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.
I hope to expand on these tasting notes soon. Despite several [costly] speeding tickets that later turned up in the post, I arrived fractionally too late to the UGCB event held at Château Talbot to taste a number of wines from the St Julien commune. These included some of my favourites Gloria, Gruaud-Larose and St Pierre as well as the Bartons [Léoville and Langoa]. Below are the notes on the St Julien properties I did visit individually during primeurs week – Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Léoville Poyferré. There are also notes on Château Moulin Riche, Château du Glana, Clos du Marquis and Lalande-Borie. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to correct the omissions here at a later point.
As usual Bruno Borie provides a typically idiosyncratic but totally apt overview of the 2016 vintage. He sees it in biblical terms. First there was the ‘flood’ – the extremely wet conditions in the first four to five months of the year. Then the plague – the attacks of odium and mildew. This was followed by time in the wilderness – the exceptionally dry and hot summer. Finally they arrived in the ‘Promised Land’ – a late harvest in an Indian summer which has produced exceptional wine. 2016 certainly completes a remarkable trilogy of back to back vintages here at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. Qualitatively I feel it pips 2014 and even 2015.
As ever the St Julien’s of the Delon empire slow great purity and balance in 2016. Château Léoville-Las-Cases, even by the very high standards of this property, has produced an exceptional wine. The aromatics are deep and powerful but not at all over laden. There is such wonderful vibrancy here too on the palate. And the length – wow! It is a brilliant wine. Coming from entirely different terroir Clos du Marquis, often mistakenly identified as the second wine of Léoville-Las-Cases, also looks very good indeed. For me 2016 is the finest vintage here since the amazing 2009 and 2010 vintages. If these two vintages have fractionally greater depth, the balance in 2016 surpasses both.