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.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Montrose’
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.
St Estèphe is awash with good value Bordeaux. This most northerly appellation in the Haut-Médoc produces firm yet fleshy reds with lots of extract and tannin. Modern methods of vinification combined with the picking of tannin ripe grapes have reduced the coarseness that characterised some of the wines here a decade or so ago. Full-throttle St Estèphe always was but now there’s much more finesse to be found here. A list of affordable, good quality wines from this appellation would certainly include Château Capbern, Château Le Crock, Château Le Boscq, Château Tronquoy-Lalande and Château Beau-Site. In very top vintages these wines are of classed growth quality. There’s another tier above which includes Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Lafon-Rochet, Château Cos Labory, Château Phélan-Ségur, Château Ormes de Pez, Château de Pez and Château Meyney. At the top of the tree, classed growths Château Calon Ségur, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Montrose often make wine of equivalent quality [in very different ways] to the neighbouring Pauillac first growths.
I’ve a real soft spot for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. An eye-opening spell there in the late 80s as a cellar rat was inspirational. The denim-clad, cool-as-hell winemakers swaggered about the stainless steel and the French barriques in their freshly minted wine cellars with an insouciant Californian air that belied their competitive ambition. The place was run with steely determination by founder Warren Winiarski, a political theorist at the University of Chicago, who moved west to become a winemaker in the mid 1960s, establishing the property in 1970. The small boutique winery became synonymous with the seismic Paris tasting of 1976, an event fictionalized in Bottle Shock [starring the late, great Alan Rickman]. The Stag’s Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, from a vines just three years old, was voted best red by a panel of French judges. In a blind tasting, the wine felled mighty Bordeaux châteaux Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild, Léoville-Las-Cases and Montrose, not to mention domestic competitors Ridge and Heitz. The tasting put Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the Napa Valley on the map.
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.
Château Montrose occupies a wonderful position in St Estèphe, a single continuous vineyard that slopes gently toward the Gironde estuary. Legend has it that the name ‘Mont Rose’ derives from the pink coloured heather that used to occupy the spot before it was turned over to vine. Montrose, along with Latour and Mouton Rothschild, produces some of the boldest, most age-worthy red wine on the planet. The 2015 here is impressive. It’s a whisker off the remarkable wine made at Montrose in 2014, though quite different in style.