When I think about a region that is so strictly geography based, i.e.: whatever happened to that farm that year happened to the wine, the variance between vintages is pronounced and easy to compare.
In fact, the more you taste of the last bunch of vintages, the more the personality of each year emerges.
I’ve taken to thinking of recent Bordeaux vintages like strolling past various birds in an aviary; each year is a different bird. Hey, the aviary is open, let’s go look at ‘em!
- 2009 is a lusciously feathered, prize-winning peacock, whose luminous tail contains all the colours of the rainbow. He’s gotten kind of fat because we keep giving him celebratory biscuits, but he’s still beautiful and shiny and omg I wanna give him another biscuit.
- 2010 is an eagle. A majestically strong, stoic eagle of regal stature who will outlive me and you and the building we’re in. Some people get weirded out because the eagle doesn’t seem to move, but he actually does – just not when you’re looking. I am not worthy enough to gaze upon the eagle any longer. Also, I am crying.
- 2011 is a handsome falcon who obeys orders and tastefully fulfills all expectations, but you can’t see him because he’s behind the eagle.
- 2012 is two feet and a beak poking out of an egg. We don’t really know what kind of a bird it’ll be yet; It’s a really nice beak so things might turn out great, but man that bird is taking its sweet time to come out.
- 2013 well, damn. That’s not even a bird, it’s a platypus. What the hell.
- 2014 is a healthy, fluffy pigeon. He can move cars with his mind and witness several dimensions in unison, but everyone walks by him because he’s a pigeon.
- 2015 is the last bird on our tour, and worth the wait because she has the best attributes of all the other birds (except the platypus, who has now soiled his own bed). She’s strong like the eagle, shiny like the peacock and possesses powers we are only starting to understand.
- We didn’t think we’d see another classic Bordeaux vintage for a while, let alone another one-two punch like the dynamic duo of 2009/2010, but the 2015/2016 vintages have added new pages to the book of legends. If we’re being granular the right bank (St. Emillon, Pomerol, Merlot based wines etc.) made out slightly better, but 2015 was a tide that lifted all boats, and the quality was superb up and down the ladder.
Previously: B.C. wineries need us to drink their wines to offset losses of wildfire season
But every silver lining comes with a cloud, and the bad news is that the prices are back up to the “no-I-meant-what-is-the-price-for-one-bottle” level of the 09/10 vintages. Collecting Bordeaux can stretch our collecting budgets well beyond comfort and reason, and it can present a dilemma: How can you possibly buy smart and wide, instead of putting all your eggs in just a couple of gilded baskets?
Well, looky here: I found some great 2015 Bordeaux that drink bougie but cost less than $100. Observe:
Chateau Greysac 2015, Médoc
For the French in Bordeaux, driving past a historical estate must be like driving past a barn in Chilliwack for us – you really don’t think much about who built it or when, and you only care if it grows something you want. Likewise, nobody cared about the 1700s-era Greysac estate until the Angelli family (one-time owners of Fiat and Chateau Margaux) bought it in 1975, modernized the facility and started to squeeze good juice. Situated near the top of the Médoc, Greysac is more influenced by the whims of the Atlantic so vintage variance is pronounced but this 2015 is way-fab. Nearly equal Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, a medium-to-full body with soft but pronounced tannins and baking spice. A tad randy now, but we don’t want to lose those blackberries so a 5-year nap will get us to the sweet spot.
91 points Wine Advocate, $54.99
Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2015, St. Estèphe
Consistently one of my favourite houses (within the realm of affordability) and a living example that you should always get your homework handed in on time. Just a few hundred metres from Lafite, the 19th century owners of this 16th century house failed, as legend has it, to get their certifications to the adjudicators in time to qualify for placement in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. Now co-owned with Chateau Margaux by the Lorenzetti family, the 21st century has seen a renaissance in quality at Ladouys, and the Merlot-driven wines this Cru Bourgeois has offered in the last 2 decades have been at or above the quality level of Classified Growths (IMO), but without the accordant prices. As frame-forward as any St Estèphe, with deep mineral postholes and bright red fruits with white blossoms and toast. Tight now, Approachable in 5 years, singing in ten. Buy everything you can, this sleeper wakes up as a knight.
92 points James Suckling, $75.99
Chateau Tour Saint-Christophe 2015, Saint Emillon Grand Cru
A bunker-buster from consulting winemaker/arsonist Michel Rolland, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and somehow 5% Napalm. This is the biggest boy in today’s sandbox, rich, textured and gloriously boozy; the nose is like a blueberry bagel and a slice of Christmas cake started playing leapfrog (that is a weird descriptor but try it and tell me I’m wrong). Although robust, the wine is mostly in balance with itself, the tannins are a tad pokey but with food you won’t mind. Will be spectacular in 5 years. Sick value.
96 James Suckling, 95 Jeb Dunnuck, $89.99