For Bordeaux, the teen years of the 21st century have generally been awkward, somewhat difficult and challenging for their parents and guardians to nurture and coax the best out of. 

The new Millennium started out promising with a very good vintage in the year 2000, the following year was also one with charm, producing considerable wines. The year 2005 was almost perfection and sent prices for Bordeaux reds sky high. Then 2009 and 2010 closed out the decade with two exceptional years.

However, it could be said that 2011 through to 2013 where very difficult years, and while I have found some early drinking and pleasing wines from 2011, one famous wine writer described the entire vintage as “forgettable”. The year 2012 faired a little better but poor weather at the time of harvest made it tricky for many. Thing slightly improved in 2013, a vintage beset by disease pressure and light, poor wines. The next year showed some improvement, certainly producing the best wines since 2010.

The weather throughout a season plays a critical role in quality. Ideally, good rains in winter are followed by a mild spring with good showers but no frosts, hail or storms. Then a warm summer, relatively dry with no extreme heat waves, followed by a mild, long, dry autumn, creating a long slow ripening, resulting in small, concentrated berries with good, complex ripeness and anthocyanin development whilst retaining good levels of natural acidity. 

Fortunately for Bordeaux, the decade seems to be finding its feet with the 2015 and 2016 vintages. While no one was hailing 2015 the vintage of the century, it is has undoubtedly produced the best wines since 2010. Margaux seems to have fared the best of the Medoc region with the 2015 wines of Saint Emillion and Pommerol on the left bank also receiving much praise.

Early indications are that 2016 looks another quality vintage, although a little more demanding on the vineyard and winery staff than the previous year. The harvest was later than recent vintages with almost no disease pressure so that grapes could achieve full ripeness. In the winery colour extraction seems universally very good and an early report I received from Cos d’Estournel in Saint Julien suggests that the reds are fresh and elegant with good depth and intensity.

The plush 2015 Bordeaux wines are for drinking, while it would seem the firm tannins in the 2016 wines suggest they will age a while longer and take a little more time in the cellar to reach their peak.

Darren Gall has spent a quarter of a century involved in virtually every aspect of the wine industry and the passionate pursuit of the next great bottle continues. gall.darren@yahoo.com