Saint Estèphe & Pauillac, with their more northerly position just below the Médoc, above Bordeaux, saw the worst of the late rains of 2015. This fact does not however seem to have affected the quality of many of the Châteaux. St.Estèphe managed to achieve supple integrated tannins and a relatively approachable style; a combination not often gained for young wines from this commune. Words like ‘velvet tannins’ and numerous aromatic descriptors throughout our notes suggest that many of the Pauillac Châteaux managed their vines well and have produced excellent wines. There were some dips in the scores for some Châteaux, but overall the old favourites and some surprising new ones performed well. Now we just need to sit and wait for their release prices!
The UGC (Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux) tasting for St Estèphe and Pauillac was held at Château Lafon-Rochet, an understated property wearing the same mustard yellow as the distinctive labels on its bottles. As with all these estates the profits from 2009 and 2010 vintages have allowed them to extensively re-fit the cellars. Standout features had to be the light fittings that could have been borrowed directly from a lady’s head during Ascot week!
Some of the Châteaux don’t attend the UGC tastings preferring to welcome members of the trade by appointment at their estate. Hence, after lunch we headed down the road to Pontet-Canet where we were received by Melanie Tesseron. Last time I was there there were a few concrete eggs in the barrel room, this time there was a whole cellar of amphorae standing tall like an army on parade. The biodynamic vineyards have always produced wines that stand out as lively, expressive and individual; 2015 is no different. The bramble nose leads to a structured dark palate with solemn spice and an understated power. Angular tannins allied to a streak of freshness help carry clove-centred spices to the finish. Focus on the downward trend of Pontet-Canet prices on recent vintages of late may make one hesitate at the stalls but I for one would certainly like the opportunity to have a glass of this vintage in my hand in 20 years’ time.
Listed below in alphabetical order are our standout wines for both communes. Whilst we tried other wines and are happy to comment on them if asked, the following wines are ones that could offer both value and quality in this fine vintage.
- Ch. Cos Labory – alluring with a dark subtle nose and mid palate sheen, there was a plush mid palate richness leading to an earthy complexity and powerful finish that suggested this wine could be one of the more rewarding wines over time. 18+
- Ch.Lafon-Rochet – It could be the fact that Basile and Berangere Tesseron are so amicable but there was an elegance to this wine that left a prolonged enticing finish; succulent and supple. 17.5
- Ch.Phélan Ségur (Cru Bourgeois) – More expressive at this stage, great integration of rounded ripe tannins. A wine you could enjoy as soon as 2020. 16.5
- Ch.D’Armailhac – Sweet black cherry notes over delicate yet linear tannins and a gentle finish suggesting that this wine will become expressive sooner than most. 17.5
- Ch.Batailley – Subtle smokey nose over tight structuring tannins and a toasty dense dark fruit finish. Powerful with the suggestion of opulence. 17
- Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste – Slightly more subdued than others, with a primary blackberry nose leading to a silky mid palate holding succulent mouth coating fruit. 18
- Ch.Lynch-Bages – Very dark, mocha centred aromatics with age worthy grippy integrated tannins. Line of mineral weighted acid running through the wine leaves it tense and electric. 18.5
- Ch.Lynch-Moussas – A subtle nose leading to leathery savoury black fruit over lifted. Complex herbal notes evolve on the finish. 17.5
- Ch. Pichon Baron – An ambitious wine with rich vanilla nose and a ripe sweet fruit mid palate supported by exceptionally well integrated fine tannins and a juicy acid hit. 19