Bordeaux 2015: The great truffle hunt

In terms of both the inconsistent nature of the wines and their performance so far in the secondary market, Bordeaux 2015 remains a vintage dominated by “truffles” according to Liv-ex.

The UK trade will get a chance to re-evaluate the wines from the vintage at the Union des Grands Crus tasting in London tomorrow (17 October), a tasting to reaffirm (or challenge) the views they formed of the wines during last year’s primeur tastings.

Despite some initial high hopes, the general consensus was that while certain wines were perfectly brilliant, others had suffered from either heavy rains (the northern Médoc) or over ripeness and over extraction (the Right Bank, especially St Emilion), which left the vintage just shy of ‘great’.

Neal Martin in his summing up said: “The general level of quality is high, however, this is not a vintage of averages. It is an undulating landscape of highs and yes, the occasional low.”

Margaux (the commune and first growth) and Pessac-Léognan were considered outstanding performers from the Left Bank and Martin described the best of Pomerol and Saint Emilion as, “potentially astonishing wines”, while the Sauternes are, “fabulous”.

So despite some serious peaks, it was not a vintage as forgiving as, for example, the 2010s or 2009s where buyers could pick and choose with relative impunity.

Tomorrow’s tasting will be a chance for buyers and critics to re-evaluate this vintage with the quality of the wine in mind but if the search for the best of 2015 is akin to truffle-hunting, so too, says Liv-ex, is the quest for opportunity in the secondary market.

In a report released today (16 October), Liv-ex has laid out which wines have appreciated since last summer’s campaign and which are still struggling by the wayside, weighed down (no doubt) by the heavy price increases that were the hallmark of the campaign.

Liv-ex noted that since the end of primeurs last summer, its benchmark index for Bordeaux, the Bordeaux 500, has increased 19.7% (in sterling).

In the same period, the average market price for the 2015s (which will be added to the index in June 2018) has risen 18.3% but while this seems very impressive it is largely due to the outstanding performance of a very few labels. The actual median price change is 7.6% because most wines haven’t moved in price at all.

There has clearly been high demand for some of the most critically-lauded wines, especially those which matched their scores with a well-judged release price.

The 2015 Canon for example (over the course of several campaigns an increasing darling of the trade because of its “sensible” asking prices) has seen its price increase a “remarkable” 122% since release – from £750 to £1,663.

Lafleur is another top performer, up 88.5%, and other labels include: Carruades de Lafite (74.6%), Rauzan-Ségla (57%), Figeac (47.5%), Haut-Bailly, Beychevelle, Clerc Milon, Clinet and Margaux.

“Popularity and limited distribution” has helped wines such as Lafleur, while Asia has given a boost to “perennial favourites” such as Carruades, Beychevelle and Clerc Milon.

Interestingly, although the high price increases on many wines was a sore point throughout the campaign, using its ‘fair value’ methodology Liv-ex points out that a good 30 top labels might be considered ‘undervalued’ – including all of the first growths and wines such as Vieux Château Certan, Pape Clement and Lynch Bages.

Furthermore, as the price of the 2016 vintage was typically 20-40% more than the 2015s because of the unfavourable euro-pound exchange rate, some of the 2015s could end up looking like even better deals – especially where the 2015 wine carries a better score than its 2016 counterpart.

On the other hand, quite a few wines – principally on the Right Bank – are still overvalued – Troplong Mondot most of all but also Montrose, Cheval Blanc, Pavie, Ausone, Trotanoy and Pontet Canet.

As Liv-ex concluded: “Liv-ex initially labelled the 2015 En Primeur campaign as a ‘truffle hunt’ rather than a gold rush, alluding to the inconsistent nature of both quality and opportunity. Fifteen months on this conclusion remains valid. Whether or not more truffles emerge will be dependent on critical re-evaluation in the coming months.”

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