Categories
Wine Articles Wine Reviews

Bordeaux 2015 in bottle tasting in Napa

February seems both long ago, yet only recent, with both the rhythm of seasons and life partly frozen and confused by lockdowns. This tasting took place in Napa in February 2020. Writing in September 2020, in Melbourne, we remain in lockdown. In our city, this means being permitted only to travel up to 5 kilometres from our homes for limited reasons, a curfew is in place and international travel is more or less not permitted.

Napa is vivid in mind. I think this is partly because I liked its ambition and energy, and partly because of the mentioned context. This post though is not about Napa wine but the annual Institute of Masters of Wine tasting of the 2015 Bordeaux vintage in bottle, a tasting which travels to London, Napa and Sydney. The setting was the centrally located Westin hotel in Napa, not far from the Oxbow public market, a Friday night after a long week of forensic tasting and the weather not particularly cold and more late winter-esque, peaking in the high teens celcius during the day. To my outside eye, it seemed obvious that Napa and Bordeaux were entwined, the Sydney tasting more satellite office in character.

The 2015 Bordeaux vintage is a great one, and its immediate peers are the 2010, 2009 and 2005 vintages. I do not recall these vintages being quite so ripe (2009 comes closest) and the tasting did not seem altogether a change of gears from a week of tasting Napa cabernet. In terms of generalisations, perhaps the highest goal attainable at very large tastings rather than precise tasting notes, the left bank presented more successfully than the right, producing some classic wines that will age for decades. The ripe vintage seemed to change the character of more than a few of the right bank wines, pushing alcohols up to 15% to 15.5% in a number of cases. I did in fact enjoy many of these wines, but these are not classical Saint-Émilion expressions.

To follow are short notes and observations, as permitted by the format.

Saint-Émilion

Despite consistently high alcohols at and around 15%, there were many enjoyable wines in this group.

Château Angelus. 62% merlot and 38% cabernet franc. Floral, blackcurrant aromas. Firm drying tannins on the palate. Very Good. Alcohol 15%.

Chàteau Belair-Monange. 88% merlot and 12% cabernet franc. Floral, violet and leafy aromas. Palate has firm tannins, long length. Outstanding. Alcohol 15%.

Château Cheval Blanc. 55% merlot and 45% cabernet franc. Delightful cedar, blackcurrant aroma. Long length on the palate, silky, very refined tannins. Outstanding. Alcohol 14.5%.

Château Laroze. 62% merlot, 30% cabernet franc and 8% cabernet sauvignon. Leafy aroma. Palate has high, firm tannins, blackcurrant and firm expression. Cabernet sauvignon addition perhaps helping. Very Good. Alcohol 14%.

Château Latour-Figeac. 70% merlot and 30% cabernet franc. Red fruits and leafy aroma. Very tannic palate. Very Good to Outstanding. Alcohol 14.5%.

Château Toplong-Mondot. 92% merlot and 6% cabernet sauvignon. The aroma here reminded of raisins. Tannic palate. Good only. Appeared overwhelmed perhaps due to higher percentage of merlot. Alcohol 15.5%.

Pomerol

The better wines here had less merlot. This might sound strange, but I say this because the cabernet franc contribution in some cases was not dissimilar to the Saint-Émilion wines. The alcohols in this group did not dip below 14.5%.

Château Hosanna. 82% merlot and 18% cabernet franc. More plums and dark plums in terms of aroma. Very high, structured tannins on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding. Alcohol 15%.

Château La Fleur-Petrus. 92% merlot, 7.5% cabernet franc and 0.5% petit verdot. Plums and red fruit aroma. Clay like tannins. Very Good. Alcohol 15%.

Château Nenin. 67% merlot and 33% cabernet franc. Aromas of violet and plums. Plums, violets and high tannins on the palate. Very Good. Alcohol 14.5%.

Château Petit-Village. 71% merlot, 20% cabernet franc and 9% cabernet sauvignon. Black plum aroma. Firm tannins. Very Good. Alcohol 14.5%.

Château Trotanoy. 93% merlot and 7% cabernet franc. Black plums and firm tannins. Not specific. Alcohol 15%.

Saint-Estèphe

There were good vin de guard wines in this group.

Château Cos d’Estournel. 75% cabernet sauvignon, 23.5% merlot and 1.5% cabernet franc. Brooding, dark fruit aroma. Structured, firm palate. Vin de guard. Outstanding. Alcohol 13.5%

Château Cos Labory. 51% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot and 2% petit verdot. Muted, borrding dark fruits,. Very firm palate. Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Montrose. 67% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot and 4% cabernet franc. Earth and violet aroma. Firm, structured tannins. Normally I prefer this wine to the Cos d’Estournel, but the Cos d’Estournel was a little ahead this time. Very Good to Outstanding. Alcohol 13.5%.

Pauillac

An even group, with the best producers producing the best wines. Most wines were 13.5% alcohol. I had hoped for slightly more from the more affordable producers, given the ripe vintage.

Château Batailley. 77% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot and 3% petit verdot. Oak, smoke and reductive aroma. Blackcurrant on the palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Haut-Bages Liberal. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot. Smokey, blackcurrant aroma. Firm tannins on the palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Lynch-Bages. 70% cabernet sauvignon, 24% merlot, 4% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. This proved the best wine of the Pauillac bracket. Blackcurrant aroma, with a pure expression. Super tight palate, firm, very firm tannins and long length on the finish. Outstanding. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Pichon Baron. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 23% merlot. Usually the favourite, but the Lynch-Bages proved the more complete wine. Aromas of cedar and blackcurrant. Long length on the palate. Early days. Very Good to Outstanding. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. 68% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot, 2% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. Aromas of cedar, oak. The palate has high tannins and blackcurrant characters. Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Pontet-Canet. 65% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 4% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. Brooding, blackcurrant aroma. Earthy palate. Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Saint-Julien

This appellation proved slightly less even than the Pauillac bracket.

Château Beychevelle. 47% merlot, 42% cabernet, 7% cabernet franc and 4% petit verdot. Majority merlot. Aroma is a little earthy, with blackcurrant. Medium to high tannins. Good only. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Branaire-Ducru. 65% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot, 5% petit verdot and 4% cabernet franc. Blackcurrant and cedar aromas. Classic palate. Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Leoville Barton. 86% cabernet sauvignon and 14% merlot. Pencil lead, blackcurrant. Towards the end of the tasting. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13%.

Château Leoville-Las Cases. 85% cabernet sauvignon, 6% merlot and 9% cabernet franc. The stand out Saint-Julien wine. Aromas of blackcurrant and pencil lead. Fine tannins and long length on the finish. Outstanding. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Leoville Poyferré. 65% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot, 6% petit verdot and 3% cabernet franc. Really good. Refined cedar aroma, pencil lead. Fine tannins that are very firm on the palate. Very Good to Oustanding. Alcohol 13.5%.

Haut-Médoc

There were only two wines tasted in this bracket.

Château Belgrave. 74% cabernet sauvignon, 23% merlot and 3% petit verdot. Aromas of leaf, blackcurrant and violets. Blackcurrant and leafy palate. Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Cantemerle. 59% cabernet sauvignon, 27% merlot, 6% petiti verdot and 8% cabernet franc. Similar aroma of blackcurrant and leaf. Medium bodied, claret style. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13%.

Margaux

There were no outstanding wines in this bracket and a surprise (tiny) carmenere contribution.

Château Brane-Cantenac. 70% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot, 3% cabernet franc and 1% carmenere. Yes, carmenere. Aroma of violets and blackcurrant. Structured, tight palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château d’Issan. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot. Blackcurrant and vanilla aroma. Blackcurrant like palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Giscours. 70% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot and 5% petit verdot. Blackcurant and leaf aromas. Firm tannins but a bit hollow. Good. Alcohol 14%.

Château Lascombes. 50% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot and 3% petit verdot. Red and black fruit aromas. Firm tannins. Very Good. Alcohol 14%.

Château Rauzan-Ségla. 63% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 3% petit verdot and 1% cabernet franc. Blackcurrant aroma. Velvety, firm tannins on the. palate. Very Good. Alcohol 14.5%.

Pessac-Léognan

There were some very good to outstanding wines in this group, from the best producers.

Château Carbonnieux. 60% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot and 5% petit verdot. Blackcurrant and black fruits aroma. Slightly rustic palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 14%.

Château de Fieuzal. 75% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot. Blackcurrant aroma. Velvety tannins and blackcurrant on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding. Alcohol 14%.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte. 63% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 2% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. Aromas of cloves and leaf. Velvety, high tannins and long finish. Outstanding. Alcohol 14.5%.

Domaine de Chevalier. 55% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 5% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot. Blackcurrant aroma and palate. An almost Australian note. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Malartic-Lagravière. 53% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 7% petit verdot and 5% cabernet franc. Baked, leafy and plum aromas. Drying, green tannins on palate. Good. Alcohol 14%.

Sauternes and Barsac

To finish, but not a lesser bracket.

Château Climens. 100% semillon. Lemon aroma. Very fresh acidity. Very Good. Alcohol 14%.

Château Doisy Daëne. 100% semillon. Floral aroma and fresh palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Guiraud. 65% semillon and 35% sauvignon blanc. Light marmalade aroma. Heavier, sugar rich palate. Good to Very Good. Alcohol 13.5%.

Château Suduiraut. 94% semillon and 6% sauvignon blanc. Stood up well next to the d’Yquem. Marmalade aroma. Sweetness cut through with fresh acidity. Outstanding. Alcohol 13%.

Château d’Yquem. 80% semillon and 20% sauvignon blanc. Marmlade aroma. Epic length and complexity on the palate marks this as an oustanding wine. Alcohol 14%.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments