SI PRIME: The Best of Bordeaux – A ranking of wines and vintages

Wine professionals blind- tasted the 2015 & 2009 vintages of Bordeaux at the annual Southwold-on Thames tasting

Following the Southwold-on-Thames Tasting at Farr Vintners in London, Steven Spurrier lists the best Bordeaux wines from the 2015 and 2009 vintages

In 1980, Simon Loftus, OBE, chairman of Suffolk brewers Adnams, based in Suffolk, invited some colleagues to Southwold to assess the 1976 vintage from Bordeaux, a practice that continues to this day. Last January, 19 of us re-convened at Farr Vintners’ beautiful tasting room overlooking the Thames in London for what is now called “Southwold-on-Thames” to taste the major wines of Bordeaux. The wines are tasted blind in flights of 12 within their appellations and ranked on the average of the total marks on the 20 point scale. Two bottles of each wine are collected from the châteaux and for some years now the second bottles are assessed at a “10 Years On” tasting by the same group. This year the vintages were 2015 and 2009.

The group covered 20 dry and 27 sweet whites and 214 red wines. We know which wines are in each flight but not the order of serving. It was plain that 2015 was a better vintage than the four previous years, especially for the Right Bank, but not as great as the classic 2010 and the opulent 2009. It is probably just behind 2005 and 2000 and just ahead of the lovely 2001. The style is ripe, supple and approachable now but, with some exceptions, lacking the intensity and intrigue of a great vintage. For many of us, it recalled 1985.
Here are the results:
* Top Right Bank First Growth and top wine overall – Ausone.
* Top Left Bank First Growth – Haut-Brion.
* Top Non-First Growth – Leoville-Barton.
* Saint-Emilion – Canon and Figeac dead heat followed by Valandraud.
* Pomerol – Lafleur followed by Eglise Clinet and Vieux Ch. Certan.
* Pessac-Leognan – Smith Haut-Lafitte followed by Domaine de Chevalier and Carmes Haut-Brion.
* Margaux – Brane-Cantenac followed by Rauzan-Segla and Palmer.
* Saint-Julien – Leoville-Barton followed by Leoville-Poyferre and Leoville-Las Cases.
* Pauillac – Pichon-Longuevile-Lalande followed by Pichon-Longueville-Baron and Lynch-Bages.
* Saint-Estephe – Montrose followed by Meyney and Calon-Segur.
* Dry Whites – Haut-Brion followed by Smith Haut-Lafitte and La Mission Haut Brion.
* Sauternes – d’Yquem followed by Doisy- Daene and Suduiraut.

The general view was that 2009 was definitely a Left Bank vintage. The First Growths received many 20/20s and I gave a modest 19/20 to both Latour and Margaux. These are great wines with a long future in front of them. For the rest, most have opened up well and are ready now. No dry whites had been
retained, so our two-day tasting covered 25 sweet whites and 155 reds. Again, wines were tasted single-blind in flights of 12.
The results
* Top Left Bank First Growth and top wine overall – Latour.
* Top Right Bank First Grwoth – Cheval Blanc.
* Top Non-First Growth – Leoville-Poyferre.
* Saint-Emilion – Canon followed by Belair- Monange and Pavie.
* Pomerol – Le Gay followed by La Conseillante and La Violette.
* Pessac-Leognan – Pape-Clement followed by Branon and de Fieuzal.
* Margaux – Issan followed by Kirwan and Rauzan-Segla.
* Saint-Julien – Leoville-Poyferre followed by Saint-Pierre and Leoville-Barton and Ducru- Beaucaillou dead heat.
* Pauillac – Pichon-Longuevile-Baron followed by Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Les Forts de Latour.
* Saint-Estephe – Montrose followed by Cos d’Estournel and Les Ormes de Pez.
* Sauternes – Guiraud followed by Rayne- Vigneau and Fargues.

See also  “Brown Gins?!” Seriously?

After both these fascinating tastings, the group was asked to rank the vintages from 2000 in order of

Line-up of Bordeaux 2015 wines. The tasting covered 214 red wines, 20 dry & 27 sweet wines

preference. Here is the result:

1. 2010                       9. 2008
2. 2009                      10. 2006
2. 2005                      11. 2003
4. 2000                      12. 2004
5. 2015                      13. 2007
6. 2001                      14. 2011
7. 2014                      15. 2002
8. 2012                      16. 2013

Next year we will taste the highly rated 2016s in January and the following month the 2010s ten years on. Will there be changes at the top? Watch this space.


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