I love the forward thinking approach at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Their respect for the environment and sustainable practices are impressive. It is one of my favourite properties in Bordeaux. Maître de Chais Yann Laudeho took me through the wines here. 2016 as a vintage looks excellent, and the quality has almost taken them by surprise. The red Smith Haut Lafitte is a beauty this year. It is up there with the brilliant wine made in 2015. It is wonderfully generous and has that tell tale texture of the vintage. The white looks very good indeed. It has depth and zest in what was perhaps a challenging vintage for the whites at some properties. The 100% Merlot Château Le Thil is plump and attractive.
Top to bottom, St Emilion has had an excellent vintage in 2016. Qualitatively it is the equal of 2015, but differs stylistically. There is a lot of that bright, beautiful fruit that characterized ’15, but there is more grip, freshness and texture this year. It all makes for an appetising vintage for aficionados of St Emilion. Prices are up – quelle surprise! And if you are unfortunate enough to reside in the UK then the Brexit fiasco has made things pricier still. Still if you’ve the spare cash, this is a vintage to consider. There are a great many St Emilion Grand Cru which are really excellent and the quality of the Grand Cru Classé and the Premier Grand Cru Classé [though very pricey] are extremely impressive. Overall this is an exciting and homogenous vintage. There’s decent quantity available too.
Hubert de Boüard is understandably delighted by the quality of the wine at Château Angélus in 2016. It is remarkable St Emilion that rivals the prodigious 2015. With price up 16% [33% in Sterling terms] on the ’15 the de Boüards clearly think they have something even better on their hands. Yet it is the quality of the other wines here that dazzled particularly this year. Carillon d’Angélus is no slouch. It is nicely layered with wonderfully refined tannins. Château Bellevue showed brilliantly. It has lots of beautiful perfumed fruit and a great texture. Château Daugay is enticing and open. It is all satin and black cherry tones currently. Château Roc de Boisseaux comes fully loaded with black fruits and is lots of fun. 2016 looks impressive across the range here.
Nicolas Thienpont and his team including consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt have produced brilliant St Emilion in the 2016 vintage. The wines show depth and vitality. The aromas are fresh and pure, the fruit glossy and the balance harmonious. Château Berliquet continues its qualitative march ahead with another textured and attractive wine. There is minerality here too. Château Larcis Ducasse is seductive. The fruit tones are delicious. The depth is impressive and the balance is Burgundian. Château Beauséjour is an unadorned beauty. The purity of the fruit is exceptional. Château Pavie Macquin looks to be one of the most impressive efforts here yet. This is strong wine. The power and structure are balanced by freshness, appealing texture and perfectly ripe tannins. 2016 taken together with 2015 and 2014 completes a trio of excellent back-to-back vintages at these properties.
There’s no more enjoyable tasting to be had in Bordeaux than in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. The wines are packed with joy and expression [almost to a fault] and with the mischievous Thunevin knocking about the cuves, there’s a certain electricity in the air. You are never quite sure what is going to happen next! His playfulness comes across in the wines. They are full of surprises and beautiful contradictions. Château Valandraud looks to be every bit as epic in 2016 as it was in 2015. It has volume and concentration. Virginie de Valandraud is vivid and vivacious. Interdit de Valandraud is muscular and solid. It is made from plots that formerly made their way into Valandraud grand vin before its elevation to premier grand cru status. For those without the financial wherewithal for Thunevin’s top grog, St Emilion Grand Crus Clos Badon-Thunevin and Château Bel Air Ouÿ look very good in 2016 and will be affordable.
In 2015 the St Emilion’s from the von Neipperg stables were glossy and lush. 2016 appears to be of similar quality but has quite different characteristics. The wines feel more textured on the mid-palate and show even more freshness. As a vintage, while not as immediately seductive as 2015, it seems to have more evident ‘matter’. I’m a great fan of Clos de l’Oratoire and the 2016 doesn’t disappoint. It has wonderful fruit and polish. Château Canon-la-Gaffelière has quite a bit of zap and verve this year. There is concentration but it also feels very fleet-of-foot. The cabernets in 2016 were clearly wonderful. La Mondotte is its usual glossy, layered, decadent self. It is a real beauty.