As usual, like every year at this moment, the international – but small – world of fine wine is very excited and anxiously looking to the south west of France: for the first indictors of the harvest in Bordeaux.
How was it? Higher or lower quality? And the yield? And of course, it cannot be more expensive than last year, can it?
I’ve been talking to many wine makers and owners over the past weeks; I have visited many estates and have been looking at the grapes on the sorting tables; I’ve been tasting the first juices from many tanks: and yes, we in Bordeaux are lucky! Mother Nature was kind enough to give us the almost perfect conditions to grow the grapes at their optimal ripeness.
I saw the faces of the vineyard managers and of the cellar masters: they were looking so quiet, so relaxed, no hurry, no stress; they knew they just had to wait calmly for the moment to pick.
In most of the châteaux, the berries definitely looked like caviar, nothing else: small, concentrated, dark blue, almost black. Even the sorting machines were complaining about the ‘poor job’ they had to do this year.
Bordeaux enjoyed an extremely warm and dry spring and beginning of summer and then we were fortunate enough to have a cooler August and low rains, ideal conditions to mature the holy grape! Finally, September was – again – the best month of the year, warm and dry with just a few millimeters of rain, enough to ensure the end of the process.
After the first weeks of fermentation and maceration, we can confirm this vintage will globally be a great one. But, because there is a “but”, not all the appellations will get the same results. Usually we make a difference between right and left bank here; this year I would prefer to talk about a line “north-south”.
Starting in the south, all the Sauternes had almost perfect conditions to welcome the ‘noble rot’; talking to Yquem, Sigalas-Rabaud, Rayne Vignaud and Coutet, they all harvested fantastic rotten grapes, with high potential. A good sign was the period of harvest, very early and consistently week after week. What is already in the barrels sounds to be huge.
Then, Pessac-Léognan, red and white, for once, they could be the latest to harvest this year. I saw perfect berries at Pape-Clément, at Malartic-Lagravière and Smith Haut Lafitte. And Haut-Brion is very, very promising! I can’t wait to taste their whites!!
Going further north to the beginning of the Médoc, with Margaux, this could be the appellation from the Left bank this year. What I heard from Palmer, Rauzan-Ségla and Margaux sounds magic.
Then, up north, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe, for once, may be the unlucky ones. The periods of rain were heavier there, and Montrose, Cos d’Estournel and Calon-Ségur know they have something good, but they know the conditions were not optimum. But believe me, I’m pretty sure they will benefit from the vintage effect, especially those who work well and respectfully.
Finally, St Emilion and Pomerol may be the winners in 2015. Speaking about the top of St Emilion’s hill, climatic conditions were just perfect. Chateaux like Troplong Mondot could give one of their best vintages and I would not be surprised after the Primeur tasting if the scores shows differently to the general classification. Of course, Angélus, Pavie and Cheval Blanc looked amazing as well and we watch this space avidly.
To conclude, the last question for the English brokers and merchants: what about prices? Frankly speaking, it’s far too early to imagine the percentage of increase (or decrease!) from last year. But if I were a chateau owner, like Troplong Mondot, I would take the opportunity of such an amazing vintage to re-position their wine and their pricing on the market. In fact, I hope some will do it, as they deserve it!