We’re off! The samples are coming in. The Zoom chats are being had. The wines are being released thick and fast. Shortly I’ll be reporting my on first thoughts on Bordeaux 2019. Do watch this space! The hype says it’s another great vintage, less baroque than 2018 perhaps, more a foil like 2010 was to 2009, or 1990 was to 1989. In some cases properties believe the vintage is better than 2018. It certainly continues a pattern of talented twins in the past decade, which most recently featured 2015 and 2016. We seem to be set sail on a sea of fine vintages of Bordeaux these days. Climate change, modern winemaking and viticultural developments are all playing their part, genuinely raising the bar in this blessed wine region, in every fine vintage. But climate is more extreme too. There is more frequent drought, reversals of season, devastating frosts or hail. Things are getting Biblical the world over, as we wake up to the realities of global warming. Then in swings COVID-19, devastating us with loss of life and economic paralysis. With primeurs tastings cancelled this year in Bordeaux, my coverage will be necessarily more episodic than usual. Many properties are happy to send samples, some not. I have good tasting set up at home, but obviously it’s a poorer facsimile than darting about Bordeaux and tasting in situ, especially given the fragility of infant wine.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Lafite-Rothschild’
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.
Eric Kohler has supervised an impressive set of wines at Château Lafite-Rothschild in 2016. The great qualities of the 2016 vintage are writ large in the wines. The aromatics are beguiling [wonderful freshness and vibrancy] and the tannins succulent and textured. There is also a delicacy and digestibility to the wines which is attractive. Carruades de Lafite has plenty of vibrant, bouncy fruit. It has real beauty. Château Duhart-Milon is more reserved but with multiple layers and depth. Château Lafite-Rothschild looks to be best of recent years. It is more impressive at this stage than the successful 2014 here. In fact there are echoes of the truly great Lafites in 2009 and 2010, albeit that 2016 appears to be fractionally lighter in body than those two vintages.
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.
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.