Good evening good people. It’s another Bank Holiday and another Bordeaux update.
Last two weeks were quite hectic with new releases on the Bordeaux market and, as usual, I did not want to bombard you with the updates. Now that Bordeaux merchants and Chateau owners have gone to Hong Kong for this week’s Vinexpo, I have tried to make a sense of it all.
At the risk of repeating myself, 2015 is a very, very decent vintage with some very beautiful wines made, some of which really should be in every decent wine cellar. The main characteristics of the vintage are fine, very pleasing, polished tannins and ripe summer-autumn berries. All of it is held together by fine, crisp acidity which will keep the wines vibrant for a long time.
As was the case in the last 7-8 years, the pricing will be the most important issue in the selection process and, based on releases so far, I still see this as the drinkers vintage, where the main return and benefit will be in securing any reasonably priced stock at the release point.
Following on from the first report, I will still show the prices in € per case and a sterling price as a guide based on €1.26 in brackets next to it. The final price in £ will be booked in July after the referendum is over. The remain campaign seems to be gaining ground and we are already over 1.30 and, if this continues, we might have the chance to see the heights of last year. This way, any gains in currency exchange will be passed on to you.
I normally try to sort out the releases in few categories so, in this 2015 vintage, I have again made my own classification. So, here we go:-
1 – OUTRIGHT BUY PROPERTIES – these are the properties that have made very fine wines (at all price levels) and released them to the market at very good prices. Essentially, they are great value at 1.26, and it makes sense to buy them irrelevant of how the “Brexit” saga evolves.
So far, these properties have released their wines at outright buy levels:
A very decent little claret and my choice for the house wine for the left bank. Blend of around 45% each Cab S and Merlot with the rest made up from Cab Fr and Petit Verdot) this will drink well from about 2019 for some 5-10 years. Fine fresh black summer berries on the nose and palate, almost New World purity. One to get halves and magnums of, so you have a decent drink for all occasions.
Chateau Saintayme, St Emilion, ZR- 16-; € 139.00 per case (£110 @ 1.26)
Another great success for Denis Durantou and one of the best deals of the vintage, Denis makes quite powerful wines for St Emilion. Summer prunes and cherries dominate throughout with a hint of spice in the back and fine 2015 acid balance. Very jolly wine – fresh and pure. We have sold our initial allocation after the first review but, I have managed to get few more cases, so first come first served.
Chateau Daugay, St Emilion; ZR 16+; € 210.00 (£165.00 @ 1.26 exchange)
I have been going to Bordeaux for more than 20 years now and still have no idea how did this little chateau managed to avoid being noticed by pretty much anyone. It’s owned by Jean-Bernard Grenie and his wife Helene Grenie de Bouard, who also own half of Chateau Angelus, so one would expect them to show the wine all around the World at the same time. But no, they travel around the world with Angelus but do not show Dugay. Essentially the tiny production of only 2000 cases gets picked up by 1 Bordeaux merchant and it disappears into private cellars. I have been chasing them since 2010 to get some stock and finally they have given in with this, 2015, vintage. The story is quite remarkable considering that even most of the Bordeaux merchants have never heard of the Chateau. The vineyard is sandwiched between that of Ch Quintus – a new Chateau under the ownership of Ch Haut Brion and sold at about 5 times the price (used to be called Ch Tertre Dugay) and Ch Angelus (about 10 times the price), so the “terroir” is about as good as it gets. This tiny vineyard used to be an intrinsic part of Ch Angelus till 1985, when the family decided to make their own wine from it as a separate property. The care and attention that Daugay vineyard receives is even higher than Angelus (if that is possible). The technical expertise is provided by Angelus team run by Hubert de Bouard, and yet no one has heard about this place!!! For a market like Bordeaux this is quite remarkable.
The 2015 is very appealing even from the cask, with beautiful nose of ripe summer berry compote and dark roses. Palate is quite elegant, crisp and chewy, almost as if one is biting a cherry right off the tree with very fresh, fine balance and about as silky tannins as you will get. Ok, it will not last decades but, when it tastes this good, who cares. A beautiful little drop of vino to drink from 2018 for 5 – 10 years. My candidate for the deal of the vintage. Load up while I still have few cases left.
Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon, ZR16; € 210.00 (£165.00 @ 1.26 exchange).
Aiguilhe is Yin to Daugay’s Yang; the same level of purity, but big and powerful, almost like high quality Napa Merlot, just much better priced. Intense and masculine wine, this will need 3-4 years and drink for at least another 10. We are currently serving 2008 which is just starting and it was not this intense. A great little wine and critics seem to agree. Exceptional value!
Lalande Borie, St Julien; ZR17-; € 235 (£185 at € 1.26 exchange)
Bruno Borie is now officially my favourite Chateau owner- manager – winemaker in Bordeaux. For my money Ducru Beaucaillou 2015 is as good as any first growth and Lalande (the second wine of Ducru) is as good as most classified growths priced below €400 a case. The same care and attention goes into this as in Ducru, only the fruit comes from younger vineyards. There is great brightness and energy here; very joyful and happy wine. Summer berries run the show with some fine soft spicy oak in the background. One for home cellar for sure. Will benefit from 2-3 years in the bottle and will drink for at least 10 years.
Croix Cardinale, St Emilion, ZR 16+; € 235 (£185 at €1.26 exchange)
Tasted at the chateau and few further tastings, this was consistently pretty, happy wine. Bright red summer fruit dominate throughout, with very fresh, crisp very well balanced acidity; very Burgundian but with extra layer of richness. Another great success for the Decoster family and wine worth following. I feel there will be great things coming from here in the years to come. Quite beautiful; a must for any decent cellar!
Chateau Labegorce, Margaux – ZR 16; € 246 (£195 at €1.26 exchange)
Labegorce is continuing strong performances from the last 4-5 years. The vineyards are surrounded by those of Ch. Margaux and Ch. Lascombe; so all it needed was some investment and proper management, which they now have. 2015 shows classic bright black cherry fruit with very fine crisp acidity in the back. It feels very modern (in the best possible meaning of the word) with precise fresh bright summer – autumn fruit, fine density and length. Great wine again and a very decent price for the vintage especially when you look at the ratings.
Quinault L’ Enclos, St Emilion; ZR16+; € 295 (£235 at €1.26 exchange)
I would agree with Mr. Suckling that this is the best ever from Quinault which is now owned and run by Cheval Blanc tea. Seriously rich and full-bodied, very ripe and hedonistic, but with great underlining acidity. A really attractive wine, for early drinking but capacity to age. Represents all that is best about 2015. Considering that it is owned by Cheval and with these ratings at this money, I would say it has a very decent capacity for some serious growth. A must buy.
Cantemerle, Haut Medoc, Grand Cru Classe, ZR17-; € 270 (£215 at €1.26 exchange)
I wouldn’t go as high as Mr. Suckling in rating (95-96) but, 2015 Cantemerle is a very decent, classic claret that will repay 5-8 y of patience once shipped and will provide another 15 – 20 y of happy drinking. Tasted twice in Bordeaux and this week here in our shop, the wine consistently delivered great texture and balance. Black berries and autumn fruit dominate with fine balanced wood in the background and crunchy fresh acidity. With 2005 vintage is selling at over £280 and other lesser vintages over this price, I would say this represent extremely good value.
Chateau Fieuzal, Pessac – Leognan – ZR 16+; € 330 (£260 at €1.26 exchange)
This is the best ever Fieuzal that I have tasted en primeur. The property has been under new ownership since 2001 and some serious pennies have gone into redevelopment of vineyards and the winery, and it shows. The 2015 is bright purple and quite vibrant packed full of ripe summer berries with classic crisp 2015 acidity. It will be great drink very early in life and will last for some 20 y from bottling. Considering that this is at least 10% cheaper than their 2009 and 10, which are of equal quality, this represents a serious value. If it stays under the same ownership, I would not be surprised if this produces some financial return as well.
Fleur Cardinale, St Emilion; ZR16; € 352 (£280.00 @ £1.26 exchange)
My admiration for the work that Decoster family has done at Fleur Cardinale is well known and 2015 is no exception. However, I find it little too rich for the style of 2015 vintage. In any other vintage that would be a great compliment but, in 2015 it is that elegance and freshness that is making it atypical. None the less, it is a very decent wine indeed and one that will provide lots of good drinking from about 2020 for some 10 – 15 years. Ripe summer berries and blackberry jam dominate throughout with fine creamy finish and very polished tannins. I would have been much happier if they released it about 5% lower, but even at this price (and at 1.26) it is a decent value and I say it is a buy!
Chateau Armailhac, Pauillac – ZR 17; € 390 (£310 at €1.26 exchange)
Armailhac is on the roll. This is second year that it is delivering well over its humble 5th growth status. Made by Mouton team and tasted with Mouton and Clerc Milon, it was definitely superior to Clerc. Focused and intense, yet elegant at the same time; very stylish and feminine. Summer berries run the show with very fine, focused tannins and superb freshness and balance. I think that my 17.5 rating is a bit conservative. Great deal, and considering that this is cheaper than any vintage of a similar quality, this is a serious bargain. I am with Jancis herre rather than Neal Martin.
2 – BUY ONLY IF WE STAY IN EUROPE = £ STRENGTHEN OVER €1.35 – these are the properties that have made very decent wines indeed and released them at a sensible € levels so, in principle, should be on the recommended list. However, at 10-15% drop in the value of £ at the point of release (1.26 €) they are not the greatest of the values at these € levels compared with existing vintages.
Ormes de Pez, St Estephe; ZR16+; € 270 (£215 at € 1.26 exchange)
One of my favourite wines of the vintage (again), only this time overpriced by about 10/15%. I seem to like it more than the critics. Owned and run by the Lynch Bages team, I have been buying it almost every vintage since 2000 and it has never disappointed. 2015 is again a classic St Estephe, very intense, dominated by small black berries with intense but well polished tannins. Full of energy; will need 3-4 years after shipment but will drink for at least 15. Pity about the price.
Chateau Prieure Lichine, Margaux – ZR 16; € 375 (£295 at €1.26 exchange).
Prieure has improved dramatically since 2005 and the quality now fully justifies its 4th growth Grand Cru Classe status. I am not as excited with it as Jancis or James Suckling, but it definitely deserves higher rating than Neal Martin gave it. Quiet classic Margaux, soft and gentle but with a decent frame underneath. Quite modern and clean, but with fine freshness and length. At this price it is cheaper than any other vintage rated this high and I can see some growth here if we get the right exchange.
Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien – ZR 16+; € 730.00 (£585 at €1.26 exchange)
Another one where critics seem to have higher opinion than me. The wine was decent and intense, but just not quite right. I would like to re-taste it but, at this price, I think it is not that important. I can’t really see it going higher for quite a few years so not my recommended buy. As with Pontet Canet, I am sure I can get some stock and, should anyone fancy some, please let me know.
Chateau Duhart Milon, Pauillac – ZR 17+; € 646.00 (£510 at €1.26 exchange)
A sample I tasted at Lafite was superb, but the critics seem to be far less impressed. So, unless there are serious upgrades once bottled, I am afraid this would be hanging around this price for quite some while. Pity, as the wine was really decent.
Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac – ZR 17; € 1,000.00 (£795.00 at €1.26 exchange)
I am with Jancis on this one. The wine is decent enough, but it is certainly not at the level it should be in a vintage like this. I tasted it at the chateau where it was, although with decent concentration and intensity, quite disjointed and unbalanced; and in London few weeks ago, where it was better but, still not up to the standard that we have grown to expect from Pontet Canet. It appears to be sold out by most merchants, but I am fairly certain that I can get some stock should any of you fancy some. For the same money, I would take Lynch Bages.
3 – VERY DECENT WINES BUT OVERPRICED – no further comments needed!
Chateau Langoa Barton, St. Julien – ZR 16+; € 435.00 (£340 at €1.26 exchange)
Chateau Beychevelle, St. Julien – ZR 16+; € 680.00 (£540 at €1.26 exchange)
Chateau Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux – ZR 16; € 680.00 (£540 at €1.26 exchange)
Chateau Clos de Marquis, St. Julien – ZR 16-; € 486.00 (£385 at €1.26 exchange)
There were, of course, many more over-priced wines but I can’t see much point in listing them all. Essentially, if they’re not on this report, they’re not really worth looking at.
FINALLY, WINES NOT RELEASED YET, BUT ON MY WATCH LIST – here is a little list of wines that impressed, but have not been released yet – please register your interest as soon as possible; I have a feeling that if these come out at right prices, they will fly.
Chateau Talbot, St Julien – ZR 16- ; Estimate £360 – £390.00
Reliably classic 2015 Talbot is dense and concentrated with black fruit and light smoke running the show and some tar in the background. Not as heavy as the nose would suggest thanks to fine fresh acidity; you just know it will be a great little drink in few years. A Classic; must buy!
Troplong Mondot, St Emilion; ZR18+; Estimate £700 – 760.00
One of my wines of the vintage; tasted twice, at the chateau and at a main tasting in St Emilion, and it was superb both times. Wine is almost black with intense concentrated nose. There is serious richness and ripeness here, but so well integrated with fine grain tannins and fine fresh acidity, that it is difficult not to drink it straight away. 1 case booked for me. If it comes at any level below Pontet Canet it’s a bargain! It will be a pleasure to drink in 10 y time and will last another 30.
Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac ZR 18+; Estimate £720 – £780.00
Another great Lynch and again better than Pontet for me. Deep intense shiny, black purple with focused complex nose. Very focused small black berries and dark chocolate on the palate with superb acid balance. Great drop of vino and worthy of any cellar. If it comes out anywhere near my estimate, it will be a no brainer, but worth paying another 10% on top.
Chateau Pichon Comtesse, Pauillac, ZR 18+; £625.00
Everyone seem to agree that Comtesse is quite stunning this year. Under stewardship of Nicolas Glumineau it seems to be finding new layers of finesse and complexity. It shows power and finesse at the same time, classic, beautiful Pauillac, very refined and elegant. One of my wines of the vintage. The owner, Roederer Champagne, is not short of pennies, so my estimate might be way off the mark, but this is the one (with Lynch) to get reservations in as soon as possible.
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, St Julien – ZR 19; Estimate £900 – £1,000.00
My candidate for one of the 5 best wines of the vintage, 2015 Ducru is on the level of 1st Growths. Mouton and Margaux might just have a little more, but I would certainly rather have Ducru in my cellar than Lafite or Haut Brion in 2015 . Absolutely superb and everything one can ask from a bottle of claret. Intensity, focus, concentration, finesse, balance, you name it…. if any wine is worth more than £1000 in 2015, Ducru is the one. Do make sure you book yours before it gets released… for yourself to drink, for your children and your grandchildren. Everyone will be grateful.
Leoville Las Casses; St Julien – ZR 19-; Estimate £1,000 – £1,200.00
Critics seem to like it more than Ducru but I have to disagree here. Time will tell, but there is just little too much extraction here in 2015 to give it that special refinement and elegance which the best of 2015 have. Otherwise a great effort; very masculine and powerful. Liked it more than Lafite and Haut Brion, a serious wine, just not as refined as the best of 2015.
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol – ZR 19; Estimate £1,200 – £1,500.00
Leaving the best for last. There is something very Zen-like, calm and refined, about Alexandre Thienpont and his little cellar. There are no fancy tasting rooms, no security guards, no fuss, just beautifully crafted wines that bring joy to everyone’s face. I feel almost cleansed every time I come out of the cellar. Very soft, gentle and refined – like the finest silk (albeit wrapped around some serious long lasting polished tannins). This is just beautiful. Not as intense and powerful as Cheval or Mouton or Ducru in 2015 but, given a choice of only 1 wine to have in 2015, this would be the one. It’s more of a feeling of greatness than anything specific I can put my finger on. Just superb!!! There is very little of it, so please make an orderly queue – this will be available in 6 bottle cases.
There were one or two other wines that made a mark, but did not make the final cut – Leoville Poyferre, Malartic Lagraviere, Smith Haut Lafite, Clos Fourtet etc. When the prices are released, I might include them in my final review.
The first growths are all expected to be well over £3,000 and I am not sure that I can justify that price based on what I tasted. Cheval Blanc, Mouton and Margaux were the top of the tree with Latour, Lafite and Haut Brion (in that order) trailing behind. I can’t really see what would make the owners release them at a sensible price but, those of you who fancy some (3, 6 or 12 bottle case), please let me know and I am certain that I can get you some.
Wishing you all the best for a great Bank Holiday.
City Wine Collection
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