The 2017 vintage was a difficult one for Stephan von Neipperg and his team. In the frost of April 27-28 they lost much of the crop at Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, half of the crop in both his Castillon estate Château d’Aiguihle and St Emilion property Clos de l’Oratoire. At Château Canon-la-Gaffelière frost reduced the harvest by 40%. Only the prized La Mondotte vineyard was spared. That’s the bad news. The good news is that team Neipperg have succeeded in making impressive wines, very much against these odds. This is partly thanks to the quality of the remaining crop, a huge amount of work in the vineyard but also a determination to encourage a useful harvest from second generation grapes. It is also says much about Stephan von Neipperg’s own strength of character. Determined not to be despondent, he encouraged his team in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, as Billy Ocean famously noted, the tough get going.
Posts Tagged ‘Stephan Von Neipperg’
Top to bottom, St Emilion has had an excellent vintage in 2016. Qualitatively it is the equal of 2015, but differs stylistically. There is a lot of that bright, beautiful fruit that characterized ’15, but there is more grip, freshness and texture this year. It all makes for an appetising vintage for aficionados of St Emilion. Prices are up – quelle surprise! And if you are unfortunate enough to reside in the UK then the Brexit fiasco has made things pricier still. Still if you’ve the spare cash, this is a vintage to consider. There are a great many St Emilion Grand Cru which are really excellent and the quality of the Grand Cru Classé and the Premier Grand Cru Classé [though very pricey] are extremely impressive. Overall this is an exciting and homogenous vintage. There’s decent quantity available too.
In 2015 the St Emilion’s from the von Neipperg stables were glossy and lush. 2016 appears to be of similar quality but has quite different characteristics. The wines feel more textured on the mid-palate and show even more freshness. As a vintage, while not as immediately seductive as 2015, it seems to have more evident ‘matter’. I’m a great fan of Clos de l’Oratoire and the 2016 doesn’t disappoint. It has wonderful fruit and polish. Château Canon-la-Gaffelière has quite a bit of zap and verve this year. There is concentration but it also feels very fleet-of-foot. The cabernets in 2016 were clearly wonderful. La Mondotte is its usual glossy, layered, decadent self. It is a real beauty.
Well, there is no doubt about it. 2016 is a fascinating red wine vintage in Bordeaux across all the appellations. The quality of the wines took me by surprise, as it did Bordeaux’s vignerons themselves. The growing season proved to be the proverbial game of two halves. Spring was very wet indeed with variable weather, save for a perfect flowering period. Remarkable drought conditions then followed, with sun and heat, though the high summer days had a considerable diurnal temperature range, with cool nights. The lack of rain was a real worry by the beginning of September [with rising vine stress], but the vintage was made [saved?] but two bouts of essential rain in September. This allowed the grapes to achieve final ripeness [beautiful ripeness in many cases] which has resulted in a range of concentrated reds, with remarkably succulent tannins, fresh acids and reasonable alcohols [ie under 14 degrees]. At the top level the balance seems better than in 2009, and less obviously tannic than 2010 at this early stage. Amongst the wines l managed to taste, the vintage seemed more homogeneous too than 2015 [the 2016 vintage succeeds on both the left and right banks]. Some properties may have made perhaps their best ever wines [though only time will tell]. 2016 didn’t seem to be an exciting vintage for dry whites, though many were well made considering the challenging drought conditions, they didn’t leap out of the glass. I’ll be writing a more detailed overview in the coming week but here are my first thoughts as I began my tastings last Saturday in St Emilion.
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.
2015 is an excellent vintage for the Côtes de Bordeaux. I was especially impressed with Castillon and Francs this year, but there are also many very good wines to be had from Blaye, Cadillac, Sainte Foy and Bourg. There are seductive fruit tones to the reds, some on the voluptuous spectrum, others with more minerality. The ripeness is high [as are the alcohols] but there is also freshness too. Without doubt these appellations will provide some great bargains for the Bordeaux enthusiast. There are many excellent wines that are of grand cru classé quality but that will be without that price ticket. I will be looking to the Côtes de Bordeaux first for my own cellar in Bordeaux 2015s – and Castillon and Francs particularly.