St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2015 & More: The 2015 Vintage

You can spin 2015 Bordeaux any way you want. If you’re an optimist, it is the best vintage for several years, let’s say five years. It is the best since 2009 and 2010, both of which would like to stake a claim as the greatest vintage since Noah stepped down from the ark (which was a particularly wet year according to my Bordeaux vintage chart). And although the prices got a little crazy as the ‘campaign’ plodded on, some of the earlier releases looked relatively affordable (provided you set them in the context of Bordeaux pricing, not global wine pricing), even if they weren’t the bargains we would have hoped for ten or more years ago. An optimist will always find something to say that is, put simply, optimistic.

You could take a pessimistic view of the vintage instead. Indeed, for Les Bordeaux Bashers (as Michel Rolland might have described them in a red mist moment just before the Bordeaux 2015 primeurs kicked off), I think it is something of a tradition. This was a troubled vintage beset by rain in August and September, which perhaps explains the lack of hyperbole from the Bordelais in the run up to the primeurs tastings. The prices, while lower than the 2010 vintage, were up on 2014 and the percentage increases went higher as the big names released. Who is responsible for this? Should those critics who were too quick to taste, to feed the proprietors of the region their obsequious tasting notes and high scores take some of the blame? Or is it purely down to the proprietors, who perhaps struggle to price their wine correctly without their ‘go to’ Baltimorean barometer to guide them?

St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2015

And the realists among us? Is there a common sense middle ground? Well, I think the true situation is more complicated than the simple dichotomous ideas presented above. Some Bordeaux appellations (and some individual châteaux in other less broadly successful corners) have in 2015 enjoyed a truly fabulous vintage, producing great wines, easily the equal of those made in 2009 and 2010. While other parts of Bordeaux were rather more damp, and the wines were less impressive as a result. And as for pricing, some wines offered good value, although they were few and far between (aren’t they always?), while others I found to be simply overpriced, a very personal value judgement which will of course differ from one drinker to the next. Some have yet again been set up to depreciate in value, or at least stagnate. We have seen it with 2010, and we will see it in 2015 as well. Every time a consumer experiences this, it is another diminution of the significance of the en primeur process.

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