Get ready for the superlatives. Last Friday, in wonderfully warm late March sun, I started at the top. First up this year was a visit to Château Latour. Frankly you couldn’t get a better introduction to the extraordinary quality of this vintage – the proverbial game of two halves. In 2018 an incredibly wet first half of the growing season was followed by a sunny, hot halcyon, game changing second, that spanned July to October. The ripeness and depth of fruit and the texture of Château Latour in 2018 immediately reminded me of 2009. Yet there is real freshness here too. This is Latour that is a mix of 2009 and 2010. Wow!
Posts Tagged ‘Pauillac’
Many of the red wines tasted during my visit to Bordeaux this April had freshness, engaging aromas, juicy fruit flavours, reasonable depth and generally soft tannins. On this basis 2017 is surely a good vintage? Well yes. For the best properties we’re talking of wines with elements of 2014, 2012 and 2008, possibly a combination of all three in certain places. Things are more exciting for the whites [it looks to be a brilliant year] and Sauternes too has excelled again. But these generalisations hide a somewhat heterogeneous vintage.
My second day tasting Bordeaux 2017 started in bright sunshine at Château Haut Bailly. The purity of the wine in the past few vintages here has been unsurpassed and their terroir in Pessac-Léognan is wonderful. Frost took out a plot from production but there is finesse and elegance to this 2017. Ten minutes away, in contrasting but equally beautiful terroir, Château Smith Haut Lafitte has delivered the goods once again. The whites are brilliant, showing what a great vintage 2017 is here potentially for white wine. The reds are plump, and very well-upholstered with plenty of fruit and freshness. Excellent stuff. At Château La Mission Haut-Brion the remarkable quality of the whites was again underscored. Château La Mission Haut Brion Blanc and Château Haut-Brion Blanc are fabulous – though they never put a foot wrong with the whites mind. The reds are impressive, combining of the structure and fruit of 2014 perhaps with the freshness of 2008. La Mission is more approachable than usual in 2017 and Haut-Brion felt the fractionally deeper of the two. Both show wonderful purity.
Great to be back in Bordeaux and excited to taste the infant 2017 vintage. How have the wines faired given the challenges of the growing season – the frost that devastated some, the hail that affected others and the challenge of vintage rain? Yesterday I had a nose around St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. I’ll post in more detail later but first impressions? The wines tasted had vivid, fresh flavours, bright acidities and round tannin. They don’t have the weight or texture of 2016, 2015 or 2014, but there is the freshness of 2008 with the harmony of 2012. Cabernet seems to have faired well, better than the Merlot which was a little more affected by the September rain, but these are very early generalisations.
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.
Château Latour surely represents the pinnacle of winemaking achievement in Bordeaux. The majestic terroir beside the Gironde, the expertise of the technical and administrative team led by Frédéric Engerer as well as the general wherewithal and financial largesse of owner François Pinault all have coalesced to make Latour arguably the greatest red wine in the region. It has many rivals and is sometimes eclipsed but it is surely the benchmark to which all of Bordeaux’s [and the world’s] greatest Cabernet producers aspire. In 2016 Château Latour delivers the goods in spades but as it doesn’t do en primeur these days, you will have to slum it with their latest cellar release, Latour 2005. It is wonderful and built to last a century.