The great issue with Bordeaux is basing qualitative judgements on young barrel samples. To put this into context, most professionals taste Burgundy more than twelve months after harvest, but for Bordeaux it isn’t far off six months. Simon's offer, below, on the 2015 Château Prieuré-Lichine, a Bordeaux vintage which we have been revisiting as of late.
While it is not impossible to evaluate the potential of a Bordeaux at an early stage, it is far easier once the wine has been bottled. This is why virtually all wine critics give bracketed scores while the wine is in barrel and definitive scores once they have tasted in bottle. This sometimes leads to significant surprises. A case in point is Bordeaux’s 2015 vintage, as certain wines are showing in a far finer light post-bottling than they did from barrel. This very much true for the commune of Margaux, which was one of the most successful appellations in the 2015 vintage. At Atlas, we were fascinated to see the early scores for 2015 Château Prieuré-Lichine after bottling (offered here at £180 per six bottles in bond). In particular, Jane Anson’s note (Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent), which made for a stark contrast against Neal Martin’s barrel tasting note.
2015 Château Prieuré-Lichine
96 points, Jane Anson, Decanter (IN BOTTLE)
One of the best vintages I have tried from Prieuré Lichine - this was excellent during en primeur and even more so now it's in bottle. Restrained elegance and precision are on display, balancing out the oozing, rich damson fruit and the well placed liquorice edging. Well balanced, the fruit is cleanly cut and held, the ripe black fruits spliced in two. Poised, with good ripeness, a standout for me. 50% new oak barrels, Stéphane Derenoncourt consults.
While I am not great believer in James Suckling’s reviews in general, his note seems to follow similar lines.
96 points, James Suckling (IN BOTTLE)
Some very ripe dark-plum aromas with a wealth of sweet spices and earthy notes. The palate has an impressively rich, suave and smooth core of black fruit with a powerful palate that delivers concentrated and intense structure. This is superb Margaux. Try from 2022.
And this was Neal Martin’s cautious note from spring 2016, when he was tasting the wine from barrel (he has not yet published a note or score from an in bottle tasting):
(88-90) points, Neal Martin, robterparker.com (IN BARREL)
The 2015 Prieuré-Lichine has a tightly wound bouquet, crisp and a little leaner than some of its Margaux compadres. It just feels contained at the moment. The palate is medium-bodied with gruff tannin on the entry. There is respectable depth here, but it feels linear and rather predictable towards the blackberry and cedar finish. I would like to see more complexity and personality come through by the time of bottling. It feels a bit bolshie at the moment.
We know wines can ‘flesh out’, harmonise and take on weight in barrel and were curious to find out for ourselves, so we requested a sample bottle in order to form our own opinions. My note is as follows:
The 2015 Prieuré-Lichine boasts a bright purplish hue, with scented, fragrant, freshly crushed red fruits and dark cherry on the nose. Sleek, fine-tuned, the palate is beautifully expressed, ample depth allied to superb elegance. There is a layered quality to the damson and loganberry fruit, gently creamy with subtle toasty nuances. This is all carried by such a fine vibrancy. By no means imposing, this is all Margaux elegance. A precise, generous example from a Château rediscovering its form. (SL) Drink 2021-2029.
The involvement of Stéphane Derenoncourt, a renowned Bordeaux oenologist, may well be having a huge impact here as this is the most head turning Prieuré-Lichine that I have ever tasted. What is more, it isn’t a bank-breaking wine, offered here at £180 per 6 bottle case in bond.
I expect the in-bottle scores to continue to highlight value in 2015 Bordeaux and this is likely to be a long-running topic this year.