So the 2015 En Primeur draws to a close – convenient given the Brexit vote has thrown considerable uncertainty into the wider markets. The good news for those who have bought already is that the wines were of course purchased at pre-Brexit currency rates! You will notice that our list of 2015 En Primeur wines on offer has shrunk considerably. This revised list shows stock which we have already secured at the pre-referendum cost price, and as such can be offered with confidence at their opening resell price. If there are wines missing from this list which you are interested in, please contact us at [email protected] and we will establish a price for you.
It's worth picking out a few highlights from the list which we feel offer exceptional quality, value or both.
For sheer, unbeatable value for money you can't do better than the excellent wines of Denis Durantou. Even in less vaunted vintages Denis’ wines deliver the goods at an exceptional price; so in a good year, or in the case of the Right Bank in 2015 an excellent one, they become the very definition of a ‘no-brainer’.
Saintem, traditionally know as Saintayme, is Denis’ St. Emilion Grand Cru, produced from 100% Merlot. It has the capacity to age, as a recent parcel of 2000 showed so effortlessly, and it’s worth remembering that St. Emilion was one of the premier appellations of 2015. We found this a supple, but incredibly pure wine with superb structure – one with long term potential. (90-92NM – £110)
Montlandrie is a beautiful hillside estate of 9 hectares in the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux region, famed for the ancient stone tower in its centre. The 2015 is a blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and we found it utterly charming, combining wild strawberry notes with gorgeous spice from the Cabernet Franc. (91-93NM – £165)
Denis' Lalande-de-Pomerol estate produces two wines: Les Cruzelles and La Chenade. You can actually see the Les Cruzelles estate (which produces both wines) from L’Eglise Clinet, it is that close, and both wines deliver truly exceptional value for money. In 2015 the Cruzelles (91-93NM – £180) is slightly more loaded towards Merlot, with 90% in the blend balanced out by 10% Cabernet Franc, and the Chenade (91-93NM – £125) is 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc. We found La Chenade surprisingly Burgundian, with really pretty, spiced fruit – whereas Cruzelles was darker, richer, and more intensely structured. One for now, one for later!
BI Inside Tips
There were a few wines which tend to fly below the radar which hugely impressed us in 2015. Here are some examples which we highly recommend:
Bellevue St. Emilion is a pure Merlot which has long been known locally, if perhaps not globally, for having superb terroir; so it’s no surprise that when given the opportunity, back in 2007, a majority stake in the estate was purchased by Hubert de Boüard of Angélus. (93-95NM, 96-97JS – £320)
Le Gay has to be one of the most consistent estates on the Right Bank over the past few years and Neal Martin agrees, warning against overlooking it “because it has been on a roll in recent years.” With the 2009 trading around GBP 1000 and the 2010 over GBP 1300 (and the 2005 near-impossible to get) this is a compelling price for a truly gorgeous Pomerol. (94-96NM, 95-96JS – £760)
Malartic-Lagravière might be hard to say but the best way to make an unpronounceable wine unforgettable is to ensure that what’s in the bottle moves heaven and earth – and in 2015 Malartic-Lagravière have done exactly that. Pessac-Léognan is one of the communes of the vintage and this is a great way to get some cheaply. (94-96NM, 96-97JS – £360)
La Clarté de Haut-Brion is a tiny production wine, grown on the same land and made by the same team as the Grand Vins from both Haut-Brion and La Mission. Very few people ever get to taste these ultra-rare, ultra-expensive wines so this is a smart way to get your hands on some of this rare juice at just a fraction of the price. (92-93JS, 17.5/20JR – £640)
Also from this stable is the superb Chapelle de la Mission. The second wines really excelled here in 2015 and in the case of La Chapelle, it was the most impressive example we have tasted – arguably even finer than the 2009 and 2010 pairing. It represents a chance to get an earlier-drinking taste of the Grand Vin for just 20% of the price. (94-95JS, 91-93NM – £640)
Big Names You May Have Missed
Lynch Bages is one of Bordeaux’s leading names with huge and growing popularity particularly in Asia. The 2015 is without doubt the finest example since the 2010 and 2009, and arguably even superior to the hugely impressive 2005, this is a charming example of Lynch Bages. (93-95NM, 95-96JS – £890)
La Conseillante is a prime example of the sumptuous quality of both the Merlot and Cabernet Franc in 2015. The estate has triumphed in this exceptional Pomerol vintage; Neal Martin states that both he and new winemaker Marielle Cazaux feel the 2015 is in line with the 2005 – which has 97 points from Neal. (95-97NM, 96-97JS – £1235)
Pavillon Rouge looks an increasingly good buy in the wake of the most hotly-anticipated wine of the vintage, the lavishly-scored Château Margaux. Such are the strides made by this wine that we have often heard it compared favourably with its First Growth sibling from vintages 10-15 years back – both by the late Paul Pontallier himself (in 2015, talking to us about the 2014 vintage) and this year from James Suckling. (95-96JS, 92-94NM – £1140)
Pichon Baron 2015 is potentially the highest-ever scored example from Neal Martin, who sums up best how far this wine has come in the past decade or two: “I don't mind saying it, but this wine is as good as a First Growth.” The quality of fruit is now so exceptional that Pichon Baron can be considered a true paragon of Pauillac – and their 2015 was one of our favourite wines of the vintage. (96-98NM, 96-97JS – £995)
Léoville Poyferré has been one of the most consistent, high-quality performers on the Left Bank over the last decade and their 2015 continues this rich vein of form. However whilst the previous four vintages have been plush, succulent and delicious, this boasts all those attributes but with an altogether deeper, more serious, savoury and umami core which helps to create real tension. Superb. (95-96JS, 93-96AG – £570)
Domaine de Chevalier is a truly stunning effort in 2015 with immense ratings across the board – and it’s hardly surprising given the run of quality this estate is currently on, not to mention the sheer perfection of the harvest south of Bordeaux. With 95-97 points from Neal Martin, it is the highest-scored Domaine de Chevalier ever made. (95-97NM, 96-97JS – £460)
The Top of the Tree
There are also limited volumes of some of the very top wines from both sides of the river available:
Mouton Rothschild combined its signature panache and decadent fruit with a linear precision which characterises the very best wines of the vintage. When Neal Martin makes close comparisons with such legends as the 1986 and 2010 you know you are onto something; in addition this was Jancis Robinson’s highest scoring wine of the vintage alongside Margaux, with 19/20. (97-99NM, 19/20JR – £4260)
Lafite Rothschild was our team’s joint highest-scoring wine in the Medoc, alongside Margaux. Lafite Rothschild 2015 was described vividly by one of our tasting team as possessing “the heart of a lion”; we were stunned by its incredible purity, its vibrant, richly fruited palate and startling vivacity and character. With the 2009 at £6200 and 2010 at £5750, the 2015 is at least 24% below the cheapest comparable physical vintage in the market. (97-98JS, 94-96NM – £4350)
La Mission Haut-Brion was typically exuberant and expressive. It has phenomenal structure but the tannins are so fine, so ripe and so sweet as to render the overall experience utterly ethereal. Reading Neal Martin’s review of the wine, we had to agree with his following note: “It is one of those wines where as a professional critic, I had to adopt a poker face to hide the untrammeled joy this nascent wine imparts.” (100JS, 97-99NM – £3200)
Angélus 2015 has excellent ratings across the board and shows the true nature of great St. Emilion in this extraordinary vintage: power, precision, purity and elegance all combine to make a wine with spectacular longevity. (99-100JS, 95-97NM – £2680)
Pavie 2015 is an astonishing wine highly rated by James Suckling (indeed this is one of James’ ‘perfectly scored’ 2015s), Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni – and indeed by us. the 2015 from barrel was reminiscent of the great 2000 from barrel, according to one member of our team who was at both tastings... and that boasts 100 points Robert Parker. (100JS, 96-98NM – £2680)
Cheval Blanc have undoubtedly fashioned a memorable wine in 2015, which we are certain will rank with the finest examples to date. Its latent power, intense concentration and absolute fruit purity vie with vibrant acidity and a firm backbone which are sure to guarantee glacial ageing. The resulting balance is sublime. (97-99NM, 95-97AG – £5200)