Well, there is no doubt about it. 2016 is a fascinating red wine vintage in Bordeaux across all the appellations. The quality of the wines took me by surprise, as it did Bordeaux’s vignerons themselves. The growing season proved to be the proverbial game of two halves. Spring was very wet indeed with variable weather, save for a perfect flowering period. Remarkable drought conditions then followed, with sun and heat, though the high summer days had a considerable diurnal temperature range, with cool nights. The lack of rain was a real worry by the beginning of September [with rising vine stress], but the vintage was made [saved?] but two bouts of essential rain in September. This allowed the grapes to achieve final ripeness [beautiful ripeness in many cases] which has resulted in a range of concentrated reds, with remarkably succulent tannins, fresh acids and reasonable alcohols [ie under 14 degrees]. At the top level the balance seems better than in 2009, and less obviously tannic than 2010 at this early stage. Amongst the wines l managed to taste, the vintage seemed more homogeneous too than 2015 [the 2016 vintage succeeds on both the left and right banks]. Some properties may have made perhaps their best ever wines [though only time will tell]. 2016 didn’t seem to be an exciting vintage for dry whites, though many were well made considering the challenging drought conditions, they didn’t leap out of the glass. I’ll be writing a more detailed overview in the coming week but here are my first thoughts as I began my tastings last Saturday in St Emilion.
Posts Tagged ‘2010’
So what are the principal characteristics of the Bordeaux 2015 vintage? Firstly there is a real beauty to the fruit tones in the red wines this year. Time after time, especially on the Right Bank but also on the Left I kept writing ‘beautiful,’ ‘pretty,’ and ‘delicious.’ There is freshness, despite pretty high alcohols in the main. The vintage is almost a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010, but with less evident structure and weight than those vintages. For me it recalls 1985 in terms of that vintage’s early beauty and freshness – and ‘85 remains in great shape today. But the 2015 vintage is by no means homogeneous. In fact there is considerable variability. What is in no doubt is that ‘15 is terrific in St Emilion. There is concentration and delight in so many wines there this year. It has also been strong vintage in the surrounding Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, especially Castillon and Francs.
Day two on the primeurs trail covered the top properties in St Julien, St Estèphe and Pauillac. The brief but significant September rain on the eve of harvest here affected estates differently and there is variation in the wines. Amongst the top growths on the finest terroirs beautiful wines have been produced. Perhaps these are not quite at the very top like 2009 or 2010, or perhaps even 2005, [though in certain cases they are close] but nevertheless there is real magic and beauty in the best wines. There is an accessibility too that almost hides their power. Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac stood out as exceptional, along with Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel in St Estèphe. Château Ducru Beaucaillou, Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Léoville Poyferré were all very impressive in St Julien. Ducru has made exceptionally attractive wine this year. It is a beauty – a term that is constantly turning up in my tasting notes in 2015.
Well I’ve booked my plane ticket and car rental for Bordeaux’s busy primeurs week at the beginning of April. There has already been a fair degree of hype surrounding the quality of the 2015 vintage since harvest, with comparisons already being made with 2005, 2009 and 2010. But as with the last few years it will surely be price that is the major determinant of the success of Bordeaux 2015. With a very uncertain global economic outlook, the hope must be that prices won’t be much up on 2014 and surely offered at a substantial discount to the physically available 2005, 2009 and 2010 vintages? This probably won’t happen of course, partly because that hasn’t happened for almost a decade with the 2008 vintage being the last offered to customers at an attractive price en primeur.
For me Château Montrose is wine of the vintage in 2014. It is a towering achievement and surely hot on the heels of the brilliant 2010. The purity and the power are knockout, with layers of fruit, but also great freshness too. If Calon Ségur is St Estèphe’s answer to Lafite, Montrose is clearly its Latour. La Dame de Montrose is impressive, a notch or two down in scale from the grand vin, but this is caressing and aromatic St Estèphe. Château Tronquoy-Lalande is also very much worth considering. It is glossy and exciting and amongst the best I have tasted from this property.
2010 is a very strong vintage in St Julien. The scale and grandeur of the wines, evident during primeurs and after bottling is still apparent. These are big scaled, long-term St Juliens that, once again, provide an exciting counterpoint to the heavenly, enticing wines made here in 2009. Unlike that vintage, 2010 still has much to reveal, and a number of wines are comparatively quite backward. The Léovilles are impressive here as ever. There is an exceptional effort from Château Léoville Poyferré, a currently rather backward but nevertheless impressively concentrated Château Léoville-Las-Cases and, a fraction behind, a very classical Château Léoville Barton. The real show stopper was a stand-out effort from Château Saint-Pierre which is wonderfully seductive. Château Langoa Barton, though a notch or two down from this, is very impressive. Classical and nicely composed wines have been made at Château Beychevelle, Château Branaire-Ducru, Château Lagrange and Château Talbot.