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 Mouton-Rothschild’
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.
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.
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.
Back to Bordeaux, and straight to the top. Château Mouton Rothschild, alongside Latour, led Pauillac this year for me. Mouton 2015 has power and depth but also harmony. It goes down in my book as the most impressive wine here since 2010 [though as at many Médoc properties the 2014 may yet give it a run for its money]. Le Petit Mouton also impressed and both Château d’Armailhac and Château Clerc-Milon look good this year. The bad news is that prices are up substantially on 2014, by 60% in the case of Mouton itself. Further exchange rate instability in the UK at least may also influence the price at which Mouton is offered.
So what are the principal characteristics of the Bordeaux 2015 vintage? Firstly there is a real beauty to the fruit tones in the red wines this year. Time after time, especially on the Right Bank but also on the Left I kept writing ‘beautiful,’ ‘pretty,’ and ‘delicious.’ There is freshness, despite pretty high alcohols in the main. The vintage is almost a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010, but with less evident structure and weight than those vintages. For me it recalls 1985 in terms of that vintage’s early beauty and freshness – and ‘85 remains in great shape today. But the 2015 vintage is by no means homogeneous. In fact there is considerable variability. What is in no doubt is that ‘15 is terrific in St Emilion. There is concentration and delight in so many wines there this year. It has also been strong vintage in the surrounding Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, especially Castillon and Francs.