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Anson on Bordeaux 2015 Graves and Pessac Léognan – first impression

Jane Anson gives her first take on the Bordeaux 2015 Graves and Pessac Léognan en primeur wines.

There is a soft, fresh and incredibly luscious elegance to the tannins in the best en primeur wines of the Bordeaux 2015 Graves and Pessac Léognan vintage.

Most of the buzz as you talk to winemakers in Bordeaux seems to be around the right bank, but it’s easy to forget that the wines of both Pessac Léognan and Graves benefit also from a high proportion of Merlot grapes, as well as early-ripening terroirs as you get closer to the city of Bordeaux.

After having tasted around 85 red and white AOC Graves, and at least the same number again from Pessac Léognan, it seems clear that 2015 is not a consistently excellent vintage across the board.

It’s difficult to draw a clear comparison to 2005, 2010 or 2009 because there is a wide range of styles. And yet there are some wonderful wines out there across both of these appellations, and many of them are going to offer great value.

Consistency in the Graves 2015 reds

For a start, I have never found such consistency in the red wines of the Graves appellation, with little of the excess acidity that was a feature of 2014. These are not huge wines, they have the balance and restraint that you look for in this part of left bank Bordeaux, and that differentiates the Graves from, for example, the sexiness of Castillon or Lalande de Pomerol (two other appellations that have produced great wines in this vintage and that should be offered to the market at reasonable prices).

The most enjoyable styles that I have found in the Graves, in contrast, have juicy, mouth-watering fruits, medium weight and fine tannins. They are medium-term drinking and just might provide a reason for drinkers to rediscover a part of Bordeaux that is consistently overlooked.

Ripe fruit in the Graves 2015 whites

The whites in both appellations had some blockages of maturity due to the extended hot and dry periods that were such a marker of the early summer in 2015 (around 50% of average rainfall fell in Pessac Léognan between April and July). The 70-90mm of rain, depending on where you were in the Graves/Pessac area, that fell in August was needed to limit the hydric stress and from that point the nights were a little fresher.

Picking in the Graves and Pessac-Léognan appellations began the last few days of August – the earliest since 2011 – and lasted until 12 September. But there is no doubt that the aromatic register in the white wines is closer to apricot and nectarine fruits than freshly-cut grass. In general they show clearly riper fruits than vintages such as 2013 or 2014, when acidities were high and the wines showed excellent ageing potential, although there are a few notable exceptions, particularly in the north of the appellation and into Pessac Léognan.

Pessac reds: ‘The first time I have said that rain saved the vintage’ – Véronique Sanders, Haut-Bailly.

For the reds of Pessac Leognan, where the Cabernet content tends to be higher than Graves, the rain of August again provided a welcome relief.

‘By July we had started to worry. This is the first time ever that I would say that the rain saved the vintage,’ says Véronique Sanders at Château Haut-Bailly.

And because the rain that fell in September and October was around two thirds of the average amount from 2000-2014, most properties were able to be fairly relaxed with their harvest date, which may explain the range of styles. The picking of Merlot began on the 15 of September, with the earliest ripening cabernet around 10 days later. Picking for all varieties ended on the 10 October.

You’ll still find some of the over-extraction that is always a danger in warmer vintages but the best wines have a lightness, softness and balance that provides a beautiful counterpoint to the ripe fruits.

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