Bordeaux 2016 looks to be an excellent year for red wines but for the white wines of Pessac-Léognan the results seem uneven. The drought conditions across the summer that lasted well into September have yielded a varied range of wines. Some excellent whites have been made, but there is not the homogeneity of vintages like 2012, 2014 and 2015. A few whites felt flabby, unexpressive and low in acidity. The best, unsurprisingly, came from the finest terroirs that could deal with the dry conditions. Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Smith Haut Lafitte lead the pack. Château Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Château de Fieuzal, Château Malartic-Lagravière and Château Olivier are not far behind in quality. These are all excellent. Expect Château Bouscaut, Château Haut-Bergey and Château Larrivet Haut-Brion to be very good also. Château Pape Clément, usually up there with the best, felt subdued. Doubtless many whites [Pape Clément included] will all benefit from ‘filling out’ a little during elévage. Still 2016 still doesn’t have the excitement for me of previous white wine vintages here.
Posts Tagged ‘Sauvignon Gris’
I love the forward thinking approach at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Their respect for the environment and sustainable practices are impressive. It is one of my favourite properties in Bordeaux. Maître de Chais Yann Laudeho took me through the wines here. 2016 as a vintage looks excellent, and the quality has almost taken them by surprise. The red Smith Haut Lafitte is a beauty this year. It is up there with the brilliant wine made in 2015. It is wonderfully generous and has that tell tale texture of the vintage. The white looks very good indeed. It has depth and zest in what was perhaps a challenging vintage for the whites at some properties. The 100% Merlot Château Le Thil is plump and attractive.
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 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…].
The quality of Pessac-Léognan’s dry white wine is exciting in 2014. Whilst the quality of recent vintages has been high here, 2014 looks excellent. Once again there is a salty, saline touch to the wines, which, by and large, display refreshing and moreish acidity but there are plenty of ripe, pretty fruit flavours to be found in the wines too. Overall they will give much enjoyment. These are stylish, impressive white wines with verve and character. If you are a fan of top class white Bordeaux then they are usually worth buying en primeur as, unless you plan a trip to Bordeaux, they are produced in small quantities and can be hard to find.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte is one of the most impressive set-ups in Bordeaux. The terroir in Pessac-Léognan is fabulous; the vines immediately surrounding the property are beautifully mature; the cellar is state of the art and eco-friendly. In my experience, the past half dozen vintages here, both red and white, are qualitatively at the very highest level. This is true once again in 2014. Throw in the smart hotel that adjoins the property, with its spa and two Michelin star restaurant and it adds up to a level of sophistication and consumer awareness that would turn the owner of even the most ambitious Napa Valley boutique operation green with envy. And as for Bordeaux, it puts almost all of the grand crus classés to shame.