St Estèphe has made some very good wine in 2015 but the appellation has not done as well as in 2014 in my book. This is down to the heavy rain showers in mid September, the residual effect of ‘Storm Henry,’ that arrived on the eve of the Merlot harvest, a key varietal component to many of the wines in St Estèphe. While conditions improved from mid September until early October, how estates and different terroirs responded to these conditions determined the relative levels of success. There are some top wines in the appellation – Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Montrose, Château Calon-Ségur, Château Lafon-Rochet and Château Meyney spring to mind – but there is not the uniformity here for me of 2014, nor the exciting power in the wines. Whether 2015 will claw back some of that ground during elévage remains to be seen.
I think Château Cos d’Estournel just has it this year. It will be a close run thing I’m sure, but at this early stage it fractionally pips Château Montrose in producing the finest St Estèphe in 2015. Undoubtedly this is the best wine made here since Aymeric de Gironde took over the day-to-day running of this Michel Reybier owned estate in 2012. Last year the 2014 was impressive, but this year Cos 2015 has a plush voluptuousness that is irresistible. The purity is dazzling, the precision remarkable. This wine belies the patchy September weather here that literally rained on St Estèphe’s parade.
Château Montrose occupies a wonderful position in St Estèphe, a single continuous vineyard that slopes gently toward the Gironde estuary. Legend has it that the name ‘Mont Rose’ derives from the pink coloured heather that used to occupy the spot before it was turned over to vine. Montrose, along with Latour and Mouton Rothschild, produces some of the boldest, most age-worthy red wine on the planet. The 2015 here is impressive. It’s a whisker off the remarkable wine made at Montrose in 2014, though quite different in style.
Château Calon Ségur is one of my favourite properties in Bordeaux. This is exceptional terroir in St Estèphe produces some of the finest and most classical claret. Regularly the château pulls a rabbit out of the hat in tricky vintages – it made a good fist of things in 2011 and in 2013. In good vintages like 2012 and 2014 it really excelled. For me 2009 and 2010 show the heights this property can command, two stand-out wines, easily of first growth quality. So what of Calon in 2015? It is not as immediately powerful as the 2014, but shows attractive texture and balance. It is defined by beautiful Cabernet fruit tones and should fill out further during elévage.
Pauillac has had a very good vintage in 2015, though there is some variability. The best wines have considerable depth and beautiful fruit tones. The acidity is good and the tannins are wonderfully ripe. In some cases heavy September rain showers knocked the edge of things a bit here relative to other appellations. In some cases 2014 felt a more powerful vintage in Pauillac. That is also the case in neighbouring St Estèphe. That said, the general delicacy of the wines and the delicious fruit tones make 2015 Pauillac a very attractive vintage for a great many châteaux here.
Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t find any more complete an expression than at Château Latour, conjured from its unique terroir adjacent to the Gironde on Pauillac’s southern border with St Julien. Although Latour no longer releases wine to sell en primeur, it still shows samples of the previous vintage each April, along with the wines the château is currently releasing. This year was the mouthwatering prospect of the 2010 Pauillac de Latour, Les Forts de Latour 2009 and Château Latour 2000 [pictured] – a cross section of perhaps the finest ever recent vintages for this property. In this formidable company the 2015 made a good impression, despite the vagaries of the weather in September here in the northern left bank. 2015 Latour has plenty of extract but displays wonderful harmony and the flattering aromatic qualities that mark this vintage.