Intriguingly Pauillac #Bdx15

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

7 May 2016

People expecting 2010 style power and evident tannin from Pauillac in 2015 – with all the hype of a “great” vintage – were left scratching their heads. While you find gems here, many samples exuded more charm than power. Indeed, I found barrel samples from both Château Margaux and Château Palmer having more Pauillac style concentration and power than most all of the Pauillacs.

But lovers of elegance and suppleness will find much to enjoy in Pauillac. While I did run into some lightweight mid palates – perhaps September rains played a role – most mid-palates from Pauillac to my mind are deceptively light. One purpose of barrel aging is to fill out the palates. So one will end up with something like a cross between the charm of the 1985 vintage and the structure of 2005 (for the better estates). In that sense it is clear to me that most of these wines will last a very long time in your cellar – and be delicious. Many 1985s are utterly gorgeous, today, some 30 years down the line. So the 2015s should last at least 30 years.

Pricing, as ever for any Bordeaux futures campaign, will be key. Especially when no one single wine guru (Robert Parker) is calling definitive shots. While last year, I felt as if Pauillac was a top appellation, this year it is just very good. For some wines, I recall liking 2014 from barrel every bit as much, if not more, than in 2015. And there are some interesting curve balls this year in Pauillac, as you will read in my tasting notes.

Wines I liked in particular in bold. When red and bold, even more. When underlined, too, some kind of wine (barrel sample) nirvana!

  • 2015 Château d’Armailhac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Tasted at Mouton Rothschild and the UGCB stadium tastings, with similar results. Bright cherry red and blackberry fruit aromatics and flavors are very pleasing. Balanced, the 60% Cabernet Sauvignon lends needed structure, but it has fleshy richness, if not overly so, with freshness and acidity lending a more supple aspect. A fine, fresh finish – and I think superior to 2014. Lovely! 90-92
  • 2015 Château Batailley – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This estate is getting better and better. The 2015 exudes a deep nose, with violet aromatics, and the palate has an excellent tannic edge, but smooth tannins, with freshness. While not as overtly rich as 2009, and not as high toned as 2010 either, it has the structure of 2005. Quite a nice Batailley, perhaps reflecting the increased selection – as 2015 was the first official vintage of the second wine, Lions de Batailley. It is every bit as good, if not better, than 2014. 91-93
Fine Batailley

An excellent Batailley #Bdx15

  • 2015 Château Clerc Milon – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    A more vivid expression of ripe red and dark fruit, with a cleaner more precise delivery on the palate, as compared to d’Armailhac, tasted just before. Juicy and smooth. Slightly more impenetrable as compared to Batailley, tasted just before at the UGCB tasting, yet delicious and fresh with much crackly bright fruit. There is quite a bit of tannin – and vivacity to the bright finish. An excellent 2015. 91-93
  • 2015 Château Croizet-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Slightly thinner, as compared to Clerc Milon, tasted just before, lacking comparative depth. All in all, a “smaller scaled” wine. While charming and ripe in its fine expression of red fruit, the palate is somewhat overly soft. Taken alone, this would be OK, but compared to others not as good. 87-89
  • 2015 Château Duhart-Milon – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Far better than last year. This was a lovely wine, perfectly recalling the elegance of 1985, but with a bit more structure. The attack was smooth, leading to a juicy mid palate, with touches of graphite and cassis, a subtly full body, and a long and charming finish. Here is a great 2015, which will benefit from barrel aging to fill it out. My score range may turn out too conservative. 92-94
  • 2015 Château Fonbadet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    The nose is juicier than some of the Saint Estephe wines I tried at the Alliance de Cru Bourgeois tasting, with ripe red and black fruits, and I like the depth of the palate, no doubt the average 50-year age of the vines helps it get there. A bit hard on the finish, however, so let it age blissfully for 5 or 10 years, and it should be lovely, if somewhat “Old School” juice. 88-90+
  • 2015 Château Haut-Bages Libéral – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This is quite steely actually…. And it surprisingly lacks the charm of most others. Could it have been the sample? I did not get a chance to try another one. Must be revisited. Note reserved.
  • 2015 Château Lafite Rothschild* – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    The best of the Pauillacs! So much elegance and precision to this barrel sample, made up of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot and clocking in at just under 12.7% alcohol. I like that kind of balance. The attack was soft, then came a rather intense and substantial mid palate, yet very clean and pristine, refined and subtle in its expression of layers of texture. Overall a very attractive and quite beautiful wine, leading to a very long finish. This year, Margaux seemed to have more grip, almost Pauillac in expression, whereas Lafite remained very true to Lafite: elegance and grace but with mid palate substance. This is a very special wine. “Very classic in expression,” said vineyard manager Regis Porfilet. One of the best of the vintage overall. 96-98
  • 2015 Carruades de Lafite – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Regis Porfilet, vineyard manager, explained that the second wine, at 12.8% alcohol, had more Cabernet than usual (36% with 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc) because the rains had diluted the grapes a bit. The vineyards here had twice as much rain in September as in Margaux. Indeed, I felt like the Carruades had a slightly thin mid palate, but the aromatics were lovely. 88-90
Latour 2015

A somewhat mysterious Latour!

  • 2015 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    OK, so this will not be proposed en primeur, but it was great to taste anyway. And what an experience! The style here has definitely changed towards a softer more Lafite-like expression of Cabernet, as this includes a whopping 97.1% of Cabernet Sauvignon with 2.6% Merlot and a smidgeon of Petit Verdot. As I wrote in my introduction, the overall effect was that of expecting When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin and getting All of My Love instead. Latour technical director Hélène Génin explained to me that the style is changing due to biodynamic winemaking. I liked this new style, but perhaps Latour is a metaphor for 2015, in terms of expectations. Basically words like “rather tender” came to mind as well as “subtle”. And so it was. But by golly, as I tasted it, I could only marvel at its precision and purity. Very essence of cassis like, very focused. But it divided critics. Génin remarked that some American writers expected more richness, while Europeans admired it. I have to admit to being a bit taken aback. Here an example where barrel aging should fill it out, but I could see why it splits opinions – and I felt more impressed by the 2014 at the same time last year. Really looking forward to trying this once in bottle! 93-96
  • 2015 Les Forts de Latour – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This was evidently bright and fruit driven, quite vibrant yet also clearly tannic in profile and more of what I was expecting. Very good second wine! 91-93
Very good Lynch Bages

This should turn out special after barrel aging

  • 2015 Château Lynch-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Rich and powerful, actually, with a tannic edge, with red fruit freshness. I am not getting as much dark fruit as would be expected, perhaps? There is a ripe, tannic power to the finish, even a hint of 1986 style power, and a good sign for needed time to tame. Lynch Bages can be notorious for opening up truly once in bottle, so I my score range is rather conservative until we see from bottle. 92-94+
  • 2015 Château Lynch-Moussas – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Quite tasty and refined, Perhaps one of the best ever en primeur. Even if a touch short, as compared to the best of the Pauillacs, but I like the smooth and floral aspects. 88-91

  • 2015 Château Mouton Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    The aromatics of dark ripe fruit and cassis are not as vivid as I recall from last year, but they are subtle and engaging. On the palate, this blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc exudes some toasted notes, from the oak, with blackberry and cassis. A full-bodied wine – one expects so from Mouton – with a creamy texture overlaying quite a bit of tannin and structure. There is focus and power, along with 1985-like charm, that leads to a long finish. It is an excellent Mouton, if not reaching the heights of 2010. I would like to compare down the road with 2014, which impressed me about as much en primeur last year. 93-95
  • 2015 Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This is rich yet fresh, with loads of ripe red fruit, however the structure takes hold on the mid palate through to the long finish. This is a rather serious second wine, but not as brisk and fresh as the 2014, which, again, I think will compare well with 2015 here. 90-92
  • 2015 Château Pibran – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Interesting, I recall liking the 2014 more from barrel, as it seemed more intense and brigher. Here an example of a lighter than expected Pauillac, with plenty of ripe red fruit, but just not as “complete” an impression as last year. It clocks in at 13.6% alcohol, with 50-50 percent split between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 88-90
Pichon Baron 2015

A refined Baron

  • 2015 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This was an excellent barrel sample – 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Merlot – because it came across as very suave, and juicy. While I got more “Pauillac power” from last year’s sample, this seemed more elegant, more refined from barrel. While the Comtesse seems a bit more Baron this year, the Baron seems a bit more Comtesse! It has a long, rather subtle, finish. You obtain a touch of chocolate and spice from the 80% new oak barrels, but deftly integrated. Once again, seems like a cross between 1985 and 2005. 93-95
  • 2015 Les Griffons de Pichon Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Yet again, I got a lighter impression from this blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot than what I had experienced with the 2014 last year. More red than dark fruit, and not as “big” a style. The tannins seem softer and more elegant, and I enjoyed the refinement. Nice job! 90-92
  • 2015 Les Tourelles de Longueville – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Here again a lighter-than-expected expression from Pauillac and here I love it. The Merlots – 55% of the blend – were quite ripe, explained estate director Jean-Rene Matignon. Yet the overall impression I got was a frank, cranberry fresh aspect, with medium body and a bright finish! Clocks in at 13.3% alcohol. With barrel aging (70% new oak), it should be just delicious à la 1985. 90-92
  • 2015 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Quite a serious wine, with depth, and even foreboding tannin here. Although the comparative brightness of the 2014 excited me just as much (I bought some last year en primeur), the 2015 should be very special, as barrel aging will soften the tannin. The dry extract and structure are impressive. After having written an article recently in Decanter, about both Pichons, I am getting the sense of the Comtesse in 2015 being just a bit like the Baron, in that structural sense. But the charm is there, too, and so we have a serious 2015 from this wonderful estate. The video shows director Nicolas Glumineau talking about #Bdx15 late last year. 94-96

  • 2015 Château Pontet-Canet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Quite aromatic, somewhat floral, with sweet red fruit and meadow like freshness. The palate displayed excellent sap, and juiciness, but there is a tannic edge here that affirms an excellent structure. Yet on the palate, one gets more prominent red fruit aspects as opposed to black fruit, even a cranberry/raspberry coulis aspect. An excellent 2015, in that it combines the charming freshness (again, 1985) with fine structure, perhaps akin to 2005.  93-95
  • 2015 Château Plantey – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This has quite a robust aspect, with the 55% Merlot coming to the fore, slightly heady, with dark fruit aromatics and flavors. Medium plus body and medium finish. 88-90

Alas, I missed out on tasting two estates I often like, year in and year out: Grand Puy Lacoste and Haut Batailley. I have heard very good things about the former, which does not surprise me. Just before en primeur week, I was ill. I took medicine to be fit for the tastings, but then I got sick again on Wednesday, so I had to take the afternoon off – and drink herbal tea and take it easy, because I was again not feeling 100%. So, I will try to visit these wines later and report back.

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