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.
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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.
Overall St Emilion is something of a mixed bag in 2013. Quality is better than you might expect given the dreadful vintage, conditions that were especially tricky for Merlot, the district’s principal grape. It was badly affected by poor weather at flowering, which reduced yields and led to poor fruit set; later the humid conditions at vintage and the threat and rapid onset of rot [botrytis] also adversely affected the variety. Still St Emilion has made a number of attractive and well-made wines. But there are plenty of disappointments too. Some are thin and over-worked; others hollow. Quality follows terroir and those with cash. The best wines have forward and attractive fruit flavours and some are competitively priced. While it’s a complex picture, overall the wines of St Emilion are probably a more immediately appealing and joyous bunch than their left-bank counterparts in 2013.
There can be no doubt that outside Pomerol, St Emilion has put in the strongest performance in 2012. There is great beauty to the best wines. The vintage was not without its own problems of course as detailed in earlier posts – various heavy bouts of rain in October; the difficult start to the growing season which lead to uneven and protracted flowering; the risks of mildew in early July and botrytis in October. The most attentive and diligent have triumphed and the quality of the best Merlot is stunning.