Serendipitous conditions came together in 2015 to make a great vintage; early, quick flowering across our vineyards, a dry summer triggering early signs of water shortage blocking growth in the vine, and welcome rains just when it mattered to promote excellent ripening in the grapes. In addition, ideal weather accompanied the white grape harvest and lastly, the red grape harvest, spread over time from 18 September to 14 October, allowing us the luxury of waiting patiently for each parcel to reach perfect ripeness.
Through their hard work and unwavering commitment, our teams took full advantage of these near perfect conditions to produce very good wines, whose character is defined by the profile of the terroir.
Read on to learn more about the 2015 vintage as it unfurled through the seasons in the Chateaux of Vignobles Dourthe
Winter and spring
2015 got off to a chilly start, and will be remembered for one of the coldest Februarys in the last thirty years. After several morning frosts in the last ten days of March, the return of warmer weather stimulated bud burst. The very first green tips emerged from 31 March in the early ripening Merlots at Châteaux Le Boscq and Pey la Tour, with the other varieties following suit, on 6 April at Château Reysson and 10 April at Châteaux Rahoul and Belgrave, with lovely, plentiful and consistent shoots. The hot, dry weather set in for the long haul from mid-April, with 28°c recorded 15 April, triggering vigorous growth in the vine, which meant we had to carry out an extensive green harvest on the flourishing vegetation.
The first flowers appeared 26 May at Château La Garde and Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, almost three months ahead of schedule. Flowering was quick and consistent across all varieties, with virtually nothing to separate the Merlots from the Cabernets. Flowering took place across all our vineyards amid excellent summer conditions, with no adverse weather of note. Disease pressure was very low, with very little coulure to report, even in the traditionally coulure-prone Merlots. This was the type of flowering that every grower dreams of.
Summer weather lasted for many weeks, with significant water shortage as a result. Lack of rainfall from mid-June to the end of July on the more well-drained sand and gravel soils slowed vigour in the more vulnerable vines. While the red grapes were 10-15 days ahead of schedule at flowering, this was no longer the case.
The first berries began to change colour at Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac 16 July, where the clay subsoil’s capacity to retain water helped keep the soils relatively cool. On the warm, well-drained gravel soils found typically at La Garde, Belgrave, or in the less hardy vines less than 10 years old, the process was somewhat longer. Much welcome rain fell 28 July and 3 August, between 5-20mm depending on the area, triggering significantly slower veraison and facilitating growth in the grapes, which were still very small at the end of July.
Launched relatively early for the dry whites, the Sauvignon blanc and Semillon harvests stretched from 27 August to 15 September avoiding any excessively high temperatures.
Glorious weather at the start of September was interrupted a couple of weeks later by rain showers, which varied in intensity depending on the area, from significant in certain areas of North Medoc to light to very light in our vineyards on the right bank.
Sunshine, warm days and cool nights all played a role in creating concentrated colours, aromas and tannins. Good weather meant we could patiently wait for each parcel to reach optimum ripeness. Harvesting maintained a relaxed rhythm, from 18 September at Château Rahoul and Belgrave for the earliest Merlots until 14 October for the last Cabernets at Château de Ricaud.
Grapes in pristine condition, the hard work of our teams in both the vineyards and winery, and high-performance sorting equipment, all provided excellent conditions for vinifications, and for certain parcels made it possible to carry out lengthy post-fermentation soaking to reveal the concentration and quality of the grapes.
Merlots from the later-ripening or high clay-content soils are more concentrated and intense. The Cabernets and Petit Verdots show excellent quality across the board, and reveal lovely aromas, colour, tannins and excellent balance.
The blends offer powerful wines, concentrated on the right bank, and on the left bank, intensely aromatic wines, rounder in structure and showing lovely freshness.
Basically a very good vintage!