In 2016 Pauillac has had the most collectively exciting vintage vintage since 2010. The texture of the tannin is remarkable and the balance is incredibly appealing. I’d go as far to say that, on the basis of the wines I tasted, this is my favourite vintage here since 2009. It has some of the qualities of 2005 and 2000 but the tannin feels more supple than both of those vintages to me [and tannin management has come a long way in the last ten to fifteen vintages]. My only caveat is that, owing to a shortage of time I missed out on tasting some old favourites including Château Batailley, Château Haut-Batailley, Château Lynch Bages, Château Pichon Longueville and Château Pichon Lalande. I hope to taste these wines in the not too distant future and will update this post when I do. In the meantime, here are my notes on fifteen wines from Pauillac in 2016. It includes notes on all the first growths and Château Pontet Canet.
Château Latour surely represents the pinnacle of winemaking achievement in Bordeaux. The majestic terroir beside the Gironde, the expertise of the technical and administrative team led by Frédéric Engerer as well as the general wherewithal and financial largesse of owner François Pinault all have coalesced to make Latour arguably the greatest red wine in the region. It has many rivals and is sometimes eclipsed but it is surely the benchmark to which all of Bordeaux’s [and the world’s] greatest Cabernet producers aspire. In 2016 Château Latour delivers the goods in spades but as it doesn’t do en primeur these days, you will have to slum it with their latest cellar release, Latour 2005. It is wonderful and built to last a century.
Eric Kohler has supervised an impressive set of wines at Château Lafite-Rothschild in 2016. The great qualities of the 2016 vintage are writ large in the wines. The aromatics are beguiling [wonderful freshness and vibrancy] and the tannins succulent and textured. There is also a delicacy and digestibility to the wines which is attractive. Carruades de Lafite has plenty of vibrant, bouncy fruit. It has real beauty. Château Duhart-Milon is more reserved but with multiple layers and depth. Château Lafite-Rothschild looks to be best of recent years. It is more impressive at this stage than the successful 2014 here. In fact there are echoes of the truly great Lafites in 2009 and 2010, albeit that 2016 appears to be fractionally lighter in body than those two vintages.
A great set of Pauillacs have emerged from the Domaine Baron Philippe de Rothschild stable in 2016. This is a perfect vintage for these terroirs. Château d’Armailhac may have produced its most balanced and refined wine yet. It vies with 2009 and 2010 here. This is true also of Château Clerc-Milon which has probably made its best wine since the very impressive 2010. Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild is just as seductive as the precocious 2012. Great stuff! And what of Château Mouton-Rothschild itself? Technically it has more tannin than 2010 but you wouldn’t notice, such is the silky texture here this year. The wine has the most remarkable depth and balance. It must surely go down as one of the great Moutons.
As you’d expect in a vintage like 2016 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste hasn’t put a foot wrong [except perhaps its 25% price rise in euro terms – significantly more in sterling]. I think it is certainly the best Grand-Puy-Lacoste since the 2009 and 2010. There is great depth and length to the wine. The balance is terrific. Despite the upward trajectory of price here, this is a property which remains a continual over-achiever, though back vintages from 2009, 2010 and 2014 look more interesting value to me. Second wine Lacoste Borie looks well worth considering in 2016. This is one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years. It has plenty of ripe, fresh blackcurrant fruit. Spot on Pauillac.
Another beauty has been made here at Château Pontet-Canet in 2016. This is the twelfth vintage that the Pauillac property has used biodynamic practices. Pontet-Canet leads the way in Bordeaux in this vision of a holistic, balanced approach to winegrowing. The results speak for themselves. 2016 was also, remarkably, the fortieth vintage undertaken by Alfred Tesseron. If the renaissance of Pontet-Canet has been his life’s work, it has also been that of his right hand man, the fascinating Jean-Michel Comme. Once again they have harnessed the characteristics of Pontet Canet’s terroir to produce a pure, harmonious Pauillac with the most glorious texture. It represents the entire harvest. No second wine was produced. If you can afford it, buy it.