2015 is hailed as an exceptional vintage across Europe but there are a few pitfalls to watch out for. The summer was dry and hot with plenty of sunny days which for some was wonderful but for others a little trickier as it followed difficult spring weather or created droughts that put stress on the vines.
It is also worth noting that intense summers can greatly affect ageing capabilities making wines that are usually worth keeping better approached young and vice versa.
France definitely enjoyed roaring success in 2015 particularly in Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Bordeaux produced a fruit forward, soft and relaxed vintage with no shortage of complexity in those wines made well. There is also plenty of it around and with a successful 2016 coming up behind prices have remained good value. Although approachable young many will age well but perhaps not forever. Another decade down and we would expect the full fruit to have suffered a little.
2015 Chateau Capbern Saint Estephe Cru Bourgeois
Chateau Capbern excelled in the 2015 vintage. Owned by the revered Calon Segur the wine making at Capbern is just as well thought through and the 2015 vintage has really highlighted its strengths. It’s a classic tasting St Estéphe and packs quite a punch. Lots of dark fruit and a touch of spice with just the right amount of oak.
2015 Chateau Gazin Pomerol £77 per bottle
Affordable, classic Pomerol isn’t something you often hear. This is full of fresh, juicy fruit but has all the classic Pomerol layers of leather and tobacco coming through. This is definitely a wine to buy now and drink over the next decade.
Burgundy on the other hand had a dismal 2016 making 2015, not only a great vintage for red wines but also one in high demand. Value is harder to find especially as yields were low for both red and white. The white wines struggled a little with acidity which has affected the balance and created rich, heady wines that lack precision.
2015 Domaine Stephane Magnien Morey Saint Denis Les Faconnieres Premier Cru £62 per bottle
Elegant, perfumed and subtle in its complexity this has lovely dark fruit and earthy characteristics that are just beginning to shine through.
2015 Paul Pillot Saint-Aubin Les Pitangerets Premier Cru £49 per bottle
Saint-Aubin has always been a good place to seek out good value white Burgundy and the 2015 Pitangerets from Pillot is a good example. The wine strikes a good balance between fresh, zesty fruit and a lovely rich, smokey finish.
The Rhône regions did well but the Northern Rhône vineyards came off better with good concentration of fruit and good ageing potential.
2015 Domaine Alain Voge Vieilles Vignes Cornas £68 per bottle
Spicy, peppery Cornas seems to invoke that sense of baked earth that only strengthens the joy of this wine. Finding just the right amount of freshness is key though and Alain Voge has done well to keep the concentration of fruit that could easily overpower this wine well balanced with a good dose of acidity.
2015 Paul Jaboulet Aine La Chapelle Hermitage £230 per bottle
Jaboulet was famously taken over in 2006 and the iconic La Chapelle seemed to suffer a little as a result. 2015 was the year it came back with verve. Full bodied, concentrated, dark fruit with endless complexity yet supremely elegant. It is still very young and would benefit from another 5 years in bottle at least but certainly one to try when the time is right.
Italy saw production of some exceptional wines particularly in Piedmont which had a good winter with plenty of snowfall followed by a dry, hot summer that produced a very healthy harvest. The Nebbiolo produced in this vintage is far more nuanced and complex than some years which may be due to the lower acidity levels. When compared to 2016 which is full and fruity there is a difference in depth that makes for an interesting change.
2015 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli Barolo Brunate £49 per bottle
Classic Nebbiolo with bright acidity and tannins that coat the palate but with concentrated cherry fruit. It is jut beginning to settle and will offer good drinking over the next decade.
2015 Produttori Del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG £59 per bottle
We are firm fans of the Produttori cooperative whose wines never waver in quality. The 2015 Rio Sordo Riserva is a particular favourite though. Fresh and spicy on the nose the wine develops into intense complexity with a finish full of chilli that, although different, was surprisingly satisfying.
Tuscany had a less successful year and struggled with a cold, damp winter and a scorching summer which brought yields down and made production very difficult. Despite this, the better producers achieved some great wines that focused on balance as well as concentration and complexity. Sangiovese crops fared worst making it a good year to look to the Super Tuscans and those focusing on non-indigenous grape varieties.
2015 Donna Olimpia 1898 Orizzonte Petit Verdot £85 per bottle
2015 was the first vintage of this immense wine, which is produced in extremely small quantities by the Donna Olimpia estate, which is surrounded by the Ornellaia, Sassicaia, and Guado al Tasso vineyards in the centre of the Bolgheri basin. Petit Verdot is a difficult grape to make varietal wine from, and other examples we have tried from around the world have not been that successful, but this is a well-balanced wine for all its intensity.
Spain is fairly used to heat and sun but 2015 handed over a little more than was necessary. The intensity of the summer encouraged an early harvest in Ribera and Rioja. The older vines coped better as they were able to concentrate flavour into the smaller yields and the complexity hasn’t waned. However, alcohol levels are high making for serious wines that should be approached with caution.
2015 Dominio de Pingus PSI Ribera del Duero DO (Magnum) £72 per magnum
Full, intense and concentrated thanks to the old vines the wine is produced from there is also a wonderful hit of spice on the finish that increases the warmth on the palate.
Australia had an awkward year in 2015. Given the size of the country each region struggled in different ways but yields were down across the board. The more conscious producers were able to work this to their advantage especially for reds in a concentrated style. Most cabernet and shiraz heavy wines needed a little age and now is the time to be seeking them out. Australian whites tend to get tired after a few years but 2015 was a good year for long lasting Rieslings from Clare Valley.
2015 Grosset Springvale Riesling Clare Valley £42 per bottle
An interesting wine that can be hit or miss for some. It has classic Riesling notes and when first released was very dry with bright acidity. Over time this has settled and a richer more pronounced petrol tone has come through.
2015 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz £55 per bottle
Bin 389 (not to be confused with all the others) is aged in the same barrels as the previous vintage of Penfold’s famous Grange. Making at a little more notorious than others. The 2015 is a classic big, bold and confident Australian red but is a little more refined than many. Good dark fruit, spice and lovely freshness on the finish.