Bordeaux

5 Things You Need to Know About the 2015 Bordeaux Vintage. (notes from the 2018 Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux Tasting)

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.

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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.

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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.


Keep Reading...

Pontet Canet 2007 & Pontet Canet 2008. A 'Vin de Plaisir' & a 'Vin de Garde.'

Jean Michel Comme holding court in full view of the vineyards of Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme holding court in full view of the vineyards of Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme pours his 2007 Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme pours his 2007 Pontet Canet.

It was a brutally cold, windy, and rainy day in Pauillac when I visited Chateau Pontet Canet with other students from The Wine & Spirits MBA. But as I stood in front of a big picture window listening to Vigneron Jean Michel Comme speak about his struggles to create a biodynamic wine in Bordeaux's Left Bank, it was obvious there was something very special in this quietly humble man and the wines he oversees.

Obviously, I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Robert Parker, the great wine critic, has given Pontet Canet some of his highest accolades ever, including back to back 100 point (Perfect) scores for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Those aren't the wines we're discussing here.  We're discussing the 2007 and the 2008.  We're also discussing the French concepts of 'Vin de Plaisir" and "Vin de Garde."

2007 was the year that challenged Jean Michel Comme and Pontet Canet.  The weather conditions conspired against biodynamics and Comme felt like he had squandered the opportunity given him, but the owner of the vineyard.  And yet the wine is magnificent.  Why was he so disappointed?

Chateau Pontet Canet 2007 Pauillac.  $129.99 OH Retail.  "A purity to the red fruit that is almost magical in its beauty and intensity.  A pretty jellied richness marinading fresh cut herbs and bright fresh fruits.  A long finish is well cut tannins that lasts almost a minute."  95 points.  

2008 was a tight classic vintage in Bordeaux that didn't get a lot of respect in its youth because the wines were tight and need considerable cellaring.

Chateau Pontet Canet 2008 Pauillac.  $129.99 OH Retail.  "A beautiful red crimson color.  Dense, brooding, and primary.  Almost opaque in its power and tightness.  A forever wine meant for the cellar and consumption and lifetime from now."  95 points.

Here is the interesting question and the crux of this article.  How can two vintages of the same wine, using identical winemaking technique, have such completely different taste profiles and yet be the same quality?

It comes down to Plaisir vs Garde.  The French parse all wine down to two categories.

Plaisir (or pleasure wines) are ones that give immediate enjoyment.  They are often fruit-forward, generous, and hedonistic.

Garde (or 'to keep') are wines that will benefit from considerable time in the cellar.  They often produce more classic, traditional flavors and profiles.  Cellar wines also achieve a longevity and levels of complexity that Plaisir wines can't approach.

Which is better?  As usual, it depends.  Garde wines often reach higher levels of technical proficiency and complexity, but require time and proper cellaring to get there.  Plaisir wines can be enjoyed tonight.

What's the takeaway here?  When you are seeking out a premium high-quality wine (and spending some serious money,) vintage won't necessarily speak to the wine's quality.  It will, more likely tell you something about which style of wine you are going to get.

 

Experience More....

  1. Video Interview with Randall Grahm on Biodynamic Wine Making
  2. Video Interview with Rebecca Work of Ampelos on Biodynamics vs Organic

 

5 Values in 2008 Bordeaux

There is a real chance that the 2008 vintage in Bordeaux is our last opportunity to get premium Bordeaux for under $100 per bottle.  It was a good quality vintage that was massively overshadowed by the glories that were 2009 and 2010.  At the time, the wines seemed quite expensive, but then the new Chinese wealth started flowing into Bordeaux and pushed prices into the stratosphere.  All the wines that I mention took a 200% or 300% increase in price for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

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If you are in Ohio, please buy these wines from me at Walt Churchill's Market.  If you are elsewhere, support this blog by clicking 'Buy Online."  The wines are reviewed in the order that I tasted them: from lightest to richest.

Chateau Carbonnieux 2008 Pessac-Leognan Blanc.  $59.99 OH Retail.  "A delicious and easily findable Bordeaux Blanc.  A beautiful golden color.  Luscious aromatics of orange and lemon-infused honey.  Gorgeous richness of flavor and texture while never neglecting a serious commitment to acidity.  Long finish."  90 points.   Buy Online

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Chateau Grand Mayne 2008 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.  $49.99 OH Retail.  "Dark crimson color for the only Merlot-based Bordeaux in the mix.  Smokey oak.  Dark red plum skins.  Sexy and sophisticated at the same time, but just when you think it is all hedonism, crushing powerful tannins drop on you."  93 points.

Domaine de Chevalier  2008 Pessac-Leognan.  $49.99 OH Retail.  "A beautiful red color.  Attractively classy in the purity of the red fruit.  It really keeps the hard stones of the appellation submerged - for now.  Minerals, red apples, and pleasant acidty.  Can easily be enjoyed now, but still has a long life ahead of it."  90 points.Buy Online

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Chateau Cantenac Brown 2008 Margaux.  $69.99  OH Retail.  "This wine changed dramatically over the five hours it was open.  It started a delicately, smooth interpretation of Cabernet Sauvignon, but moved quickly into becoming the wine I now describe.  Classic nose of black cherries and tar.  Tannics and young with a powerful grip that punishes you for opening a wine like this so young.  Still poised and graceful with black, blue, and red fruits.  Nice mouthfeel on a serious wine."  93 points.

Chateau Branaire-Ducru 2008 Saint-Julien.  $69.99  OH Retail.  "Red fruit in the dusty aromatics. A dark rich brooding wine with tight flavors and even tighter tannins.  Hard, cold, black fruits."  91 points. Buy Online

Okay, so none of these wines are inexpensive.  But you don't look to Bordeaux for inexpensive.  You look to Bordeaux for classically-styled wines of high quality, impeccable breeding, and reliable aging potential.  Value is a plus - if you can find it.  And you can find it in 2008 Bordeaux

If you want to learn more about Bordeaux and how Chinese money can drive prices dramatically upward - check out this phenomenal documentary called Red Obsession.