In 2016 Pauillac has had the most collectively exciting vintage vintage since 2010. The texture of the tannin is remarkable and the balance is incredibly appealing. I’d go as far to say that, on the basis of the wines I tasted, this is my favourite vintage here since 2009. It has some of the qualities of 2005 and 2000 but the tannin feels more supple than both of those vintages to me [and tannin management has come a long way in the last ten to fifteen vintages]. My only caveat is that, owing to a shortage of time I missed out on tasting some old favourites including Château Batailley, Château Haut-Batailley, Château Lynch Bages, Château Pichon Longueville and Château Pichon Lalande. I hope to taste these wines in the not too distant future and will update this post when I do. In the meantime, here are my notes on fifteen wines from Pauillac in 2016. It includes notes on all the first growths and Château Pontet Canet.
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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.
The joyride around Bordeaux 2016 culminated once again with some remarkable wines in the Haut-Médoc. These were led by Château Palmer, which in 2016 has produced a Margaux to rival last year’s beauty. Overall you would have thought that the dry and hot conditions would have been difficult on some of the gravelly and lighter soils in both Margaux and in Pessac-Léognan, the two key appellations in which I dedicated a large part of my final day tasting. While I did notice a little more variability (some jam/raisin qualities in a couple, over-extraction in others] I was generally very impressed with a great number of wines. Once again the aromatics, the fruit tones and seductive qualities of the tannins were remarkable at the top end. I also explored the Haut-Médoc appellation in some detail. There are a great many wines of interest here in 2016 for the consumer. The vintage appears to rival 2009 and 2010. Stylistically it is almost a hypothetical blend of those two vintages [perhaps with some 2014 thrown in], but with generally more moderate alcohol levels. Time will tell as to 2016s precise place in the pantheon, but it’s obviously a very exciting vintage. Still, dark Brexit clouds mean that this vintage will obviously be released into an uncertain and possibly very different future.
Pauillac has had a very good vintage in 2015, though there is some variability. The best wines have considerable depth and beautiful fruit tones. The acidity is good and the tannins are wonderfully ripe. In some cases heavy September rain showers knocked the edge of things a bit here relative to other appellations. In some cases 2014 felt a more powerful vintage in Pauillac. That is also the case in neighbouring St Estèphe. That said, the general delicacy of the wines and the delicious fruit tones make 2015 Pauillac a very attractive vintage for a great many châteaux here.
2014 looks to be a strong vintage in Pauillac. I’ve already reported on the outstanding wines from Château Latour, Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Pichon-Lalande, Château Duhart-Milon, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Château Pontet-Canet. At the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux event held at Château Lynch-Moussas [pictured], Château Lynch-Bages and Château Pichon Longueville were equally impressive, while Château Batailley was extremely fine. Good wines have been made at Château d’Armailhac, Château Clerc Milon and Château Grand-Puy Ducasse.
Pauillac has produced a number of brilliant wines in 2010. There’s a lot of texture and material here. If the wines lack the creamy fruit of the come-hither 2009s, they possess extremely impressive concentration and power. Château Mouton-Rothschild led the pack of the sixteen or so wines shown late last year by the MW Institute. It is a formidable effort and was wonderful on the day. It is closely followed by Château Pichon-Longueville, which continues to show the great promise it did during its primeur days. Château Lynch-Bages, Château Pichon-Lalande, Château Pontet-Canet, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Château Lafite Rothschild have also produced very impressive wine as has Château Clerc Milon. Château Batailley is worth a special mention. It has produced excellent Pauillac in 2010 and continues a great run of recent form at this popular estate.