I spent a second day in St Emilion, starting at Château Pavie-Macquin to taste the range of wines that Nicolas Thienpont crafts as well as listening to a review of the climatological aspects of the vintage. It was an opportunity to hear Stéphane Derenoncourt discuss his thoughts on 2016 as a ‘miracle’ vintage. He sees it as the third in a trilogy of impressive vintages starting in 2014. Next up was Château Angélus to look at their stable of wines and discuss the vintage with Hubert de Boüard as well as examine the expanding range that he consults for. This gave me an opportunity to taste the first of a series of seriously impressive wines from the left bank in Pauillac and the Haut-Médoc. I then completed tastings at the Grand Cercle held at Château Montlabert. Here I assessed a dozen or so St Emilion Grand Cru Classés [generally exciting and homogeneous] as well as tasting more wines from the left bank appellations St Julien, Pauillac, Margaux and the Haut-Médoc. My overall feelings was how exciting this vintage is for both right and left bank, perhaps left especially.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Bellefont Belcier’
Let’s not beat about the bush. St Emilion has had a glorious vintage in 2015. I think I’ve scored it even more highly than 2010 in many cases. It’s a different beast of course – in fact more of a beauty. There is a supple quality to the fruit, a seductive aspect. It makes so many of the wines delicious. If they don’t have the prodigious densities achieved in 2010, that’s not a bad thing. Many of these wines are caressing and voluptuous. There’s more apparent freshness too than in 2009. There are far fewer of the jammy over-ripe qualities that affected some wines here that year. I think I’m also detecting a perceptible shift in winemaking emphasis on the right bank too. This new paradigm hasn’t quite arrived everywhere, but I think we are starting to witness the positive results of changes in the approach and sophistication of vineyard management [and an increasing movement to organic methods], harvesting at better combined ripeness [not over-ripeness] and greater sensitivity in the cellar in terms of extraction. For me there is no doubt that these 2015 St Emilions are the most attractively styled primeur wines I’ve yet had from this varied and fascinating appellation.
So what are the principal characteristics of the Bordeaux 2015 vintage? Firstly there is a real beauty to the fruit tones in the red wines this year. Time after time, especially on the Right Bank but also on the Left I kept writing ‘beautiful,’ ‘pretty,’ and ‘delicious.’ There is freshness, despite pretty high alcohols in the main. The vintage is almost a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010, but with less evident structure and weight than those vintages. For me it recalls 1985 in terms of that vintage’s early beauty and freshness – and ‘85 remains in great shape today. But the 2015 vintage is by no means homogeneous. In fact there is considerable variability. What is in no doubt is that ‘15 is terrific in St Emilion. There is concentration and delight in so many wines there this year. It has also been strong vintage in the surrounding Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, especially Castillon and Francs.
It was an exciting start to the Bordeaux primeurs week over in St Emilion on Sunday. By the looks of things so far, St Emilion was as good a place as any to start tasting Bordeaux 2015. All vintages have their complexities but perhaps ‘15 seems to favour the right bank over the left in many respects at this early stage. At the Grand Cercle tastings held at Château Bellefont Belcier there were a number of wines from the various Côtes de Bordeaux appellations, especially the Côtes de Castillon, the Côtes de Francs and Fronsac that impressed. It looks like there are many excellent St Emilions to be had in 2015 too. The St Emilion Grand Crus and the St Emilion Grand Cru Classés showed very well indeed. Pomerol showed slightly less well but I will look in more detail at the appellation Wednesday. I also had the opportunity on Sunday to taste the range of right bank estates run by Nicolas Thienpont. They have produced a very exciting St Emilion at Château Berliquet, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie-Maquin and Château Beauséjour. These are a very harmonious set of wines indeed.
Overall 2014 is an impressive vintage judging from what was in the glass in many of the St Emilion’s tasted during primeurs week last month. There is perhaps more weight and structure than 2012 [itself a very good vintage in St Emilion] and, overall, 2014 is probably the best since 2009 and 2010. It also has greater apparent acidity than in those two years. What’s exciting is the combination of the freshness, the aromatics and the depth in the best wines. There are also excellent wines at all levels, not just at the top echelons. That means there is value to be had in 2014, where the price is right. Overall it is undoubtedly an excellent year for Cabernet Franc here. The variety loved the Indian summer. Merlot is also impressive on the best terroirs. It’s a generalization, but the wines seemed less over-extracted than usual, with greater emphasis on proportionality and harmony. This may be the vintage speaking, but let’s hope it reflects more balanced, adaptive winemaking approaches. And even where properties have gone hell for leather, generally the ball stays in the air. The notes on the following 107 wines represents my most comprehensive primeurs tastings yet of the wines of St Emilion.
Primeurs week begins today in Bordeaux and the first signs are that 2014 looks to be a good vintage. After a string of comparatively mediocre years, culminating in the disappointing 2013 vintage, it is likely that 2014, after an exceptional September, has produced the most promising wines the region has seen since 2010. Much is left to be discovered and I’ve only been tasting in St Emilion this weekend but first indications are good. Still the success of the forthcoming en primeur campaign surely rests as much on price as it does upon quality [though a good quality vintage will be a relief]. After three missed opportunities by and large, can Bordeaux’s proprietors finally judge market sentiment correctly and release 2014 at prices cheaper than currently available vintages? While the weakness of the euro already guarantees a price cut in the UK and US markets, a drop in price in real terms would surely galvanise interest once more in Bordeaux in what looks to be an extremely promising vintage.