Bordeaux 2015: Merlot’s moment?


Ch. Mouton Rothschild. Photograph: Jason Lowe

Ch. Mouton Rothschild. Photograph: Jason Lowe

Our man in Bordeaux – Jonathan White – reports on day one of the team’s week tasting Bordeaux 2015 en primeur, with preliminary thoughts on the importance of Merlot, how the vintage compares to 2005, 2009 and 2010 and the finesse exhibited thus far.

We arrived in Bordeaux wondering just how good the 2015 vintage is. After a day tasting in St Julien, Margaux and Pauillac, we can’t fully answer that question, but the wines certainly offer something which we haven’t seen for many years. Ripe, crunchy, sweet fruit, good acidity and fine-woven tannins – all in harmony – suggests the wines will age well. This is unquestionably the best vintage since 2010, but where it sits in comparison to other vintages of the past 20 years is a question we hope to answer during the week.

What we do know at the end of our first day tasting is that there is some variation. Some wines are showing incredibly well and others a little less so. Perhaps it is hard to make sweeping judgements about vintages these days? Merlot seems to be a significant factor, and wines with significant proportions in their blend have tended to fare very well indeed.

We expected the 2015 wines to collectively have a bit more substance than they appear to have, to be a bit more “bulky”. It is, however, a cool freshness and crunchy fruit which appears to be the hallmark of the vintage. The wines aren’t heavyweights, one could perhaps add finesse and elegance as identifiers too.

Thomas Deroux told us that he thinks 2015 suited Ch. Palmer’s style and we were very impressed with their wines this year. Alter Ego de Palmer displays a glorious creamy texture, with layer upon layer of tasty fruit. Ch. Palmer is simply right at the top of the tree and, on the evidence of tastings with two of the First Growths so far, it is hard to rate it as anything lesser.

Patrick Maroteaux describes the vintage as powerful, with the resultant wines fruity, having good structure and length. He is really happy with his wine and justifiably so. Ch. Branaire-Ducru tastes like great wine should. There is no hint of interference here: it is very noticeably fresh and polished, but naturally so. There is 26 percent Merlot in the blend, and overall the encépagement is “classic” for this estate.

Philippe Blanc of Ch. Beychevelle agreed with us that the wines are showing a crunchy fruit profile and that there is a slight sweetness at the front of the palate. But the 2015s don’t appear to be flash, showy wines. In fact, they are very different to the 2009s and 2010s, which – whilst demonstrating an intrinsic underbelly of power – were really tasty wines, really generous with fruit and showing a finesse which encouraged you to enjoy a glass or two of the wines there and then. The 2015s we have tasted offer attractive sweet fruit, but it is more evident that these wines will get better with age. They are harmoniously balanced, with great length and nicely managed acidity.

Bruno Borie at Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou told us that there was no scorching weather in 2015: it was a beautiful summer, but with cooler temperatures in the evening, despite the warmer days. He is extremely happy with the 2015 vintage. Interestingly, he went on to say that wine is about relaxation, enjoyment and pleasure. It is his intention to create wines which people enjoy drinking and this is an extremely relevant point that we wholeheartedly agree with. We are wine lovers, we get excited when the cork is pulled on something special, and we love to share this passion with our clients. Therefore we intend to recommend wines which we think are very good over the course of the campaign, regardless of their status in the Classification system. We will also continue to offer what we believe to be a fair and balanced view as to the value of a given wine, once the prices are released over the coming months.

On Tuesday we leave the Left Bank for a day’s tasting on the Right Bank in Pomerol and St Emilion. It will be fascinating to see how the wines compare.

We’ll be posting updates every day, so keep an eye out for our team’s reports throughout the week.