Bordeaux 2015 from bottle: Conclusions

Very good to great

By Panos Kakaviatos for

20 March 2018

Dear readers, pretty much all my notes on Bordeaux 2015 from bottle – many wines assessed since late November last year – are online. Including, finally, some splendid wines from Sauternes and Barsac.

For a quick look at each section, here the links to click:

Pomerol (recently updated) – Saint EmilionGrand CercleCru BourgeoisMargaux – Saint Julien – Pauillac – Saint EstepheGraves/Pessac-LéognanFronsac Focus (I mean, do you want QPR, here is your QPR!) – Sauternes/Barsac

Some are hyping the vintage as the next best thing since sliced bread, and retailers love using big scores to sell wine. Nothing wrong with that. I’m “guilty” too, for hyping the vintage, but I try to be realistic, so you do not get that many inflated numbers from me.

Having said this, 2015 is a very good to great vintage.

It depends on where you are, which appellation, and which producer, to find greatness. Of course some of the most expensive wines are great (Petrus, Lafleur, Margaux among others) but not all, so you should not just choose wines by (lofty) price.

Further comparisons with 2014

Some like to say that 2015 is the best since 2010. In many ways, sure. But it ain’t that simple. Much truth comes from longtime Bordeaux critics, like Jean-Marc Quarin, who says that 2014 can be comparable to 2015. His conclusion on 2015? Here en français:

La poursuite de mes dégustations révèle que certains 2015 ne dépassent pas les 2014. Or, les 2014 sont moins chers ! C’est le cas dans le Médoc entre Saint-Julien et Saint- Estèphe. Plus au sud, en descendant vers Margaux et le haut-médoc, il a moins plu en septembre et la situation varie. Je savais les Saint Estèphe 2015 moins réussis que les 2014 . Eh bien ! à  Pauillac et St Julien certains 2014 font jeu égal avec les 2015…

Basic translation:

The continuation of my tastings reveals that some 2015s do not exceed the 2014s. Furthermore, the 2014s are less expensive! This is the case in the Médoc between Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe. Further south, down to Margaux and Haut-Médoc, it was less rainy in September and the situation varies. I knew that the Saint Estèphe 2015s are less successful than the 2014s. In fact, in Pauillac and St Julien, some 2014s are equal to the 2015s …

I agree with Jean-Marc to some extent, although, as I discovered more recently, the Saint Estèphes in 2015 are pretty darn good, and not as “underwhelming” as I had expected, based on what I had tried from barrel.

But the bottom line remains for example that the ever meticulous Château Montrose had to be choosier in selecting grapes for its first wine in 2015 than it had to be for its first wine in 2014 – and their (less expensive) 2014 rivals the (more expensive) 2015. When I had organized a comprehensive vertical tasting of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Washington D.C. in October last year, many experienced Bordeaux fans – like Kevin Shin – preferred the 2014 to the 2015, giving it 95 points to the 2015’s 94 points

Finally, I recall speaking with savvy and highly experienced French critic Bernard Burtschy about the vintage, and how he felt that some northern Médocs from 2014 rival and can even be better than their 2015 counterparts. Indeed, 2014 remains, in some cases, a better purchase.

Singing 2015 praises 

But let us sing appropriate praises to 2015. Like other critics – Hugo Van Landeghem of Belgium comes to mind, when were tasting together en primeur – the vintage offers some remarkably balanced and elegant wines from the Right Bank, especially. As an ambassador for Saint Emilion, he told me that he felt a “return” to 1985 like elegance in the wines.

Such elegance can be found in droves in much of Pomerol and Fronsac, which punches way above its weight and any Bordeaux lover should seek out Fronsac in 2015 for the best price/quality ratios.

But indeed, Saint Emilion has been witnessing a happy changing tide in style that accentuates freshness and juiciness over heaviness and oak, as you can read in my review of Saint Emilion.

Bang for your buck, on both banks 

On the left bank, Margaux and much of the southern Médoc feature wines that are nothing short of fabulous and clearly upstage the 2014 vintage. Furthermore in such appellations, you can buy with confidence “less celebrated” estates that offer greater bang for your buck or euro or yuan. On both banks. Pun intended.

Take Château La Pointe, which is an excellent Pomerol at under $50 a bottle. Or Château Siran, a pure and fresh, fruit driven Margaux in an appellation that excelled in 2015. It was great to retaste some wines at two UGCB tastings held in Washington D.C. on 18 January and in New York City on 22 January.

Another more recent example – tasted again this month in Strasbourg – is the marvelously classic and refined Château Paveil de Luze, a cru bourgeois from Margaux.

Fine whites, too

As for the dry whites, well, the basic conclusion is that they are better than expected.

Many of us tasters were being told about the solar nature of the vintage en primeur, but even back then – as you can see in the video, above – the whites seemed fresher than one could have expected, and this was proven from bottle, as you can read in my notes mainly from Graves/Pessac-Léognan.

The Sauternes and Barsacs?

All pretty much excellent, with fine notes of botrytis-derived spice and full, ripe fruit flavors.

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