Saint Julien #bdx15: subtle, suave, successful

By Panos Kakaviatos for

 1 May 2016

2015 was a successful vintage for Saint Julien, with expected elegance combined with Cabernet driven structure. While some tasters seemed a touch under-whelmed, I was happy with most of the wines from this affable appellation. And boy-oh-boy Léoville Las Cases and Ducru Beaucaillou were both amazing – clearly better than in 2014.

Then again, some of the other wines seemed to be not all that much better than in 2014, a vintage that was also excellent for this appellation. For some estates, 2015 is getting more hype than the qualitative difference suggests, so savvy #winelovers should be wary of some of the 2015 pricing… Anyway, I enjoyed these barrel samples. As usual, in bold I liked in particular, when bold and red, even more. And when underlined, too, a kind of nirvana.

  • 2015 Château Beychevelle – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Lacks perhaps the robustness of some of the Pauillacs I had tasted the same day at the UGCB stadium tastings, but it comes across as quite bright and tannic too, with a pure expression of dark red berry fruit. Medium-bodied elegance, and precise, too, albeit with some roasted aspects and oak influence. With barrel aging, it should become an excellent drink! Tasted at Ulysses Cazabonne with similar results. 90-92+
  • 2015 Château Branaire-Ducru – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Shows more depth and substance on the palate as compared to the Beychevelle, tasted just before. Quite a successful Branaire! Rich, yet tannic and structured, with refinement. Nice job! 91-93
  • 2015 Clos du Marquis – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Tasted at Léoville Las Cases, this blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot comes across as smooth and ripe, with underlying tannic power that harkens back to 1986 as much as 1985. Just shy of 14% alcohol, it is balanced by 3.85 grams per liter of acidity. At Ulysses Cazabonne, tasted just after Léoville Barton, this “second wine” of Léoville Las Cases seems somewhat lighter by comparison, more evidently easy going. There is a tannic backbone on the finish however. 89-92
  • 2015 La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Tasted at Ducru Beaucaillou, this “second wine” blending 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot counts among the best seconds of Bordeaux. A delicious nose of tobacco leaf with smooth and even somewhat soft tannins à la 1985. The underlying structure harkens back to 2005. The length is medium plus. Lovely! 89-91+
Ducru Beaucaillou great in 2015

Bravo to Ducru Beaucaillou!

  • 2015 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou* – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    The first nose is somewhat impenetrable, but with time in glass, pure notes of cassis and white flowers precede a bright yet creamy palate, with quite a bit of tannic power underneath, reflecting the whopping 95% Cabernet Sauvignon (plus 5% Merlot). There is indeed a full bodied, subtle and layered aspect to the palate that enchants. The overall impression is of smooth, polished tannins, with a very precise aspect leading to a long and again subtle finish. And guess what? Not even 13.5% alcohol! Now, that is the type of Bordeaux balance I adore. What adds to its appeal is a touch of spice – clove in particular. A great wine in the making! 94-96+
  • 2015 Château Gloria – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Somewhat heavy, just a touch – not quite as balanced as the Branaire Ducru, even if it matches the weight. I am not as excited by it as in previous vintages. Perhaps it was the sample? Judgment reserved.

Go Gruaud

  • 2015 Château Gruaud Larose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Violets and dark fruit aromatics. On the palate, quite meaty and fleshy. Certainly impressive, yet not heavy. A fine Gruaud in the making. Has seashell freshness too, with tonicity on the finish. There is subtle depth and barrel aging will fill out the palate. I bet you it will turn out very nicely in bottle! 92-94
  • 2015 Château Langoa Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Pure fruit aspects, blueberry and red fruit. Medium bodied on the palate. Fresh. Ripe. Compared to Léoville Barton, the tannins are bit more raw. And it is not as exciting as Gruaud Larose, not quite as balanced and rounded as Branaire. 89-91
  • 2015 Château Léoville Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Gorgeous nose of violet. Rich and opulent powerful, too. This is excellent, with quite a bit of ripe, tannic edge on the finish. Tasted at Ulysses Cazabonne after Beychevelle, and it delivers superior intensity and grip, the tannins evident and rather powerful, so barrel aging should indeed soften it nicely. A top Saint Julien. 93-95+
Lion of a vintage at LLC

A lion of a vintage at LLC

  • 2015 Château Léoville Las Cases*- France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Shares the spotlight with Ducru Beaucaillou as the best barrel sample of Saint Julien. Reminds me of the 2005, from en primeur, but with some very ripe 2009 aspects, too. One could also say a bit of 1986, given the impressive tannins. But more polished. This blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc with nearly 14% alcohol and 3.74 grams per liter of acidity exudes graphite, cassis and black fruit aromatics, with plenty of grip on its layered and full-bodied palate, leading to a fresh and polished (long) finish. Gorgeous. 94-96+
  • 2015 Château Léoville Poyferré – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    From the get go, aromatics of immediately ripe red and dark fruits, a lovely palate, with red fruit freshness and pleasingly rounded symmetry leading to a polished and sumptuous finish. 92-95
  • 2015 Château Saint-Pierre – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    There is ripe fruit and quite prominent oak (the most of all the Saint Juliens) on the nose. Robust and opulent, albeit somewhat tar like, the oak influence in evidence on the palate, too. Still, the fruit is there, and there is richness. 90-92+
  • 2015 Château Talbot – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Aromatics of ripe red fruit lead to a pleasing and frank attack, with a medium bodied palate, leading to a medium finish. Not quite as nuanced or as compelling as the upper echelons. 89-91



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