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Bordeaux 2016: Pessac-Léognan & Graves Red

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Pessac-Léognan has produced some brilliant wines in 2016. Many have wonderful plush fruit tones and that moreish texture that defines the vintage. The knockout red this year is Château Haut-Bailly. For me it just pips Château Haut-Brion, Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Smith Haut Lafitte at this early stage. That’s not to say that these latter properties haven’t made belting wines [they have] but the purity and depth of Haut-Bailly is amazing this year. There is a bevy of other wines that are wonderfully lush and forward. To this extend I think 2016 might prove a relatively precocious, early maturing year here for many of the reds. Wonderful wines have been made too at Domaine de Chevalier, Château de Fieuzal, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Château Malartic-Lagravière, Château Haut Bergey and Château Olivier [lovely purity]. Château Bouscaut has produced a blinder. It is textured and lush. Château Pape Clément, usually right up at the top of the tree, felt a little subdued when tasted back in the spring. Expect this to come good during elévage.

The vintage in Pessac-Léognan in 2016 is not entirely homogeneous however. A few properties have struggled with the heat and drought. These wines have chewy tannins and flavours more towards the prune and fig. In that respect overall I reckon 2015 may turn out to be the better vintage here. It has slightly more vivid fruit tones and fresher acidities, but it all depends on the terroir. At the top end there is a lot to like about the best wines from Pessac-Léognan in 2016. The texture and plushness of the fruit is wonderful.

The notes on the following wines were taken predominantly at the UGCB event held at Château Carbonnieux in April. I’ve also included the notes on three properties in Graves. As ever the notes are more important than the numbers.

Château Bouscaut, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated colour; ripe fruits; some strawberry notes; quite unctuous and full; attractive blackcurrant jam notes on the palate; ripe with good texture; chocolate on the finish. Aromatic, textured and full of lush fruit and supported by succulent tannin. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 92-94

Château Carbonnieux, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and arterial; dark at centre; some chocolate; some fig; black cherry; palate a little chewy and over extracted; quite tannic; needs to settle – clearly lots of extract and matter but a bit of a mouthful on the day. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2028. 86-87

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; Burgundian approach here; ripe fruits; some strawberry and cherry with undergrowth; earth; like it; palate has seductive red fruits with hints of strawberry jam but has good structure beneath the abundant fruit; has freshness and acidity. Inky but works. Like this. [45% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, half of the grapes whole bunch fermented, 13.8% alc, pH 3.55]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2032. 92-94+

Château de Fieuzal, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated; healthy purple at edge; firmer fruit profile; attractive blackcurrant and earth tones; works really well aromatically; textured blackcurrant fruit on the palate; lovely; grip here too; quite extracted and tannic but the tannin very ripe and succulent. Very impressive red from de Fieuzal. [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 93-95+

Château de France, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated looking; opaque at centre; fruitcake, prunes; slightly chalky and inky on the palate; extracted; tannins dry and present. Drought problems. Finishes rather dry. [50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2025. 85-87

Château Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; purple edge; fruit cake spice, jam; lifted aromatics; lots of sweet, ripe fruit on the palate; on the jammy side; but generous and easy; lacks a bit of life and acidity on the finish. Not overdone however. Will work well in a forward, hedonistic style. [40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit-Verdot, 3% Malbec]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 91-93+

Château Haut-Bailly, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated looking; very deep aromatics; lots of depth; beautiful fruit; opens up the glass; very deep indeed; pure; full; pure; profound; tannins nicely done but has freshness and life; this will work very well indeed. Really nice balance. Big but lovely cool fruit. Good length. Top notch. Will be brilliant – potentially as perfect at 2010 but different stylistically. [53% Cabernet, 40% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 50% new oak]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2025-2045. 96-100

Château Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated; healthy looking; colour tight to rim; lovely pure ripe fruit; beautiful plum tones; very mannered and complete; real depth; compact and dense on the palate; intensity; feels correct; some texture to the tannins; freshness on the finish; length; acidity. Will come together nicely. Fractionally less impressive than the first growths in Pauillac qualitatively but it will be interesting to see how it develops during elévage. Did the vintage play to the strengths of Merlot on the terroir here as much as it did to the Cabernets further north? Opened up in the glass; reveals certain plumpness and extract. Very fine Haut-Brion certainly. [56% Merlot, 35.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.5% Cabernet Franc, 13.9% alc]. Tasted 4/4/17. 2024-2045. 96-98

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; minty menthol aromatics; some blackcurrant jam; quite tannic on the palate with plenty of guts and depth; has the texture though; good length on the end [62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 90-92+

Château Latour-Martillac, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated looking; opaque at core; bright cherry aromatics; cassis; some ink; works; good initial entry on the palate; then comes the tannin and the extract; chewy at present and needs to settle. Puckering on the finish. Needs to settle [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 8% Petit-Verdot, 13.7% alc]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2028. 86-90?

Château La Louvière, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; cassis and black cherry jam; easy and attractive; ripe style; sweet and ripe entry on the palate; cherry and blackcurrant fruit; positive and has life on the palate; inky finish but this should work well. Has clarity. [60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2030. 90-91+

Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated; vibrant at edge; more inky and intense than La Chapelle de Haut-Brion; great depth; very satisfying – really nicely composed and mannered; little oak noticeable; mineral; firm; strong; tannic; fairly classic La Mission; lots of extract and matter; nicely done; tannins ripe but firmness and some freshness here. Very good length. More obviously tannic than Haut Brion. [57.5% Merlot, 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.7% alc]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2026-2046. 96-97+

Château Le Pape, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep earthy purple colour; healthy looking; deep aromatics; ripe and full; spices; layered and textured palate; good acidity; nice balance; quite compact on the finish. Length. Freshness but with texture. This is the third vintage of La Pape released since the purchase of the property. [80% Merlot, 20% Cab Sauvignon, 45hl/ha, 9ha property with 5 ha presently planted. Annual production around 20,000 bottles.]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2028. 90-92+

Château Le Thil, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep, dark and saturated look; red at edge; earthy; sweet ripe Merlot, black fruits; clean and very attractive; fresh acidity. Works well. Produced from a small plot of Merlot on clay soils. [6ha, 100% Merlot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2028. 90-92+

Château Malartic-Lagravière, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated look; tight at centre; ripe and lifted fruits [strawberry] with ripe plum and black cherry tones; layers of fruit; full palate with lashings of sweet, ripe fruit. This will work well. [53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2032. 92-94+

Château Olivier, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep; earthy purple at edge; attractive fruit tones; blackcurrant; perfume; ripe entry on the palate; bright fruit; has freshness that some in the appellation lack; great acidity. Bright wine. Works well. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 91-92

Château Pape Clément, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep looking; purple at edge; soft, ripe plummy Merlot on the nose; cassis notes with black cherry jam; some lift; cherry and black fruits on the palate; nicely balanced if a little compact. [50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2032. 91-93

Château Picque Caillou, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and healthy looking; herbal aromatics; lifted; nice Cabernet here; spicy, clean and bright; little oak on the palate to integrate but nice texture and depth to the wine. This will fill out nicely I suspect. Fresher style. Works. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit-Verdot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2028. 90-91+

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated colour; really deep; very refined aromatics; blackcurrant and raspberry notes with mineral tones; real composure here; lovely entry on the palate; great texture; focused but ample and generous at the same time; nice freshness on the finish; lovely balance. Excellent Smith Haut Lafitte. Up there with the recent greats. Will drink early but has the balance to last. [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 13.5% alc]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2040. 95-97+

Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated look; dark at core; ripe fruit characters; plummy tones from the Merlot: round and well integrated oak; soft texture; easy style in some senses; quite warm on the finish. Some length. [45% Merlot. 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cab Franc, alc 13.5]. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted 1/4/17. 88-90

Domaine de Chevalier, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; deep core; lovely pure fruit; blackcurrants, black cherry, some kirsch and cassis; mint; palate very nicely composed; packed with fruit; lovely texture. Little dry on the finish. Impressive. [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 93-95+

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; slightly looser at rim; composed on the nose; nicely layered; spice; blackcurrant [the Cabernet Franc]; little earth; attractive; delicacy here; nice entry; nice acidity; has flesh; will fill out; composed; good extract and texture; nice length; elegance. [42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36.5% Merlot, 21.5% Cabernet Franc, 13.8% alc]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 90-92+

La Parde Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated; fresh and bright fruit; cherry, plum and earth; vivacious; fresh and nice texture on the palate; really groovy balance; nice modesty and balance here; proportion. Very good stuff. [47% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 6%]. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted 4/4/17. 91-93+

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; healthy red at edge; more emphasis on the blackcurrant and dark cherry; strong; caressing quality; elegance but not in the mean sense; opens up; some perfume; nice acidity; freshness; little firmness here up unadorned; elegant. Some length. [51.3% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.1% Cabernet Franc, 2.6% Petit Verdot, 13.6% alc]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2030. 91-93+

Le Petit Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Very deeply coloured; tight to the rim; rich and attractive red on the nose; sweet ripe fruit on the attack; full and plush palate but has some zest and acidity. Fresh finish. Textured. Made from fruit from younger vines from the Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2028. 91-93

GRAVES

Château de Chantegrive, Graves, 2016

Deep colour; bright at edge; fresh aromatics; chocolate and earth; blackcurrant and black cherry; little raisin note; ripe tannin nice texture. Low acidity. Good, gutsy effort this. [60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2020-2028. 87-89

Château Ferrande, Graves, 2016

Deep and saturated look; purple at edge; deeply coloured at centre; figgy note; prunes and raisins; some earth; lacks freshness on the nose; palate rather stewed and lacking in life. Inky/chewy finish. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2020-2026. 82-84

Château Rahoul, Graves, 2016

Mid depth; attractive fruit on the nose; plushness; blackcurrant and black cherry fruit; sweet and ripe; fresh palate with nice acidity and texture. Good effort. [60% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2028. 88-90

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