Mad about Margaux #Bdx15

The best Médoc appellation in 2015

By Panos Kakaviatos for

30 April 2016

With 21 cru classés châteaux – more than any other commune in Bordeaux, and ranging from first to fifth growth – Margaux is the most sprawling of the famous Médoc appellations, and is usually the most heterogeneous in quality because it is so big, some 3,677 acres, about 8.5% of all the Médoc, and variable.

Smaller Saint Julien typically gets the award for consistency in most barrel tasting seasons, but in 2015 Margaux wins the consistency prize in the Médoc, in spite of its large size. A general increase in quality over the past few years among many Margaux producers combined with the particularly favorable vintage conditions here are two reasons for this success.

As explained in my introduction to the barrel tastings, with only about 30mm of rainfall in September, it was the driest part of the Médoc, which helped make the tannins particularly smooth, from fine cru bourgeois level wines to the very top: Château Margaux is easily a top five 2015 barrel sample.

2015 is also generally – and clearly – better than 2014, which was merely solid last year for Margaux. With expected price hikes, smart buyers should seek mid-range priced estates, as almost all Margaux was wonderful. Although not all cru bourgeois samples I tried were successful, I found gems from the Alliance of Cru Bourgeois tasting, which will be excellent off-the-shelf buys in a couple of years.

Paul Pontallier in April 2015

Paul Pontallier in April 2015

Before we get to the tasting notes, en primeur began on a very sad note. The Saturday before tastings officially began, a funeral was held for Paul Pontallier, the director of Château Margaux, who had joined the estate team back in 1983 and was responsible for bringing the quality of the first growth to new heights.

His wit, elegance, intelligence and refinement mirrored the wines he crafted, and it is difficult to imagine the estate without him. Although the estate did not announce the cause of death, it is known that he had been battling cancer. He would have turned 60 on 22 April this year.

2015 has turned out to be his last vintage and in the booklet about the vintage, owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos included a message from Pontallier that he wanted to communicate: 2015 will remain a fantastic and emotional vintage for all of us; we have celebrated our rich history, inaugurated the buildings of our future, and produced a wine whose quality will be remembered for a very long time.

Issan fine in 2015

Best Issan ever from barrel?

Many barrel samples assessed at the Margaux-based Ulysse Cazabonne merchant. Some tasted again at tastings organized for media by the UGCB at Bordeaux’s new stadium. As usual, barrel samples in bold I liked in particular, when bold and red even more and when underlined, too, wine nirvana.

  • 2015 Château d’Angludet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Pine cone freshness, this is quite smooth and elegant, with a rich mid palate, ending on a lifting seashell like finish, indicative of how delicious the Margaux appellation was. 90-92+
  • 2015 Château d’Arsac Margaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Proof to the adage, grande année, petit vin, this showed very well, with over 60% Cabernet Sauvignon displaying fine structure and the Merlot a bit of mid-palate juicy richness, well balanced, excellent grip and a long finish. Bravo to a fine cru bourgeois. 89-91
  • 2015 Château Boyd-Cantenac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Shows prominent oak touches, but there is seashell freshness with a full-bodied mid palate, and enough lift on the finish to maintain Margaux excitement. Quite nice, although I think Brane Cantenac, tasted just before, has more purity. 91-93+
Fellow wine taster and pal Christian Schoen loving Brane Cantenac

Fellow wine taster and pal Christian Schön loving Brane Cantenac

  • 2015 Château Brane-Cantenac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    One of the top stars of the Margaux appellation with excellent grip matching amazing aromatics. Shows focus with clean bright red and black fruit. Very refined, yet tannic and needs time in barrel to soften the edges, a great Brane in the making. Tasting it again at the UGCB stadium tasting, impressions confirmed gorgeous perfume of violets and white flowers, with a sense of refinement and full body. 93-95
  • 2015 Château Cantenac Brown – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Roasted espresso bean aspect that is quite prominent on the aromatics precedes a palate full of pleasingly ripe tannin, but overall it lacks the juiciness and verve of the best Margaux wines – and it could use a bit more precision. Finish not quite drying, but just a touch hard. Time in barrel should soften that aspect. 89-91
  • 2015 Château Dauzac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Red and black fruit aromas, with white flower, too, and palate that exudes juicy ripe, red fruit. And not without excellent tannic structure leading to a pleasing lifting finish. In some years the underrated Dauzac hits a home run, and it did it again in 2015 from barrel. A property to watch, yet again, as a bargain wine in a “great” vintage. 91-93
  • 2015 Château Desmirail – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Only tasted at stadium. A rather oaky nose. Palate is more elegant and smooth, perhaps lacking enough up front fruit to convince me entirely, but it is tasty and it will not be pricey. 89-91+
  • 2015 Château Ferrière – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    It evokes a mentholated aspect, which seems to be quite a feature of this estate (also confirmed at the stadium tasting). Fine and substantial mid palate, like many of these Margaux, with Cabernet structure, albeit a bit closed in, and not quite as bright as some of my favorites from Margaux. 90-92
  • 2015 Château Giscours – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Lovely floral elegance on the nose. Quite substantial mid palate, juicy and very opulent yet balanced, with red fruit ripeness leading to a medium- to long finish. Perhaps a touch less complete than the very top tier from Margaux, but the price should be just right and for #winelovers who are sick of high pricing from Bordeaux, this may just be your Margaux classified growth ticket. 91-94
  • 2015 Château d’Issan – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    One of the best Margaux because the floral aromatics are beguiling. While it lacks that inner power of Palmer – or first growth Margaux – the silky, floral curtain covers fine Cabernet-driven structure that barrel aging will bring more to the fore. Possibly the best d’Issan I have had from barrel. 92-95
  • 2015 Château Kirwan – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Floral nose here, again confirmed at the stadium tasting. Quite a contrast to d’Issan. The aromatics are more clearly fruit driven, the palate is bright, and tannins ripe if not among the silkiest of Margaux. Tasted again at the UGCB stadium event, the sample showed more precision, weight and excellent length. Overall, my impression is that this is going to be a darn good Kirwan. 91-93+
  • 2015 Château Labégorce – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    This was one of my favorites for value from 2014 and it is again excellent in 2015, displaying black fruit, seductive aromatics, somewhat heady however, like a plum liqueur, but not displeasing. The palate is opulent and again on the slightly heavy side. I do think that the 2014 exuded more pleasing brightness as I was more enthusiastic about their sample last year (so enthusiastic that I bought 24 half bottles en primeur). Still, this is darn good. Confirmed at the stadium: quite rich delicious and lip smacking good. 89-92
  • 2015 Château Lascombes – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Full throttle richness, dark fruit, heady, and – yes – a bit drying but not nearly as much as I was half expecting, given the style of this estate. Then again, I liked their 2014 for being fresher and less oak driven. 2015, in context, seems to be a half step back (confirmed at the stadium with a “slightly heavy” aspect) but it has lots of richness to please many a palate. 90-93
  • 2015 Château Malescot St. Exupéry – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    One of the weightier Margaux styles from the 2015 vintage. I got somewhat mixed impressions, with one sample showing better (stadium tasting) than the other, but overall an opulent style, with loads of juicy fruit on the mid palate, albeit with a bit too much oak influence for my taste, at least for the one sample. But I’ll favor the better second sample, as many reviewers really loved this. 90-93
  • 2015 Château Margaux *- France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the estate and is easily the best barrel sample I have tasted at Margaux since 2005. Like the 2005, it is very complete and elegant but it packs more power, venturing into Latour territory. Deep structured, complex, freshness on the aromatics, with hawthorn and violets, then red and black fruits on the sap-filled and very grippy palate, with purity and precision overall leading to a very long finish. As estate representative Sebastien Vergne explained, the wine is being made more precise than ever before, with 250 blending samples – more than double than last year. And 96 tanks were used for a more careful parcel-by-parcel selection, as opposed to 56 last year: the smallest being 13 hectoliters (six of those) and four additional at 15 hectoliters. Only 35% of the harvest went into the first wine, made up of 87% Cabernet that indeed conveys “unusual vigor and strength” as Vergne said. It is aging in 100% new oak. When Pontallier started, back in 1983, another great vintage for Margaux, only 26 tanks were used. Of course the wines are being better made today, but one misses the prices from the 1980s, eh? Anyway, like almost everywhere else in Bordeaux in 2015, yields were slightly higher than average, with 40 hectoliters per hectare (average being 36). The tannin levels were high, approaching 2009 levels. A top barrel sample in 2015. 96-99.
  • 2015 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    This could be the best that they have made. Very fresh and flattering, with white flower aspects and ripe red berry fruit, the blend includes 74% Cabernet Sauvignon for firmness and 21% Merlot for soft silkiness. I really loved the charm from last year, but it conveys a bit more power this year. Aging in 60% new oak. 92-94+
  • 2015 Château Marojallia – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Dark fruit, dark color, as if the skins were extracted throughout. An almost black wine when compared to others I sampled at the Ulysses Cazabonne tasting. Yet there is brightness on the mid palate. Alas, the final is marked by somewhat drying tannins, in a “modern” sense. Modern palates may well love this, so score higher if you are in that category! 89-91
  • 2015 Château Marquis de Terme – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Floral and rich with darker fruit on the nose, yet again, with the palate showing excellent tannic structure with sumptuousness. A touch heady on the finish? It is like a dollop of port was thrown in the blend, but delicious and even a bit heady on the finish. 89-92
  • 2015 Château Marquis d’Alesme – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Aromatically more floral than the Marquis de Terme, yet the palate is not quite as sumptuous, with tannins just a touch austere on the finish, with a drying aspect that is not so typical of the Margaux I have been trying from this vintage. But it has positive aspects. 89-91
  • 2015 Château Monbrison – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Yet again, pleasing floral aromas. Red fruit freshness, rather bright, albeit a touch metallic and austere on the finish, but that is what barrel aging is for, and I think it will turn out fine if not the most elegant: confirmed at the stadium, some metallic notes. 89-91
A view of Palmer from Rauzan Segla: two gorgeous Margaux in 2015

A view of Palmer from Rauzan Segla: two gorgeous Margaux in 2015

  • 2015 Château Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Here we have an example where tannins were rather high in 2015 (high tannic index at 80, while average is about 65). “Tannin management was very important, otherwise you would feel the alcohol more – especially because acidity was somewhat low,” explained director Thomas Duroux during our tasting. This blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot came across rather Pauillac-like with black tea and tobacco notes, an overall impression of stately refinement, very polished. The 14.2 percent alcohol was well integrated, as I found freshness, too on the finish. Plenty of dry extract and a long finish remind me of 2005 but perhaps a touch smoother from barrel: a great wine in the making. 94-97.
  • 2015 Alter Ego de Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very smooth and refreshing, exuding both red and dark fruit. The just over 14% alcohol is well integrated, and this blend of 52% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot was delicious. 91-93
  • 2015 Château Paveil de Luze – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Pleasingly floral aromatics. Shows fine sap, mid palate juiciness, ripe and medium to full bodied. Not quite as long on the finish as d’Arsac but a fine showing. 89-91
pair of fine cru bourgeois Margaux 2015

Two successful cru bourgeois from 2015

  • 2015 Château Pontac-Lynch – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Tasted at the cru bourgeois tasting, this estate’s 40 year old vines on average are yielding better and better wines. As the French adage goes – grande année, petit vin. Nearly 10% Petit Verdot showing, yet again, how this variety did very well in 2015. Aromatic, even a touch spicy, with a juicy mid palate. Although the finish is just a touch hard, barrel aging should round that out. Very promising. 90-92
  • 2015 Château Prieuré-Lichine – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Violets, floral and dark fruit on the nose. Quite full-bodied, yet elegant, not quite as heady as the Labégorce, so more balanced in my tasting book. Let’s see how barrel aging handles this but quite promising indeed! Confirmed at the stadium: lovely, rich, lifting with red and black fruit. Bravo! 92-94+
  • 2015 Château Rauzan-Gassies – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    This has a bit of oak showing on the nose – and on the palate. Otherwise, ripe tannins, smooth delivery, a roasted aspect accentuated by oak notes on the palate. It seems to lack just a bit of complexity and nuance, but it delivers the “2015 Margaux goods”. Stadium tasting confirmed the “smooth tannins” just after tasting some Saint Estèphes. 89-92

Excellent Segla

  • 2015 Château Rauzan-Ségla – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Refined elegance, with much substance. Floral aromatics. A very clean and pure expression of fruit, and ripe tannin on the palate. It displays excellent grip and underlying structure that bodes well for barrel aging. Although not as aromatically intense as, say, Brane Cantenac or d’Issan, it came across as a very “complete” wine when tasted again at the stadium. 92-95
  • 2015 Château Siran – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Quite a bit of freshness on this palate, although tannins are more raw than the best examples from Margaux. Indeed, somewhat angular, and so time in barrel should soften that. At the stadium, just comparing with, say, Les Ormes de Pez, and you see what a difference the rain further north made as Siran is far more silky! 89-91+
  • 2015 Château du Tertre – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    In some vintages, Du Tertre comes across as less elegant than its sister estate Giscours and 2015 is one example. It makes up for that with loads of sumptuous mid palate sap and a pleasing spiciness coming from the 10% Petit Verdot, which was particularly successful in this vintage. In the end however, I would tip my hat to Giscours in 2015. 89-92+
  • 2015 Château La Tour de Mons – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Yet again, pleasing aromatics showing a firm grip, with more cool fruit than black and ripe. Somewhat bit foursquare compared to the upper echelons, with chewy tannins that lead to medium finish. Still, this will be a crowd-pleasing wine, and time in barrel should soften edges and make it gouleyant (easy drinking), as the French say. Tasted on two separate occasions with consistent notes. 87-90

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2 Comments on “Mad about Margaux #Bdx15

  1. thinking about buying a case of 2015 rauzan Segla and d’Issan. Really Loved the 2005 d’Issan, but have been sampling the Rauzan Segla at the UGC for the last several years (2011-2013) and didn’t think much of it, but those weren’t the best vintages either. It was easy to buy the 2015 Canon as a future because everyone was gushing over that wine and for the rating it was relatively inexpensive.

    It’s difficult to purchase futures because of most buyers not being able to taste them, plus I can’t tell much from barrel samples anyway!! So I purchased some Ch. Margaux because that’s going to do well and have had many vintages of this wine and love it.

    The other thing is that I can guarantee my own provenance with my own storage which makes me feel better so if I purchase futures there is no worry about that versus waiting and buying from someone else who has stored it. Even the retailers with the best storage have cases that they pass back and forth via trades and its possible the wine has been moved with temperature spikes as a result.

    I guess I am wondering how good these two wines will be in ten years and if its worth buying them, versus back-filling wines that could be drunk now. And how long it will be till they reach drinkability.

  2. Thanks for writing, David. From memory, as it has been a while since April, I would think that Rauzan Segla may have a bit more structure for longer term aging, but both are superb wines. I agree with you: Issan 2005 is fantastic. Indeed, 2005 is a great vintage and if you can find more Issan for a price comparable to 2015 en primeur, no need to buy 2015 en primeur, as the 2005 can last easily another 15+ years. The Rauzan Segla 2005 is more firm, more structured, not as evidently sumptuous. I really like the Rauzan Segla 2015 as it has a bit more sumptuousness. To answer your question, it comes down to price – and what drinking window you want. If you buy quality back vintages at prices comparable to either Issan or Rauzan Segla 2015, and want to enjoy the wines sooner, then by all means do that. But if you find competitive pricing en primeur for these excellent barrel samples, and are willing to wait, say, 10 years for Issan and 15+ years for Rauzan Segla, then go for it!

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