Well, there is no doubt about it. 2016 is a fascinating red wine vintage in Bordeaux across all the appellations. The quality of the wines took me by surprise, as it did Bordeaux’s vignerons themselves. The growing season proved to be the proverbial game of two halves. Spring was very wet indeed with variable weather, save for a perfect flowering period. Remarkable drought conditions then followed, with sun and heat, though the high summer days had a considerable diurnal temperature range, with cool nights. The lack of rain was a real worry by the beginning of September [with rising vine stress], but the vintage was made [saved?] but two bouts of essential rain in September. This allowed the grapes to achieve final ripeness [beautiful ripeness in many cases] which has resulted in a range of concentrated reds, with remarkably succulent tannins, fresh acids and reasonable alcohols [ie under 14 degrees]. At the top level the balance seems better than in 2009, and less obviously tannic than 2010 at this early stage. Amongst the wines l managed to taste, the vintage seemed more homogeneous too than 2015 [the 2016 vintage succeeds on both the left and right banks]. Some properties may have made perhaps their best ever wines [though only time will tell]. 2016 didn’t seem to be an exciting vintage for dry whites, though many were well made considering the challenging drought conditions, they didn’t leap out of the glass. I’ll be writing a more detailed overview in the coming week but here are my first thoughts as I began my tastings last Saturday in St Emilion.
Posts Tagged ‘en primeur’
Day three on primeurs week saw me start off in Margaux with an early morning tasting with Thomas Duroux at Château Palmer. There is great depth to Palmer in 2015. It looks to be an exciting vintage in the appellation. Though there is some variation in experience, Margaux, overall, had less of the September rain that dampened things further up the Haut-Médoc. An emotional trip to Château Margaux then beckoned. This was the first primeurs tasting in the château’s new Norman Foster designed chais and winemaking facility. Obviously it was also the first primeurs for thirty years or more unaccompanied by Paul Pontallier. It was an emotional experience. All the things he had worked for at Margaux had come true – an impressive new cellar and a beautiful wine in 2015 – a fitting epitaph for a fine man.
Well I’ve booked my plane ticket and car rental for Bordeaux’s busy primeurs week at the beginning of April. There has already been a fair degree of hype surrounding the quality of the 2015 vintage since harvest, with comparisons already being made with 2005, 2009 and 2010. But as with the last few years it will surely be price that is the major determinant of the success of Bordeaux 2015. With a very uncertain global economic outlook, the hope must be that prices won’t be much up on 2014 and surely offered at a substantial discount to the physically available 2005, 2009 and 2010 vintages? This probably won’t happen of course, partly because that hasn’t happened for almost a decade with the 2008 vintage being the last offered to customers at an attractive price en primeur.
Lalande de Pomerol is usually a source of good wine. The appellation produces complex and nicely structured reds, if less fleshy than neighbour Pomerol. The wines showed promise here in 2012 but things are much more disjointed and difficult to judge in 2013. Overall they were a pretty closed and generally hard bunch when tasted blind at the Cercle Rive Droite. Others tasted separately showed better later in the week of tastings. The picks for me are Domaine des Sabines, La Fleur de Boüard, Château Tournefeuille and Château Les Vieux Ormes. Le Plus de La Fleur de Boüard, made from a small old vine plot, is very impressive indeed for the vintage, though it is made in tiny quantities.
Well after tasting hundreds of wines across all of Bordeaux’s major appellations last week, generally 2013 faired a bit better than expected. That may not seem much of an achievement given how subterranean expectations were at the outset. Truly miserable weather during flowering, and rain and humidity at the end of the growing season, meant it was a battle between rot and ripeness for almost all growers regardless of appellation. These conditions only benefited Bordeaux’s sweet wine producers in Sauternes and Barsac, who qualitatively have produced the best wines of the vintage.
Five years ago Bordeaux’s top chateaux were rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of releasing their precocious, and delicious, 2009s to an expectant trade and press. The wines were an assault on the senses, and, as it turned out, the pocket. Released in dribs and drabs to stoke demand, many big guns didn’t name their prices until months later, seemingly waiting for each other to make the next move to see who could double their prices. The accompanying en primeur campaign was a feeding frenzy. Next week Bordeaux offers us the 2013 vintage for the first time. Things couldn’t be more different. I expect you’ll be able to hear the sound of a pin drop.