Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

AN ARRAY OF 2015 CLARETS – PART I

October 2017.

 

           PART I – GRAVES, PESSAC-LEOGNAN, SAINT EMILION, & POMEROL

 

A big tasting of 2015 clarets was recently presented in London by the Union of Grands Crus of Bordeaux. This was my first sniff of that well-reputed year. My overall impression? A very good rather than great vintage – but with a number of really outstanding wines.

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Nonetheless, claret probably lasts better than any other table wine on earth (a 1978 Château Palmer recently opened by me was utterly magnificent and continued to improve after 24 hours, an 1870 Rauzan Segla was magnificent only two years ago, 1986 Mouton really needs another 20 years, some 1928s are still in their prime etc. etc.

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Most of the ‘15s in the tasting will improve effortlessly for three or more decades.

 

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GRAVES

 

2015 CHATEAU DE CHANTEGRIVE

Not very deep in colour nor assertive on the nose, this is very much on the light side. The finish is a bit stalky. It has to be said that the first wine in any tasting tends to suffer and I was unable to retaste it later due to shortage of time. This property has delivered very decent wines for many decades and this example will doubtless show better in due course.

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PESSAC LEOGNAN

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2015 CHATEAU CARBONNIEUX

Darker, fuller, and richer on the nose, Carbonnieux smells like a meld of black cherry and blackcurrant. It’s medium full and medium long. A decent wine for the medium term.

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2015 DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER

Well-coloured, this exhales a sweet, smoky aroma of blackberry and chocolate. You can just discern a touch of oak, of the well-integrated kind. Overall, an impression of held-in power and great subtlety. Both flavour and aftertaste are in harmony, with the promise of beautiful balance and future finesse. A polished wine of unforced excellence.

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At this estate, priority is given to finesse and subtlety (this led me, when tasting the infant 2005 around 2008, to underestimate it. It’s now showing exceptional quality, being fuller, richer, deeper, and longer than it appeared to be all those years ago.

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2015 CHATEAU DE FIEUZAL

Lighter than most in colour, Fieuzal has an elegant, buoyant aroma of real delicacy. The flavour has a fliowing quality, with spread, suggestive of plum and stone with a whiff of cinnamon. It could almost be taken for a Burgundy. A harmonious wine to enjoy over the coming 20-odd years.

 

2015 CHATEAU LA LOUVIERE

The colour has a distinctive blue-purple caste, solidly dark. The aroma is soft and sensuous, turning thoughts to black cherry, Victoria plum, and graphite. Smooth and racy on the palate, of optimum concentration, and with a long, mineral aftertaste. A wine with grip, good for a couple of decades at least.

 

2015 CHATEAU MALARTIC LA GRAVIERE

The 45% Cabernet Sauvignon lends a blackish tinge, the same proportion of Merlot bringing an appealing roundness to the flavour, which hints at sweet black fig, black cherry, and chocolate. It’s a harmonious, indeed seamless, nose, which also has a flowery/spicy aspect too (carnation and cinnamon). Deliciously fruity on the palate, but also well structured, it has a long and enticing aftertaste buoyed up by fine fruity acidity. Excellent.

 

2015 CHATEAU PAPE CLEMENT

This dark, positively globular wine exhales a meld of cherry, lingonberry, and Victoria plum, promising power and weight without heaviness. The excellent flavour is solid yet aerial, conjuring up blackberry, damson, and sweet fig. The aftertaste rolls on like a swell in the sea, the finish being full of nuances that will expand into all manner of nuances at full maturity – at least 20 years from now. It will, of course, afford much pleasure long before then.

 

2015 CHATEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE

One of the darkest in this flight, this has a solid, vinous nose of blackberry and damson, with the Merlot component contributing a touch of sweet Agen prune. There’s a surging, masterful quality to a flavour suggestive of black cherry, blackcurrant, and cinnamon, with a perfumed, flowing quality. A wine with plenty of matiere, it is well-balanced, has sweep, and will live long. One of the most powerful wines so far.

 

 

SAINT EMILION

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2015 CHATEAU BEAUSEJOUR BECOT

From the reticent, refined Pessac-Léognans, we come to the assertive, even extravert Saint-Emilions. Suitably dark, this example has a big, exuberant aroma positively crammed full with ripe fruit: blackberry jam, prune, and chocolate, and with a distinctly ferrous character. The flavour is in harmony with this, being voluminous and rich, with a touch of clove and cinnamon on the lightly roasted aftertaste. A full-blooded wine to enjoy with game and roasts in the decades to come.

 

2015 CHATEAU CANON

Not as dark but quite as vivid, Canon possesses a round, vital aroma with pronounced Merlot character – Merlot in its more subtle mode – reminiscent of plum and cherry, with a fugitive hint of truffle. It’s a notably pure nose of classic restraint. There’s a repeat of plum in the mouth, which is very juicy, and there’s real sweep to the long, nuanced finish that’s a tribute to meticulous wine-making.

 

2015 CHATEAU CANON LA GAFFELIERE

The smooth and soaring scent of plum, clove, and cherry leads into a soft, fleshy flavour that expands to include notes of liquorice, damson, and liquorice. A sensuous wine with a sustained finish and good balance.

 

2015 CHATEAU LA GAFFELIERE

It’s probably a bit fanciful, but I often think of Gaffelière as a mighty galleon in full sail, rearing up and down in a tempestuous sea. The nose is big and masterful, a mixture of plum, damson, and liquorice, but on the palate it shows itself to be soft and round in texture, opening up on the finish to show an enticing sensuousness. The aftertaste is both harmonious and sustained.

 

2015 CHATREAU FIGEAC

This dark wine emits a rich, generous aroma that could only come from the ripest and healthiest of grapes, with dark fruits and chocolate intermingling with something distinctly orangey. The full flavour has a surging quality, with great presence. Cloves, chocolate, and (again) orange reunite on the palate, bringing the long finish to a stirring conclusion.

 

2015 CLOS FOURTET

The colour, clearly enriched by new oak, emits flashes of scarlet from its blackish core and emits forceful and exuberant gusts of blackberry jam, Victoria plum, incense, and cinnamon (from the oak). The lushly fruity flavour fills the mouth with the kind of sapidity that often (in time) produces truffly flavours. The aftertaste rolls along with great verve. A full-blooded wine to enjoy with game and roasts.

 

2015 CHATEAU LA TOUR FIGEAC

Another darkling wine, which gives off a big, smooth nose with a core of sweet, concentrated fruit. In the mouth, a sensous, very round flavour, a silky amalgam of black fruits. A longish, satisfying finish.

 

2015 CHATEAU TROPLONG MONDOT

The blackest wine so far – it looks like a goblet of crème de cassis. The huge but seamless aroma sends out aromatic suggestions of crème de mûres, damson, and violet. The flavour is very concentrated – but not over-extracted. Very expressive. The tannins are of the ripe kind. Will evolve well over three decades or so.

 

2015 CHATEAU TROTTEVIEILLE

Both limpid and intensely coloured, Trottevieille gives off a lovely, very fresh scent – very Merlot in character – of Victoria plum and chocolate. Harmony is the keynote here, both on nose and palate. The flavour is finely balanced, clean-cut, and strikingly fresh. A subtle wine that will develop beautifully over the coming 25-30 years at least.

 

 

POMEROL

 

(This tiny commune performed brilliantly in 2015. Here, truly, is the home of the Merlot grape. It’s also the chief grape in neighbouring – and much larger – Saint-Emilion, but there the Cabernet-Franc also plays a major role. In fact, the foremost St Emilion properties contain at least 30% Cabernet Franc and some close on half).

 

2015 CHATEAU BEAUREGARD

A shift in colour compared with St. Em.: immediately one registers a delicate blue-purple tinge. The fine aroma is soft and spicy, reminiscent of black cherry and cigarbox, and is clearly chiefly Merlot. Medium full, well-balanced, it shows subtlety and elegance, finishing on a sustained, balanced note of blackberry, chocolate, and liquorice. Very good.

 

2015 CHATEAU LA CABANNE

This has a soft, flowery nose made up of black and red fruits, peony, and graphite. The flavour is elegant and poised, showing true Pomerol subtlety. The Cabernet-Franc, though only 5% of acreage, shows its delicacy.

 

2015 CHATEAU CLINET

This lustrous wine has a lovely composite scent that’s juicy, round, and full of charm, suggestive of red and black cherries, raspberry, and cinnamon. Those same notes show on the palate, which is long and vibrantly fresh. Tasted blind, you could easily mistake it for a fine Côte de Nuits Burgundy. It’s sure to be seductive in youth, but will nonetheless deliver far more pleasure when fully mature in a decade or two.

 

CHATEAU LA CONSEILLANTE

If Clinet was a delight, La Conseillante is a hedonistic joy (but with a cerebral side to it also). The nose, as perfumed as that of a top Vosne Romanée, billows out from the glass, making even this hardened taster suppress a gasp. This is not an aroma it’s a perfume, evoking as it does luscious of black cherry, Victoria plum, and sweet blackberry. The flavour, closed up like a locked suitcase bursting with good things, allows the odd enticing savour to show itself, promising a wine of real complexity when at full stretch in a couple of decades or so. One of the top wines in the entire tasting.

 

2015 CHATEAU LA CROIX DE GAY

Nearly black, with winking crimson highlights, this has a soft, still reticent aroma of black cherry and plum, polish (from the interaction of oak and smoke), with a touch of blackberry adding weight. Overall, an impression of fully ripe, healthy grapes. The flavour, if closed, sends taste messages hinting at damson, cinnamon, and liquorice wood. Will last well. The ’98 Croix de Gay is a fabulous wine, while the ’47 served to me once by the estate’s long-deceased grandfather, belonged to the pantheon of great wines tasted by me.

 

2015 CHATEAU GAZIN

This distinctly blackish wine has a dense aroma that sets me thinking of black cherry jam and graphite. Those notes show on the palate,, too, supplemented by ripe black fig. The aftertaste is solid, balanced, and persistent but the manifold details that are manifestly present remain shyly self-effacing.. A 25/30-year wine.

 

2015 CHATEAU PETIT VILLAGE

The limpid colour shows promising intensity while the expressive, harmonious aroma has an aerial quality, exhaling suggestions of plum jam and blackberry. A vigorous wine with plenty of body, sure to improve for 20 years and more.

 

 

© Frank Ward 2017

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>> An Array of Clarets Part II – The Médoc

 

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