Grand tasting in Bordeaux: More 2015s in bottle

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

18 February 2018

Connoisseurs continue to drive up prices for the famous Bordeaux brands, whether in Asia or Europe, the Americas or Australia.

Of course prices of elite brands for certain vintages have dropped off a bit since a heyday of a couple of years ago, but the Liv-ex chart below for a vintage of 1996 Château Palmer – to take but one, random example – is indicative of the general trend for the top Bordeaux brands.

Savvy consumers (and drinkers as opposed to investors) understand that winemaking has improved over the last 10-15 years for many brands, and not just the elites. It is more important than ever before to seek out wines of fine quality… and lower price.

You can find a Bordeaux that costs, say, $250 per bottle and another that costs $40. It is more than likely that the $250 bottle of wine will be of higher quality. But over 6 times higher? That is not (nearly) as likely. The difference is even more dramatic for bottles in the $25 range. Of course the quality of the $250 bottle is better, but not necessarily 10 times better.

In the past few years, I have enjoyed reporting on such $30 category wines – and even wines for less. The Bordeaux 2015 vintage, as recently bottled, offers many fine price-quality ratios, as we have discovered with cru bourgeois wines, which I reported on earlier in these pages.

A beautiful if cold sunny morning to taste 150 wines, at Château de Pressac in Saint Emilion

Tasting the wines of the Grand Cercle 

And now to an even larger tasting, encompassing many more regions of Bordeaux: an assessment of the nearly 160 wines, which are members of the Grand Cercle de Bordeaux.

The Grand Cercle includes many so-called “satellite” appellations of Bordeaux including Côtes de Castillon, Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Bordeaux Superieur, Entre Deux Mers and Côtes de Bordeaux. And that is only mainly the Right Bank. The grouping includes scores of Left Bank wines, from Graves and the Médoc. In total, 113 for the Right Bank and 51 for the Left: all offering diversity and complementarity of appellations, various terroirs and wine professionals.

In a single day, on 30 November 2017, I tasted most of these wines, mainly from the just bottled 2015 vintage. I ask the reader – and the Grand Cercle – to pardon the rather brief nature of my notes, since it was quite a bit of wine for a single day of tasting.

I arrived on a cold, yet sunny morning, to the spacious tasting room of Château de Pressac in Saint Emilion, welcomed by owner Jean-Francois Quenin, who is vice president of the Grand Cercle.

The organizers have long taken note of my preference for more classically styled Bordeaux, and are always very supportive, even if I can be critical with some estates within the Cercle.

À chacun son goût.

Joining us at were also Grand Cercle representative Stéphanie Delécrin and president, Dr. Alain Raynaud, who tasted through some of the wines with me.

For the sake of brevity, before we get to the long list of tastings notes, I list below my Top Ten wines from the Grand Cercle.

Any savvy consumer should purchase these from the 2015 vintage. I had a hard time to pick these out, as some others could be included, as they all received 90 or more points out of 100. But these all gave me a clear coup de coeur to be sure. In alphabetic order:

Château Bourgneuf 
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

Château Dalem
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac

Haut-Carles
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac

Château de la Rivière
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac

Château de Pressac 
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

Château Sansonnet 
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

Château Seguin 
France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan

Château Tournefeuille 
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol

Château Les Trois Croix 
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac

Château Vray Croix de Gay 
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

Tasting Notes for all the wines

As usual, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined as well, nearly a wine nirvana!

Bordeaux Sup wines, first flight (2015)

  • 2015 Château Penin Les Cailloux – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    This has a friendly and broad entry, rich and a bit heavy, perhaps a bit burly. But for a glass of wine at a bar, why not? At 14.5% alcohol. (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Peyfaures Bordeaux Supérieur – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    A bit more of a nuanced flavor than the preceding wine, the Penin Les Cailloux, even if a a bit more rigid too. Also 14.5% alcohol but not as big tasting as the special cuvée. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Peyfaures Bordeaux Supérieur Dame de Coeur – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    Chocolate like rich. Clocking in at 14.5% and it comes across a bit more heavy duty, and somewhat bombastic, as compared to the regular cuvée. Not perhaps my cup of tea (or glass of wine), but it should please those who love BIG. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Sainte Barbe – France, Bordeaux
    Rich, jammy aspects, blackberry fruit, albeit just a bit drying on the finish. Yet it is scrumptious in nature, and I can see how people who seek rich, nearly New World styles, from reds could enjoy this. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Reignac – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    Lovely and rich to be sure. The nose is quite simple in its expression, akin to smelling a chocolate cake. I like the full body and can see how it will please the people. The palate dries a bit on the finish however. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Balthus – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    This is a bit stolid to me. The alcohol is felt, but not over done, either. Still I get an overall monolithic sense. It is full bodied and that could please people asking for a glass of red at a bar, for example. (87 pts.)

Bordeaux Sup wines, second flight (2015)

  • 2015 Château Sainte Marie – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    After a series of 14.5% + alcohol styles, this one with 13% comes across cooler and I feel a sense of relief. While not gang busters amazing, this is a tasty drink, with some depth too. I would choose this for food easily. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Sainte Marie Vieilles Vignes – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    Has a bit more depth than the regular cuvée but not that much more. A bit ho hum given the title of the wine. But it provides indeed some pleasure as well, mainly Merlot driven. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Lesparre – France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves de Vayres
    I get an overall confected fruit aspect. And the wine comes across a bit simple and somewhat short on the finish. (85 pts.)

It may not be in my top 10 list out of so many wines tasted, but I would be very happy to find this Bordeaux in a restaurant list.

Assorted Côtes de Bordeaux (2015)

  • 2015 Château Clos Chaumont – France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
    Has 60% Merlot and 14% alcohol. This is rather pleasing, overall, with hints of toffee and espresso, as well as plum fruit and spice. A bit short on the finish perhaps, but overall a fine drink. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Réaut – France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
    This blend of 58% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 13.5% alcohol is quite a lovely and nuanced wine, with subtle richness and focused flavors as well as a certain precision. Like a better version of the Sainte Maries tasted earlier. Medium finish. Bravo! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Reynon – France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
    The wine of Denis Dubourdieu, who was a fine man and enologist. A rich vintage perhaps matches his philosophy of stressing freshness and yields. This blend of 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot brings out spice and succulent red fruit: a lovely wine. 14% alcohol. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Haut Bertinerie Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux – France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
    The blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon at 14% alcohol has confected fruit aromas. The palate is smooth enough, with strawberry and plum flavors. (86 pts.)

Biodynamic and delicious.

Côtes de Bordeaux Castillon (2015)

  • 2015 Château Ampélia – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    Lovely aromatics, rather deep plum with some floral freshness. Smooth on the palate, not too polished, shows character, just a tad more monolithic than one would have expected, given the nose. Time in bottle? 14.5% alcohol with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Cap de Faugères – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    Rather primary nose. Quite fruit driven, as well as subtle in its opulence. I like the tannic edge here. Somewhat drying on the finish, just a tad that detracts, but overall a fine wine. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Côte Montpezat Cuvée Compostelle – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    What a fun label! And at 15% alcohol, certainly very rich. But not over the top, as one would expect from the alcohol level. As one gets to the finish, it does come across as a bit heady, however. But it is a flavorful wine. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de Laussac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    At 14.5% alcohol, this blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc is rather smooth overall on the palate. Unlike the Cuvee Sacha, this has more vivacity, albeit a bit closed in. Still, I sense the substance and matiere so give it a year or so in bottle and serve as a hearty glass of Bordeaux. Nice! (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de Laussac Cuvee Sacha – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    This is the Cuvee Sacha of the same estate tasted previously, which I prefer. Same alcohol and blend, but a particular terroir. Noticeable oak on the nose. Yes, it seems that they have lots of new oak here that deadens the fruit at this stage.
  • 2015 Clos Puy Arnaud Cuvée Les Ormeaux – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    This blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc at 14% alcohol seems rather austere at first, but with some time in glass, fresh aromatics and bright fruit please the taster. The palate shows vivacity as well as plum like richness, but not over rich. Bravo! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Veyry – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    At 15% alcohol with a dark color and the palate is rather intense and the oak is felt. A bit too heady for my tastes.

Perhaps my overall favorite among the 2015 Fronsacs

Fine Fronsacs (2015)

  • 2015 Château Dalem – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    The first of a series of Fronsac 2015s tasted and not too shabby, this blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Rich and opulent, and you sense a step up in nuance compared to previous wines tasted, even at 15% alcohol, which shows that not only do we need balance but also terroir. Hillside facing south. Very smooth with sap and gravitas, matiere. Bravo! (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de la Dauphine – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    Same blend as the Dalem but a bit less alcohol, at 14.5%. Rich if just a bit more candied, as compared to the Dalem. Still there is earthy richness on the palate the conveys fine substance to the taster. Nice job as well! (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Fontenil – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    At 14.5% alcohol, it does seem a bit heady, but I would say there is lots of fun in this wine. The attack is full of fruit filled pleasure and it leads to a long finish. Still, it dries out a bit. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Haut-Carles – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    What a lovely wine! Nose aromatically pleasing. Floral and fruit driven, and veritably floral. With a hint of iron like earthiness that lends a certain gravitas. This has focus freshness and bright fruit. Wow. My favorite of the Fronsacs in 2015 in this tasting. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Vieille Cure – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    This blend of 81% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon clocking in at 14.5% alcohol is quite opulent and spicy. A bit heady however. Lacks the character and nuance of, say, Haut-Carles. Or Dalem. As it dries out ever so slightly (but noticeably) on the finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Villars – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    OK, so 15% alcohol but this is smooth and nuanced enough. Fairly straightforward. Has full body and freshness, if just a tad foursquare compared to the top Fronsacs in my book for this tasting. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de la Rivière – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    One of my absolute favorites so far among the Fronsacs. Lovely nose with tobacco like aspects. Smooth and contoured. There is a pleasing straightforward aspect to this wine that beckons further sipping. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Les Trois Croix – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
    This blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, clocking in at 14.5% alcohol exudes a lovely, fresh limestone driven nose. The palate is rich and zesty even, and the vines grown on the highest hill in Fronsac. Privately owned by the family of Patrick Leon, who had worked at Mouton Rothschild and Almaviva among other estates. Very smooth overall, with a long finish. Great stuff. (93 pts.)

Lovely Pomerol

Excellent Pomerols (2015)

  • 2015 Château Bourgneuf – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Owned by the Vayron family since 1821, this vineyard lies in the heart of Pomerol’s most prestigious terroirs, with Château Trotanoy as its neighbor. Formed by a sloping plot, the west-facing vineyard enjoys ideal sun exposure – indeed a very warm spot in Pomerol. The wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The vines have an average age of 40 years, planted on gravelly clay enhanced by an iron-rich subsoil. Aging in 35% new oak barrels. The wine conveys firm tannins and structure, but with opulence. What I like most is the nuance and the elegance so there is excellent aging potential. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Clémence – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Comes from a “patchwork” of terroirs that characterize Pomerol: red gravel soils, white gravel soils, sand on clay, blue clay. The six plots on three hectares are carefully tended and the wines are getting better each year. Although it comes across just a bit simple, I like the primary ripe fruit. Compared to some others tasted at the Grand Cercle tasting, it seems to have a bit more hard tannin, but there is much substance and density to the palate, so this is promising for a bit of cellar aging. 14.5% alcohol. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Feytit Clinet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Although there is here a bit of a four square aspect, compared to, say, Bourgneuf, which I had tasted at the Grand Cercle and at the Moueix tasting, it does deliver the goods in a ripe and rather rich fashion. Interesting to note the terroir aspects here, as the vineyard likes lower on a slope as compared to Bourgneuf, while Trotanoy is higher than both. The vineyard covers 6.5 hectares and is made up of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, the average age of which is 30 years. The vines grow in gravelly, sandy soils and are cultivated using traditional techniques. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de la Commanderie – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This is rather stolid although with some edgy and perhaps too detectable oak-driven tannin. Tasted just after the preceding wines, it lacks the sumptuous nature of Bourgneuf and the linear focus of Feytit-Clinet. Still, the ripe fruit is there as is the density of the vintage. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Lecuyer – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This blend of 90% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc comes from a small vineyard of 3 hectares than cover two types of soils: (1) gravel over clay on the plateau, not too far from the church. These soils tend towards generous and racy wines and (2) the bottom of the plateau that has sand over clay, that can result in lighter more elegant wines. My overall impression? A wine that is both flavorful and rich. It may lack the depth of, say, Bourgneuf, but it has a distinct fun factor on the rich mid palate. The finish is a tad austere but that means it just needs some bottle aging to smoothen out the tannins. Good job. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Mazeyres – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This 25-hectare property, certified organic and converted to biodynamic viticulture since 2015, is darn good. Gravely, sandy and clay soils yield excellent wine for a fair price. While not exhibiting the same density of higher caliber Pomerol, the just-bottled 2015 vintage exhibits smooth succulence and fine depth. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Clos de la Vieille Église Pomerol – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Just 1.5 hectares, the vineyard consists of clay and gravel and the vines average 45 years old. New oak barrels are filled with the new vintage for malolactic fermentation. The same barrels will then be used for ageing approximately 20 months. The 30% of Cabernet Franc in the blend is meant to lend freshness and the majority is of course Merlot. This is OK, and – yes – there is a certain mentholated fresh aspect but overall a bit too straightforward and lacking nuance as compared to its peers. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Clos Vieux Taillefer – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Tasted after the previous “Clos,” this wine conveys more warmth and pleasure, with impressive lingering length marked by ripe fruit. There is a minty freshness to the aftertaste that is nice as well. Very nice work! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Vray Croix de Gay – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Since 2015, three parcels of vines that have begun conversion to organic growing and managed bio-dynamically. Alain Raynaud made this wine. It is at 14.5% alcohol, 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. It conveys fine richness and depth and should reward your palate even this young but more so with 10+ years of cellaring. (91 pts.)

Not too pricey but really yummy.

Bargains from Lalande de Pomerol (2015)

  • 2015 Château l’Ambroisie – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    100 percent Merlot. Oak aspects that dominate a bit too much. Perhaps because the yields were too high to be able to match the fruit? Too much oak… (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Jean de Gue – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    A bit more nuanced and with spicier aspects than the Ambroisie tasted just before, as we have a certain freshness. Still, a slightly dilute aspect detracts. Not bad overall. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de Chambrun – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    One of the best wines from the Grand Cercle tasting as it exudes a certain depth and tannic presence. Quite an impressive wine. There is a Pauillac aspect to this wine. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Moncets – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    Same team that made the impressive Château de Chambrun also crafts this wine. Very pretty. It has 14.5% alcohol but comes across balanced with substance and structure. Just joined the Grand Cercle in November 2017. Bravo! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Perron La Fleur – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    This is also a pretty wine, not quite as rich or as substantial as the Château Moncets, tasted just before, but smooth and flavorful. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Sergue – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    I just get too much oak on the nose and on the palate, it seems to overwhelm the fruit. (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Siaurac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    Although coming across as somewhat reduced, I really like the smooth aspect on the palate and it has both freshness and richness. Quite a nice wine! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Tournefeuille – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
    This is quite a star from the Grand Cercle in 2015 – and a Lalande de Pomerol I plan to purchase. Not just very pretty and floral, with rich blackberry as well, but also substantial and long on the finish, coming from both gravelly and clay soils. Blend is 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Excellent! (92 pts.)

From left to right: Le Grand Cercle Vice President Jean-François Quenin, tasting coordinator Stéphanie Delécrin and President, Dr. Alain Raynaud

St. Émilion Grand Cru (2015)

  • 2015 Château Boutisse – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is pretty frank and delicious. Has weight and substance. Not the most intriguing wine… but tasty enough. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Carteau Cotes Daugay – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Not as fresh as the preceding wine tasted, the Château Boutisse, but it carries a certain weight. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Croizille – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This has more evident oak on the nose and seems to lacks the balance of the two preceding wines tasted in this series of grand cru Saint Emilion. Although the palate seems to deal with it rather well. Give it time? (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Clos Dubreuil – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    15% alcohol and too heavy. Perhaps a bit of TCA? Note reserved. NR (flawed)
  • 2015 La Fleur d’Arthus – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Smooth and tasty. A bit drying on the finish, but overall there is pleasing mid palate juice. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Godeau – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is tasty indeed! This has personality and verve, albeit a bit heady on the finish and – no kidding – as the 15% alcohol is felt! The difference with some other high octane wines tasted today from the Grand Cercle is that this handles the oak well, and somehow comes across as more balanced overall. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 l’Hermitage Lescours, Château – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This blend of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon seems a bit tight overall, and there is all too evident oak tannin along with 15% alcohol. I am not enchanted. (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Laplagnotte-Bellevue – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    There is some lovely ripe fruit driven flavor here, that brightens the palate nicely, although it has somewhat austere tannins. (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Lynsolence – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    For many years, I have gone perhaps against the opinions of many tasters who swear by this wine, but I fear that yet again we encounter too much oak derived aspects and a drying finish … (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Montlabert – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Alas, this wine, which I have liked in the past, seems to be over dominated by the oak and dries out on the finish. (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Château du Parc – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    After the oaky dominance of the two preceding wines, I get more succulence from the palate of this estate, but then again it also gets to be a bit drying on the finish, so I cannot score it too highly. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Pas de l’Ane St. Émilion Grand Cru – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    I enjoy the rather nuanced palate here of ripe red and dark fruit, and a tasty succulence. The 14.5% alcohol is well integrated as is the oak. Nice job! Medium finish. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Patris Querre – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    The wine is somewhat foursquare in its delivery, and dries a bit on the finish. Nothing to write home about, but not bad, either. (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Pindefleurs – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    More cohesive and succulent than the average impression left by most of these grands crus, but where is the lift? It is OK, but lacks the lift of wines like, say, Château Corbin. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Rol Valentin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This blends 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. At 14.5% alcohol, it seems oaky, too, yet sweet enough to please popular palates. I suppose that it dries out a tad on the finish, but I can see how the sweet dark ripe fruit will please many a palate; it just does not happen to jive with my ideal of Saint Emilion. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Roylland – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This can be considered a good, solid Bordeaux, but a bit drying… And a bit boring? (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Soutard Cadet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Tasted after the Roylland, I get much more juicy succulence from this wine. Still, it seems to dry out a bit on the finish, which detracts a bit. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Tour Baladoz – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is, again, a bit drying. It is OK, but lacks lift on the finish! (86 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Trianon – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion
    Not as drying as the many of the others but I still yearn for a sap-driven, lifting wine like Château Corbin. In any case, Trianon is rather tasty – and robust especially. It just lacks the vivacity I would expect from a grand cru in 2015. (88 pts.)

Jean-François Quenin, owner of Château de Pressac, not only made an excellent wine in 2015, but he cooks a mean steak, too.

St. Émilion Grand Cru Classé (2015)

  • 2015 Château Bellefont-Belcier – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is 15% alcohol and quite rich and full bodied, as one would expect. The attack is very pleasing, with spice and ripe fruit that enchant, but the finish dries out just a bit. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Destieux – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Compared to the Bellefont-Belcier, this seems to have more of a sap driven aspect, with a robust mid palate and ripe fruit, but again dries out just a bit on the finish.14.5% alcohol. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Fonroque – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    There is something a bit “stilted” about this wine. It is correct, it has fruit, and there is structure, but it lacks nuance and the finish seems a bit short. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Grand Corbin-Despagne – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    It starts out fine, with lovely ripe and even brambly fruit, but you have a drying effect on the finish that perturbs here more than, say, with Bellefont Belcier or Destieux. I just do not get the expected lift on the finish. It would be worth re-tasting because I normally enjoy this estate’s wines more. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Laroze – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Could this be perhaps the best of the grand cru classés tasted at the Grand Cercle? Why? Not as “drying out” as the others on the finish, as it has both a fleshy palate and lift. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Marzelle – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is “strraighforward” fun! I rather like its chocolate aspects with fruit but not drying or heavy, even if nearly 100% new oak. The wine is smooth and ripe, with a long finish. Quite delicious! (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de Pressac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Bravo to Château de Pressac for crafting a wine with a whopping 15% alcohol – rich and substantial – but it does not dry out. A touch heady, sure, but I could see why this would please many a fan. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Le Prieure – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is a bit too heady for its own good, a bit foursquare. Not sure. It is fun enough, but seems to lack the potential for nuance. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Sansonnet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    I would say that this may be the best of the grand cru classés tasted at the Grand Cercle tasting. This is a wine that shows a bit of arc, broad shouldered, sure, yet it seems to have a potential for complexity. The nose is floral and fresh, which seems to rise above many of the other Saint Emilons tasted today. The 15% alcohol does seem a bit too much, on the finish, and makes me wonder whether the 2014 may be a better buy in terms of quality and price, but still. Quite a serious wine, as is usual from this great terroir. (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Yon-Figeac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This was polished and elegant enough. The nose shows too many oak notes that perturb as being too prominent, but time in bottle should relax this, as their is matching ripe fruit that is not over-ripe or “too alcoholic” feeling. (88 pts.)

Lunch break with great steaks

Haut Médocs (2015)

  • 2015 Château d’Agassac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    After quite a few heady Right Bankers, this seemed to bring almost a refreshing sense of relief although this a bit tight overall. The attack was pleasing, marked by ripe fruit, but then it clamped down. As already experienced at the cru bourgeois tasting, the tannins are somewhat austere at this just bottled stage. Give it time in bottle… (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château d’Arcins – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    This is overall smoother than the preceding wine. More humble, too, yet more delicious. While the preceding, the d’Agassac, wine suggests 15 years of aging, this one is proclaiming 5-12. And I give the edge to this one, at least for earlier drinking! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château du Cartillon – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    A pretty tasty, wine overall, a Haut Médoc between Margaux and Saint Julien. I like the rich ripe fruit, but the tannins are somewhat austere. (88 pts.)

The Haut Médocs were pretty solid, like this one.

  • 2015 Château Lestage-Simon – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Along similar lines as the du Cartillon, this seems a bit friendlier, showing less structure and more flattering ripe fruit, but still showing some austerity on the finish, which needs time in bottle to soften. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Malescasse – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    I was expecting more from this producer. The aromatics are fine, with ripe fruit and some graphite, but the palate seems closed in the finish a bit pinched. Not sure about this … (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Peyredon Lagravette Haut-Médoc – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    This is far better than the preceding wine, the Malescasse, as it has a pleasing ripe fruit sweetness without being cloying, along with a fine tannic edge for cellaring. Does it dry out a bit on the finish? Perhaps, but overall it shows depth and character. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Château de Villegeorge – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    This is quite appealing on the attack, but it dries out on the finish. (86 pts.)

Various Médoc appellations (2015)

  • 2015 Château Cap Léon Veyrin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc
    A blend of 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, this wine of 14% alcohol comes across rather tasty and zesty. A bit rustic on the finish? Sure. But overall I could easily drink this with barbecued steak! (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château d’Arsac Margaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    I had a better experience tasting the bottle along with other cru bourgeois at a tasting not too far in date from this one, but still it shows elegance and a refined palate, even if it comes across more closed here. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Haut Breton Larigaudière – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    While coming across smoother than the d’Arsac from Margaux, tasted just before, it seems to be more simple, with less potential for complexity with cellaring. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château La Tour de Bessan – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    OK, I do like the scrumptious aspect on the mid palate, and this is a delicious fruit driven drink, but I miss a bit of “Margaux elegance” and it dries out a bit, too … (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Bellegrave Pauillac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Pencil lead nose. This is a bit austere on the finish, especially, but it has an appealing Pauillac grip. Give it time! Maybe 10 years down the road? Serious juice. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Fonbadet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Not as positive an experience as I had at the Cru Bourgeois tasting, but good. When tasted at the Cru Bourgeois, I got a warmer feeling, like a 2009, but here it came across as more austere. Perhaps the Bellegrave is friendlier by comparison? In any case, a wine to cellar. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Clauzet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    This has grip and verve. A bit austere and rustic on the finish, but not diluted or “slight” in any way. Give it time in bottle. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Tour des Termes – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Polished nose, albeit with some noticeable oak. The palate is robust. (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château du Glana – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Bravo! This is more suave than either of the two Pauillacs tasted before, and pretty darn smooth overall. Plum fruit. Not really elegant, but there is juiciness. (90 pts.)

Graves and Pessac Léognan (2015)

  • 2015 Château Crabitey – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    I enjoy the ripe red and dark fruit impressions, and the palate has finely textured tannin albeit just a bit drying on the finish. Solid wine. (89 pts.)
  • 2015 Clos Floridene – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Overall sense of charm aromatically, with brambly red fruit, but a tad underripe and hard tannins detract from the tasting experience… (87 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Haura – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    The overall impression is a wine that seems underripe, a bit rustic and hard on the finish. (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Roquetaillade La Grange – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    A smooth and easy expression of supple red fruit. Medium bodied juicy aspects appeal, and there is lift on the medium finish. A nice by the glass selection at a restaurant, for example! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Saint-Robert Cuvée Poncet Deville – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Another fine wine here. Medium plus body with a lip smacking ripe fruit aspect, but fine structure and tannin to match grilled steak. Yum! (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Haut Lagrange – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Seemed faulty to me. NR (flawed)
  • 2015 Château Seguin – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    An excellent Pessac Léognan. Smooth and contoured, ripe fruit, with pleasing silky aspects. Long finish. (91 pts.)

A fine white (2016 vintage)

Dry whites (2015 and 2016)

  • 2016 Château Crabitey Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    This is refreshing and medium-bodied fun. (87 pts.)
  • 2016 Château Saint-Robert Cuvée Poncet Deville Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Fuller bodied than the Crabitey, tasted just before, and just as good. (87 pts.)
  • 2016 Château Penin Sauvignon Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    Apricot and … apricot! Not very profound on the palate, but very pleasant. (87 pts.)
  • 2016 Château Côte Montpezat Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
    I almost prefer their white wine, if only for the freshness, but it is a bit boring overall. (85 pts.)
  • 2016 Château Reynon Sauvignon Blanc Bordeaux – France, Bordeaux
    More green notes here; a bit of pyrazine perhaps? I like the lime aromatics, and the nose is promising the palate has a certain underripe aspect that brings the score down. (86 pts.)
  • 2016 Reignac Blanc – France, Bordeaux
    A bit too much oak on the nose for me here. (86 pts.)
  • 2016 Clos Floridene Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Just a hint of spice, certainly citrus, but not “New World obvious” in that sense. There is character and subtlety – and oysters would be welcome. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château d’Arsac – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
    A bright and pleasing white. Bravo! (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Sainte Marie Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers
    Too much oak that brings a bit of bitterness to the palate.
  • 2015 Château Lesparre Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves de Vayres
    The nose here is not so hot. Cabbage like. Second bottle opened, with similar impression…
  • 2016 Château Haut Bertinerie Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
    Rather smooth and agreeable. (88 pts.)

Two very impressive Sauternes: a nice way to end the marathon

Sauternes 

  • 2015 Château de Myrat – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Lovely subtle notes of black tea with a sumptuous palate. This is an underrated Sauternes, no? I like the lift here, really gorgeous. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Château Raymond-Lafon – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Gorgeous notes of pear and pineapple on the nose. A very contoured and subtle yet rich palate. (93 pts.)

This tasting proved yet again the point that the Grand Cercle is a truly open grouping that welcomes both praise and criticism, as long as they are constructive. Not every taster has the same taste, and I was again honored to be invited to assess these wines, this time for the 2015 vintage.

Many thanks to Grand Cercle representative Stéphanie Delécrin for organizing the all-day tasting.

It is important to note that the Grand Cercle is not just a club made up of members who join, by simply declaring themselves as such, but who submit their wines to two obligatory evaluation tastings every year.

A vintage also is tasted blind by an outside independent jury. Up to now, the Grand European Jury (GJE) has been requested to organize this professional tasting.

In addition to the tasting, I enjoyed lunch and dinner at the château, with several other members of the Grand Cercle.

Thank you to them for their time to explain their wines and to Jean-Francois Quenin and his wife for hosting.

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One Comment on “Grand tasting in Bordeaux: More 2015s in bottle

  1. Pingback: Château de La Rivière 2015 > 91 / 100 par Panos KAKAVIATOS – Château de La Rivière

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