Bordeaux 2015: Third Taste
On Wednesday I ventured north again, as far as Pauillac. I kicked off at Château d’Issan first though, and because of a tight schedule they kindly agreed to see me at 8am. When I arrived it was still pitch-black, and approaching the entrance to the estate from the south (as I stayed near the city of Bordeaux on Tuesday night) instead of from the north (my usual route in) I reached the gateway by driving through a few unfamiliar backroads and seemingly a children’s playground, which was a bit weird. But I got there in the end.
Thankfully, while I was tasting the 2013 vintage here the sun appeared above the horizon, and things seemed much clearer on the way out. My next stop was Château Léoville-Las-Cases, where I tasted the full range of wines in 2013, including Nenin, Potensac, Clos du Marquis and Léoville-Las-Cases, as well as any associated second wines you care to mention. I tasted with the maitre de chai Bruno Rolland, and I also had a quick peek at the gardens which have been extensively renovated since I last saw them.
I didn’t think I could allow standards to drop after this, to it was on to taste 2013 with Jean-René Matignon at Château Pichon-Baron, where again I tackled a small range of wines from the vintage, including not only the grand vin, but also Les Tourelles, Les Griffons and Pibran. Jean-René is an absolute mine of information when it comes to the vines and the wines, and I learnt a lot here about the 2015 vintage. The same is true of Thomas Duroux at Château Palmer, as he is always helpful and informative, and he is always forthcoming with information on the vintage. It was fascinating to hear about year two (2015) of Palmer being 100% biodynamic. We tasted the 2013s of course (when the vineyard was 55% biodynamic).
Then it was over to the right bank, first via E Leclerc to buy a few provisions (man cannot live on wine alone….), and second via Château de Reignac. This château perhaps needs no introduction; it is well known for beating much more famous châteaux from much grander appellations in blind tastings. I spent a full two hours here, touring the vineyards and cellars, tasting wines from the 2012 and 2014 vintages, and checking out some 2015s from vat and barrel with technical director Nicolas Lesaint (hands featured above). And with that, you know what’s coming next.
Vat #1: Merlot, from gravel, picked September 14th. Now macerated for over one month. Dark, floral fruit. Sweet, concentrated palate. And a good, ripe, tannic grip.
Vat #2: Merlot, from clay. An inky-dark hue. A little reduced aromatically. Dark fruit and plenty of it, toasted almonds, tense, grippy, with obvious pre-malolactic fermentation acidity (this is true of all four samples in truth).
Barrel #1: Merlot, from gravel, vinification integrale, for the cuvée Balthus. Picked September 15th, went into barrel one week later. Spiced wood, sandalwood, warm and voluminous. So sweet and so energetic in the mouth (pre-malo again of course)
Barrel #2: Merlot, from clay, vinification integrale, for the cuvée Balthus. Sweet, perfumed fruit, toasted, flashy, with dark fruits and a lacework of minerals. Texture and tannin here.
Once again, 2015 looks really promising. What I find most stiking is how rich, delicious and expressive these (and other) Merlots have been. Young Merlot can be, frankly, dull, but that is not true of these or other wines I have tasted. And yet the prevailing opinion – where one is expressed – is that although all varieties did well, the Cabernets did best of all. Of course, being picked later, the opportunity to taste Cabernet has not been so frequent.
On leaving Château de Reignac I passed a lady driving in the opposite direction into the château. We exchanged a look of recognition and for fear of being rude I immediately stopped my car to say hello, as did she. I thought it was Charlotte Dagueneau (Didier’s daughter) although what she would be doing driving around in Bordeaux is beyond me. Of course it wasn’t, it was a case of mistaken identity, which left me with the cheesy line “sorry, I thought I recognised you” as a reason for waving and stopping to say hello. I must have looked a right schmuck. Nothing new there then. When I next see Charlotte (the real Charlotte) I must tell her she has a Bordeaux doppelganger.
I finished up with a tasting at Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, taking in all the von Neipperg wines, including La Mondotte, Clos Marsalette and others, before eventually calling it a day at about 6pm. Today, it’s Pomerol, with seven visits lined up. Wish me luck. I’m not sure where today’s 2015 samples will come from, but if I were a betting man I would wager a guy called Denis may be able to help me out. We’ll see.
These early Bordeaux 2015 reports are essentially funded by Winedoctor subscribers, the first purpose of this latest trip to Bordeaux having been to taste 2013s for a forthcoming report on that vintage. If you find these reports interesting, please consider taking out a subscription to Winedoctor.