The Big Guns of 2015 Bordeaux
It was on the morning of day three while tasting at the solemn Château Margaux that we realized the quality of the 2015 Bordeaux vintage. We had been optimistic up to that point, emboldened by a great opening night at Haut Bailly and early appointments in Pauillac the following day. But in that parlor at Margaux, with a glass of the 2015 in hand, the mood quiet and sorrowful following the loss of director Paul Pontallier, we tasted the beauty and the sheer elegance of the vintage in that moment. As an appellation, Margaux was already the talk of the town in terms of quality in 2015. The region had received some of the most favorable weather throughout the year and the charm for which the wines were known was on full display in many of the wines. It was only fitting that the area's most famous wine, the eponymous king, was perhaps its most splendid. We've been waiting for two months for the wine to finally hit the market and today we're finally getting a peek at where the big guns of Bordeaux stand in 2015. With the 100 point 2015 Margaux releasing at $539.99, it's an interesting mid-point to the en primeur campaign.
Standing toe to toe with its Margaux brethren was Château Palmer. Not only was this year's Palmer one of the best of the vintage, it's already being talked about as one of the best Palmers in the history of the property—on par with the legendary cuvées of the past and a serious candidate for best in show. The wine was incredibly concentrated, packed with dark fruit and richness, and ready to explode underneath the tension. While sharing our notes via email, my colleague Alex wrote to me: "Chateau Palmer has excelled in 2015 with a wine that is so pure and elegant that it feels lighter on the palate than it actually is. The depth, layers and complexity of this wine are mind-blowing and it may eclipse the famed 1983 Palmer that is recognized as one of the estate's greatest wines ever. While not cheap, this promises to be one of the greatest Palmer's ever made." Coming in at $289.99, the Palmer should be a bellwether for the vintage as a whole.
The two biggest players in St. Estephe—Château Montrose and Château Cos d'Estournel respectively—also launched today with serious wines that reflect the classic character of the appellation; namely structured and mineral-rich wines with plenty of brooding fruit and a graphite-like, earthy finish. Few wines in Bordeaux have moved up the ladder of public perception faster than second-growth Cos as of late. The property has made serious strides in terms of quality and reputation over the last twenty years, cementing its status as one of the best in the Mèdoc. Its proximity to Lafite just across the border in Pauillac has only added to its lore. The 2015 Cos d'Estournel released at $159.99 with big press from publications like Decanter who clearly relish the old school character of the claret and recognize its potential for long-term maturation. As we stood around the table (see the above photo) drinking in the latest offering, we were all struck by how firm and tightly-wound the wine appeared in a vintage where many of the wines were lighter and easier to drink. This is a powerful year for Cos.
One of the biggest surprises of the vintage was the extremely well-made 2015 Château Montrose, a property that at times hasn't quite lived up to its second-growth billing. We were greeted by sales manager Lorraine Watrin, who had previously enlightened us on the efforts the château had made to improve its wines. The work had obviously paid off because the wine was a utterly haunting, dark and thick with with black fruits in the glass from the heavy Cabernet cepage. While the flavors were a bit more modern than we're used to with Montrose, the wine still carried a heft that should reward a decade or more underground.
For me personally, the 2015 Pichon-Lalande was one of the best of the Left Bank; a beautiful cuvée with lush fruit flavors from the merlot that add a plushness without ever tasting stewed or overripe. Ralph thought the wine was fresh, just a touch herbal as always, and it reminded him of the some of the great Pichon-Lalande wines of the eighties. Clyde dittoed that sentiment. "This property is returning to its glory days," Clyde said, "This one a bit like their amazing 1989." With millions of eyes carefully watching en primeur pricing for the 2015 vintage, the big guns of Bordeaux are finally coming out to play. It will be interesting to see what follows in their wake. We've seen value and restraint thus far, but there may be a few fireworks left before all is said and done.