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2015 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting

James Molesworth is tasting barrel samples in Bordeaux to get a first glimpse of the 2015 vintage, easily the most anticipated since the stellar 2010. Follow along with his scores, tasting notes and daily blogs
Photo by: Mathieu Anglada
The 2015 vintage is sitting in barrel at Clerc Milon in Pauillac.

James Molesworth
Posted: March 21, 2016

Updated April 26, 2016. New blogs and notes will be posted regularly throughout the tastings.

WineSpectator.com members: Read James Molesworth's 2015 Bordeaux scores and tasting notes.

Follow Along with James Molesworth's 2015 Bordeaux Barrels Diary

It's that time again. Forsythia is blooming. The days are longer. Provence rosé is coming in by the container load. Spring is here … oh, and Bordeaux is showing off its newest vintage.

This time it's the 2015 vintage on display for négociants, press, retail and restaurant buyers, consumers and more during Bordeaux's annual en primeur season. It looks to be the best vintage since 2010. The bad news is … well, there's not too much bad news, really. The August and September rains that fell were generally needed, following what was an extremely hot and dry growing season. The hiccup is that the late-season rains were heavier in some spots, particularly the upper Médoc, around Pauillac and St.-Estèphe, so there will be some inconsistencies.

In general, the early buzz says Pessac and Margaux reds lead the way on the Left Bank, as they ducked the heaviest rains. On the Right Bank, there are lots of successes too. The caveat there is the hot and dry season lead to slightly higher-than-usual alcohols, so Merlot planted on cooler clay and limestone spots fared best.

Dry whites look very, very strong, with Sauvignon Blanc harvested under ideal conditions. The sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes are also extremely promising, with more, but lighter, periods of rain than in the Médoc that were spread out and perfectly alternated with sunny, windy weather that spurred successive waves of botrytis.

But remember that these wines are still unfinished, sitting in barrel. The samples shown are approximations of the final blend of the wine, but there may be tweaks yet to come. They also still have another six months or more to go before they will be bottled. So why taste them now?

These wines are about to be offered for sale, first to the trade and then to you, the consumer, as futures, for delivery once they are bottled.

But why buy now? Because as a consumer, the initial price offered by the château (with subsequent markups through the négociant system and eventually to retail) will likely represent the best price you'll see if the vintage proves to be outstanding. Additional releases, or tranches, typically increase in price. By the time bottled wines reach retail shelves, the cost could be much higher, and the top wines could be harder to find. Should the vintage turn out to be stellar, those purchasing wine for investment might win in the long run by securing quantities of wine at the earlier pricing.

On the other hand, if it doesn't turn out to be an excellent vintage, then prices likely won't appreciate, and there may be no need to rush.

For some history on en primeur and how it all got started, check out "The Origins of En Primeur," penned by then Château Cos-d'Estournel general director Jean-Guillaume Prats.

As usual, my first week will be spent visiting around two dozen estates, where I'll meet and taste with some of the region's top producers, as well as some new faces. You can follow along via my blog for informal impressions on these wines.

After that, I settle in for several days of tasting barrel samples. The samples are supplied directly from the châteaus and are reviewed in blind tastings organized by Wine Spectator staff. These tastings will generate the official reviews that we'll post here and in the magazine.

For background on how I move around Bordeaux during the en primeur season, you can reference my previous Bordeaux barrel-tasting coverage from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

Keep in mind that my en primeur tastings are an introduction to the vintage, focusing on wines both widely available and popular in the U.S. market and highlighting sleepers and values, but this report is not a comprehensive overview of the vintage. For that you'll have to wait for my annual report in the magazine in March 2018. You can check out my 2013 Bordeaux tasting report in the March 31 issue.

You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

James Molesworth's 2015 Bordeaux Barrels Diary

April 26, 2016: Christian Moueix

Deepix Studio

Christian Moueix is one of Bordeaux's most influential players; his family firm owns or manages some of the region's top estates. James Molesworth wraps up his 2015 Bordeaux Barrels Diary with a visit to Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix to taste La Fleur-Pétrus, Trotanoy, Bélair-Monange and more. Read more.

April 25, 2016: Stéphane Derenoncourt's Bordeaux Clients

Christophe Goussard

James Molesworth tastes through a lineup of some of Stéphane Derenoncourt's many clinets, uncovering some little-known gems and new wines to watch. Read Part 2 of Molesworth's visit with Derenoncourt.

April 22, 2016: Domaine de l'A

Christophe Goussard

With his own Domaine de l'A and some 70 consulting clients, Stéphane Derenoncourt is busy, but not too busy to show James Molesworth his 2015 vintages. Read Part 1 of Molesworth's visit with Derenoncourt.

April 20, 2016: Doisy Daëne

Deepix Studio

Denis Dubourdieu shows James Molesworth how far Bordeaux's dry whites have come with his Doisy Daëne, Reynon and Clos Floridène 2015s. Read more.

April 18, 2016: Haut-Brion and La Mission

Photo courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

The sister stars of Pessac-Léognan shine in this vintage with robust reds and bright whites. James Molesworth visits with Jean-Philippe Delmas, who oversees the winemaking. Read more.

April 15, 2016: Quintus

Photo by James Molesworth

The owners of Haut-Brion are making a stand in St.-Emilion, where their new Quintus is finally ready to take wing. James Molesworth shares his notes on the reds. Read more.

April 14, 2016: Pascal Chatonnet

Photo by James Molesworth

Pascal Chatonnet may be best known for his research into cellar taint, but he also makes notable Right Bank reds. James Molesworth pays a visit to his immaculate cellar. Read more.

April 13, 2016: Cheval-Blanc

Photo by Gérard Uféras

Technical director Pierre-Olivier Clouet is so happy with the 2015 vintage that there was nothing left for the famed St.-Emilion estate's second wine. James Molesworth checks out the grand vin, along with a sample of Château d'Yquem Sauternes. Read more.

April 12, 2016: Vieux Château Certan

Photo by James Molesworth

Team Thienpont wins again as Merlot and Cabernet Franc shine in 2015. James Molesworth evaluates the latest from the venerable Right Bank estate. Read more.

April 11, 2016: Pétrus: Peak Pomerol

Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images

The 2015 Merlot at this elite Right Bank estate is a stellar effort from winemakers Jean-Claude and Olivier Berrouet. James Molesworth describes why it's exceptional. Read more.

April 8, 2016: Château Marquis d'Alesme: Dragon Scales in Margaux

Photo courtesy of Marquis d'Alesme

With quality on the rise at this third-growth, winemaker Marjolaine Maurice-de Coninck's Margauxs are wines to watch. James Molesworth pays a visit. Read more.

April 7, 2016: Easy Does It at Château Palmer

Photo courtesy of Château Palmer

The third-growth estate's CEO, Thomas Duroux, is methodically building world-class wines in Margaux. James Moleworth shares his impressions of the young reds. Read more.

April 6, 2016: Château Margaux—Setting the Bar for the Vintage

Photo by Deepix Studio

James Molesworth finds a stunning range of 2015s during his visit with the first-growth château's new technical director, Sébastien Vergne. Read more.

April 5, 2016: Ducru-Beaucaillou—Never Second Best

Photo by Deepix

Bruno Borie, owner of the St.-Julien "Super Second," refuses to settle. In 2015, he may have achieved peak quality, finds James Molesworth during his latest visit. Read more.

April 4, 2016: Léoville Poyferré Stands Up

Photo by: Stephen Wolfenden/Cephas

Long in the shadow of Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré's 2015 St.-Julien should rank among the Left Bank's top wines, James Molesworth reports. Read more.

April 1, 2016: A Smooth Operation at Lynch Bages

James Molesworth

James Molesworth visits Jean-Charles Cazes to taste the 2015 Château Lynch Bages Pauillac grand vin, along with the young wines from Ormes de Pez. Read more.

March 31, 2016: The Tower Stands Tall

James Molesworth

James Molesworth visits Frédéric Engerer to taste the 2015 Château Latour Pauillac grand vin, along with the exceptional 2000 vintage. Read more.

March 30, 2016: A Man of Many Hats

James Molesworth

James Molesworth visits Philippe Castéja, whose wine interests stretch across Bordeaux, at his flagship Château Batailley in Pauillac, where Denis Dubourdieu is consulting. Read more.

March 29, 2016: Cos of the Terroir

James Molesworth says that because of Cos-d'Estournel's late-ripening terroir, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes could not be harvested in St.-Estèphe before the October rains hit. However, the gravel-based soils, which drain easily, allayed any issues with the water; clay-based Merlot vineyards did not fare as well. Read more.

March 28, 2016: Follow the Yellow Château

Courtesy of Château Lafon-Rochet

James Molesworth discovers that at Château Lafon-Rochet, Basile Tesseron has a secret weapon in consultant Jean-Claude Berrouet, the former winemaker at Pétrus. They have quality on the rise at this St.-Estèphe estate. Read more.

March 25, 2016: Lafite's New Guy

James Molesworth visits Eric Kohler at Château Lafite Rothschild, where he's off to a great start with his first vintage at the helm. Molesworth also gets a peek at the 2015s from L'Évangile, Duhart-Milon and Rieussec. Read more.

March 24, 2016: Early Bird Gets the Vintage

James Molesworth

James Molesworth says it's clear skies for Mouton-Rothschild's 2015 vintage after the Pauillac first-growth got its harvest in before rains hit in early October. Read more.

March 23, 2016: Pichon Longueville Lalande's New Benchmark

Courtesy of Pichon Longueville Lalande

James Molesworth stops in at Pichon Longueville Lalande in Pauillac for a preview of the 2015 grand vin with Nicolas Glumineau. The vintage may herald a new benchmark for this storied estate. Read more.

March 22, 2016: Tradition Meets Innovation at Pichon-Longueville Baron

Courtesy of Pichon-Longueville Baron

James Molesworth kicks off his 2015 château visits in Bordeaux at Pichon-Longueville Baron in Pauillac, where Christian Seely and his team have been in place for decades, but the winery's evolution continues. Read more.

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