Whether making wine or promoting it, nobody does it quite like Bordeaux! Every year the Union des Grand Cru de Bordeaux sponsors a industry-only wine tasting in major markets around the world. Some of the world's greatest winemakers travel together, pouring their wines, and introducing the world to a new vintage of Bordeaux.
The Chicago 2018 tasting at The Drake in January was buzzing with excitement because this year, the vintage was 2015. In rumor, this was the first truly world-class vintage since 2010 for Bordeaux and the room was thronged with the top buyers in the Midwest. They wanted to see if this was true. For the first time, I was lucky to be among them.
This is the first of a few articles that I'm writing based on this tasting. There is a lot to say. Shall we start with a couple quick observations about the 2015 Bordeaux Vintage.
1. 2015 is truly a great vintage ... and an easy vintage to love.
In Bordeaux, great vintages are classified as Vin de Plaisir (wine of pleasure) or Vin de Garde (wine to age.) Either style can be truly great, but they are truly different. Vin de Plaisir vintages offer luscious fruit and youthful beauty. Vin de Garde are firmer, more structured, and mature dramatically with time in the cellar.
2015 is a Vin de Plaisir. I don't think I've ever enjoyed Bordeaux in its youth as much as I did these 2015s. Only the superlative 2009s came close. This will be a very popular vintage for the sommeliers and restaurants of the world, who crave accessibility and often don't have the time to give the wines decades in the cellar. I also expect great success in Asia, driving global prices upward again.
2. Cheap Bordeaux will be amazing in 2015.
"A rising tide raises all boats" is a Bordeaux cliche. It is also often true. The quality of the lesser, humble wines was astounding and the quality distance between the cheapest and most expensive wines was far less than normal.
This is a year to aggressively buy everything you can get your hands on. You won't be disappointed. I'll write about some recommendations in future articles.
3. The White Bordeaux are stunning in 2015.
I started the tasting with some white Bordeaux, thinking ahead to the delicious reds that were in store for me. Then I stopped, refocused, and realized that the wines in my glass were mind-blowing.
White Bordeaux vintages do not always move lock-step with the quality of the red wines, but in 2015 they are show-stoppers. Rich and flavorful with great mouthfeel and pure acidity that never overpowers.
Most people will ignore the moderate to expensive white Bordeaux. You shouldn't. These are some of the best white wines in the world right now. They are also dramatically unpriced when compared to the best white wines of Burgundy or California. Specific recommendations to come.
4. Focus on Pessac-Leognan and Graves in 2015.
The wines of Southern Bordeaux - the communes of Pessac-Leognan and Graves - were by far the most consistently superb of any region I tasted. Not just because they produced the white Bordeaux that I thought were so amazing, but because the richness of the 2015 fruit, when mated to the earth and funk of these appellations, created the most complex and interesting wines of the tasting.
Both the best white wine and the best red wine of the tasting were from these regions. Specific recommendations in a future article.
5. Be a little careful with the Right Bank in 2015.
There is more than enough great wine coming from the Right Bank appellations - Saint Emilion and Pomerol - to justify this as a great year for that region. Yet, there are also quite a few wines that really missed the mark for me, including many prestigious names.
These wines came in overripe with inappropriate amounts of alcohol and completely lacking in acid. It is likely that some of these wines will garner very high ratings from major critics, but I wasn't enormously happy with the category. I felt that many of these wines let the weather steal the soul of Bordeaux away from them.
I'd recommend that you try to taste 2015 Right Bank Bordeaux, before you invest heavily in them. But don't worry, I'll have plenty to recommend in a future article.
Final Thoughts ... for now.
My final thoughts are of a very lush, sexy, and delicious year. The 2015 Vintage in Bordeaux is going to be loved around the world and prices will likely surge, but it will be for good reason and good taste.