After four lean years, Bordeaux winemakers have something to smile about. At least that’s the buzz at this year’s En Primeur—the anticipated annual tasting event that draws thousands of global wine-trade members and journalists to Bordeaux.
The objective? To assess the 2015 wines, only six months off the vines, and decide whether to buy these futures while still in barrel. The aim, not always achieved in recent years, is to get a better wine at a better price, which is set after owners assess the market.
My prediction? The vintage is shaping up to be very good, inching towards a 100-point trifecta.
So where are the 2015 star wines? I believe Margaux, Saint-Émilion/ Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan will be the leaders of this vintage, the appellations with potential 100-point wines.
Despite the absolute quality of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, luscious Merlot is the star grape. Pomerol and Saint-Émilion delivered “very ripe Merlot that had such surprising freshness,” said Olivier Berrouet of Château Pétrus, the world’s preeminent Merlot-only winery.
I concur. I began tasting the Bordeaux 2015 vintage last week before the start of the official En Primeur week as a result of Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux’s controversial blind-tasting ban and change of overall tasting structure. Instead of small groups tasting each appellation in chateaus, all journalists attend a massive Soviet-style tasting in the new Bordeaux soccer stadium. This is no way to properly taste the vintage, so I’ve traveled throughout Bordeaux to attend individual tastings, organized by Bordeaux merchants and groups of chateaus, in order to beat the new system and taste as many wines possible blind. And while it has been a challenge, I have discovered some very fine wines.
For those who like vintage comparisons, this vintage lies somewhere between 2005 and 2009. These wines, which represent less than 5% of total Bordeaux production, feature full fruit and sumptuous textures, and simultaneously have so much tannin. Put these contrasting elements together and you have a magic combination of immediate pleasure and long ageability. Words like “opulent” describe wines produced at even the usually restrained, classic chateaus. That’s how exceptional this year’s vintage is, and in my opinion, the best since 2010.
By the end of the week, I will have tasted more than 300 wines, with a focus on futures that American importers of Bordeaux are most likely to buy now. You can read the full report on Friday, but for now, follow @vossroger #WEtaste #EnPrimeur for my minute-by-minute updates from the frontlines.