On the Trail

2015 Bordeaux: Initial Reactions

David Driscoll

We're finally on our way back to California, huddled at a Charles de Gaulle café eating breakfast, each of us offering our initial reactions to what we tasted and experience over the last nine days. It's been a great trip and the six of us are quite optimistic about the potential of what's happening here in France. The 2015 Bordeaux vintage is a charming one; it's a "smiling vintage" as Veronique Sanders from Haut-Bailly referred to it at dinner. Many of the wines showcase pretty aromatics and plentiful fruit, but with restraint and a certain gracefulness. There's been nothing but positivity wherever we've gone. "Finesse" was a word we heard often from winemakers during the en primeur events. "Elegant" was another favorite descriptor. The major concern is obviously the price, but all of us on this trip are of the firm belief that so long as prices remain near where they've been for the last few years, 2015 could be the comeback year for Bordeaux. There's also serious potential for serious value. Take the wines of Domaine de Chevalier, for example. We spent our final evening having dinner at the estate and tasting through a stellar line-up of both white and red offerings that will hopefully provide the bargains customers everywhere are searching for. Everyone's still mum on their prices for the time being, but "reasonable" was another word we often heard in reference to the eventual en primeur costs. Who knows what that actually means, however.

2015 is a very good Bordeaux vintage, but there is definitely some variance. Some people made great wine and others just OK. You have to know where to look, but we’re pretty confident there will be a number of great cellar candidates for fans of the genre. "I thought many of the wines had a real purity of fruit and great freshness," Ralph said taking a sip of his coffee. "The wines had tannin, but you didn’t taste the tannins because the fruit was so precise. It reminds me of 2009 but with lower alcohol and more freshness," Trey added. We were all in agreement that there were hits and misses on both sides of the river, and that no one region had a perfect harvest. However, we were also in complete agreement that Margaux was the best appellation in show this year. "Margaux was particularly impressive because there are so many estates and just about all of them were good," Ralph said. I concurred. At the Margaux UGC event there were a lot of winners. As a whole the wines were lush, delicate, and east to approach. Wines like Kirwan, Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac-Brown, Rauzan-Segla and Monbrison were all terrific. 

The Right Bank had plenty of winners as well. Some of the best wines we tasted this week came from Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, including a number of what should be great values from producers like Canon-la-Gaffelière, Barde-Haut, Fleur Cardinale, and the wines from the terraced vineyards of Tour St. Christophe (pictured above). Ralph thought the d'Aiguilhe had tons of gorgeous red fruit that reminded him of 2005, a very popular wine with his best customers. He also loved the Clos de l'Oratoire, which had more a bit more structure than usual, but with tremendous fruit—hints of boysenberry jam—while Canon la Gaffelière was penetrating and precise. I thought the Château Canon was outstanding, as did a number of us, and we all bowed down in homage to the incredible 2015 Vieux Château Certan. But as a whole, 2015 isn't a vintage you can apply a blanket statement to. "It’s a vintage that’s hard to quantify," Alex said, "it’s not quite like 2005, 2009, or 2010, but it’s big step above 2001, 2008, and 2012."

At our huge 200+ wine tasting with Joanne, the biggest negociant in the region, we got the chance to taste a majority of the vintage by appellation, side by side over the course of six hours. "The producers who didn't try to push the wines beyond what they were capable of made good wines," Phil added, "the top wines have a sweet core of fruit and real lift." Clyde thinks 2005 is going to be the best possible comparison for customers looking to stock up, "It's the big easy, ten years later," he said before we boarded the plane. "I'm very excited by what we tasted here."

You can bet we'll be compiling our top ten lists on the plane ride back. We're all crossing our fingers for good prices because we thought there were plenty of good wines in 2015. Come on Bordeaux! We know you can do it.

-David Driscoll