Bordeaux 2015: Haut Bages Liberal, Clos du Marquis & Clerc Milon


A quick update on three of the more interesting releases from Bordeaux today.

Ch Haut Bages Libéral: Standing in the glorious tasting room at Pichon Lalande, looking over the stately vineyards of Ch Latour, one sees the less recognised estate of Ch Haut Bages Libéral, the great first growth’s closest neighbour before reaching the town of Pauillac. Owned by the delightful Claire Villars Lurton, its position and pedigree were immediately noticeable when tasting the outstanding 2015. Claire continues the estate’s tradition for offering great value and this is a strong buy for the vintage at this price.

Clos du Marquis: Owned by Léoville Las Cases, in 2015 they have for the first time created two wines at this St Julien estate. The result is terrific, a better Clos du Marquis than ever. Matthew Jukes says “Clos du Marquis is a triumph in this vintage. The length is sensational and the intensity of flavour never drops off”. Neal Martin concurs, “a great Clos du Marquis from Jean-Hubert Delon and his team, a Clos du Marquis with swagger”.

Ch Clerc Milon: This highly respected Pauillac estate has the most fantastic terroir with vineyards situated between neighbouring first growth châteaux Lafite and Mouton Rothschild. In 2015 they have produced a gorgeous wine (in part due to the high quality of their perfectly ripe Merlot) with lovely broad flavours, generous ripe fruit and a defined mineral finish. Decribed by Matthew Jukes as his “favourite of all time from this Château.”

Ch Haut Bages Liberal 5ème Grand Cru Classé Pauillac 2015 |
£285 per 12 bottles IB

I was extremely impressed with this surprisingly unrecognised estate’s wine, which neighbours Ch Pichon Lalande and Ch Latour. In 2015 everything hits the spot. Full, wild dark forest fruit aromas, this has a rich and powerfully structured mid-palate density, delicious sweetness and the telling freshness of this vintage on the finish. A really superb wine. Drink 2022-2033. Goedhuis, Score: 93-95

The 2015 Haut-Bages Liberal is finessed, precise and persistent, with lovely overall balance and class. This is a decidedly laid-back wine for the vintage, yet all the elements are in the right place. The dark cherry and plum flavors are quite attractive. This is a nicely done and promising Pauillac, even if the tannins could use a bit more polish. Antonio Galloni, Score: 90-93

Clos du Marquis St Julien 2015 |
£385 per 12 bottles IB

The removal of around 15-20% into La Petite Marquise (q.v.) has helped this wine to become finer, longer, more persistent and also more packed with fruit. This is a very successful exercise in making two better wines from one already good one. Clos du Marquis is a triumph in this vintage. The length is sensational and the intensity of flavour never drops off. It is situated on classic Saint-Julien terroir (unlike Las Cases, which somehow seems more Pauillac-like) and it shows the clear Saint-Julien flavour palette in this vintage. Matthew Jukes, Score: 17.5+

The 2015 Clos du Marquis is a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc cropped at 39 hl/ha between 22 September and 9 October, a total of 15 days of picking. Matured in 50% new oak, it has a pure and harmonious bouquet with blackberry, sous-bois and subtle tobacco aromas that gently unfold in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin in the mouth, a keen line of acidity, fine precision here with a mineral-rich finish that exudes terroir expression. This is a great Clos du Marquis from Jean-Hubert Delon and his team, a Clos du Marquis with swagger. Drink: 2020 – 2040. Neal Martin, Score: 91-93

The 2015 Le Clos du Marquis emerges exclusively from 30+ year-old vines on the property. Lavender, violet, plum, crème de cassis, spice and menthol meld together in a deep, beautifully layered Saint-Julien built on spherical texture and juiciness. Silky tannins give the 2015 its up-front, racy personality, while sweet floral notes add aromatic lift on the finish. This is a very pretty and complete wine. Antonio Galloni, Score: 90-93

Ch Clerc Milon 5ème Grand Cru Classé Pauillac 2015 |
£480 per 12 bottles IB

An attractive blend including Petit Verdot and Carmenère in addition to 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc. A balance between charming loganberry and dark fruits, with hints of roasted coffee bean and vanilla. Generous and broad, with a grippy tannic structure to give drive and depth. Drink 2021-2030. Goedhuis, Score: 90-92

It has a highly perfumed bouquet with scents of small black cherries, graphite, touches of incense and wilted violets. This is a very extravagant bouquet for Clerc-Milon that wants to make an early impression. The palate is medium-bodied with fine-grain tannin, more expressive and delineated than the 2015 d’Armailhac, the finish beautifully focused with that graphite seam coming through on the sustained finish. This is potentially an outstanding Clerc-Milon, though it will need a decade in bottle to show its true potential. Neal Martin, Score: 91-93

The 2015 Clerc Milon is plush, round and inviting, with a gorgeous center of fruit, striking aromatics and balance. The tannins are especially silky, which gives the 2015 much of its succulence and inviting personality. Hints of mocha, dark spices and violets add further shades of nuance and gravitas in a Clerc Milon endowed with real depth, density and gravitas. Patience will be key, as the 2015 is likely to require at least a few years to fully come together. This is a very pretty, rewarding Clerc Milon. Antonio Galloni, Score: 91-93