Thoughts & Scores from 2015 Bordeaux En Primeur
22 Friday Apr 2016
Another year, another en primeur campaign. How long this system can sustain itself? It seems every year the fuse gets shorter. However, it is not yet extinct, and the en primeur tastings serve as a useful opportunity for journalists, buyers and (usually higher-end) consumers to form an opinion about what the most recent Bordeaux vintage will offer.
What 2015 offers is a highly mixed bag. There’s something for everyone, but without careful research, everyone may not love what he or she purchases.
Personal taste will account for a lot in this vintage, as it is hard to make generalizations about the best communes. Rumor had it that Margaux was the bulls-eye as it received the least rain in the Médoc around harvest, but many Margaux are not that scintillating. The good news is that whether you prefer gutsy or restrained wines, you’ll certainly find something to suit your taste.
This was the hottest growing season on record since Bordeaux began tracking temperatures in 1845. While there was a welcomed absence of the less-ripe fruit seen in some of the preceding four vintages, many 2015 wines are overripe to the point of tasting of figs, prunes and raisins.
It was so warm that even Petit Verdot ripened well in 2015. More than a few top châteaux lamented they couldn’t use as much as they wanted as even half a percent of Petit Verdot can noticeably change a cuvée.
Structurally, tannins are mightily ripe. On the one hand, that quality saved many tastebuds and teeth in the en primeur tasting onslaught. However, some wines are mushy as a result. Along with all of this ripe fruit came some serious dousings of oak. Many wines taste more of French forests and coopers’ fires than they do of their fruits’ terroirs. Yet happily, while alcohols are also elevated, few wines couldn’t support the extra heft.
Whites and sweet wines fared better, showing lovely freshness and purity. In particular, there are some outrageously good sweets. To my palate, they hold more concentration and potential ageability than the much-flaunted 2014s.
What to do with the 2015 vintage? Sit back and think about it for two years while the wines are aging and being bottled. Buy when the wines will be delivered at the time of your payment, save for small quantity gems that sell out entirely during the en primeur process, like those of L’Église Clinet. By then, some of us will have been back to see how the wines are shaping up just before their releases into the marketplace.
What will happen with en primeur? We’ll have to stay tuned. From Château Latour bowing out of the system starting with 2012 vintage to producers like Jacques Thienpont deciding not to show his highly sought-after Le Pin this year (he is not exiting the en primeur system) to many en primeur buyers being in the red on recently purchased vintages, the system is cracking. I hope Bordeaux decides to pre-emptively change things as a unified region. It could be grim for their current financing programs if they don’t.