Great to be back in Bordeaux and excited to taste the infant 2017 vintage. How have the wines faired given the challenges of the growing season – the frost that devastated some, the hail that affected others and the challenge of vintage rain? Yesterday I had a nose around St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. I’ll post in more detail later but first impressions? The wines tasted had vivid, fresh flavours, bright acidities and round tannin. They don’t have the weight or texture of 2016, 2015 or 2014, but there is the freshness of 2008 with the harmony of 2012. Cabernet seems to have faired well, better than the Merlot which was a little more affected by the September rain, but these are very early generalisations.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou’
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.
Last year 2015 was wildly heralded. The wines had beauty. The year produced wonderful wine on the right bank, but the picture was a little muddier on the left. Bordeaux 2016 brings greater homogeneity. Excellence is achieved at all levels and in all appellations for the reds. In the Médoc and the Haut-Médoc, the qualitative heights to which the wines soar are remarkable. In that sense it is undoubtedly a great Cabernet year. With the possible exception of 2014 in St Estèphe and 2015 in Margaux, 2016 should probably be seen as the best vintage on the left bank since 2010. But what is particularly exciting about 2016 is that in a great many cases it is a far easier vintage to understand than 2010 at this young stage. The alcohols are significantly lower and the tannins, which are up there with 2010 [and in a few cases even more considerable], seem much more succulent and textured. There is freshness too – and the aromatics are beautiful. The vintage also excels in St Emilion, Pomerol and in Pessac-Léognan. Cabernet Franc has done extremely well, but so too has Merlot. There are exceptions. Firstly the vines struggled with the drought on the lighter soils and in younger plots. Secondly, the hot and dry conditions were not always favourable to some of Bordeaux’s dry whites, the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc in particular. Yet for the reds I came away from many of the tastings during primeurs with the same excitement as I had back in 2009 and 2010. 2016 is potentially great and concludes a trilogy of fascinating vintages for the region.
Day three was spent in the northern left bank, principally St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. Having tasted many of the top estates I was left in no doubt that Bordeaux 2016 has produced some of the most remarkable wine since the 2009 and 2010 vintages. I’d even go as far as saying that I prefer this vintage at this stage. The aromatics are beautiful, the wines packed with fruit and extract, the acidity is as fresh as 2010 but the tannins are as succulent as in 2009. Importantly alcohols are more moderate [well under 14%] which makes for wines of exceptional balance. Château Calon-Ségur, Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel have all made remarkable, deeply coloured St Estèphe. In Pauillac Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Pontet-Canet and Château Lafite-Rothschild have made their most exciting wines since 2009. Leading St Julien’s Château Léoville-Poyferré, Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou [in particular] in different ways, leave you speechless. At this level 2016 in the northern Haut-Médoc looks to be a breath-taking vintage that exhausts the superlatives.
There is no doubt that St Julien has made extremely good wine in 2015. Purity and balance are the hallmarks here. Whether this vintage eventually serves as the best vintage since the 2009 and 2010 combination, will depend on the progress in barrel of the 2014 vintage. This was a vintage that impressed me last year in St Julien. It is certainly better value compared with 2015 given this year’s release prices. While 2015 definitely has the edge in quality, does it command the 20%-50%+ mark up over the previous vintage here? I’m not so sure. Only time will tell. Let’s just say that prices this year are decidedly firm!