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.
The consistency at Château Léoville Poyferré has been wonderful over the past decade. The property regularly vies with Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Ducru Beaucaillou as the best wine of the appellation. It is amongst the finest made in Bordeaux. Great wine has been produced here in 2016. I don’t think I’m pushing the boat out too far in suggesting that Léoville Poyferré 2016 is verging on the quality of the 2005, 2009 and 2010 qualitatively speaking. The balance is phenomenal; the texture remarkable. Château Moulin Riche, made from a separate 20 hectare terroir in St Julien, may well be the best yet produced. It is certainly the most impressive sample I’ve tasted. Overall it underlines the excitement I felt when I tasted the top St Juliens in this vintage earlier in the year.
Margaux played a blinder as an appellation in 2015. While that vintage proved tricky further north on the left bank due to rain, Margaux produced some of its best ever wine. 2016 can also be considered a great success. These are two fascinating vintages to compare here. Coming to these wines earlier this year I was concerned that the 2016 summer drought may have affected some of Margaux’s drier terroirs but, with a few exceptions, this didn’t appear to be the case. At the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux’s tasting generally there was plenty of that wonderful Margaux perfume on offer, lots of ripe fruit and the beautifully textured tannin that so defines this vintage. If there was over extraction in some, many have made wines to rival and even exceed 2015.
I’m running out of superlatives. Château Margaux 2016 is a wine to match the perfect 2015. It does justice to the legacy of the great Paul Pontallier. The aromatics are spectacular; the power and scale hidden behind the beauty and purity of the fruit. If only I could afford this wine. The real marvel is Pavillon Rouge. Representing only a quarter of the harvest, this looks to me to be amongst the best produced. Made from plots that formerly went into the grand vin, this is glossy, voluptuous Margaux that exhibits the most caressing and silky fruit. Great stuff.