This report is dedicated to Paul Pontallier, the director of Chateau Margaux. Sadly, Paul Pontallier passed away March 28, just days before the official en primeur tastings were about to start and only a short time before his 60th birthday. If you did not know Paul, you missed meeting one of the most interesting, intelligent, fun, genuine people to spend time with in Bordeaux. If you did have the pleasure of meeting him, you know exactly what I am talking about. Paul Pontallier personified the same refined elegance you find in the wine of Chateau Margaux. He is and will continue to be definitely missed.
2015 Margaux is the real deal. Almost every 2015 Margaux I tasted was delicious. Even more exciting was that several chateaux made the best wines in their history! How did that happen?
Simply put, 2015 Margaux is the result of a close to perfect growing season. Everything went right from start to finish. The winter was mild. Bud break and flowering were both quick, easy and uniform. Spring was warm and sunny most of the time. The summer months really helped make the vintage. July was hot and dry with temperatures averaging 10% higher than most vintages over the past 3 decades. The extended hot, sunny and dry conditions continued until late July. In August the thirsty vines were rewarded when the exact amount of rain needed arrived. Before the rains fell, the vines were becoming stressed, grapes were small and growers feared the results of continuing drought conditions for the 2015 Margaux vintage.
The rain triggered the start of the ripening period. From that point forward, the vines enjoyed almost picture perfect conditions with continued warm, sunny days and cool, refreshing nights right through the harvest. The small amount of rain that fell October 2 ranged from 13mm to just under 20mm, depending on where your vineyard was located. When you compare that with the 100mm that fell in the northern Medoc, especially in and around St. Estephe, you get the picture on what took place in Margaux, and hot it compares to parts of the Northern Medoc.
The continued period of pleasant daytime temperatures and cold nights, could not have been better. Most growers started picking their 2015 Margaux crop by Monday, September 21, finishing by October 7, with a few stragglers completing their harvest a few days later. You can read about the 2015 harvest and vintage in detail to give you a good idea on what took place during the growing season: 2015 Bordeaux Harvest Report
Because Margaux is a large appellation, with 1,355 hectares planted with vines, you find a wide array of terroirs and soil types. What makes 2015 Margaux such a great vintage is, even with such a wide variance in terroir, (due to the size of the region), almost everyone produced strong wine here, from the 1855 Classified Growths to the Cru Bourgeois estates, and even unclassified vineyards. Clearly, Margaux is the top appellation in the Left Bank this year.
If you want to read about 2015 Bordeaux tasting notes for all the other appellations in Bordeaux, please see: 2015 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting Notes, Ratings reports
The style of the 2015 Margaux wines really works for me. At their best the wines display a beautiful sense of purity of fruit, freshness, concentration, silky tannins and length. They are aromatic, age worthy, complex and most importantly, they are exciting to taste! At the end of the day, that level of excitement is what great wine is all about. On to the wines!
2015 Alter Ego dePalmer – With a nose packed with flowers, dark, red fruits, espresso, thyme and earth, this wine is sensuous, silky, ripe and lush, exuding freshness, polished tannins and a beautiful sense of purity and balance in the fruit. Clearly, this is the best vintage for Alter Ego and one to watch for as Alter Ego is often priced below other wines in the appellation due to its lack of classified growth status. Produced from a blend of 52% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot, this wine reached 14% alcohol with a pH of 3.85. The fruit was picked September 22 through October 7. 93 – 95 Pts
2015 Angludet – This is surely a contender for the best vintage of Chateau d’Angludet. The fruit is fresh, polished, soft and ripe. Medium-bodied with sweet cassis, tobacco, cherry and herbal character, this wine is quite nice and well-priced. 89 – 91 Pts
2015 Bellevue de Tayac – Fresh, red fruits paired with notes of earth and tobacco and a bit of thyme in the finish, this medium-bodied wine has an early drinking, approachable style. 86 – 88 Pts
2015 Blason d’Issan – Blending 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, this wine offers floral scents with coffee bean, plum and earth. Medium-bodied, forward, soft and easy to like, this charmer will offer pleasure on release and could age for a bit as well. 87 – 89 Pts
2015 Boyd Cantenac – Sweet fresh, fruits, floral accents, freshness and a medium bodied, polished, silky, inviting blackberry and cassis finish. 90 – 92 Pts
2015 Brane Cantenac – Truffle, forest floor, cocoa and ripe, dark, red fruits enliven the perfume. On the palate, this wine is silky, subtle and focused on freshness and purity of ready fruit. Elegance and weight enhance a long, crisp finish that feels wonderful on your palate. Blending 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Carmenere, the wine reached 13.6% with a pH of 3.78. The Grand Vin represents 42% of the harvest. This is my favorite vintage of Brane Cantenac, although Henri Lurton prefers the 2010. Either way, they are both superior vintages. 95 – 97 Pts
2015 Cantenac Brown – Deep, rich violet-ruby in color with a complex array of scents ranging from espresso, violets, truffle, boysenberry, cassis and black cherry, this wine is sensuous, concentrated, opulent and balanced with a long, intense, mouthful of fresh, pure berries. The finish is impressive and lingers with a flurry of sweet, dark, red fruits and even darker chocolate. Easily the best wine since 2009. From 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot, this wine reached 13.9% alcohol with a pH of 3.7 and is aging in 60% new, French oak barrels. The harvest took place from September 17 to October 8. Only 51% of the harvest was used in the Grand Vin. 94 – 96 Pts
2015 Brio de Cantenac Brown- Using 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc, Brio produced a wine with fresh, floral characteristics, earthy notes and sweet, red fruits. Medium-bodied, forward, light, fresh and ready to drink. 87 – 89 Pts
2015 Clos du Jaugueyron Margaux – From a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, the wine is forward, round and offers a nice dose of flowers, blackberry, espresso and cocoa with a medium/full bodied palate presence and a round, fruit filled finish. 89 – 91 Pts
2015 dArsac – Round, fresh, medium-bodied with sweet, cassis, spice and a touch of licorice, this wine is well-priced for Margaux. 88 – 90 Pts
2015 Dauzac – Sweet, black cherries, spring flowers, licorice, earth and tobacco scents work perfectly with soft, round, dark, ripe fruits and silky tannins. 91 – 93 Pts
2015 Desmirail – Finesse in style with freshness in the finish, earth, caramel and black cherries create the nose of this soft, medium-bodied wine. 88 – 90 Pts
2015 Deyrem Valentin – Deep in color with fresh cherry blossoms, earth and cassis scents on the forefront, this wine is soft, polished and round on the palate, displaying lush, black plums and cassis in the finish. 90 – 92 Pts
2015 dIssan – Deep ruby hue, displaying heady violet scents, cherry liqueur, licorice, boysenberry and earth, this wine is hedonistic with its lithe, elegant, velvety tannins. Full-bodied and sensuous with freshness and purity of fruit, this sexy delight delivers a voluptuously long finish. From a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot, this wine reached 13.82% alcohol with a pH of 3.85. Aging in 50% new, French oak barrels, it represents 55% of the harvest. The harvest took place from September 21 to October 6. 94 – 95 Pts
2015 du Tertre – With a kiss of dark cocoa, earth, plum and blackberry to get things started, this wine is supple, silky, long and fresh. The sweet, dark, red fruits, drizzles of chocolate, spice and freshness feel lovely on the palate. From a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot, this wine reached 13.5% alcohol with a pH of 3.8. The picking took place September 9 to October 9 and the wine will be aged in 47% new, French oak barrels. 91 – 93 Pts
2015 Durfort Vivens – Medium-bodied, elegant, fresh and forward with sweet, fresh, dark cherries and cassis from start to finish. 88 – 90 Pts
2015 Ferriere – Medium-bodied, classic in style, the fruit is crisp, bright and fresh with a red berry core and a complexity of cedar, spice and herbs in the finish. 88 – 89 Pts
2015 Giscours – With a dark, ruby color, the violet aromas really get you going, that is until you get hit with the sweet, black, juicy plums, cocoa, black cherry and thyme. Full-bodied, plush and polished with more concentration, structure and opulence than you normally find at Giscours. The finish is all about the freshness and focused vibrant, spicy, sweet, ripe, dark, red berries because it really sticks with you. This wine was produced from a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, reaching 13.7% alcohol and a 3.6 pH. The picking ranged from September 10 to October 9 and the Grand Vin represents 68% of the harvest. 94-96 Pts
2015 Kirwan – Medium-bodied with a forest floor and cassis character, this wine is elegant, soft and polished with sweet, fresh, dark, red fruits in the finish. 89 – 91 Pts
2015 La Sirene de Giscours – Cassis, flowers and licorice in character, medium-bodied, forward and fresh, this wine will be ready to drink on release. 85 – 87 Pts
2015 La Tour de Mons – Medium-bodied, forward and on the bright side of the dark, red fruit style range, this wine has an attractive, earthy, spicy fruit characteristic. 87 – 89 Pts
2015 Labegorce – This wine is easily the best vintage ever produced at Chateau Labegorce. Showing a good depth of color and serving up spicy plums, cherries, licorice and wet earth, it’s soft, polished and loaded with even more licorice, dark chocolate and juicy, ripe, black cherries in a forward, style. Made from a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, the wine is aging in 50% new, French oak barrels. 90 – 92 Pts
2015 Lascombes – Dark in color with an espresso, licorice, smoke and black cherry nose, this wine is voluptuous in texture with an oaky finish which, hopefully, will integrate fully, as the fruit is ripe, sweet and delicious. 91 – 93 Pts
2015 LAura de Cambon – Dark in hue and dark in fruit with lush, round textures and a blast of sweet, ripe, black raspberries, cocoa and licorice, this wine has good concentration and opulent textures, finishing with freshness and silky tannins. 90 – 92 Pts
2015 Le Baron de Brane – Light but charming with freshness and sweetness to the red fruit-oriented wine. Drink this young. 86 – 88 Pts
2015 Malescot St. Exupery – Inky in color with a showy perfume of chocolate covered plums, black cherry liqueur, flowers, earth and smoke. Dense and concentrated on the palate, this wine remains focused, fresh and opulently textured — a difficult combination indeed. The boysenberry filled finish is sensuous, polished and velvety, yet there is a freshness to the layers of sweet fruit, making it a sort of cross between the estate’s 2009 and 2005 vintages. Produced from a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, the wine reached 14.1% alcohol with a pH of 3.85 and will be aged in 80% new, French oak barrels for 13 to 15 months. The Grand Vin represents 75% of the harvest, which took place between September 23 and October 15, making Malescot St. Exupery perhaps the latest estate to pick in the Margaux appellation this year. 95 – 97 Pts
2015 Margaux – The final vintage of Chateau Margaux from Paul Pontallier remains a testament to the man and his never-ending efforts. I have to say, this tasting was more than difficult than I imagined as Paul and I were scheduled to have lunch together that very same day. Each time I saw one my friends at the property, we cried together. It was a sad but monumental day, encapsulating the experience of visiting Chateau Margaux and memorializing the extraordinarily high quality of wines produced during Paul’s 30 years at the estate.
The color of a dark, blood red ruby, this wine makes a powerful opening statement. On the nose, the luscious inhale as the door to the flower shop opens, a row of Spanish cedar cigar boxes still filled with a stash of Cohiba, the not-too-sweet aromatics of cherry pipe tobacco — all combined with cherries, licorice, forest floor, creamy espresso and blackberry liqueur. On the palate, the wine melts into a buttery wealth of fresh fruit, gratifying tannins and a finish that saunters, taking it’s time to linger close to 60 seconds while slowly expanding at the same time. Rich without being heavy, this wine is aristocratic and refined. This wine is deceptively easy to taste, and if it puts on weight during the aging period, which it probably will, it should hit triple digits.
Produced from a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.5% alcohol with a pH of 3.65. 13.5% is the highest level of alcohol ever recorded at Margaux; the previous high was 13.1%, achieved in 2010. This represents 35% of the harvest. The picking took place from September 18 to October 6. 98-100 Pts
2015 Marojallia – This wine is dark in color with a nose of blackberry, flowers, espresso and earthy notes. Rich, fat and sweet with a lush character and a round, fruit-filled finish, the wine was made from a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. 92 – 94 Pts
2015 Marquis dAlesme – Deep in color with florals, black cherry liqueur, boysenberry and dark cocoa in the nose, this wine is rich, plump, full-bodied and voluptuous in texture with a wealth of ripe, sweet, fresh fruits and lush tannins in the mouth that really linger. The first vintage produced in their new cellars has elevated the estate to another level. Produced from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13% alcohol with a pH of 3.6 and is aging in 65% new, French oak barrels. With a new showcase cellar and a commitment to quality with a spare-no-expense attitude, this is a wine to watch. 92 – 94 Pts
2015 Marquis de Terme – Deeply colored with an espresso, cocoa, black plum and earthy nose, this wine is rich, silky, plush and shows good intensity of flavor and depth with a silky, sensuous finish. Clearly, the best ever for Marquis de Terme. 93 – 95 Pts
2015 Monbrison – A fresh, crisp, medium-bodied example of Margaux with a relaxed, dark plum, earth and cassis core of fruit. 87 – 89 Pts
2015 Palmer – Rich in color, the attention-seeking nose pops with truffle, tobacco, black cherries, cigar box, plum and cocoa. Silk and velvet textures with polished tannins, juicy, sweet, fresh, pure plums and a finish that builds as it lingers. This sublime wine was produced from a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, reaching 14% alcohol with a pH of 3.85. Currently being aged in 65% new French oak barrels, the wine represents 50% of the harvest, which took place between September 22 and October 7. The second year produced using only 100% biodynamic farming techniques has created one of the great vintages for Palmer of all time! With age, like all the top vintages for the estate, this will prove to be an extraordinary wine! 97 – 98 Pts
2015 Paveil de Luze – With a floral, earth and plum-filled nose and a licorice and tobacco kick at the end, this wine has just enough fresh, dark, red fruits that transpire just when you need them. 89 – 91 Pts
2015 Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux – Cherries, anise, tobacco and cigar box notes rise amid a floral background to create an incredibly elegant, refined, fresh, long and sweet wine. Lift, purity of fruit, substance and length make this the best vintage of Pavillon Rouge I have ever tasted — a testament to Paul Pontallier. The wine was produced from a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, reaching 14.% alcohol with pH of 3.67. Of the harvest, 23% was used for Pavillon Rouge du Margaux. This wine is better than any vintage of Margaux produced in the 1970’s and with 2-3 exceptions, that same thing goes for the 80’s too! 93 – 95 Pts
2015 Pouget – The wine is medium bodied, fresh and focused on its bright, crisp, tobacco, earth and cassis notes. 89 – 91 Pts
2015 Prieure-Lichine – With depth of color, this wine pops with espresso, cocoa, black cherry liqueur, silky, lush tannins and an opulent finish. The best wine yet produced from Prieure-Lichine. 92 – 94 Pts
2015 Rauzan-Gassies – Medium-bodied with tobacco and cassis at the forefront, this wine gives a strong, green olive sensation in the mouth, which subtracts from the overall experience. 88 – 90 Pts
2015 Rauzan Segla – Florals, licorice, tobacco, truffle, violets and ripe, sweet, fruits create the complex perfume. Soft, rich and polished, this wine feels like silk and velvet on the palate. Weight and density provide you with a concentration of raw materials while the finesse-styled finish lingers and expands. From a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 14.% alcohol with a pH of 3.7. Aging in 65% new, French oak barrels for 18 months before bottling, it represents 45% of the production. The harvest took place from September 10 to October 9. This is the debut vintage for the new director Nicolas Audebert. Bravo for your first effort! 95 – 97 Pts
2015 Segla – Not sold En Primeur, but this is one of the top values from all of Margaux. Produced in a forward, user friendly style, it’s perfect for restaurants and youthful pleasure with its fresh, sweet, red fruits and truffle essences. Medium-bodied and finesse in style, the soft, polished plums in the finish give you just right amount of acidity to give lift and keep it fresh. 89 – 91 Pts
2015 Siran – Medium/full-bodied with a nice polish to the sweet, black cherries, plum and cassis, the ripe tannins, silky textures and long finish taste and feel great. This is probably the best vintage yet produced by the southern Margaux. Some of the credit has to go to bringing in Hubert de Bouard as their consultant. 91 – 93 Pts
We are making progress! With luck and a prayer, and some more time spent editing, tasting notes for 2015 Pessac Leognan and Graves red and white Bordeaux wine will be out tomorrow. It’s the biggest report yet with almost 70 wines! If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, or just want to talk about wine, feel free to post.