Bordeaux Uncorked: Vintage 2015 Pre-Arrivals

"I think that a great deal of happiness is given to men who were born where good wines are grown" ~ Leonardo Da Vinci.

Early this year, I flew down to San Francisco to taste the soon to be released 2015 Bordeaux Grand Cru's. Many of these wines are available for order via pre-arrival prices, otherwise, wait, and pay more to grab from the shelf. If you're new to wine, the term 'Cru' may possibly be new to you, and if you're an advanced enthusiast, you're quite familiar with the term and look for it often when making purchasing decisions.

For those not so comfortable with the language, there's an excellent tutorial found here. In short, there are thousands of producers in the region, and as the name implies, there's a small minority of what is described as the cream of the crop, Cru Classe. That small minority are the wines in today's review, but just a few of the highlights from the Pre-Arrival selections being poured that evening. 

This vintage is absolutely breathtaking, most of the wines I tasted were good to excellent, some, hell all are still developing and maturing, while others right out the gate, knocked my socks off. Excellent quality across the board, a vintage to buy with confidence, much of which is ready to drink and some which further aging and bottle development will help them to improve. As I said earlier, many of these wines are in the pre-arrival mode, so act fast before the containers arrive, and the prices go up. 

1. 2015 Chateau Rouget, Pomerol: This wine is a blend, Merlot dominant at 85% and Cabernet Franc giving it some solid structure. A bottle of wine for the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon lover, it's big, lots of power and hedonistic. Pressed whole cluster, the tannins are well integrated. The palate is lush, red and dark fruit abound, the acid to fruit ratio is spot on. The nose alone will make you crazy, cedar, cherry and kicked up dry-earth. This producer explained that they're in the preparation stage to be certified organic for the upcoming 2019 vintage. Then finish is long, seductive and has jazz lounge smoky quality. In the prearrival mode, this wine sells for $55, a steal in my estimation. My score of 93 points makes this a solid cellar collecter choice. 

2. Chateau Clinet, Pomerol 2015: This producer, the renown horse-powered Chateau Clinet is well known and has an excellent reputation, reinforced by the superb quality tasted that day. This wine is also in pre-arrival mode and selling for $159.00 at the moment, but that price will exceed two, maybe three Benjamin's after it hits the shelves. Btw, the 2017 vintage on prearrival is only $79, quite a steal. Now back to the 2015 vintage, reportedly it's a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc matured in 65% new and 35% one-year-old French oak for 16 months.  

This wine is a stunner, unfortunately above my pay grade for purchase, but definitely a 'brag-wine' for social media users who focus on 'luxury' brands. This wine is drop-dead gorgeous, outstanding depth and complexity, an E-ticket thrill ride, well worth the price of admission. High toned tannins take center stage and the fine ground minerality jams on the vocals, while red and black fruit plays bass in the background. This wine sports long-term aging potential, 10  years or more, easily. My score for this wine 95 points.  

3. 2015 Château Cardinal Villemaurine St. Émilion Grand Cru: Putting my nose in the glass, a potpourri of delicate dark floral notes, intriguing underbrush, ripe blackberry, freshly wrapped tobacco leaves and a pinch of cedar playing bass in the background. I was taken back after the first sip, as a primer on classic Bordeaux, again reminding me of the unforgettable experiences I had in the region 5 years ago and continue to have vicariously through each bottle I uncork.

Folks this wine is outstanding, the quality to price ratio should have you take notice right now. While this wine won't get you any 'brag' points or make ya instafamous, you don't want to miss out, the pre-arrival price is a mere $45, this is a bargain. This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc from an 11-hectare vineyard located just above La Clotte and Le Prieuré, great poise on the palate, plush, cherry, plum, licorice, long-chain tannins folded into the fruit, the finish is long and lasting. My score for this wine 92 points, and will reward the patient cellar collector.

4. 2015 Château Lynch Bages Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe: The well known and iconic Lynch Bages, this folks are one of the brag-worthy wines you'll see posted all over the internet, generally found in the clutches of the well-heeled wine enthusiast. When I was on a press trip to Bordeaux in 2013, this is one of the producers we visited, the funny thing about that visit, is that while we were able to taste some blending wines, at no point was a finished bottle opened for tasting, I found that odd. It was an informative visit nonetheless. The current pre-release price for 2015 is $149, it will sell for twice that amount after it hits the 'shelves.' A delicious blend, featuring 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and the balanced out with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot aged in 75% new barrels.

This is a fantastic bottle, a dense ruby core, cherries, sweet tobacco, smoked vanilla, and toasty oak make for some tantalizing aromas. Wowser, it's loaded with red and dark fruits, chalk, rich earth tones and, enough acid to carry the day. This wine will age well for many years. The mid-palate had some bear-threads, but overall this wine is very generous, the finish is long and lasting. You want this in your cellar, age it gracefully and you'll be rewarded for your patience. Is it worth the price of admission? Some will invariably flop out a "yes" but I remain skeptical, knowing what I know, I could get two bottles of something else for the price of this one, you do the math. Still, that said, a stunner, I award this wine 93 points. 

2015 Chateau Branaire-DuCru, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Julien: I immensely enjoy the wines from this producer, their 2011 was outstanding, and this vintage is also a stunner. The blend for 2015 is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc, aged for 18 months in French oak, with 60% new. The nose is immediately captivating, selling itself like a summer blockbuster trailer with heady dark and red fruits, licorice and an enticing funkiness which you just can't look away from, don't doubt me, this will definitely 'wow' you. 

It's elegant, the tannins are taught, the structure is enormous, and it paints with vivid strokes dark plums, new leather, dry, cracked earth, dark cherries, blackberries and the finish just sails on into the horizon. My score for this wine is 95 points, and in my notes, I inked three stars next to its name. It's currently available with a pre-arrival price of $69, and their high scoring 2014 is available now for just south of a Grant, making the price of admission for either very reasonable. In Saint-Julien it's easy to overlook Branaire with the many other powerful Chateau's, but while they fly under the radar, it helps keep the prices reasonable, meaning even people like me can have a seat at the table. 

2015 Chateau Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac: Wow, my first experience with this wine, powerful is the first word which comes to mind, this wine is wonderfully impressive and memorable. Digging into their site to find the blend, leading the way with 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, aged 18 months in oak, with 55% new barrels. This wine is a towering achievement of careful cultivation and winemaking skilling coming together to produce a polished masterpiece. Sadly this wine is above my pay grade, weighing in at a pre-arrival price of $180 or more. But for those with the coin, grab a six pack for the cellar. 

After a few refreshing sips, slurps and a slyly erupting burp [gasp], a basket of delight erupted. Gorgeous ruby color in the glass, bright and shimmering. It's elegant, the tannins are taught, the structure is enormous, and it paints with vivid strokes dark plums, new leather, dry, cracked earth, dark cherries, blackberries and the finish just sails on into the horizon. The structure is quite complex and layered, leaving no doubt, this wine has decades of cellar time ahead. Spot on fruit to acid ratios as well, while there's early drinking pleasure, I'd hold it for at least five years to experience its full potential. My score for this wine is 98 points

Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint Estephe Grand Cru Classe 2015: In the glass, a tantalizing blend is 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, a blend weighing in at a mere 13.5% on the ABV scale. The usual suspects are found here in my tasting note; a dark-colored ruby core, leaning toward purple, at first blush in the aromas department, a rich bouquet of dried plum and raspberries, fused together with some beautiful graphite and rich earthy elements, very compelling and appealing.

On the palate: A delicious gem from the Medoc subregion, sporting Saint Estephe style and substance, blend that captivates in what I would call a far more finesse type approach. As it does not hit you over the head with a basket of ripe dark and red fruits but subtly endears itself to you, the structure is impressive. Abundant fruit laid over skillfully woven tannins, like blackberry and blackcurrant and more earthy type suggestions of cocoa, and cedar lead to the rich, yet complex long and lasting finish. This wine really wowed me on many levels, and the relatively low pre-arrival price of admission makes it all the more appealing. The price I found for this wine is $44 which is a screaming good deal. My score for this wine is 96 points, the QPR is off the charts. 

These wines in the reviews above are just a small slice of the wine drinking joy to be found in the wines of Bordeaux, and while many of the grand crus sport a somewhat hefty price tag, there's much wine drinking joy to be found in their second labels as well. If you've still not availed yourself of the opportunity to experience the wines of Bordeaux, then you owe it to yourself to see what the 'fuss' is all about. If you do, I think you too will become captivated by these great wines. Until then folks, as always remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!


Anonymous said…
Many thanks for your nice comment. I'm very pleased to see that you enjoyed our Branaire-Ducru 2015. I hope that next time, we will have the same tasting in Saint-Julien...:)
Have a nice day.
Best regards,
François-Xavier Maroteaux
Will Eyer said…
Bonjour Francois, Thanks for stopping by, and for the invite, and being a big fan of Branaire-Ducru I look forward to a visit.

All the best,

Bill Eyer

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