The pleasures of Bordeaux 2016 continue at Château Palmer, the Margaux appellation’s ambitious overachiever. The property has been on a roll for over a decade. Palmer 2016 is amongst the very best that the vintage has to offer. It rivals first growth Château Margaux [again]. If 2015 was all power here, the 2016, by comparison, is beautifully aromatic, with wonderfully plush fruit and velvety tannins. There is freshness too with a nice spine of acidity. It is a fantastic wine, difficult to imagine Bordeaux being any better to be honest. The purity is fantastic. Pricing, however, is once again firm shall we say and in sterling terms at least this is the most expensive Palmer yet released. Alter Ego, the other wine produced at the property – not quite a second wine, more a different, fruit driven interpretation of the terroir – is succulent and appetising.
I’ve missed out on tasting Château Durfort-Vivens for the past few years during primeurs. I’m very sorry that I have. Durfort-Vivens is now biodynamically farmed and their 2016 looks to be a fantastic wine in the making. The emphasis is on the most beautiful aromatics. The delicacy of the wine on the palate is alluring. Yet this intriguing combination also hides power and scale. It is the best wine I have had recently from this property that has superb terroir adjacent to Château Rauzan Ségla, Château Palmer and Château Margaux. Château Ferrière and Château La Gurgue also looked very good indeed when tasted at the property. They have that beautiful Margaux perfume.
2016 is generally an excellent vintage for the wines of the Haut-Médoc. It’s a broad generalisation of course. Geographically the appellation covers a very wide area on the left bank. It stretches from close to St Estèphe in the north, down to Ludon in the south, and from beside the Gironde, to fairly deep inland. Nevertheless, 2016 is a pretty homogeneous vintage here, despite the variation in terroir. The tannin has wonderful texture, the fruit tones are ripe and plush and there is freshness too. Château La Lagune, wonderfully seductive, leads the appellation. There are some seriously intense wines too. Château Belgrave and Château Cantemerle are extremely so. All three are up there in quality with 2009 and 2010 vintages. I was really impressed by the wines from Château Arnauld, Château Beaumont and Château Malescasse. I think these wines are the best yet from these properties. That’s also true of Château de Camensac to. It is beautiful in 2016.
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.
Bordeaux 2016 looks to be an excellent year for red wines but for the white wines of Pessac-Léognan the results seem uneven. The drought conditions across the summer that lasted well into September have yielded a varied range of wines. Some excellent whites have been made, but there is not the homogeneity of vintages like 2012, 2014 and 2015. A few whites felt flabby, unexpressive and low in acidity. The best, unsurprisingly, came from the finest terroirs that could deal with the dry conditions. Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Smith Haut Lafitte lead the pack. Château Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Château de Fieuzal, Château Malartic-Lagravière and Château Olivier are not far behind in quality. These are all excellent. Expect Château Bouscaut, Château Haut-Bergey and Château Larrivet Haut-Brion to be very good also. Château Pape Clément, usually up there with the best, felt subdued. Doubtless many whites [Pape Clément included] will all benefit from ‘filling out’ a little during elévage. Still 2016 still doesn’t have the excitement for me of previous white wine vintages here.
As you’d expect excellent red wines have been produced here in 2016. Both Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion show poise and depth. Qualitatively speaking the wines felt slightly pipped to the post by the Pauillac first growths, and in Pessac-Léognan by an exceptional Château Haut-Bailly, but these are still very impressive efforts. The alcohols are more manageable than some of the recent years here and are a degree down from 2015. The drought and summer heat proved a challenging one for the whites. Don’t get me wrong, La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Haut-Brion Blanc have still made seriously good wines, but they are slightly off the pace of the best white wine vintages here [2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 immediately spring to mind].