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 ‘Pessac-Léognan’
The joyride around Bordeaux 2016 culminated once again with some remarkable wines in the Haut-Médoc. These were led by Château Palmer, which in 2016 has produced a Margaux to rival last year’s beauty. Overall you would have thought that the dry and hot conditions would have been difficult on some of the gravelly and lighter soils in both Margaux and in Pessac-Léognan, the two key appellations in which I dedicated a large part of my final day tasting. While I did notice a little more variability (some jam/raisin qualities in a couple, over-extraction in others] I was generally very impressed with a great number of wines. Once again the aromatics, the fruit tones and seductive qualities of the tannins were remarkable at the top end. I also explored the Haut-Médoc appellation in some detail. There are a great many wines of interest here in 2016 for the consumer. The vintage appears to rival 2009 and 2010. Stylistically it is almost a hypothetical blend of those two vintages [perhaps with some 2014 thrown in], but with generally more moderate alcohol levels. Time will tell as to 2016s precise place in the pantheon, but it’s obviously a very exciting vintage. Still, dark Brexit clouds mean that this vintage will obviously be released into an uncertain and possibly very different future.
It is clear that 2015 is a beautiful vintage for the red wines of Pessac-Léognan. There is purity, power and freshness in equal proportion. Alongside the districts on the right bank and the Margaux appellation, Pessac-Léognan has produced some of the most exciting red wines of the vintage. It starts at the top with an exceptional Château Haut-Brion and a broodingly powerful Château La Mission Haut-Brion, but the wines of Château Haut-Bailly, Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Château Pape Clément are of similar quality. Extremely attractive red wines have also been made at Château Bouscaut, Château de Fieuzal, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, Château La Louvière, Château Malartic-Lagravière and Domaine de Chevalier. Château Picque-Caillou also looks a potentially good value buy along with [once again] Château Rahoul in Graves.
Pessac Léognan has had a very good vintage for its white wines in 2015. The growing season was almost ideal, with good weather during flowering ensuring good fruit set; the ensuing summer drought conditions were ameliorated by rainfall in late July and August and a dry early September allowed for a trouble-free harvest. Cooler than average September temperatures also helped preserve acidity in the fruit. While there are not the aromatic profiles of 2011, 2012 and 2013, there is weight and depth here in 2015. Some properties are even comparing the vintage to 2010.
Château Haut-Brion is one of the wines of the 2015 vintage. It has remarkable depth and a wonderfully succulent texture. There is power but there is also restraint. Château La Mission Haut-Brion is typically the drier and more obviously tannic of the two at this stage. There is prodigious scale here in La Mission, though I usually underrate it young. The wine definitely has the structure for three to four decades of ageing and will probably need a decade in bottle to emerge. Expect Haut-Brion to come up for air sooner. The rare whites here require the usual superlatives. At this stage for me La Mission Blanc is slightly weightier with Haut-Brion Blanc displaying a fraction more race and zip, which mostly reflects their respective blends, the former Sémillon dominant, the latter Sauvignon dominant. Both are remarkable. Ah, if only I could afford these wines…
Château Smith Haut Lafitte has made very impressive wines in 2015. There is a voluptuous beauty to the red, which is seductive and complete. The white is aromatic and full, with notes of white peach and melon. Both wines are defined by considerable depth and length. They continue a run of great form at a property that seemingly can do no wrong. The striking difference this year is the label. It’s gone jet black. It celebrates 25 vintages made by current owners Florence and Daniel Cathiard. 2015 also marks 650 harvests at the property that dates back to 1365. This remarkable history reminds us that Bordeaux’s oldest winemaking heritage lies in Pessac-Léognan itself [let’s ignore the Romans in St Emilion for a moment…].