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 ‘Castillon’
2015 is an excellent vintage for the Côtes de Bordeaux. I was especially impressed with Castillon and Francs this year, but there are also many very good wines to be had from Blaye, Cadillac, Sainte Foy and Bourg. There are seductive fruit tones to the reds, some on the voluptuous spectrum, others with more minerality. The ripeness is high [as are the alcohols] but there is also freshness too. Without doubt these appellations will provide some great bargains for the Bordeaux enthusiast. There are many excellent wines that are of grand cru classé quality but that will be without that price ticket. I will be looking to the Côtes de Bordeaux first for my own cellar in Bordeaux 2015s – and Castillon and Francs particularly.
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.
Gérald Perse spares no expense on the making of his wines in St Emilion, nor has there been any penny pinching on the recent renovations and redevelopment of the buildings at Château Pavie. The combination of the Côte de Pavie’s remarkable aspect – the vineyards sloping down from exposed limestone outcrops above – with the newly minted stone buildings that form the offices, tasting rooms and chais lined below, is very impressive indeed. It’s a statement about ambition and seriousness of purpose, traits apparent in the Vignobles Perse range. There’s a masculine quality to Château Pavie in 2014. There is a lot of extract, weight and matter that makes this a formidable and dense wine, but there is also beautiful quality to the fruit. Château Bellevue Mondotte displays considerable gravity and Château Pavie-Decesse shows super concentration. Certainly these are not wines for the faint of heart.
Cyrille Thienpont showed the range of wines that the Thienponts manage on the Right Bank at a comprehensive tasting at Château Pavie Macquin earlier this month. The jewels here are in St Emilion and include Château Berliquet, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin itself and Château Beauséjour [hDL]. These wines look very good indeed in 2014. Larcis Ducasse has beautiful ripeness and seduction, Pavie-Macquin power and strength and Beauséjour fantastic purity. The Nicolas Thienpont properties in the Côtes de Francs [Château Puyregaud and Château La Prade] and the Côtes de Castillon [Château Alcée] are also very much worth considering in 2014. On the question of whether the vintage is a year for the Cabernets [Franc especially so here on the Right Bank] Cyrille Thienpont sees that is it just as much a question of soils as varieties. Cabernet Franc from the best terroirs is very good indeed and benefitted the most from the September and October sun, but in the right spots the Merlot has succeeded well too.
Very impressive wines have been made at the various estates that Stephan von Neipperg runs in St Emilion in 2014. Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Canon-la-Gaffelière is bold and concentrated with wonderful texture, Grand Cru Classé Clos de l’Oratoire is glossy and full flavoured, saturated with ripe fruit. The tiny Premier Grand Cru Classé La Mondotte vineyard has produced something typically voluptuous and caressing but also with deceptive power and concentration. For sheer value and immediacy, the over-achieving Château d’Aiguilhe in Castillion also delivers the goods in 2014 – a great introduction to the seductive charms common to the Neipperg wines.