Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have completed my Part 2 in the Barlow in Bordeaux series. As you all know, I had to cancel the 101 classes recently. I am available to do these classes at private locations if any of you are interested.
BARLOW IN BORDEAUX PART 2
THE 2015 VINTAGE
The weather was rainy on and off when we traveled through Bordeaux. Pretty much every other day was drizzling while the other days were picture perfect sunshine. Weather can actually affect the young wines when one is tasting. Lower barometric pressure can mute the fruits and bring the acids to the forefront of the wine, while adversely high barometric pressure can cause the alcohol to come forward in the wine and make the wines taste flat and flabby. The 2015 vintage wines that we tasted were spectacular across the board, no matter what the pressure, so I believe that this will attest to the high quality of the vintage. The Right Bank vignerons were extremely pleased with the crop and ensuing wines while giving a nod and a wink saying that the Left Bank had issues with late rain, so the wines weren’t shining as well. I would disagree with this notion. The quality on both sides were extremely high. In fact, the best wine that I tasted on the trip was a Left Bank wine (I will get to that gem shortly). I was completely enamored with the proximity of the vineyards and how a Chateau on one side of the street could be a 1st Growth (Chateau Margaux) and its next door Chateau (Pontac Lynch) was not even in the classification system. Does this mean that the system is flawed? Well, I don’t believe that a classification system that has only had two changes since 1855 can be infallible. That being said, for the most part the Grand Cru Classe classification system did speak for the quality of the wine produced from the prospective Chateau.
The summer really shined for the 2015 vintage. There was minimal rain for four straight months, which led to intense grapes with plenty of fruit and tannin. Vignerons were slightly worried until the rain showed up in early August to give the vines some relief. This led to a cool September which allowed for the Chateaus to pick perfectly ripe grapes in late September into early October. The only hiccup was the spotty rain that hit the Left Bank, particularly in the Northern communes of St. Estephe and Medoc.
I enjoyed some of the best wines in my entire career with the 2015 vintage. I am quite fond of Bordeaux, as most of you know, but was trying to come into this trip with an open mind about the vintage. I wanted the wines to tell me how good the vintage was, not my bias for the region. What I can say about this vintage is that the acids and tannins are spot on. The wines are full bodied but with a richness of fruit that I rarely get from Bordeaux. These wines are ‘pretty’ but show plenty of power and depth. They have the richness of fruit that the 2009 vintage offered. They also have the full tannin and acid structure that the 2010’s showed. I believe this vintage may have the ability to outshine both the 2009 and 2010’s because the wines of 2015 offer the best of both worlds.
I know that the 100 point scale is very subjective, which is why I shied away from it for so long. I do believe that it does give the customer an accurate feel of quality from the wine critic. In essence, if you have liked my picks in the past then following this system will give you a more in depth feel for my pleasure scale of any given wine. This is why I have finally decided to implement this system. At the end of the day, wine is very subjective and given to a wide variation of opinion and pontification.
TOP SIX WINES
Our group tasted over 400 wines and many were of good to spectacular quality. I did taste several wines that were exceptional to ethereal. Here are those wines.
- Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 2015– 91% Cabernet Sauvignon/ 9% Merlot from Pauillac on the Left Bank. Aged in 100% New French Oak. This is a 1st Growth Chateau (1 of only 5) and with good reason. Their wine was the best RED wine that I tasted from the 2015 vintage. Flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and currant sinew through a seamless core with silky medium plus tannins and plush medium plus acids. Notes of roasted graham cracker, coconut, creamy vanilla bean lay softly into touches of hazelnuts, almonds and hints of exotic spice. Just a whiff of blackberry carries through the finish. Surreal, Ethereal, Surrounding, Balanced, Elegant. My palate felt like it was riding a magic carpet throughout the entire experience. Bear even noted that it was the best young Lafite he had ever tasted. JAMES SCORE: 100 Points
- Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes 2015– 75% Semillon/25% Sauvignon Blanc blend aged in 100% New French Oak. This Chateau was given the highest classification in the 1855 Grand Cru Classification with the status of Premier Cru Superieur. This was a dream vintage for Sauternes which uses botrytis cinerea (noble rot) to produce dessert wines with a balance of sweetness (usually about 130 g/l) and acid. My first note was just on the nose. It was knee noodling! Flavors of peach, apricot, and honeycomb burst into the palate with medium plus acidity that kept the sugars in balance. Notes of candied pear and fresh meadow flowers flowed through tickles of honey and beeswax. The finish offered even more energy with lemon curd, cream and melted butter with whiffs of honeysuckle. Jolly Rancher x 100! Nectar of the Gods! Wow, Just Wow! JAMES SCORE: 100 Points
- Chateau Cheval Blanc St. Emilion 2015– 55% Merlot/45% Cabernet Franc and aged in 100% New French Oak. This wine was the best I tasted in a truly exceptional vintage in St. Emilion. Cheval Blanc is a Premiers Grand Cru Classes A (1 of only 4) which is considered the highest tier of quality in St. Emilion. Cheval Blanc 2015 is dense, round, very concentrated with integrated red fruits of plum, cherries and currant. The fruit has a touch of sweetness (this not meaning residual sugars but ripeness) that turns into liquid velvet with medium plus tannins and medium plus acids. The finish is dynamic with notes of tea leaf, sweet tobacco, dark chocolate and red clay. Seamless, Beautiful, Elegant, WOW! JAMES SCORE: 98-100
- Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou St. Julien 2015- 95% Cabernet Sauvignon/ 5% Merlot aged in 100% New French Oak. Ducru is a 2nd growth in St. Julien, which is on the Left Bank just south of Pauillac. The day had shown us a plethora of high quality wines, but none that absolutely stunned us. That changed at this Chateau. Silky, rich flavors of dark red cherry and currant flow into touches of candied raspberry. Notes of burnt vanilla sleek into medium plus acids and medium plus tannins. Red apple blossoms flow softly through hints of milk chocolate and cream. The finish is spectacular with flavors of almond, leather, gravel stones, graham cracker and exotic spices. Silky and purely ethereal. Hedonistic and Heady. Wow, Just Wow! JAMES SCORE: 98-100
- Chateau Margaux 2015– 87% Cabernet Sauvignon/8% Merlot/ 2% Petit Verdot/ 3% Cabernet Franc aged in 100% New French Oak. This Chateau is also a 1st Growth and typically a touch softer than its Pauillac counterparts. It is located in the namesake commune of Margaux. The wine is absolutely seamless. Full bodied, yet elegant with round, silky tannins that are encompassed by sweet dark fruit. Notes of black cherry, currant and plum give a fleshy mouth feel with a creamy velvet core. The finish offers hints of gravel, cocoa dust, and touches of buttered popcorn. JAMES SCORE: 98-99
- ACTUALLY MORE LIKE 5B. Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol 2015- 80% Merlot/ 19% Cabernet Franc/ 1% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 60% New French Oak. Deliciously popping red fruits of cherry, raspberry and cranberry. Sweet, supple fruits envelope the mid palate with medium plus tannins and medium plus acids. The finish offers rich, round notes of exotic spice, sweet tobacco and a touch of red jam. Silky, Seamless, Opulent, Beautiful. WOW! JAMES SCORE: 98-99 Points
James C. Barlow
Certified Wine Educator