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 ‘Grand Cru Classé’
I think Château Cos d’Estournel just has it this year. It will be a close run thing I’m sure, but at this early stage it fractionally pips Château Montrose in producing the finest St Estèphe in 2015. Undoubtedly this is the best wine made here since Aymeric de Gironde took over the day-to-day running of this Michel Reybier owned estate in 2012. Last year the 2014 was impressive, but this year Cos 2015 has a plush voluptuousness that is irresistible. The purity is dazzling, the precision remarkable. This wine belies the patchy September weather here that literally rained on St Estèphe’s parade.
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.
Château Lafite-Rothschild can be the most enigmatic of the Pauillac first growths. Certain vintages, like 2009 and 2010, are knockout from the off. But some vintages are not easy to judge young. Lafite 2015, was reticent when I tasted it in April. It exhibited elegance and composure for sure, but it was far less assertive in comparison with wines from other top properties tasted on the same day. Lafite has received glowing reviews elsewhere, I should point out, so you might wish to flag my notes as outsider scores. I also found the samples of Carruades and Château Duhart Milon elegant and lacking concentration. I’d expect all these samples to gain weight during elévage, but let’s just say they were the least expressive wines among Pauillac‘s top tier that I tasted.
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.
Château Pontet-Canet is on a roll, the biodynamic wind speeding its sails. The thoughtful and determined approach of Alfred Tesseron and his family, together with right-hand man Jean-Michel Comme, have shepherded this Pauillac estate to the top of its game. Pontet Canet 2015 is a deep, seductive beauty. It has wonderful fruit tones and texture. The holistic approach here appears to be influencing harvest dates, with the grapes achieving phenolic ripeness earlier. This was handy in 2015 as the last of the Cabernet came in on October 3, just as the rains began to arrive.