How’s the red Bordeaux 2015 vintage looking, these eight years on?
If you’re a claret drinker wondering whether to hold out on the 2015 vintage or hold out the corkscrew, here’s some advice by way of an offer we’d recently issued on six red Bordelaises cuvées of this same year. Learn here about how the 2015 growing season fared, what general characteristics this imbued (in its reds, more specifically), and why we felt the time was right to now make more noise about a year firmly inscribed in the good books of critics’ great vintages.
We’re Bordeaux specialists, after all.
So, it’s our job to keep you fully up-to-speed on which vintages/regions are still sitting at the drinking window, which have opened it, and which have since jumped out.
What made 2015 a great vintage?
Several things. Let’s start with the vintage report.
Two-thousand fifteen was, in a word, excellent. Here were ideal growing conditions for achieving a beautiful ripeness in both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot: long stretches of thoroughly warm days offset by consistently cool nights.
This meant that the very healthy levels of phenolic development fruit enjoyed during the day were duly balanced by the refreshing levels of acidity lower night-time temperatures preserved and sustained.
That the ideal dynamic this established in the vineyards was further enhanced by good water reserves from the previous winter meant most vines were sufficiently fortified against heat stress in what was one of the driest growing seasons on record.
Then, timely rains to refresh late August/September brought about a quick and even veraison (when in late summer or early fall grapes begin exchanging their green colours for more mature hues) and thus set up a glorious home stretch of equally even, optimum ripening.
The resulting wines are generous, vibrant, fresh, and wonderfully structured without the firmness in tannins that can be typical of such a warm, dry vintage.
The Left Bank 2015 – Flavours
Cabernet country, with much Merlot to go ‘round. Here, a typical flavour profile consists of rich, ripe dark fruit, veering from black plum to cassis, coupled with aromatic notes of spice and florals.
Cherry, cassis and bramble, with intriguing nuances of smoke, dried herb, spice, cocoa and trademark forest floor. Tannins are strong, acidity fresh.
The Right Bank 2015 – Flavours
Rich, plummy, curranty, cassis and raspberry-laden fruit flavours streaked with savoury minerality and those wonderful, smoky, cocoa nuances that Merlot and Cabernet Franc can conjure under such ideal conditions as 2015 provided. And, of course, the long, luxurious finishes the wines provide accordingly.
Eight Years On...
Here’s the difference, here’s the value: when a wine starts to evolve and thus develop what we call ‘tertiary’ flavours. When, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon takes on nuances of cigar, ‘forest floor’ and/or tobacco and Merlot a certain earthiness, stewed fruit and smoky characteristics.
This is not to say that 2015 reds from Bordeaux have so fully bloomed, but it is to say that when tasting the wines as laid out below, you’ll recognise that this is indeed the direction in which this vintage is headed.
The Offer, The Wines
With this in mind, here are said six outstanding reds we offered, along with corresponding tasting notes and our firm belief in the fine form they’re now starting to show:
“50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot. Well-formed, generous, opulent fruit. Excellent oak spice on the palate with attractive burnt meat notes on the length. Has everything you could want from 2015 bordeaux – clarity, balance, length, ripeness.” Richard Hemming, jancisrobinson.com
The second wine of Château Cantemerle from an extraordinary vintage that is close to full maturity now. The wine is made from the younger vines at this illustrious 5th growth estate and blended to be drunk before its big brother - it's 78% cabernet sauvignon, 14% merlot and 8% cabernet franc. The result is a fresh and very elegant wine with rich fruit, silky tannins and a long finish.
“This is the best mature Château Senejac I have tasted for a very long time. Cabernet Sauvignon makes up just over half of the blend and Merlot one-third, with the balance split between cabernet franc and Petit Verdot. It displays classic Médoc characters with a perfumed, smoky nose, and plenty of savoury black-fruit flavours and silky tannins on the palate. Altogether a very complete wine and great value for money.”
"This shows density and structure for a 2015 with ripe tannins and bright fruit character. Full body. Chewy texture. Extremely well done for this Médoc." 92-93/100 points, James Suckling
Plush, forward drinking; a rich bouquet of dark cherries, crème de cassis and dark plum fruit. On the palate, more richness with plenty of tarry black fruits, black pepper, sea salt and a burst of fresh, spicy black raspberries. Long, refined finish.
2015 Château d'Aiguilhe, Côtes de Castillon
“…Black cherry, sweet spice, warm, plummy fruit and dried florals; medium to full-bodied with plush merlot fruit, fine tannins, freshness and structure. This is remarkably delicious.”
“The medium to deep garnet-purple colored 2015 d'Aiguilhe gives up wonderfully expressive warm red and black plums, black cherries and spice box on the nose with touches of dried flowers and fallen leaves. The medium to full-bodied palate has generous fruit with plush tannins and loads of freshness.” Lisa Perrotti-Brown, robertparker.com
2015 Château Tour Bayard 'L'Angelot', Montagne-Saint-Emilion
"The 2015 Château Tour Bayard L’Angelot, from Montagne Saint-Emilion is made largely from old vine Malbec, curiously enough, and is dense, concentrated and muscular with lots of rich dark fruit. It definitely needs sloshing in a decanter or carafe." Jonathan Ray, The Spectator Magazine
For the Médoc/Haut-Médoc cuvées, here we see the 2015 vintage’s generosity of warmth and dryness paying off with its enduring wealth of ripeness and opulence. Here is where a more highly acidic and tannic Cabernet Sauvignon (a late-ripener) demands the level of sunshine 2015 provided, and nowhere has this been more evident than in Château Sénéjac’s ‘…plenty of savoury black-fruit flavours…’ Yet we also taste how its ‘density and structure’ and ‘bright fruit character’ are a reflection of those cool nights we mentioned and what this did for preserving acidity and, well, structure.
Similarly for St-Emilion-and-environs’ favoured Merlot varietal (with much Cabernet Franc and Malbec also in the vineyards), 2015’s radiance and warmth balanced by the cooler nights as mentioned gave power, opulence, richness and terrific depth of flavour to the wines it rendered while preserving the good levels of acidity that are so crucial to a wine’s longevity. In the Château d'Aiguilhe, it’s the ‘...plush merlot fruit, fine tannins, freshness and structure…’ that so typifies this.
Structure and time…
But what’s most important here is that it’s this very structure that has seen each wine through the past eight years with such ease.
Without structure, none of these would be showing the mellowed, softened and further nuanced qualities and complexities that maturing wines display, let alone possess the enduring potential to age further.
This is what has made the 2015 vintage so truly decent.
Opening the window
As the late, great Steven Spurrier had claimed in Decanter magazine following his initial en primeur tastings, “This 2015 vintage will have a big place in people’s hearts.” It certainly has in ours, and especially now.
So, if you’ve got any such mid-range 2015 slumbering in the cellar, feel free to open and enjoy. If you haven’t, you’ll find these and other great vintages here. Don’t hold out. Though still full of potential, they are now unpacking their goodness. And goodness, is it ever.
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