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 ‘St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé’
I spent a second day in St Emilion, starting at Château Pavie-Macquin to taste the range of wines that Nicolas Thienpont crafts as well as listening to a review of the climatological aspects of the vintage. It was an opportunity to hear Stéphane Derenoncourt discuss his thoughts on 2016 as a ‘miracle’ vintage. He sees it as the third in a trilogy of impressive vintages starting in 2014. Next up was Château Angélus to look at their stable of wines and discuss the vintage with Hubert de Boüard as well as examine the expanding range that he consults for. This gave me an opportunity to taste the first of a series of seriously impressive wines from the left bank in Pauillac and the Haut-Médoc. I then completed tastings at the Grand Cercle held at Château Montlabert. Here I assessed a dozen or so St Emilion Grand Cru Classés [generally exciting and homogeneous] as well as tasting more wines from the left bank appellations St Julien, Pauillac, Margaux and the Haut-Médoc. My overall feelings was how exciting this vintage is for both right and left bank, perhaps left especially.
Let’s not beat about the bush. St Emilion has had a glorious vintage in 2015. I think I’ve scored it even more highly than 2010 in many cases. It’s a different beast of course – in fact more of a beauty. There is a supple quality to the fruit, a seductive aspect. It makes so many of the wines delicious. If they don’t have the prodigious densities achieved in 2010, that’s not a bad thing. Many of these wines are caressing and voluptuous. There’s more apparent freshness too than in 2009. There are far fewer of the jammy over-ripe qualities that affected some wines here that year. I think I’m also detecting a perceptible shift in winemaking emphasis on the right bank too. This new paradigm hasn’t quite arrived everywhere, but I think we are starting to witness the positive results of changes in the approach and sophistication of vineyard management [and an increasing movement to organic methods], harvesting at better combined ripeness [not over-ripeness] and greater sensitivity in the cellar in terms of extraction. For me there is no doubt that these 2015 St Emilions are the most attractively styled primeur wines I’ve yet had from this varied and fascinating appellation.
It’s usually a treat in Jean-Luc Thunevin’s speakeasy cellars, a kind of laid-back hedonistic chaos in St Emilion’s backstreets. Not this year. I was late. My fault trying to cram in too many wines into a shorter schedule. And that evening Jean-Luc seemed in no mood for latecomers. So far, not so good. I quickly worked through the wines. They display his typical brilliance. Thunevin’s pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the last few vintages [including some of the very best 2013s] but give him an exciting year like 2015 on the right bank and he hits the ball out of the park. Château Valandraud is epic this year – it is a wine of extraordinary depth and richness. Do also check out his St Emilion Grand Crus Clos Badon and Château Le Bel Air Ouÿ – the former lush and concentrated, the latter fresh and bright.
I’m a great fan of Château Figeac. The finesse here can be exceptional, akin to neighbour Château Cheval Blanc. I loved the wines produced in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014. 2015 is amongst the best of these, if not perhaps the very best in this set of vintages. There is terrific purity here, akin to 2014, but with even more texture perhaps. As a lover of Cabernet the wine is thrilling. The typical blend over the years has been roughly equal portions of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon. It’s a field blend that matches Figeac’s gravelly terroir. In 2015 that proportion rises to 43% Cabernet Sauvignon with roughly equal proportions of the other grapes. It accounts for the wonderful blackcurrant aromatics and the strength and length of the wine. It is knockout.
There is usually a silky quality to Count Stephan von Neipperg’s St Emilions. This quality is really underscored in the 2015 vintage. These are beautiful wines, deceptively easy but with wonderful beauty. Clos de L’Oratoire is seductive and ripe; Château Canon-la-Gaffelière more substantial [45% Cabernets] but with remarkably supple, glossy fruit. La Mondotte is heavenly. Again these are amongst some of the finest wines I have yet tried from these Neipperg-owned properties. There is a delicacy in 2015 not found in either the powerful 2010s or the opulent 2009s here.