2016 completes an exciting trilogy of vintages here in Pomerol. It is the quality of the Cabernet Franc that shines through in many of the wines, though excellent conditions during the flowering period also benefitted the predominant Merlot, insuring good fruit set and homogeneity. Clay soils also afforded protection against the summer drought. Overall Pomerol 2016s display wonderful fruit tones with succulent tannins and goodish acidity. A truncated trip here meant I had no chance to review the wines of JP Moueix or look at the UGCB wines in detail. The following notes on eighteen wines cover the line up shown principally at the Grand Cercle as well as Pomerols made by Jean-Luc Thunevin and those amongst the consultancy wines of Hubert de Boüard de Laforest.
The best wines in Lalande de Pomerol in 2016 have really good succulence and texture. My picks? Jean-Luc Thunevin has produced another beauty at Domaine des Sabines [pictured left]. This wine shows remarkable consistency year to year. Hubert de Bouard has produced two terrific wines in La Fleur de Boüard and Le Plus de la Fleur de Boüard. The former is ravishing; the latter profound and concentrated. Château La Fleur St George, another de Boüard property, also looks good. Château Grand Ormeau, Château Jean de Gué, La Sergue, Château Saint-Jean de Lavaud and Château de Viaud all impressed at the Grand Cercle tastings. Château Siaurac and Château Tournefeuille, two well-regarded properties, also show promise. Siaurac was a little backward but nicely structured and Tournefeuille displayed plenty of joyful fruit.
2016 looks to be a very good vintage in Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac. These wines traditionally have more sinew and elegance than some of the other right bank districts. The vintage plays to these strengths. The fruit qualities are attractive, nicely fresh and aromatic. These are nimble wines, not in the least overblown, but with good depth, fine acidity and very attractive texture to the tannins. The picks? There is good homogeneity here, but at the very top end Château Dalem, Château de la Dauphine, Haut Carles, Château Moulin Haut Laroque, Château de la Rivière and Château La Viellle Cure look excellent in Fronsac as does the well-known Château Gaby in Canon-Fronsac.
I tasted a good range of Côtes de Bordeaux at the annual Grand Cercle tastings during primeurs, held at Château Montlabert in St Emilion. First impressions of Bordeaux 2016 on the right bank was of a vintage defined by impressive texture and freshness with slightly more modest alcohols than usual. It is an interesting companion piece to the beautiful 2015 vintage. Excellent flowering conditions [in an otherwise damp start to the growing season] encouraged a good fruit set. The drought conditions which occurred in the high summer were relieved by period of brief but productive rain on 13 and 20 September. October was sunny and dry. Castillon stood out for me with very impressive efforts from Château Alcée, Château Cap de Faugères and Château d’Aiguilhe in particular, but there are some very good wines in all the Côtes de Bordeaux appellations. I was also struck by the quality of the wines in Francs from Nicolas Thienpont at Château La Prade and Château Puygueraud, as well as at Château de Franc. There a few wines that were characterised by comparatively high acidity and grip. I think these will settle nicely though and I’d be interested to see them further down the track.
Last year 2015 was wildly heralded. The wines had beauty. The year produced wonderful wine on the right bank, but the picture was a little muddier on the left. Bordeaux 2016 brings greater homogeneity. Excellence is achieved at all levels and in all appellations for the reds. In the Médoc and the Haut-Médoc, the qualitative heights to which the wines soar are remarkable. In that sense it is undoubtedly a great Cabernet year. With the possible exception of 2014 in St Estèphe and 2015 in Margaux, 2016 should probably be seen as the best vintage on the left bank since 2010. But what is particularly exciting about 2016 is that in a great many cases it is a far easier vintage to understand than 2010 at this young stage. The alcohols are significantly lower and the tannins, which are up there with 2010 [and in a few cases even more considerable], seem much more succulent and textured. There is freshness too – and the aromatics are beautiful. The vintage also excels in St Emilion, Pomerol and in Pessac-Léognan. Cabernet Franc has done extremely well, but so too has Merlot. There are exceptions. Firstly the vines struggled with the drought on the lighter soils and in younger plots. Secondly, the hot and dry conditions were not always favourable to some of Bordeaux’s dry whites, the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc in particular. Yet for the reds I came away from many of the tastings during primeurs with the same excitement as I had back in 2009 and 2010. 2016 is potentially great and concludes a trilogy of fascinating vintages for the region.
The joyride around Bordeaux 2016 culminated once again with some remarkable wines in the Haut-Médoc. These were led by Château Palmer, which in 2016 has produced a Margaux to rival last year’s beauty. Overall you would have thought that the dry and hot conditions would have been difficult on some of the gravelly and lighter soils in both Margaux and in Pessac-Léognan, the two key appellations in which I dedicated a large part of my final day tasting. While I did notice a little more variability (some jam/raisin qualities in a couple, over-extraction in others] I was generally very impressed with a great number of wines. Once again the aromatics, the fruit tones and seductive qualities of the tannins were remarkable at the top end. I also explored the Haut-Médoc appellation in some detail. There are a great many wines of interest here in 2016 for the consumer. The vintage appears to rival 2009 and 2010. Stylistically it is almost a hypothetical blend of those two vintages [perhaps with some 2014 thrown in], but with generally more moderate alcohol levels. Time will tell as to 2016s precise place in the pantheon, but it’s obviously a very exciting vintage. Still, dark Brexit clouds mean that this vintage will obviously be released into an uncertain and possibly very different future.