2017’s a funny old vintage in Bordeaux. It feels to me like this year is the least successful of the past decade, assuming we forget about the washout 2013 vintage. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number wines that are really impressive now that the 2017s are in bottle. Last October’s annual Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in London showed some excellent wines in Pomerol and St Emilion, perhaps more so than in the other communes, but there were fine wines to be found in all the appellations. That said many lacked a bit of charm, seemed somewhat austere and lacked mid-palate concentration. Yes, they are fresh. Yes, the acidity is bright and some have a decent zap about them, but, overall, it’s hardly a vintage that sets the pulse racing. The same couldn’t be said for the experience that the vignerons themselves faced in the early part of the growing season in 2017 when devastating frosts wiped out entire crops in St Emilion and Pomerol and did much damage elsewhere, notably in parts of Pessac-Léognan and the Haut-Médoc. Some properties didn’t make any wine at all. It was certainly a nerve-jangling time for growers. Looked in that light, perhaps we must actually see 2017 as something of a success.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Brane-Cantenac’
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.
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.
The joyride around Bordeaux 2016 culminated once again with some remarkable wines in the Haut-Médoc. These were led by Château Palmer, which in 2016 has produced a Margaux to rival last year’s beauty. Overall you would have thought that the dry and hot conditions would have been difficult on some of the gravelly and lighter soils in both Margaux and in Pessac-Léognan, the two key appellations in which I dedicated a large part of my final day tasting. While I did notice a little more variability (some jam/raisin qualities in a couple, over-extraction in others] I was generally very impressed with a great number of wines. Once again the aromatics, the fruit tones and seductive qualities of the tannins were remarkable at the top end. I also explored the Haut-Médoc appellation in some detail. There are a great many wines of interest here in 2016 for the consumer. The vintage appears to rival 2009 and 2010. Stylistically it is almost a hypothetical blend of those two vintages [perhaps with some 2014 thrown in], but with generally more moderate alcohol levels. Time will tell as to 2016s precise place in the pantheon, but it’s obviously a very exciting vintage. Still, dark Brexit clouds mean that this vintage will obviously be released into an uncertain and possibly very different future.