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Bordeaux Primeurs 2016: Day 3

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Day three was spent in the northern left bank, principally St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. Having tasted many of the top estates I was left in no doubt that Bordeaux 2016 has produced some of the most remarkable wine since the 2009 and 2010 vintages. I’d even go as far as saying that I prefer this vintage at this stage. The aromatics are beautiful, the wines packed with fruit and extract, the acidity is as fresh as 2010 but the tannins are as succulent as in 2009. Importantly alcohols are more moderate [well under 14%] which makes for wines of exceptional balance. Château Calon-Ségur, Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel have all made remarkable, deeply coloured St Estèphe. In Pauillac Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Pontet-Canet and Château Lafite-Rothschild have made their most exciting wines since 2009. Leading St Julien’s Château Léoville-Poyferré, Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou [in particular] in different ways, leave you speechless. At this level 2016 in the northern Haut-Médoc looks to be a breath-taking vintage that exhausts the superlatives.

I started out early at 6.30am on a foggy Monday morning [above] to make an 8.00am appointment at Château Calon-Ségur in St Estèphe. Calon-Ségur is one of my favourite top-level Bordeaux wines [and it is also somewhat undervalued]. Vincent Millet described a remarkable vintage [not at all promising to begin with] but the summer drought, allied with the sunny hot temperatures [yet cool nights] led to a concentrated crop of small berries, that were finally able to finally ripen to perfection following the important rain on September 13. The result is a deeply coloured, intensely woven Calon-Ségur that vies with 2009, 2010 and 2014 here qualitatively speaking, in what has been a recent purple patch for the property. Château Capbern also looks good this year.

Château Montrose has produced a remarkable young wine in 2016. It is clearly in the same league as 2009, 2010 and 2014, though different in style to these vintages. The blackcurrant and cherry aromatics are as deep and layered as you are ever likely to encounter. Yet there is important freshness too. Truly great Montrose in the making. Château Tronquoy-Lalande also looks impressive.

The same can be said of Château Cos d’Estournel. This is one of the finest young wines I have had the opportunity to taste. The balance is better than 2009, more reminiscent of a hypothetical blend of 2010 and 2015 [an exceptionally good effort in the ’15 vintage here]. Great stuff. Also their mid priced Médoc Goulée shows exceptional depth of fruit and refinement. It shows how exciting a prospect 2016 will be in the Médoc appellation. For me this is hands-down the most sophisticated Goulée I have yet tasted.

In Pauillac you’d expect the first growths to impress, but I was knocked-out by the balance and texture of the wines. This is an epic vintage for Mouton Rothschild. There is even more matter and extract in 2016 than there was in 2010 [the anthocyanins in levels were off the chart according to Mouton director Philippe Dhalluin]. And yet..and yet the tannins are succulent and ripe. The blackcurrant fruit tones are beautiful. Great success here too in 2016 for Château Clerc Milon [exceptional] and Château d’Armailhac.

Eric Kohler at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild describes 2016 as a ‘Great, great vintage’ in the making. Certainly Lafite looks to have made its finest wine since 2014 and possibly 2010. There is lots of intensity and depth here. Chateau Duhart-Milon also looks good. There is plenty of flesh on Carruades de Lafite too [reflecting the extra percentage of Merlot in the blend].

Château Latour haven’t been releasing their wine en primeur since 2011, but their nascent 2016 will be terrific. The fruit is wonderfully composed on the palate but it has deceptive depth and remarkable length. Les Forts de Latour and the Pauillac third wine don’t disappoint. I’ll be writing in more detail about their current releases, Château Latour 2005 [super], Les Forts de Latour 2011 [refined] and the Pauillac 2012 [delicious and ready to go].

Super seconds Château Pontet-Canet and Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste have also produced beauties in 2016. I’m a great fan of Alfred Tesseron and Jean-Michel Comme’s biodynamic approach at Pontet-Canet. The results have been remarkable and the wines are in a different league to many. Their 2016 is a beauty. Also on offer was a opportunity to taste the first vintage from their property ‘Pym-Rae’ high up in Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder. More on the excitement surrounding that in a later post.

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2016 is a blackcurrant wonder. Proprietor François-Xavier Borie is very happy with the wine. This property rarely puts a foot wrong and with a remarkable growing season, allied to the terroir on their hill [‘puy’] this also looks like an exciting wine. Tasted immediately after Château Lafite-Rothschild, Grand-Puy-Lacoste still impressed, with excellent depth, fruit tones, freshness and that 2016 tell-tale motif, the succulent tannins.

From one Borie to another. Bruno Borie has produced another belter at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou in St Julien. This wine really impressed in 2014 and 2015 for me, but the 2016 I think will probably trump those two [opps, what did I just say…]. The beautiful blackcurrant fruit tones, the layers to the aromatics, the depth in the wine, the freshness and the velvety tannins all add up to a very exciting prospect indeed. Croix Beaucaillou and Lalande Borie also look very good here.

The two top Léovilles in St Julien have also produced pretty profound wine. Didier Cuvelier at Château Leoville Poyferré is excited by the vintage [and also for their St Estèphe property Château Le Crock]. There is a boat-load of fruit and extract in Poyferré ’16, but the freshness and modesty of alcohol [below 14 again] makes for an attractive combination. The wine is really composed on the palate with excellent length. Across the road Léoville-Las-Cases ’16 looks to be exceptional [it shows an understandable similarity with Château Latour, directly adjacent to its principal vineyards]. There is fabulous beauty here but freshness too. Clos du Marquis also looks very good.

All in all, it was an exceptional set of tastings to have on a single day. Next up, a rapid romp around Pessac-Léognan was scheduled followed by a return to the Haut-Médoc, this time to the south to look at the Margaux appellation [including tastings at Château Margaux itself and Château Palmer] as well as a closer look at the top wines from the Haut-Médoc appellation.

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