Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

AN ARRAY OF 2015 CLARETS – PART II

November 2017. 

PART II: THE MÉDOC

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I leave behind me Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion, and Pomerol and within – literally – seconds find myself in the Médoc.

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Normally that journey takes an hour or two but this time only a few instants. That’s the advantage of attending group tastings, where several scores of wines are presented under one single roof. All within a few tables away of one another. And all to be sampled at will.

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MOULIS

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2015 CHÂTEAU CHASSE SPLEEN

A hearteningly deep colour, Chasse-Spleen has a distinctly Moulis nose, vinous and assertive, of black cherry and blackberry. The flavour is full of vitality, with a reprise of black cherry and the addition of damson (an intense, slightly savage fruit). I very much like the juicy and harmonious aftertaste. Very good.

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HAUT MÉDOC

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2015 CHÂTEAU CANTEMERLE

This purpley wine has a buoyant aroma, very Médoc and quite Margaux-like. It tastes like a meld of blackberry jam and damson, with some bilberry intensity (and wildness) on the finish. A well-made, satisfying wine for mid-term drinking.

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2015 CHÂTEAU LA LAGUNE

La Lagune always shows just that bit more definition than Cantemerle. The nose is round and expressive (Victoria plum, damson, touch of cassis) with refined earthiness, the generous fruit balanced by fine acidity. The flavour, while closed, is well-packed with still inchoate flavours and shows real persistence. Grainy tannins on the finish.

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MARGAUX

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Margaux has for years lagged behind its peer communes. But bit by bit it’s catching up. In addition, it performed especially well in 2015.

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2015 CHÂTEAU BRANE CANTENAC

Brane Cantenac has been steadily improving for quite some time, each vintage bringing an increment in harmony, depth, and complexity. The colour is strikingly intense, while the tight-knit aroma – blackberry, damson, and graphite – shows Margaux subtlety and breed. It’s lusciously fruity in the mouth, with finely integrated ripe tannins, and there’s real sweep to the nuanced aftertaste. A well-structured wine, still with slightly aggressive tannins, that should improve for several decades.

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2015 CHÂTEAU DURFORT VIVENS

Richly vinous and dark, D.F. has a good Médoc flavour, though perhaps lacking in individual character on the day. Slightly bitter finish. Hard to assess.

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2015 CHÂTEAU GISCOURS

A specifically Margaux aroma that’s broad and slightly earthy. The flavour is well-rounded and with plenty of flesh, a meld of black cherry, liquorice, and wet earth. A hint of damsony tautness registers on the otherwise juicy finish. Very good – though, to get its measure better, I’d like to retaste in in a year or two.

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2015 CHÂTEAU MONBRISON

This promisingly dark Cru Bourgeois has an expressive Margaux aroma of black fruits and flowers that promises balance and substance. It’s truly aerial on the palate, as poised as a ballerina on tiptoes. The flavour is trim and subtle, promising a couple of decades’ positive development. Very good.

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2015 CHÂTEAU PRIEURE LICHINE

With its glowing dark colour PL is sustained by an intense aroma of crème de cassis and myrtille. There’s lots of fruit on the palate, blackcurrant to the fore, the ample flesh articulated by tannic sinew. A characterful wine with typical Cantenac succulence.

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2015 CHÂTEAU RAUZAN SÉGLA

Rauzan Ségla excels yet again. Lustrous in appearance, it delivers a complex, beautifully crafted nose of red rose and sweet black cherry with other burgeoning aromatic notes still in bud but promising further complexity. Both texture (velvety) and flavour, which is rich without over-extraction, are outstanding. Expressive, subtly voluminous yet almost weightless, it’s a complete wine. In short, great.

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SAINT JULIEN

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Saint Julien can produce wines of great finesse, but in its own distinct way. Some Saint Juliens, notably the three Léovilles, border on Pauillac, and can show Pauillac-like traits while remaining quintessentially Saint Julien. Only days ago I was presented with a red wine blind. Without even sniffing it, I said: “a Saint Julien.” It was 1982 Langoa Barton.

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How could I make that guess? Just on the basis of nuances of colour. The different Médoc communes have their distinct character traits, not just scent and taste but also pigment and intensity thereof. (On one occasion a host entered the dining room bearing a decanter of red wine. Without thinking, I blurted out “what a wonderful Pauillac colour!”. It was 1934 Mouton Rothschild). Much can be learned from colour, and shades of colour – as much, if in a different way, from aroma or taste.

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2015 CHÂTEAU BEYCHEVELLE

Beychevelle gives off a masterful nose of black fruits, notably cherry and plum. The flavour is rich and full of vigour, with good balance and with that slightly grainy texture that, in Beychevelle, often makes me think of Pessac-Léognan. The Cabernet-Sauvignon makes its presence felt. Like any good claret in a good year, it will age well for several decades.

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2015 CHÂTEAU BRANAIRE DUCRU

Round and flowery on the nose, with a touch of nectarine sweetness (surely from very ripe Merlot), this example possesses a full yet classically restrained aroma that promises harmony and depth. Plenty of refined fruit on the palate and the oak is beautifully integrated – it will be barely discernible in a few years’ time. Impeccably fashioned from healthy, ripe grapes.

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2015 CHÂTEAU GLORIA

Blackish, oaky on the nose, Gloria gives off wafts of solid fruitiness, damson to the fore. Dense and harmonious and with just the right degree of sweetness, it has a sustained finish and good vinosity. A vigorous wine built to last, which will shed its (fleeting) oakiness over the coming years.

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2015 CHÂTEAU GRUAUD LAROSE

I have a soft spot for Gruaud Larose, and Gruaud Larose has a soft spot in every glass: namely a round, voluptuous core of super-ripe fruit with harmonious fusion of Cabernet-Sauvignon structure, Merlot luxuriance, and a tiny but crucial twist of Petit-Verdot intensity. On the nose, the ’15 delivers gusts of sumptuous fruit – black cherry, nectarine, and cinnamon, – leading into a cushiony flavour as smooth as silk. This cannot, however, wholly mask the wine’s solid inner structure. Excellent.

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2015 CHÂTEAU LAGRANGE

Lagrange was in the doldrums for decades until team Peynaud, Michel Delon, and Marcel Ducasse set about restoring it to former excellence in 1983. The ’15 shows the classic quality that’s Lagrange’s principal trait: a broad, extremely precise aroma, full of intertwined Cabernet and Merlot fruit that’s as harmonious as can be. Plenty of flesh on the palate, with much energy, and a long, notably fresh aftertaste.

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CHÂTEAU LANGOA BARTON

The nose, unmistakably Saint Julien in style, is balanced and trim, exhaling black fruit and peony scents. The elegant flavour makes me think of black cherry and blackcurrant and shows classic restraint. This will mature serenely over the next 2-3 decades.

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2015 CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE BARTON

A richer, darker colour – as ever – and a still bigger, even more complex nose of mingled black fruits and violets (the latter always a good sign). There’s a touch of red fruits too – particularly griottes. The seamless flavour, still a bit oaky, is concentrated, harmonious, and very long. A truly classic Saint Julien, subtle and restrained, that will go on improving for several decades (the 1985, tasted not long ago, still has years ahead).

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2015 CHÂTEAU TALBOT

This dark wine possesses a seductively fruity, soaring aroma that delivers a nosegay of cherry, Victoria plum, and raspberry scents. The flavour is fresh and enticing, with just that slight hint of a gaminess that never seems to desert this characterful cru. Good aftertaste.

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PAUILLAC

 

2015 CHÂTEAU CLERC MILON

In the glass an affirmation of Pauillac weight, power, and authority. It smells chiefly of black cherry and damson, delivering an impression of vigour and freshness. Richly flavoursome, with the Cabernet-Sauvignon playing the dominant role, but with plenty of backup from the Merlot and Cabernet-Franc. The aftertaste is notably clean and sustained.

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2015 CHÂTEAU GRAND PUY LACOSTE

As in every vintage, this brilliant property comes up with a splendid wine that makes the very most of the conditions that prevailed. Lustrous in appearance, it exhales a seamless aroma that’s both aerial and weighty and harmonious too. A lovely fusion of cherry, nectarine, and raspberry whoosh out of the glass, leading, as night follows day, into a round, glossy flavour as complex as it is enticing. The sustained finish ends on a note of ripe tannins and dense fruit. (An ’82 sampled recently was wonderful).

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2015 CHÂTEAU LYNCH BAGES

I’m always surprised that the (initially) stern Cabernet-Sauvignon accounts for 70% of the grape-mix here, as Lynch-Bages is consistently one of the most voluptuous of all Médocs. But it’s structured and dense too, capable of ageing serenely for half a century or more. The ’15 smells of black cherry, graphite, and sweet plum while the flavour – very Lynch Bages – hints at sweet fig and truffle as well as black cherry. The aftertaste ripples on for quite some time. A lovely wine that could be drunk young but will be magical in 20-30 years’ time.

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2015 CHÂTEAU PICHON BARON

Once in the doldrums, the “Baron” is now one of the most consistently brilliant – and classic – wines in the Médoc. In character, it resembles that most uncompromising of Pauillacs, Latour (not many metres away), with its firm but ripe tannins giving support, as doric columns support a Greek temple. It contrives to be both emphatic and extremely subtle, fusing Pauillac power with Médocain grace. The flavour and aftertaste suggest black cherry, liquorice, and damson, with a hint of elderberry. Superb.

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2015 CHÂTEAU D’ARMAILAC

A firm, archetypical Pauillac nose billows out from the glass, suggestive of wild cherry, cranberry, and redcurrant. The flavour, burly yet smooth, shows good freshness and is long and balanced in the affirmative way so typical of the Mouton stable. I detect a touch of blood-orange intensity on the finish. A bit diffident on this occasion but clearly able to evolve well for many years. Wines from this source have never disappointed in recent years.

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2015 CHÂTEAU BATAILLEY

Not as dark as some but as intense, Batailley, has an aerial, perfumed aroma that shows generous merlot flesh tautened by Cabernet-Sauvignon sinew. I’m seduced by a composite scent of cranberry, carnation (Merlot), sweet damson. Not of maximum density, but very harmonious and with ample ripe fruit, it shows real poise and good length. An excellent wine, drinkable in youth but able to mature for decades.

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SAINT ESTÈPHE

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2015 COS LABORY

There’s a cutting edge, a thrustfulness, to a typical Saint Estèphe – and I find it here. It’s a hammered -out wine, vital and bristly, with typical dark colour and firm structure. Pretty closed-up in the mouth but promises to evolve well over coming decades.

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2015 CHÂTEAU LAFON ROCHET

The aroma is so intense it leaps out of the glass, smelling like cherries and sweetly ripe wild berries. Solid in the mouth, without hardness, the dense fruit leavened by harmonious fruity acidity. Very good.

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2015 CHÂTEAU PHELAN SÉGUR

The fine flowery nose promises both vigour and harmony and that’s what you get on the palate. Amply fruity, well-balanced and vinous, it will drink well for several decades. A wine of sterling character, typical of this commune, which always shows its own unique character..

 

 

© Frank Ward 2017

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<< An Array of Clarets Part I : GRAVES, PESSAC-LEOGNAN, SAINT EMILION, & POMEROL

 

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