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.
Posts Tagged ‘Clos de le Beau Père’
Day four on the primeurs trail saw me return to the right bank. There is no doubt that 2015 is at its most consistent and impressive in St Emilion. Arriving at Château Pavie, appropriately enough I thought in a Napa Valley-like fog, it was actually interesting to see how they had opted for comparatively modest extraction here this year. Yes there was substance and extract, but also composure across an exciting range. Pavie itself is genuinely impressive, as is Bellevue-Mondotte [quite ravishing], Pavie-Decesse and Monbousquet [much better than its 2014]. I was also struck by the quality of their Castillon, Clos Lunelles. Château Cheval Blanc was up next. Chalk and cheese of course with Pavie. There is wonderful beauty and elegance here in this 2015 offering from Cheval Blanc, which comes from its unique terrior that borders Pomerol. The wine reminds me of their 1985. Pierre Lurton is very excited by the quality. They are comparing to 2010 and 1998, in terms of the dry, yet cool maturity [more on this later].
There is no more informal, carefree primeurs tasting to be had than the one on offer in the speakeasy St Emilion cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. ‘JLT’s own range of properties is laid out on a bench before you, followed by those he consults for and distributes [and there’s a multitude of these]. You’re given a set of large glasses, a table between some stainless steel tanks and it’s time to help yourself. If the approach is refreshing, the wines are even more so – glass after glass of provocative, exotic, remarkable Bordeaux passes nose and lips. It’s a purists nightmare but a hedonists dream. And sat at the top of the Thunevin tree is Château Valandraud itself. The wine is as much a statement about the man and his ambitions as it is an expression of terroir, [though that is perhaps true of all great wine] and, frankly, who cares when the stuff tastes so damn good. And Valandraud 2014 is damn good in my book.
Overall in 2013 Pomerol has not made wines as good as in 2011 and 2012. Perhaps the quality lies somewhere between 2007 and 2008, though the acidity seems more marked than in both those years. There are successes but also disappointments. At the Cercle Rive Droite tasting, Pomerol was outplayed by the St Emilion Grand Crus Classé shown. At the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting the standard felt better, but if the wines were more consistent, they felt a little compact, sometimes lacking expression, strange in an appellation not usually shy in coming forward. Not even Pomerol’s natural exuberance can quite defy the gravity of the 2013 vintage it seems.