Margaux played a blinder as an appellation in 2015. While that vintage proved tricky further north on the left bank due to rain, Margaux produced some of its best ever wine. 2016 can also be considered a great success. These are two fascinating vintages to compare here. Coming to these wines earlier this year I was concerned that the 2016 summer drought may have affected some of Margaux’s drier terroirs but, with a few exceptions, this didn’t appear to be the case. At the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux’s tasting generally there was plenty of that wonderful Margaux perfume on offer, lots of ripe fruit and the beautifully textured tannin that so defines this vintage. If there was over extraction in some, many have made wines to rival and even exceed 2015.
Top of the tree are wonderful efforts from Château Margaux and Château Palmer. They are distinctly contrasting wines from their different terroirs and blends, but both have a potential to be virtually perfect wines. Close behind are wonderfully exciting efforts from Château Brane Cantenac, Château Durfort-Vivens, Château Giscours and Château Rauzan-Ségla. These are all brilliant wines.
Not that far behind these are outstanding efforts from Château Cantenac-Brown, Château Kirwan and Château Rauzan-Gassies. There has been a wonderful change of direction in the winemaking at Cantenac-Brown evidenced to me over the past few vintages, Château Kirwan has no trace of the hardness found in some previous vintages and Château Rauzan-Gassies continues its noticeable improvement in the past three vintages. I was also particularly impressed with Château Prieure-Lichine. It is possibly the best primeurs sample I have tasted from this property since 2009.
There are beautiful and fresh Margaux to be had from Château Angludet, Château Ferrière and Château du Tertre. Value wise look out for Château La Gurgue, Château Monbrison and Château Labégorce. These are excellent properties and usually good value if they are still available. Château Siran is still a bit of a jumble but has all the elements once they meld.
In the seriously extractive category come Château Dauzac, Château Lascombes, Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry and Château Marquis de Terme. Malescot clearly pulls this off. This is a wine made in a very heady and sublimated style. There is a lot of ripe black fruit and intensity. It’s not quite me but I get it [and many will love it] and it achieves balance. Château Marquis de Terme will also work. There is plenty of fruit to balance the oak and tannins. Château Dauzac is its usual extracted self. It too will work down the track once it settles, but the emphasis at this stage is as much on the smoky oak as it is on the purity of the fruit. I sometimes find this property more like St Estèphe than Margaux.
Finally to Château Lascombes. Even for this estate, which usually goes hell for leather at the fruit, they have produced an extractive number. It will probably settle down of course, but there is a late picked, slightly stewed note to the fruit. Despite the ‘worked’ style here I’ve really enjoyed Lascombes in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 & 2015. I’m not sure what to make of this 2016 currently. It feels way over the top for me.
The following wines were tasted at the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux [UGCB] tasting at held at Château Kirwan, the Cru Bourgeois tasting at Château d’Arsac and at certain individual properties identified, between 2-4 April, 2017.
Alter Ego, Margaux, 2016
Lovely colour; depth; dark core; lots of fruit; jam packed; spicy plum; black cherry; spices; extract and matter but very supple; very moreish and appetizing; lovely extract; succulent; really good chew to the fruit; seemingly nice acidity; same acidity as last ’15 apparently; nice length; appetising [40% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 29hl/ha, 13% alc]. Tasted at Palmer 4/4/17. Drink 2021-2028. 92-94
Château Angludet, Margaux, 2016
Deep looking; bright fruit on the nose; cherry; some perfume; little dumb at first; nicely balanced palate; has elegance and attractive pretty fruit; nice delicacy and texture here; real purity. Very good Angludet indeed. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2030. 91-93+
Chateau d’Arsac, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux, 2016
Mid depth; violet perfume; attractive; some spices; good; fresh and some spice; little pain grillé; has some sinew; lacks a bit of concentration; works though. Tasted Grand Cercle 2/4/17. Drink 2021-2028. 87-88+
Château Brane-Cantenac, Cru Classé, Margaux
Deep and dark; concentrated core; lovely blackcurrant fruit on the nose; perfume and earth; very attractive; beautiful blackcurrant tones on the the palate; terrific balance; texture to the tannins; right up there with the very best in the appellation. [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Carmenère. 13.3% alc]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2040. 94-96+
Château Cantenac Brown, Cru Classé, Margaux
Deep and saturated looking; dark at core and tight to rim; attractive pretty fruit; emphasis on the purity; lovely palate; greater freshness here – as in the last few vintages; positive on the palate and shows some finesse and elegance. Nicely done Margaux. Really appreciating a new style here in last two or three vintages – greater emphasis on the purity and balance. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 13.3%]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2024-2035. 92-94+
Château Dauzac, Cru Classé, Margaux
Deep and saturated look; arterial at core; inky; saturated black fruits; jam packed; full of extract and wood tannin on the palate; makes for a rather chewy experience currently; this is a very familiar style at this property. Will doubtless settle but makes for a coarser experience than it could [should] be. [71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2032. 87-90
Château Desmirail, Cru Classé, Margaux
Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; black cherry fruit with pain grillé notes; very sexy and overt already; nice palate; feels quite worked but fruit ripe; oak influence quite obvious at present. Attractive, forward style of Margaux. [55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2028. 89-91+
Château Durfort-Vivens, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated colour; lovely look; vibrant purple at edge; very intense and deep; saturated aromatically – simply joyful aromatics; really lush on the palate but has that remarkable tension that makes things so attractive; beautiful; texture on the palate; really good texture and depth; layers of flavour; this is deep and layered; lovely wine; savoury/spicy notes. Best ever Durfort for me. [94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot]. Tasted at Durfort-Vivens 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2040. 95-97+
Château Ferrière, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Lovely deep healthy colour; beautiful plum fruit; clean and precise; lovely blackcurrant freshness; depth; very appetizing; this has a lovely aromatic profile; ripe entry; little correct note but works well – has zap and acidity; creamy fruit and texture again; little tighter on the finish. Inky blackcurrant finish. Intense. From certified organic vineyards on clay/gravel soils with some limestone. Tasted at Durfort-Vivens 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 91-93+
Château Giscours, Cru Classé, Margaux
Deeply coloured; dark core; earthy purple at edge; cassis and blackcurrant notes; lovely purity here; really accomplished; freshness and clarity; pure blackcurrant cassis flavours; nice flesh and texture; not overtly sublimated but genuinely delicious. Freshness here. A wonderful counterpart to the excellent 2015 here at Giscours. [81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2040. 94-96+
Château La Gurgue, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated look; bright fruit; cassis and blackcurrant notes; some violets; little blueberry jam; really attractive; intense and pent up; sweet ripe qualities but intensity here; like this; textured fruit; nicely balanced with good acidity. Nice texture. Grip but succulent. Will work well. [52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 20% new oak, organic]. Tasted at Durfort-Vivens 4/4/17. Drink 2020-2028. 90-91+
Château Kirwan, Cru Classé, Margaux
Mid depth; purple at edge; fresh style; nicely pure blackcurrant with some morello cherry notes; really attractive, pure fruit here; like the purity and also without the hardness that has been a characteristic of some recent vintages here. Like the freshness, the sap and the texture. A success. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 92-94+
Château Labégorce, Margaux
Deep and saturated colour; deep at edge; oak resin/pain grillé tones; black fruits; woody; liquorice notes; ripe fruits; nice fruit; feels a bit worked at present but should settle nicely. Clearly an oaky sample. [52% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 13.8% alc, 45% new oak]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. 2022-2030. 90-92
Château Lascombes, Cru Classé, Margaux
Deep and extremely saturated colour; very dense indeed; rather rasiny note; inky; feels very late picked; palate has loads of fruit and matter but feels over extracted and stewed; real mouthful and tannic. Feels over-the-top in this vintage. Clearly I’d like to see this further down the track when it has settled. Usually I’m a fan of Lascombes, though usually extracted and plump, feels like the foot has really been pushed to the floor in this vintage. [50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2024-2035. 89-91?
Château Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Deep and vibrant; beautifully perfumed; real delicacy on the nose; perfect Margaux aromatics; floral almost; lovely Cabernet aromatics and fantastic purity; elegant entry on the palate but considerable depth; good acidity and wonderful balance; wonderfully refined Rolls-Royce tannins. Epic. A beauty to match 2015. [94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot]. Tasted at Ch. Margaux 4/4/17. Drink 2025-2045. 97-100
Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux
Deep looking; earthy purple at edge; very intense and sublimated on the nose; black fruits; saturated and intense; some wet rocks and a schist-y edge too; plenty of intense fruit here; inky and extracted style. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2024-2035. 93-95
Château Marquis de Terme, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux
Deep and saturated; stones; wet rocks; schist; ripe black fruits; inky intensity; quite extracted on the palate; lots of fruit and structure; tannin evident [wood tannin]; finishes dry but doubtless plenty of flesh to eventually cover the bones. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2032. 91-93
Château Monbrison, Margaux, 2016
Deepish; purple at edge; violet scent fruit; plum and cherry aromatics; attractive; bright fruit on the palate; textured tannins with plenty of succulence; plump in the middle; has vigour; great stuff from Monbrison in this vintage. [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 91-93
Château Palmer, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated looking; fresh fruit aromas; cassis notes but also spices; beautiful nose; perfumed; lovely extract and fruit on the palate; pure, concentrated but velvety tannin; fantastic wine; lovely acidity which adds a degree to the flesh of the vintage; harmonious; really good stuff. Potentially perfect Margaux. [47% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 29hl/ha, 13% alc]. Tasted at Palmer 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2046. 97-100
Château Paveil de Luze, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated; dense and dark; pretty solid; dusty; full but little on the fig and raisin side; chewy fruit on the mid palate; lacks freshness. Solid if unexciting. Struggled in the dry conditions? Tasted 4/4/17 at d’Arsac. Drink 2022-2026. 84-86
Château Prieuré-Lichine, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated colour; really dark at centre; perfumed nose; blackcurrant and black cherry notes; cool and not too overt; obvious depth here; blackcurrants lovely; plenty of extract on the palate; layers of flavour; has freshness too. Depth and well integrated. Best ever Prieuré-Lichine for me. [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 92-94+
Château Rauzan-Gassies, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Deep and arterial in colour; pure black cherry and blackcurrant aromatics; attractive fruit and not noticeably masked by oak; has grip and texture on the palate; perhaps not the succulence of some but I like the purity. Increasing sophistication here at Gassies. [78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 91-93+
Château Rauzan-Ségla, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated core; earthy purple at edge; layered on the nose; plenty of fruit; cool entry to the blackcurrant fruit; creamy and pure; has freshness and feels very accomplished; nicely integrated and balanced wine. Has a mineral finish. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot 13.5% alc]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2024-2040. 94-96
Château Siran, Margaux, 2016
Deep and saturated looking; intense; lots of extract and matter; quite extracted and needs to gel; has all the elements. [46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2030. 89-91+
Chateau du Tertre, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2016
Mid depth; not an exaggerated colour; earthy purple at rim; cherry and plum fruit; bit reduced sample; blackcurrant cassis revealed beneath on vigorous aeration; has vigour on the palate; fresh; purity and spice; falls away a tad on the finish. [75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UCGB 4/4/17. Drink 2023-2032. 90-92
Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, Margaux, 2016
Deep colour; purple at edge; lovely perfume; attractive and glossy; very Bordeaux; very intense and caressing fruit; voluptuous; textured and succulent tannin; very good length with a silky finish. Wonderful Margaux. [84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot]. Tasted at Ch. Margaux 4/4/17. Drink 2022-2035. 93-95+
Tags: 2016, Alter Ego, Bdx16, Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Angludet, Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Chateau Cantenac Brown, Chateau d'Arsac, Chateau Dauzac, Chateau Desmirail, Chateau du Tertre, Chateau Durfort-Vivens, Chateau Ferrière, Chateau Giscours, Chateau Kirwan, Chateau La Gurgue, Chateau Labégorce, Chateau Lascombes, Chateau Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Marquis de Terme, Chateau Monbrison, Chateau Palmer, Château Paveil de Luze, Chateau Prieuré-Lichine, Chateau Rauzan-Gassies, Chateau Rauzan-Ségla, Chateau Siran, Margaux, Merlot, Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, Petit Verdot