does not make it to the “90s” only because the finish is attenuated but for the price? Go for it! Designated as an official Cru Bourgeois and aged in just over 25 percent new oak – all well integrated. (89 pts.)

Looking for high quality at a low price? Here an excellent cru bourgeois #Bdx15

  • 2015 Château Lalande-Borie – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    Plum like deliciousness, and smooth, but lacks a bit of density to be really yummy. I like the “seriousness” of the tannin but it seems to lack juiciness on the mid palate. 55 percent Merlot and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon. 13,5 alcohol. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    A serious wine, with more tannic edge than the Lalande Borie – and more Cabernet Sauvignon at 64 percent of the blend. It is quite tight and tannic but I like some spicy fruit and a certain roundness that appears with time in glass. Excellent intensity of flavor. Needs about five or 10 years of cellaring before optimal start to drinking. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    Wow. This and Léoville Las Cases get my nod as the two top Saint Juliens. The blend of 90 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Merlot is at first tightly wound up, but it slowly reveals floral aspects, licorice and dark fruit. The combination of elegance and power really impresses me, and perhaps puts it up over, say, Lafite Rothschild in this vintage, albeit neither as suave nor as impressive as Château Margaux. 13.5 percent alcohol, with well integrated 100% new oak and 18 months in barrel. The finish is very long, forcing a smile indeed. Bravo. (97 pts.)

At Château Léoville Las Cases

  • 2015 La Chapelle de Potensac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc (11/3/2017)
    More than humble and little, this second wine of Potensac is tasty and constitutes a bargain. Agreeable fruit on nose, croquant- crunchy fruit on the palate, that is smooth with some elegance, too. Short finish, but I can see why many French restaurants choose to pour this blend of 71 M, 23 CS, 4 CF and 2 PV. 13,35 alcohol, 3,83 acidity and a 3,47 pH. Tannins are fairly present with an IPT of 59. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Potensac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc (11/3/2017)
    While not as impressive at the 2016 from barrel – which I plan to purchase – this is darn good! The blend of 38 CS, and 45 M includes 17% of old vine CF, up to 100 years old. More concentrated than the second wine, tasted just before, with a darker fruit aspect and greater sustain/length, one gets the impression of a great Médoc AOC with depth. The tannin level of IPT 66 is pretty high, with 13,32% alcohol. (90 pts.)

Another great price/quality ratio from Bordeaux in 2015

  • 2015 Fugue de Nénin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (11/3/2017)
    For me this is good enough, and I know it has become a fairly popular second wine. But it costs about the same as Potensac, which is a better buy. The blend of 90-10 Merlot to Cab provides aromatic charm, with some smoky aspects from the oak perhaps. Rich enough and tasty but – to me – just a hint of drying on the medium finish.
    14,15 alcohol; pH 3,73 and IPT 70 (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Nenin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (11/3/2017)
    This blend of 67 Merlot et 33 CF includes old vines up to 70 years old. The terroir faces Trotanoy on the plateau and the wine is getting better and better. Aged in 35 percent new oak, the wine exudes opulent fruit, and lovely freshness from the Cabernet Franc. Not nearly as impressive as the Evangile, tasted the day before, Nenin still shows why Pomerol was a superb appellation in 2015.
    Bottled in June, with 77 IPT, 3,72 pH, 14,3 alcohol. (92 pts.)

Similar labels… but note the little lion under the arch for the second wine. LLC is a top wine in #Bdx15

  • 2015 La Petite Marquise – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    A bit ho hum. Not too long ago the Clos du Marquis was considered the second wine of Leoville Las Cases. More recently, the estate wishes to delineate the difference between the terroir of the Clos used for LLC and other parts of the vineyard that make up Clos du Marquis. So, following trends, each one needs a second. I am not too excited by this Marquise. First off, the labels are too similar looking. But that is not the essential point … 2015 is the first vintage of this second wine and it comes across fresh enough but also just a bit underripe. The blend is 52 Cab and 48 Merlot, with an IPT of 59, 13,85 alcohol. Made up of young vines from plots of Clos du Marquis
    Ok, on the palate, there is red fruit that is drinkable and easy. But that is the word: a bit easy and short on the finish. (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Clos du Marquis – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    I like the spice on the nose of this blend of 66 Cab, 31 Merlot and 3 Cab Franc. Aged in 50 percent new oak, it shows more austerity than the Marquis but also has depth and contours, with finer and riper tannins – even if there is a somewhat closed aspect. IPT 67, 13,80 alcohol and 3,67 pH. Overall this 2015 is more like 2005 than 2009 as it is quite structured. Give it time in your cellar and it should open up nicely. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Le Petit Lion de Marquis de Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    Nice job! Although the labels are confusing – I can see why some people may confuse this second for the first – the wine is great. Petit Lion has 60 Cab and 40 Merlot and has a softer entry than the grand vin. Loads of old Merlots that didn’t make the Las Cases cut are found here and lend sumptuousness. The IPT is 62, with 13,85 alcohol and 3,6 pH – so healthy acidity. Indeed, the impression is a juicy almost jammy wine, but with the rigor of what you would expect from the grand vin, at the finish, which is medium plus. Nice job! (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Léoville Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (11/3/2017)
    Far better from bottle than from barrel. You get an utterly gorgeous cedar nose like perfume, pencil lead, and the attack is rather creamy and enveloped – a lovely mid palate opulence. Then the structure comes to the fore, with the tannin – IPT 76 – making itself well felt. The alcohol borders 14 percent, and the blend – 85 CS / 9 CF / 6 M – is the same as in 2016. The oldest Merlots at 80 years old in the heart of the Clos lend that sumptuousness. It was a tough call between LLC and Ducru: the former is certainly more Pauillac like as one would expect, and the latter more elegant. We shall see how they age! (97 pts.)

At Château Pontet Canet 

Director Jean-Michel Comme pouring Château Pontet-Canet 2015

  • 2015 Château Pontet-Canet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/3/2017)
    Fulfilling its promise from barrel and then some, I loved the purity of fruit and pencil lead on the nose, sharing much in common with Léoville Las Cases, if not quite as intense. Time in glass brought forth subtle floral aromatics, too. The wine was bottled in July and from bottle now has a focused precision and freshness, too, owing to a somewhat low pH we were told at the estate. The finish tightens up a bit but that is normal. Aged in 50% new oak, 35% amphora and the rest in barriques d’un vin. “No rognage, no leaf clearing, no green harvest,” explained director Jean-Michel Comme.
    So “neutrality” with amphorae is added to the winemaking: for information, the wines breath through these as well… An excellent Pontet! (95 pts.)

Tasting non blind the wines under AXA ownership at Château Pichon Baron (the grand vin was tasted blind with the other Pauillacs)

The tasting room is at the left side of the building…

  • 2015 Château Pibran – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/3/2017)
    Get this wine, as an excellent price-quality ratio of 2015. Fine cassis and rich plum marry in this 50-50 Cab and Merlot blend to provide a brisk and rich drink. Fellow taster Yohan Castaing loved it, too. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Les Tourelles de Longueville – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    I really liked this Merlot driven second wine from Pichon Baron. While the Baron (and Griffons especially) are steelier Pauillacs, here you enjoy a plump and almost decadent style of Pauillac, made from grapes grown from almost 30-year-old Merlot vines (55 percent Merlot in the blend). The 15 percent Cab Franc provides minty freshness and the 30 percent Cab Sauv structure. A bit of Petit Verdot, a bit of spice? In any case, this is Pauillac but softball Pauillac: smooth and succulent – and I love it. (91 pts.)

Yet another fine price/quality ratio from Bordeaux in 2015

  • 2015 Les Griffons de Pichon Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    While I really enjoy the Tourelles, this wine I respect. But really, I wonder why bother to make a lesser version of the Baron in the first place. It is only slightly lesser I guess, but lesser. The Tourelles serves the nice purpose of being a smoother and richer style. I suppose Griffons is “intermediate”? It is certainly quite austere for now, with a majority of Cabernet aged 18 months in 60 percent new oak. Director Jean Rene Matignon explained that it is part of refining the selection for the grand vin (which I later tasted blind along with other 2015 Pauillacs). OK. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Petit Village – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (11/2/2017)
    A very solid Pomerol, if not reaching the heights of, say, Evangile, but more proof that this was a star appellation in 2015. Quite a rich wine, but at this stage a bit edgy. I may like 2016 more, as recently named technical director Diana Berrouet Garcia gets a better control of the reins. The blend is 71 Merlot / 20 Cab Franc / and the rest is Cab. Richness and power for sure. (92 pts.)

Blind tasting of classified AOC Pauillac wines (sans Lafite, Latour or Mouton) at Château Pichon Baron

  • 2015 Château Croizet-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    Surprise, surprise. This underachiever is quite nice in 2015 from bottle. While not super deep or nuanced, it conveys charm and ripe red fruit. The nose is clean nose, and even a bit sweet with a touch of vanilla that does not overbear the taster. Overall, smooth and suave. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Haut-Bages Libéral – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    An improvement over what turned out to be Croizet Bages in this first flight of a blind tasting of Pauillacs. On the nose one senses powerful tannin which comes across as powerful on the palate – more so than the preceding wine – but the ripe fruit is there and so is the structure. Although the tannins are a bit raw, it finishes smoothly and fairly long. Nice job! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    Pretty much fulfilling its promise from barrel although I did not like it quite as much as Jane Anson did. The palate is smooth if just a bit austere, but I like the grip on the palate and there is a long, lingering finish. I had enjoyed it last month at a vertical tasting dinner with director Nicolas Glumineau and enjoyed it a bit more then. There is density of course, but a bit more closed in this time, with less mid palate texture. (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    OK, this was amusing. In this blind tasting, GPL was featured … twice! Coming after Pichon Comtesse, it was not as good as when tasted after Pedesclaux. We all agreed that blind tasting includes being influenced by wines tasted just before! In any case, I’ll try to synthesize the two notes. Overall one gets an impression of depth and width, and with oak, but refined and long. A very good GPL! However, a bit shorter than the Comtesse. There you go. (93 pts.)

Jean-Rene Matignon (with glass in hand) and Nicolas Santier of Château Pichon Baron, preparing the blind tasting of fellow Pauillacs from the 2015 vintage

  • 2015 Château Batailley – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    This was disappointing. It seems as if the oak is blanketing the fruit, and it came across as simple. Note reserved because it was so good en primeur, as being the first vintage with the use of the second wine, Lion de Batailley. I will taste again in January to re-evaluate.
  • 2015 Château Lynch-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    The overall impression is a wine that has loads of power and tannin, and that seems closed in at this stage. I am getting lots of ripe red and black fruit from bottle but the tannin clamps down a bit. I would leave it in your cellar for 10 years before opening. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Lynch-Moussas – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    Wow. This really surprised me. I know the score is high, and especially considering my lack of enthusiasm from barrel. But it is pretty sumptuous, opulent even and rather powerful. Showing both balance and integrity of the fruit. Bright yet deep. Based on this blind tasting (I look forward to trying again in January), worth buying. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    Out of all the Pauillacs tasted blind today, this impressed me most. It will be interesting to compare with 2014, which was stellar for the vintage. In any case, the core here is tannic power, but there is opulence and fine tannic grain – and loads of length. I would say this is a Latour like Pauillac in the old sense. While it seemed softer from barrel, it has firmed up to convey greater density now. Recommended buy, I suppose, but the 2014 is perhaps the better deal. (95 pts.)

I guessed Pichon Baron correctly but was completely surprised by the very stellar performance of Lynch Moussas.

  • 2015 Château Pedesclaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/2/2017)
    I rather liked this, thinking it was GPL. Fruit driven nose with fine balance. But it was just a bit short – and Grand Puy Lacoste, tasted afterwards, seemed longer and more dense. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Grand-Puy Ducasse – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/3/2017)
    Straightforward and delicious with ripe fruit albeit ending with tannic Pauillac typicity. A bit austere, too, but, hey, give it time. (90 pts.)

Some of these wines perhaps did not show as well, because bottling was too close to the tasting. Luckily most of these cases concerned wines in the UGCB, so I will get a chance to try them again at least in January 2018 either in Washington D.C. or in New York City. 


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3 Comments on “2015 Bordeaux from bottle, part 1: Mostly Médoc wines

  1. Panos, Concerning Petit Village, the new technical director, Diana Berrouet Garcia, has not been recently appointed!. She got the job in summer 2015, when Marielle Cazaux, the previous technical director, switched over to La Conseillante. I tasted 2015 and 2016 PV side by side during primeur in April this year and they are wonderful wines with 2016 slightly better. Petit Village has a fantastic terroir which just needed somebody to treat it right. I recently tasted a 1964 PV made by Ginestet family, owners at that time, and it was brilliant.

  2. Panos,

    I am pleased to hear LLC is showing so well in bottle. Do you think the 2015 will be approachable within 10 years, or will it require long-term aging like so many other vintages from this great estate?

    • Thanks Alex for reading. I suspect that it will close down at some point and require long term aging.

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