There is no doubt that 2016 is a brilliant year for St Estèphe. The dry summer and sunny harvest conditions played to the strengths of the terroir here. I’ve already marvelled at the harmony and balance of the wines at Château Calon Ségur, Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel in this vintage, but, as ever, there are a bevy of other wines at lower price points that have produced wonderful red wine. Château Beau-Site, Château Le Boscq, Château Capbern, Château Le Crock, Château Domeyne, Château Haut-Marbuzet and Château Meyney, to name a few, have all made excellent wines. St Estèphe is really an appellation to seek out in 2016 [as in 2014 too]. It is also one of my favourite Bordeaux appellations.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Haut-Marbuzet’
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.
St Estèphe has made some very good wine in 2015 but the appellation has not done as well as in 2014 in my book. This is down to the heavy rain showers in mid September, the residual effect of ‘Storm Henry,’ that arrived on the eve of the Merlot harvest, a key varietal component to many of the wines in St Estèphe. While conditions improved from mid September until early October, how estates and different terroirs responded to these conditions determined the relative levels of success. There are some top wines in the appellation – Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Montrose, Château Calon-Ségur, Château Lafon-Rochet and Château Meyney spring to mind – but there is not the uniformity here for me of 2014, nor the exciting power in the wines. Whether 2015 will claw back some of that ground during elévage remains to be seen.
Overall St Estèphe was a little more variable than I’d expected in 2013. The wines are fresh, vigorous and pretty high in acidity. Some lack charm and there’s not the full-fat quality of the good years here. There are successes. I’ve posted already on Calon-Ségur, Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Meyney and Château Montrose, but Château Phélan Ségur looks nicely polished, Château Capbern Gasqueton is very pretty and I was particularly struck by Château de Pez. There are also solid efforts from Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Tronquoy-Lalande, Château Le Crock and Château Ormes de Pez, though they lack the flair of the best vintages.
Despite the vagaries of the vintage it would be a mistake to overlook St Estèphe in 2012. At the top end excellent wines have been made at Chateau Calon-Ségur, Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose especially. Further down the chain there are values to be had if you pick carefully. I’ve written about the excellent effort at Chateau Meyney, but very fine wine has been made at Chateau Phélan-Ségur and there is a surprisingly good Chateau de Pez. The vintage can’t be compared to 2009 and 2010 but it’s probably better than the 2011 vintage here at least. Where the price is right, and in a few cases it is, you could consider some of these wines en primeur.
Twenty-minutes isn’t a long time, but it’s a lifetime if, on the eve of harvest, your vineyard is sat beneath a storm producing hail the size of golf balls. As extreme vineyard events go the St Estèphe hail storm that struck on September 1st 2011 was a dramatic as they come. Not every producer was mind you. It was highly localised, passing some vineyards, clipping others but decimating quite a few. Basil Tesseron, owner of Chateau Lafon-Rochet, who made good wine in the end, described it as the viticultural equivalent of falling off the Empire State Building – a microscopically short event ending in oblivion. The immediate fear, apart from the reduction in yield and damage to those vines physically stripped of their leaves, branches and fruit, would have then been the secondary threat of rot on the remaining bunches. This fear would have been made more complex by the fact that the vineyards were approaching maturity but not quite ready to pick. Do you wait and get proper phenolic ripeness or risk losing the lot to rot? Or do you pick quickly but end up with green wines and unripe tannins? Add all this to a vintage that had seen conditions see-saw and which overall was pitifully dry. Pouring over meteorological charts at that few days of harvest was probably all you could do – that and having a stiff gin and tonic and go with your instinct. Close your eyes and feel the force Luke.