We’re in the gates, the flag is raised and the tension is mounting. What will happen when the gates open? Will we all bunch up on the first bend and then fall back when high prices are set or smoothly settle into position, finding our stride, finally emerging from the pack triumphant with new fire to ignite the 2015 en primeur campaign. Bordeaux 2015 is here.
‘The rule of five’* is a phrase that has been bandied around Bordeaux a lot of late. At first mainly due to the desperation of those in the trade hoping for a top vintage following four more average examples. But of late, more a shrug of the shoulders and presumed declaration “of course 2015 was going to be great”!
William, Nigel and I (Harriet) are heading out to Bordeaux in the first week of April for the en primeur tastings. A week of deciphering tough young wines through black teeth and crowded rooms. We’re looking forward to it; hoping to find top Chateaux that hit the 100s, lesser Chateaux that offer great value and most of all; a vintage that lives up to expectation.
So to start a trickle of anticipation here is why the pundits are claiming this could be another ‘great’ vintage…
In the vineyard: The autumn of 2014 in Bordeaux was the driest and hottest seen in 115 years. Both November and December were worryingly low on rainfall; a time when the vineyards stock up on levels to keep the vine going throughout the year. This trend continued into 2015 with no deluges to replenish stocks**. March commenced what was effectively five months of drought. Vignerons were wondering how the vines survived, some believe that the wet years of 2013 and 2014 left the water table at accessible levels for those vines with some maturity and depth of root. With enough frosts to ensure a clean start to the growing season; free of disease and a cooling north wind to quell the impatient buds from emerging too early 2015 came to existence quite literally with a flourish.
Bud break was rapid thanks to a hot April and May was warm and dry giving a fast and efficient flowering; the ultimate foundation for a top quality vintage. April and June broke records for sunlight hours, with July 4th the hottest in 100 years. But the vines had seen enough hydric stress and started to suffer, many closing down, thickening the berry skins and stopping foliage growth. Purists believe that wine and vineyards bring us closer to the creator well the ‘August 15 rains of salvation’ left many rejoicing. With veraison and rain coming together all the benefits went straight to the grapes, adding weight and concentration to their core.
Cool nights with wide diurnal range increased as September approached giving the grapes freshness and crunch. The whites were hit with some rain at harvest but were concentrated enough for it not to bear too much consequence, though Semillon did suffer more than the vibrant Sauvignons. Merlot pickers who waited benefitted from the cool nights and sunny days at the end of September with Cabernet Sauvignon enjoying a relaxed harvest in perfect weather with drying winds and autumnal sun.
We’ve read a lot of predictions about the wines and their structures, but we’ll wait until we’ve been to Bordeaux and formulated our own notes to report back on the qualities. Updates during our trip will be on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with photos and notes #TindalEP2015. Let the en primeurs commence!
*’The rule of five’ is a belief that vintages ending with a 5 or 0 will be great. This stemming from a cyclical pattern of past vintages (1995, 2000, 2005, 2010) that have given foundation to this rule.
**The year’s monthly rainfall and temperatures from JR.com
|Month||Rainfall 2015 (mm)||Normal rainfall (mm)||Temp (ºC) in relation to normal||Sun hours 2015|
|04/2015||6||70||+ 3.2°||197 h|
|05/2015||33||78||+ 1.8°||201 h|
|06/2015||44||56||+ 3.2°||301 h|
|Total||103||204||+ 2.7°||699 h|
|07/10||35||46||+ 2.9°||281 h|
|08/10||90*||58||+ 2.2°||252 h|
|Total||125||104||+ 2.6°||513 h|
|09/10||40*||68||– 0.4°||209 h|
|10/10||52*||74||– 0.1°||169 h|
|Total||87||142||– 0.3°||378 h|
‘normal’ = 30-year average