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Bordeaux 2016: MW Institute Tasting

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

It’s taken me a while to post these notes on seventy-three wines from the MW Institute’s horizontal 2016 Bordeaux tasting held at the very end of 2021. Looking back on the notes I’m reminded quite what a unique vintage this is. In a decade with at least three other contenders to greatness [2010, 2018 and 2019 – with 2015 also very good] what really impresses in 2016 is the breadth of quality across all Bordeaux’s red appellations and the balance in the wines. They have ripe fruit, juicy acidities and great textures. They are extremely moreish. There’s not the over-extraction that was more common in 2010, nor the exaggerated ripeness of some 2018s, nor the hefty alcohols you can find in the 2019s [though ’19 is a truly wonderful vintage]. Many of these ’16s are well under 14% [with exceptions in St Emilion and Pomerol]. It makes this a Bordeaux vintage to drink without fearing a blinding headache. That said many of the wines have retreated into their shells a fair bit since bottling. You will want to wait to broach wine from Pauillac, St Julien and definitely St Estèphe. Many in St Emilion and Pomerol are now starting to drink well, along with the top wines from Pessac-Léognan. Still there’s no hurry at all really as these wines are so well balanced and fresh. So, what were picks of the MW tasting?

All appellations have produced wines that have you reaching for the superlatives. Starting on the left bank at the top [geographically speaking] St Estèphe has produced some amazing Bordeaux. Château Montrose is a candidate for wine of the vintage, but to be honest so too is Château Calon Ségur. Château Cos d’Estournel also shows wonderful purity. All three properties have had a great run of form in the past decade.

Pauillac has played a blinder in 2016. Qualitatively Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Lynch Bages, Château Pichon Baron and Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande have easily made wine of first growth quality. Grand-Puy-Lacoste is so enticing already while Lynch Bages displays significant power, though it is the more backward of the two. You can’t put a wafer between the Pichons. The Pichon Baron has dazzling depth and the Pichon Lalande is ablaze with seductive, creamy blackcurrant fruit. These all flirt with perfection. On the day Château Pontet Canet was heady and sublime but didn’t quite have the freshness of the others to me. In a tasting line up sans Lafite and Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild represented the de jure premier crus. Mouton has tremendous concentration yet feels as fresh as a daisy. No mean feat.

In St Julien the wines felt the most closed of all the appellations on tasting. They could all benefit from at least two or three more years of bottle age. Château Léoville-Las-Cases topped the appellation in my tastings [Ducru Beaucaillou and Léoville-Poyferré were not present in the line-up]. Las Cases is powerful and concentrated in 2016. It is reminiscent of a top vintage of Latour [its close neighbour in Pauillac]. Château St Pierre has made another belting wine and the wines fashioned by the late Anthony Barton – Langoa Barton and Léoville Barton – will not disappoint. They both need a while in bottle though. I was particularly struck by the wine at Château Talbot. This property has under-performed in nineties and early noughties to me but seems to be back on top form in 2016.

Château Margaux has terrific refinement and intensity. The texture is pure silk. Château Brane Cantenac is delicious and very impressive hot on heels of the Margaux first growth. Château Rauzan-Ségla is also super fine and pure. These were definitely the top chateaux in the line up from this appellation shown [a range missing Château Palmer]. Château Lascombes and Château Giscours also impressed, though poles apart stylistically.

In the larger Haut-Médoc appellation Château La Lagune is plush and aromatic with plenty of flesh. Château Cantemerle is inky and fresh and Château Belgrave and Château La Tour Carnet have also made good wines.

There are plenty of super red Bordeaux down in Pessac-Léognan in 2016. The appellation has clearly produced some of the greatest wines of the vintage. Château Haut-Brion and Château Smith Haut Lafitte were tops for me – both up with the finest 2016s. Just behind are excellent wines from Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Château Haut-Bailly and Domaine de Chevalier.

Over on the right bank there are stunning wines in both St Emilion and Pomerol. Many of wines have lived up to their extraordinary promise during primeurs back in the spring of 2017 [my early thoughts here]. In the MWs St Emilion line-up [which I admit finally got to after tasting fifty plus wines from the left bank] there were a number of stand-outs. Château Figeac showed amazing purity and texture, Château Canon-la-Gaffelière was super seductive and enticing, a decadent drop. Château Angélus is also deep and layered. On the day Château Fonplégade and Château Bellevue were also wonderful. A few expected winners fell a bit short, largely because they felt backward, and seemed to have retreated into their shells. This was true of Château Cheval Blanc, Château Belair-Monange and Château Canon. Evidently they had all the ingredients but had shut down.

Amongst the Pomerols shown, Château La Conseillante was wonderful. It has exceptional balance and the most enticing plummy, black cherry fruit profile. Château Trotanoy also shone on the day. It is multi-layered and had developed an attractive savoury aspect. Château Clinet, Château Gazin, Château La Fleur Pétrus and Chateau Hosanna also showed very well.

So that’s the quick overview of the 2016 tasting. I will post the notes by appellation over the coming days. Then after that I’ll get round to filing my notes on the 2018s I’ve had much more recently [last November]. Cheers!

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