For the first time in a few years, the three of us made the trip down to Bordeaux for Primeurs week. This is the week when merchants from all over the world come to visit the Chateaux to try barrel samples from the previous harvest prior to their release throughout late Spring and early Summer. The whole system of buying wines en primeur has faced scrutiny over recent years for various reasons, so everyone concerned is eager for a good campaign.

As always, there was much posturing from the Chateau owners and winemakers who profess that 2015 has produced and extraordinary wines. This was met with the typical chin-rubbing and head-scratching from the visiting merchants who don’t want to seem too excited whilst the pricing remains unknown. The Bordelais were already wearing a half-smirk by the time we arrived because wine critic James Suckling had already made the rounds and handed almost universal high scores, including eight 100s and eight 99-100s.

So. How were the wines? Well, some of them are very good and I think it’s fair to say that the average standard is the best since 2010. Unlike 2003 or 2009, for example, I wouldn’t say that the vintage left its mark on the wines. They were all very individual and terroir specific. The best Pessacs showed that gravelly minerality, the top Margaux that elegant perfume. There is also a clear divide between the Right and Left Banks. Of Mr.Suckling’s 16 potentially perfect wines, 12 of them were from the Right Bank. On the whole, the Right showed a much more masculine structure, some of them being absolute monsters that will undoubtedly live for a very long time. I think this ratio is slightly unfair to the Left, though. Some of the wines here tasted complete and were a total joy to taste, even in their infancy. At dinner one evening, I was told a story of when the 1982s were shown in 1983. The wines tasted so complete that at the end of the day, the vignerons were recorking the samples to take home for dinner, they were that approachable. We all know how 1982 turned out. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to 2005 but I think 2015 is more of a mixed bag.

Rain was an issue on the Left Bank. The further north you go, the more rain fell around harvest. This is where the quality becomes a little patchy and it will pay to be selective. We had heard a lot of good things about Margaux as a commune but we were largely underwhelmed by these. Rauzan-Segla, Brane Cantenac, Palmer and Margaux were, however, all beautiful. Margaux in particular was a haunting, majestic wine that showed why he’s the boss of the commune and is a fitting tribute to the late Paul Pontallier. Pessac-Leognan and St.Julien seemed to be the most consistent regions. The quality of the big boys was impressive and this trickled all the way down to the petit chateaux. We tried some Graves in the €6-8 range that really impressed.

As with all good vintages, it is a great time to stock up on drinking Claret. As there is likely to be interest at the top end, the Negociants will be trying to parcel up the cherries with wines from the lower end of the scale. If these wines sell out, buying en primeur is the cheapest time to buy – isn’t that what en primeur supposed to be about?! Villa Bel-Air, Potensac (and Chappelle), Denis Durantou’s Cruzelle and Saintayme, Chateau Dalem, Puygueraud, La Creation (Pomerol) and Poujeaux all stood out as prime-time house Bordeaux.

In summary, 2015 is a vintage that will divide opinion. Everyone you speak to has something different to say and a different set of favourites. In fact, when I asked the guys to give me their Top 5 wines from our visit, there was plenty of deliberating. Clearly, everything now hinges on the pricing but we remain hopeful. Whatever happens, we will remain as impartial as ever and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

For what it’s worth, here are our Top 5s (very much subject to change!) in no particular order:

Ben Dawes:                          Will Evered:                        Pete Goss:
Grand Puy Lacoste              Domaine de Chevalier      Dame de Montrose
Clos du Marquis                  Grand Mayne                     Calon Segur
Pichon Lalande                    Grand Puy Lacoste            Carmes Haut Brion
Chateau Margaux               Chateau Margaux              Domaine de Chevalier
Haut Brion                            Haut Brion                          La Mission Haut Brion

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