2015 En Primeur
2015 is a very good vintage for the wines of Bordeaux. It is without a doubt the best vintage since 2010 and it potentially ranks alongside 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2000 as the best since 1990.
The 12 strong Farr Vintners team spent the first week of April 2016 travelling around the region, tasting the wines and talking to the winemakers. We were accompanied, as ever, by Master of Wine Derek Smedley who has tasted every Bordeaux vintage en primeur since 1961. Derek is a human encyclopaedia of Bordeaux wines and was able to give us unique insight into the quality of the vintage in comparison with those that have gone before.
We won’t go into details here of the weather leading up to the 2015 harvest or overwhelm you with technicalities. However, if you would like to read more about the background to the vintage, we have some excellent information available from Professor Denis Dubourdieu, the Cazes family of Lynch Bages and Bordeaux expert Bill Blatch here.
Apart from visits to individual Châteaux across the region we also participated in three huge comparative tastings where we were able to try hundreds of samples against their peers. This meant that there were several wines that we tasted two or three times during the week. Apart from a couple of wines that we were unable to try, all the wines that we will be offering for sale have been tasted by the Farr Vintners team. You can read our tasting notes (with a score out of 20) by clicking on the wine in question in the en primeur section of our web site. We will be adding the scores and tasting notes of the leading wine critics as they become available.
If one were to generalise about the vintage, we would say that it is certainly very good in all appellations. However Saint Estèphe suffered from high rainfall in September and we’re not convinced that this appellation has produced any truly great wines. Pauillac and Saint Julien were much more consistent and we were impressed by the commune of Margaux – which is often our least favourite. The Pessac-Léognan region of the Graves, where the wines are based on a 50:50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet, seems to be particularly successful. Saint Emilion has produced some excellent wines this year, although we disliked the over-extracted concoctions that have drained away all the charm and purity of the vintage. Our favourite commune was Pomerol, where there are some wonderfully ripe but balanced Merlot-based wines. We enjoyed some fresh and vibrant dry white wines and the vintage also looks to be very successful for Sauternes.
Overall the wines can be described as being ripe but not over-ripe, with fresh acidity, charm, balance and rounded, silky tannins. This vintage is not at all like 2009 – a great year in which very opulent, dense and decadent wines were produced. It is also not like 2010 which is a year of immense concentration and firm tannins that produced classic, backward “vins de garde”. If we have to look for comparisons from the past, then perhaps it resembles 2005 but without the firm tannin backbone that has made those wines so unapproachable in youth. Chatting with Derek, we came up with 1985 as a good comparison, although the yields now are often about 20% less than in those days. Furthermore, there have been many wine-making advances and there is generally much stricter fruit selection which has led to the production of far greater quantities of second (and third) wines by the leading properties. Those with really long memories may well find 2015 reminding them of 1953. In short, 2015 is a classic vintage that is very “Bordeaux” in style. They are wines of charm and purity with beautifully balanced richness and structure. They are more elegant than the blockbusters of 2009 and 2010.
The first critic to release his assessment of the vintage was James Suckling and he absolutely raves about the wines. Nearly every wine reviewed has a score in the 90s and he rates 16 wines as high as 99/100 points or even a straight 100 and a further 12 are rated 98/99. Suckling states that many châteaux have made their best wines ever in this vintage and his scores appear to be higher than for any other vintage in his career, since he first became the Wine Spectator’s Bordeaux expert back in 1982.
Despite this, we believe that the wise buyer has to look at pricing as well as quality before deciding what to buy en primeur. In our view there is no point in buying these wines if the prices approach the current market values of the already proven 2009 and 2010 vintages. We expect the prices to be higher than 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, as this is definitely a better vintage. Whilst 2015 may eventually rival 2005 in the fullness of time, the wines must be considerably cheaper than the current prices for that vintage – we think by at least 30%. The 2005’s have been stored for ten years and are now close to maturity so must demand a premium over an en primeur vintage. As a guide to our customers, we have listed the current 2005 price next to each wine in 2015. Unless that Château particularly under-performed in 2005, we would steer clear of their 2015 if it is around the same price as you can buy the 2005 today. Each wine also has an estimated price. The bottom estimate is based on the Châteaux releasing their 2015 at around the same price as they did in 2014 – which is unlikely – and the top estimate is generally based on prices being around 20% less than you can currently buy the 2009 and 2010 of that particular wine (the exceptions to this rule being the 2009/2010 100 pointers). Mid-estimate prices should give the buyer a fair deal on 2015.
We hope that all the wines we are listing will be released en primeur between late April and early July 2016. However please note that Yquem will be released in September 2017 and Latour and Les Forts de Latour will not be released until the Château considers them ready to drink.
Also in the en primeur section is our “What’s New” page which will list all the recent releases, a “Latest News” page that we will update daily with our thoughts on each release, a “Recommendations” page featuring the tips of Farr Vintners and independent critics, and a photo gallery from our trip to Bordeaux. If this is your first time buying en primeur, there is also an explanation as to how the system works and how to order using our “Pre-order” and “Wish-list” system.
The quality is most certainly there in 2015 so, if the proprietors show restraint with their pricing, we could once more have a campaign that gives the Bordeaux wine lover the chance to buy great wines at attractive opening prices.