The Union Des Grands Crus of Bordeaux’s autumn tasting in London, launching the most recent vintage in bottle, is always an exciting occasion. But this year, there was something a little more special about it: we were tasting the highly acclaimed 2015 vintage, the most celebrated vintage since the great 2010s .
Tasting the cask samples en primeur in the spring of 2016, the wines had extraordinary appeal and in our offer I quoted them as “wonderfully vibrant wines without excess” so I was fascinated to see how they fared at the tasting last week. They are very different in style to both 2009 and 2010. While the 2010s are bigger and bolder in style, the most striking thing about these wines was their openness. Some vintages and wines shut down immediately after bottling for a period of time, but not the 2015s. This vintage is all about fruit, not excessive, but joyously open with a forward tannic structure. They clearly have the concentration of flavours and structure to age well, but there is an open charm which will allow the impatient among us to pull a cork ahead of certain other long term vintages…
The tasting includes many of the Châteaux who form part of the Union Des Grands Crus. Sadly the First Growths do not participate and one or two “Super Seconds “ prefer to be absent, otherwise it includes all the great and the good covering the Médoc, Pomerol, Saint-Émilion, Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes. First stop was to see how our favourites from cask showed 18 months on. I am delighted to report that our picks then remain the stars of the show today; Canon, Pichon Lalande, Haut-Bailly, Brane-Cantenac, Rauzan-Ségla, Pichon Baron, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Sigalas-Rabaud, La Conseillante to name just a few…
Last year I commented that we felt St Julien hadn’t received the acclaim it deserved from certain critics and that view holds true today. For me St Julien was as consistent as any appellation in the room, but it is fair to say that the highs of Pauillac were truly exceptional and the two Pichons expressed their very different personalities beautifully. I loved the wines of Pessac-Léognan and actually have a personal preference for the Pessac 2015 reds over the highly regarded 2016s. From the Right Bank, the star of Pomerol was surely La Conseillante and in Saint-Émilion Château Canon is a complete example of what an extraordinary terroir the plateau of Saint-Émilion really is.
Sadly time was short, to taste over 100 wines in just 4 hours is a big ask. With time running out I wasn’t able to give the white Pessacs and Sauternes sufficient attention, but those that I did taste were lovely. Domaine de Chevalier Blanc is glorious, Château Pape Clément Blanc high class and Château de Fieuzal Blanc outstanding value. Among the Sauternes, favourites such as Sigalas-Rabaud, Suduiraut and Doisy-Védrines were extremely fine.
We left with big smiles on our faces and the early birds who purchased these wines en primeur before the post Brexit weakening of the pound, can feel very pleased indeed. For the more cautious buyer, who prefers to wait until the wines have been bottled, 2015 certainly lives up to its billing, it is a high class vintage warranting a position in any cellar and it is not too late to buy!