Bordeaux 2018 vintage – ‘les cinqs’ (5 essential conditions for a good vintage)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-08


To compare with the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux visit our post 2016 vintage conditions


Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – 2eme cru classe
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – 2eme cru classe ©Fabian Cobb / Wine Owners


Looking over the weather stats for the Bordeaux 2018 vintage one is struck by several positive features and, unfortunately, a couple which are likely to cause some difficulties for winemakers. There are certain key weather conditions which the vine needs to perform well. Bearing in mind, always, that generic weather data does not focus on an individual terroir and the way it might cope with the weather nor does it reveal winemakers’ attitudes and decisions.

Bordeaux 2018 weather

Bearing in mind the chart above, there are 5 essential conditions for a good vintage:

  1. A calm, warm and relatively dry period in the Spring to permit healthy flowering and

  2. similar conditions for fruit set a little later;

  3. Gradual introduction of dry summer conditions to induce hydric stress no later than veraison (when the grapes change colour)

  4. Warm weather for even maturation with adequately dry (but not too dry) conditions in August and September, and

  5. Optimum harvest conditions in September and October without rain.

Looking at the chart above one can see that many of these conditions appear to have been met except that although cumulative precipitation was beneficial in the first few months, the wet conditions in June and July plus the warm weather encouraged the onset of aggressive mildiou which provided very difficult conditions for many and particularly estates managed on biodynamic principles. It was an unusually sunny and dry summer fulfilling the criteria for a good vintage although a hail storm in late May affected a few properties in the Medoc. The resulting long period of hot and dry conditions might be referred to as a ‘drought’ – it hardly rained at all for 4 months. The year which had started late for vine development reversed itself and it became an ‘early’ vintage – a rare enough occurrence in Bordeaux.


Fabian Cobb


En Primeur - DAY 2: "The First Rule of 2017: There is No Rule..."

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-11


Reflecting on day two, with the heady aromas of Pavie and co still flickering around our mouths, and a hard day's tasting behind us, we searched for patterns and rules. But, on reflection, there really is no rule that we can suggest.


Chateau Pavie - Bordeaux en primeur, ©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

An Unexpected Guest

Cabernet Sauvignon made an larger-than-usual appearance in several top wines we tried today, most noticeably Vieux Chateau Certan and Cheval Blanc. Typically, VCC contains just 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, but in 2017 that was increased to 5%. Although there was no overt Cabernet Sauvignon aroma profile in the wine, its freshness and focus almost certainly added to the completeness of the mouthfeel. Cheval Blanc is a quite different story; 2017 is the first vintage in many years that the wine will contain Cabernet Sauvignon.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

Shining Examples of Franc

Cabernet Franc is absolutely not in the dog house in 2017, despite the general impression that it had a tough vintage. Three stand-out wines from today's line-up contained substantial levels of Cabernet Franc; Chateau Troplong- Mondot, Chateau Canon and Cheval Blanc's Petit Cheval. The former pair included around 25% Cab Franc, and Le Petit Cheval put on a blinding performance with a relatively massive 48%. So, while the variety may have had a very tough vintage in some parts of the right bank, it is showing admirably in others.


Frost Patterns

There is a lot of emphasis this week on The Frost (27th and 28th April 2017), and rightly so; it was absolutely devastating from some producers, and has had clear repercussions in their 2017 wines. But not all vineyards were affected, and some seem to have escaped entirely unscathed. Chateau Canon, for example, was almost completely untouched by frost. The wines are suitably excellent - refined, bright, tight and focused. Vieux Chateau Certan - our second tasting of the day - is another example of a winery seemingly undaunted by the frost. It tasted magnificent, silky and balanced this morning, all those tannins ago. But many of those right bank producers who did experience frost have found ways to produce good, and even excellent wines. Some adjusted the blend of grapes they use. Soutard is a fantastic and successful example of this; their 2017 is very good, and will be a great value buy when released. Their 2017 blend was 90% Merlot (significantly higher than the 65% normally used), with Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon and Malbec making up the remaining 10%.

Chateau Gazin was untouched by frost, but the team there nonetheless felt that their Cab Franc wasn't quite up to scratch. They took the decision to boost their blend up to a fat 95% Merlot, resulting in a 2017 grand vin with a silky mouthfeel, great balance, and an enticing touch of kirsch dancing around on the nose.

On the left bank yesterday, the story was quite different. The frost was relatively indiscriminate there, affecting most vineyards to some extent. But here in the right bank, the hillier landscape allowed the freezing air to drain away from some places...and to gather catastrophically in others. Thus the distribution of frost damage was much more patchy here. Clay-based areas and lower-lying sites were obviously hit very hard by the frost. We do feel for those producers hit hardest - it was clearly not an easy vintage for them, and they face challenges ahead when the wines are released to market.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

So the rule really is that there is no rule here. Which makes exhaustive primeurs tasting all the more valuable. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we head to Graves and Pessac-Leognon in the morning, to taste the Haut-Brion wines, and then on to Pape Clement and Malartic Lagraviere. We shall see if, and to what extent, the gravel soils helped mitigate the frost impact here...


Wine Owners 2017 Bordeaux En Primeur Week - DAY ONE

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-10


Starting early, we hit the Monday-morning Bordeaux commuter congestion armed with laptops, phones and an excellent pain au chocolat. Day one launched us headlong into the Medoc grand crus, starting at Lafite, then moving through Mouton, Cos d'Estournel, Pontet-Canet, Calon-Segur, Montrose, finishing at Chateau Margaux.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Tongues still tingling from untamed tannins, we are now reviewing the day from the wine-free environs of our rented loft- conversion apartment. There is blue sky peeping through the skylights.

Three main themes emerged from today's en primeur 2017 tastings:


Cabernet Cornucopia

The most obvious pattern is that 2017 was clearly a Cabernet vintage in Pauillac and Saint-Estephe. Almost all of the wines we tried have a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends than in 2016. The particular weather patterns of the 2017 growing season meant that Merlot was tricker in 2017, and Cabernet performed well. Lafite, Montrose and Calon-Segur particularly exemplified this - their wines glowing from the healthy Cabernet. The Calon tasting demonstrated this most clearly; comparing side-by-side the Marquis de Calon and the Calon-Segur (Cabernet was particularly higher in the latter) it became clear how a higher percentage of Cabernet has worked wonders in 2017. The Calon is fresher, brighter and more defined than the Marquis, has more-focused acidity, and will be by far the longer-lived wine.

A noteworthy exception to this pattern is the grand vin at Chateau Margaux, where the team are obviously very happy with their Merlot this year. In fact, their Merlot was apparently so good that it was used worthy of a greater dose in the grand vin this year - a move which brought production levels of the grand vin up to almost 2015 levels (impressive from the smaller 2017 vintage). This is an unusual moment of glory for Merlot, which is typically the ‘insurance policy' grape.


House Styles

One obvious pattern showing in day one's tastings was house styles. These are very much in evidence in 2017, and most obvious at the Mouton stable, where d'Armailhac, Petit Mouton, Mouton and Aile d'Argent all shared the house's exuberent, borderline-exotic richesse. This continues right down to the house's entry-level Baronarques brand from Limoux, which we were also warmly invited to taste. The four Cos d'Estournel wines also had a family feel about them, being clean, bright and focused, without being overly ‘new world'. The pattern was most pleasing, perhaps, at Montrose, where both the Dame de Montrose and the grand vin showed brilliantly, and shared a distinctive style; cool, fresh wines (yes, high Cabernet content) with lots of tightly wound potential, and a whiff of something herbal (along the lies of nettles and lavender) marking them out from the crowd.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Past and present

References to the past, as a means of promoting the present, were frequent in the presentations today.

Lafite's new director, Jean-Guillaume Prats (previously of Cos d'Estournel), pointed to technology as being significant in the quality of this 2017 vintage. Thirty years ago, he said, given the same vintage conditions, it would have been 'very tricky' to make a wine of such high quality as they have managed this vintage with both the Carruades and grand vin. Of course, his job is to say such things, but his demeanour was very real, honest and open. And the wines spoke for themselves; the Lafite was its usual elegant, impressive self even at this early stage in its life. 

Also illustrating progress by pointing to the past was Thibault Pontalier of Chateau Margaux, who highlighted that the blend of Pavillon Rouge today is exactly the blend of the grand vin thirty years ago. A strong part of his reasoning for this was the ever- increasing quality of Cabernet Sauvignon that Margaux is able to produce, thanks to investment in technique and technology. This was in evidence for more than just the reds, however; Margaux's stunning Pavillon Blanc 2017 ended today with a refreshing flourish of beautifully concentrated, linear Sauvignon.

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Comparing 2017 with 2016, the majority of wines from day one appear to be a notch less intense and refined than 2016. We're interested to see if this continues on the right bank.

Tomorrow we visit Nenin, Vieux Chateau Certan, Cheval Blanc, Gazin, La Couspade, Canon and Pavie. Watch this space tomorrow, for reflections on the right bank.



2017 - the year in wine that was

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-12-21


Broadening interest

2017 was a fascinating year for the wine market: a year of solid growth, consolidation and even a flash of speculation!

It was also a year of broader consumer interest reignited.

Knight Frank’s global Wealth Report includes analysis of the fine wine market provided by Wine Owners. Wine was by far the best-performing collectible asset of 2016, up 24%. As a result, lots of positive press in 2017 brought plenty of new interest into the market.

Health

After the sharp price increases of 2016, when the Bordeaux market leapt as it rebounded off its 2014 lows following a couple of years of ticking up, 2017 was always going to be a less dramatic year for the classified and blue chip Bordeaux market.

It was encouraging to see a successful 2016 en primeur campaign that saw generally modest increases over 2015 in Euros, even if increases were more substantial for UK buyers due to the weakened currency. Overall gains in 2017 were low single-digit for First Growths (after the 30% readjustment seen in the previous year). Other Classified growths and Right Banks rose an average of 7%.

Such moderation was less evident in the primary or secondary Burgundy market, the latter up 14.5%. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the top of the market is holding onto 5-year gains of 100%, thanks in part to enduring Asian interest.

Hard luck stories

Burgundy was really hard hit by frosts in 2016. It’s a super vintage, but with many producer cellars that are 2/3rds empty. Only Vosne-Romanée and parts of Morey-St.-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin escaped the April ‘gel’. Pretty much everywhere else was heavily hit. The night-time freeze hit the Grand Crus and vineyards high up, the morning sun burned the buds of other premier crus and villages plots.

That big reduction in volume does add something to the intensity of the reds most noticeably. They are balanced, intensely redcurrant or blackcurrant in character, saline and fresh, with a vein of blood orange pulsing through them. The whites are fine but don’t quite have the extraordinary rich, bright core of the 2014s, although in their favour the whites show more site specific character at this very early stage.

In 2017 Burgundy narrowly missed a second successive year of April misery, with an abundant vintage of good quality. Instead, Bordeaux was badly affected by freezing night-time temperatures in the last week of April, after a warm spring had encouraged early growth. Some areas on the Right Bank, Graves and parts of the Medoc away from the warming waters of the Gironde were devastated. Chateaux de Fieuzel in Pessac isn’t making any wine in 2017.

What that will do to en primeur pricing next year remains to be seen, but widespread rises are on the cards, probably even those properties who emerged unscathed.

Notable winning regions

Champagne extended its run with top back vintages (where relative scarcity starts to play) racing ahead, up 13% in 2017. The world’s appetite for Champagne remains insatiable.

It was gratifying to see Northern Italy in rude health, with interest for Barolo Crus broadening significantly and prices of the best producers very sharply up this year on the back of a string of good vintages culminating in the highly sought after 2013s.

Speculation

Talking of that flash of speculation, Margaux 2015 announced in November that Margaux would release their 2015 as a special edition in honour of Paul Pontallier, the managing director of the estate who died in March 2016.

We saw the first release from the chateau, offered in individual single wooden cases, at a significant premium to the release price.

Based on the Chateau’s announcement, we saw speculative trading in the wine between EP club members rise and rise, with bids climbing from under £6,000 to £12,000, representing more than a 130% increase compared to the release price to UK consumers of £4,650.

The limited edition black bottles with a variation on the classic Margaux label in gold invited comparison with the 2000 Mouton Rothschild, which attracts a significant market following based on collectability, despite not being in the top flight of Mouton vintages or even one of the best wines of the vintage.

Looking ahead to 2018

If you're interested to learn more about the health of the fine wine market and are interested in our predictions for 2018, you can now download our Fine Wine Predictions 2018 report, a must-read for collectors, wine lovers looking for value, and investors searching for opportunities.


DOWNLOAD PREDICTIONS 2018 REPORT


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We wish you all a very enjoyable festive season, and much vinous pleasure as you open great wine bottles to celebrate and see in 2018.

Best wishes for health and happiness from the Wine Owners team!




The Wine Owners Trial and Terroir Dinner 23 November, 2017

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-11-24


The Don, St Swithins Lane, London, a converted wine warehouse, was the venue for one of Wine Owners tasting evenings offered to its members – Trial and Terroir Dinner based upon the 2011 Bordeaux vintage. The evening was conducted in one of the Don’s private rooms with an earthy dinner by head chef Frederick Forster.

Lionel Dougnac, buying director for De Luze & Fils, one of Bordeaux’s most influential negotiants, helped us navigate the properties surrounding the waters of the Gironde estuary. Lionel has been in the Bordeaux trade for over 20 years, specialising in buying classified growths. He has also worked for the top barrel-maker in France. Oaking became an interesting discussion point half way through the evening.

The focus for the evening was to explore the concept of terroir through the different wines presented during the evening from the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux. A vintage which left many enthusiasts wondering if the so-called ‘harlequin’ year could justify its high prices at primeur. Not surprisingly, there was immediately an exchange over what terroir might mean and during the evening there was plenty of opportunity to plumb the depths of this compelling subject. Lionel was quick to point out that, in his view, terroir was not just about the weather and soils but also included other factors, and even the ambitions of the domain owner.

2011: for those that might have forgotten, it was an unusual year by any standard. The year started with a massive water deficiency in the vineyards, and an unusually warm and protracted Spring. This meant that the vines were well in advance over the average year. Average temperatures during this period were close to if not in excess of any records previously recorded. It culminated in two extremely hot days in June where the temperature exceed 40°C. Some exposed bunches of grapes, especially on gravel soils, were scorched and losses were considerable, as much as 20% of the crop in some instances. If vignerons were concerned that any continuation of the drought would decimate whatever crop remained they needn’t have worried as damp, cool weather set in for much of July, followed by a very hot August. The heat precipitated some substantial downbursts and overall precipitation was above average for the period. An Indian summer followed which provided optimum conditions for the harvest in September. A series of circumstances which profited the white wines of the region but the red wines were heterogeneous.

L’Evangile vs Vieux Château Certan: the expression of the two first wines on offer provided an interesting contrast. The owners at VCC, the Thienpont family since 1924, have always worn their heart on their sleeve combined with an increasingly obsessive focus on managing the vineyard at a micro level of geography – and an ambition to let the terroir speak for itself using minimum intervention in the wine making. L’Evangile, now wholly owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild since 1999 (they had earlier acquired a majority a shareholding) is a neighbour from ‘Haut-Pomerol’ with an ambition to become one of the top Pomerol estates. The latter’s substantially higher Merlot in the blend offered a very round and pleasing profile – a whopping 94%, leaving little room for their Cabernet Franc. It was very elegant and restrained which contrasted with the beautifully defined structure of VCC. There were pleasing elements in both wines. Interestingly, guests were not to be tempted by the more voluptuous offer and unanimously preferred the ‘aesthetic values’ expressed in Vieux Château Certan 2011.

In Pessac, the contrast was even more stark. Haut-Bailly, as always, attractive and feminine, seduced much of the company with its approachable elegance based on a more merlotised style than usual - a statistical recognition, if nothing else, that its Cabernet Sauvignon suffered that year. The Cabernet Franc, already on the way out at the domain, hardly got more than a top-up role. Haut-Bailly have always acknowledged that their terroir has issues under dry conditions such as those experienced in 2011. La Mission Haut-Brion was altogether more muscular and intense. It possessed a complex tension which will be years in its evolution. Lionel had obviously selected the wines he felt would give us more to ponder. We digressed into a conversation about how artists’ materials are perhaps the elements of physical terroir; that artistic genius is the inspiration, imagination and ambition of an estate’s terroir interpreted by the owner. Whatever the canvas that year, Wine Owners terroirists’ marginally preferred the more ‘traditional’ yet polished properties expressed in the intense muscularity of La Mission Haut-Brion 2011.

The grand estates of Pauillac were represented by Pontet-Canet and Château Pichon-Longueville Baron. This gave us an opportunity to discuss the influence of biodynamic viticulture in the region and its impact on the wines of Pontet-Canet. Clearly something had separated the processes of these two estates which are largely comparable in terms of size and varieties. When it came down to it, Pichon Baron managed 82% Cabernet Sauvignon in their blend, whilst Pontet-Canet a mere 60%. Yields were disparate too – 39% in the case of Pichon Baron whilst at Pontet-Canet it was 32%. It’s worth just quoting from the specification sheet of Pichon-Baron 2011 to understand properly the enormous lengths châteaux had to go to preserve the quality in the bottle:

“Bespoke grape picking: the grapes were picked and brought in the vat-house plot by plot, in order of maturity, with particular attention to selection on the plots. Sorting in the vat-house was highly meticulous [their bold] keeping only the very best grapes. The grapes were sorted twice, both before and after de-stemming. Once de-stemmed, the selection of the grapes was fine tuned on two sorting lines, one manual and one using optic systems.”

This extensive and costly work appears to have been justified as the assembled company substantially preferred this wine. Perhaps the more laissez-faire practices of biodynamics don’t favour complicated years albeit it may be a more ‘authentic’ product.

Our final flight of the evening ended with a cheese plate and perhaps two of the most interesting wines of the evening – Chateaux Montrose and Calon-Ségur. Both estates in their own ways have seen major upheavals over the last 5-10 years. One could even be forgiven for thinking that terroir might the servant of the ambition of the two new owners. Certainly, the Bouygues have invested colossal sums in an estate which they were always destined to own. The recent vintages have all demonstrated that their terroir has justified the trust of its billionaire owners producing wonderful wines in supposedly less good vintages. 2011 was no exception. Montrose’s enhanced ‘environmental responsibility’ which the Bouygues have brought to the estate extends the work of one of its founders, Mathieu Dollfus, who established a programme of social care for his workers building them free housing in the ‘Montrose village’, included them in profit sharing and even offered free health care – making ‘unique contributions to the community’ of Saint-Estèphe. The windmill which stands on the property is a ‘symbol’ of his tenure and his fight against phylloxera – the windmill drew up water which flooded the vineyards – a practice which had some success in reducing the disease at the time. At Calon-Ségur, despite the death of its owner at harvest time, pulled off a stunning wine - contradicting received wisdom about yields (the estate had one of the largest yields of all the wines tasted) and demonstrated that even in turbulent times estates can pull something out of a hat. Triumph in adversity is part of the story of Bordeaux. Opinion was equally divided on their relative merits.

Lionel’s deft commentary on the wines permitted discussions on all other matters of interest to the guests. This wasn’t just a working evening – although there was much to delve into.

The evening conversation turned to a brief but informative discussion about the commercial prospects of ‘La Place’, advantages or otherwise of buying en primeur and discussions on some practices of specific châteaux to release wines as ‘library’ wines after primeur campaigns - subjects which Lionel was uniquely qualified to explain.

For those still with the will to carry on tasting there was ample opportunity with additional samples as backup. Overall, the unscientific assessment was that there were 3 stand-out wines – La Mission Haut-Brion 2011, Montrose 2011 and Vieux Château Certan 2011.

Broader definitions of terroir escape the confines of the tightly worded official description. The Australian economist David Throsby outlined the concept of a ‘cultural good’ (in his seminal book Economics and Culture, 2001) which might fit better to the breadth of considerations Lionel managed to convey during the evening. Throsby’s thesis is that a person’s preference for something would be based upon the characteristics of the good which contribute to its cultural value. Some of these are highlighted above in quotes but, in summary, they include aesthetic properties eg elegance and balance; spiritual value – emotional and inspirational attachment; environmental which includes PDO (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) and environmental responsibility; historical – evolution and tradition; symbolic, such as the name of ‘Bordeaux’ itself and what it inspires and among others one might conjure; and authenticity which is embodied in the unique character of a wine drawn from the local area where it is produced.

The WineOwners Trial and Terroir Dinner managed to elucidate these concepts and more.


Bordeaux 2007 dinner club - Part 1

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-10-09


The first of 3 dinners to taste through 61 red Bordeaux ‘Growths’ classified in 1855, the 2007 vintage had been kindly provided by 2 wine enthusiast brothers who were keen to share this extensive horizontal with fellow members.

The wines were cleverly organised into suitable flights to accompany each dinner course by Christopher Delalonde, resident Master Sommelier at The Don on St Swithins Lane, ensuring a peak was hit with the glorious venison main course, with further high spots to be enjoyed in the tail-end of supporting wines.

Christopher Delalonde

Given the less than enthusiastic press on the 2007 vintage, the wines showed a remarkable degree of consistency. 2007 was not a vintage to try to force, and the great successes at all levels of affordability and rank were those founded on balance and the natural aromatics of the vintage. Whilst bargains are far and few between, some of the lesser known Crus still represent good value for money. At the top end, the Firsts and most of the Seconds showed their class and the value of their top terroirs.

Cru Note

NM Score

Croizet Bages, Pauillac, 5th Fruit forward, spiced nose. Licorice leads the creamy attack, round supple mid palate. Fresh orange zest on the finish provides focus and suggests there's plenty of scope for near-term future development. Still young and promising. 92
Cos d'Estournel, St Estephe, 2nd Cool nose, spiced and generously perfumed. Savoury with with a saline element, and a texture reflecting fine, grainy tannins on the already resolved attack. Lifted, sappy, fruity mid palate and a finish that ends on a sweet crescendo. Delicious already, with plenty of future potential, and avoiding the overextraction of 2009/2010 vintages. 95
Prieuré Lichine, Margaux, 4th Cool, spiced nose with trademark Margaux perfume. Savoury attack and mid palate, with a blast of licorice. A little obvious and currently a disjointed finish. Mid weight, but this might just be a bit young and yet come together. 88
Pouget, Margaux, 5th First time I've ever tasted this Cru? That I can recall. Lovely, sappy nose: a sense of freshness and vitality. Fruity, rounded attack with the dry character of the fruit lending firmness. Mid weight mid palate, with an intriguing orange zest twist to the finish. Balanced and attractive. One to seek out at a bargain price as a household staple for Sunday lunch, given it's anonymity (and relative lack of buyer interest) in the market? 91
La Lagune, Haut Médoc, 3rd Perfumed nose betraying it's proximity to Margaux to the North and close to La Garonne. Energetic attack, meaty notes, and lightly spiced blend to create a strong appeal. Only a medium length finish lets it down, but still lots to like. 90+
Pedesclaux, Pauillac, 5th Pre the recent renaissance under Lorenzetti, who since 2009 bought 12 hectares next to Lafite and Mouton to enlarge and improve this forgotten Cru. It needed rescuing based on this showing: Licorice infused nose, slightly bright point of attack, nice density but with a bright acidity that isn't integrated and overall paraxodically shows as rather neutral. 86
Dauzac, Margaux, 5th Spiced nose, savoury and round. Rather dull and flat in character. Recalls the edgeless wine recipes made by producers for Naked Wine. Think Barry Manilow (unless you like Barry Manilow in which case think of someone else). 84
Chateau Batailley, Pauillac, 5th White pepper seasoned nose, griottes and cedar. Attractive cedary attack too with enough acidity to be mouthwatering. Firm, classic claret with enough cut to accompany the foie gras. Being picky, the mid palate came across as hollow on this showing. 88+
Desmirail, Margaux, 3rd Quite a neutral nose, on its reserve. Restrained. But the texture shows grainy tannins, offers an elegant intepretation of the appellation, and shows good persistence. The mid palate is dominated by its savoury character at present. Given it was part of the vast Rauzan estate in olden times (together with Rauzan Segla and Gassies), it probably should be offering more than is evident today. 88
Haut Brion, Pessac, 1st Liquor-like aromas intermingle with perfume on the nose. There's a stunning, illuminated attack with crystalline red fruit predominating. Superb energy driving into the long, long finish. Primary for now, this is not yet showing any of the unique Haut Brion Graves character one might expect, of charcoal, smoke and stoney minerality. It will come in time - give it 15+ years. Demonstrating once again how good Haut Brion is in off-years (or average years to give 2007 its dues). 96
La Tour Carnet, Haut-Medoc, 4th As ambitious as its master, Bernard-Magrez, this is a big wine. A liquory nose leads you in, where the palate is rich, with confit fruit leavened with cedar. Modern but nevertheless quite impressive, it offers value and should settle down with age into a gentler form with a little more refinement. Very recent vintages have pulled back are are a bit more restrained. 89
Pichon Baron, Pauillac, 2nd Very creamy nose, anis seeds adding aromatic complexity to the dominant oak influence. Huge cedary attack., sweet fruited mid palate, where the spice and licorice kicks in. Creamy oak influence evident here too. Impressive in its style, but I personally would have preferred more elegance for a Super Second. Yet it's young, needs time, and is an engaging wine for those who are attracted to its powerful form. 92+
Calon Ségur, St Estephe, 3rd Always a 'giving' Cru with a good dose of Merlot, the nose immediately shows off its fruit, which is shot through with graphite. Nice intensity to the attack, creamy yet balanced, with an underlying exuberance that's contained. Medium length to the finish which ends a little flat. The ending lets the whole down for now, but may well gain in energy and interest with age. 92+
D'Issan, Margaux, 3rd Another estate owned by Lorenzetti, who has been making improvements here for longer than at Pedesclaux. Fruity nose, with gamey notes and a trademark D'Issan salinity. There's a super energy to the mid-palate, fruity then savoury and with great progression. Super-fresh, bright acidity is well integrated into the fruit, and is unforced in its style though I'd prefer a touch more finesse. This should develop very well with time, and should make finer old bones. 92
Lafite, Pauillac 1st Creamy nose, black pepper, but very much on its reserve. Superb intensity and an aromatic, floral quality to the fruit. This is defined at this stage of its evolution by refined tannins, is very persistent on the palate and leads into a rich, confit lemon finish. Stunning but terribly young for now. Should be magnificant in 10-20 years. 96+
Beychevelle, St Julien, 4th White pepper nose, a fine attack and a round mid palate, nicely integrated but a bit simple overall. For the cash, one expects more. 88
Kirwan, Margaux, 3rd Perfumed nose, confit, sticky fruit on a rich attack leading to a thickly textured, disjointed mid-palate. I can't help feel it would be a lot more interesting if it followed the less interventionist approach of D'Issan. Disappointing. 88
Grand Puy Ducasse, Pauillac, 5th Perfumed nose, licorice notes, Firm attack, medium weight fruity mid palate with the right amount of freshness to lend lift and definition, and a citric thread driving the finish. Surprisingly good. Perhaps we're so used to the excellence and consistency of Grand Puy Lacoste we're overlooked a 'value' Growth here? 91
Leoville Barton, St Julien, 2nd Balanced, classy perfumed nose is a big step up. Very energetic attack leads to a mid palate showing real complexity, mixing savoury notes with licorice and creamy red fruits. Good length, lovely. 93+
Ducru Beaucaillou, St Julien, 2nd Cedar and saline nose with a dash of perfume that adds complexity. Smooth entry, svelte fruit on the palate, giving the impression overall of a very polished wine. It's quite possible this is less mute on the palate than was my impression, and that the reserved nature of the fruit augurs well for the future. Somewhat worse for wear by this end point, the note was correspondingly short! 92+


Bordeaux en primeur 2016 and the Dory Syndrome

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-08-08


Early afternoon 22 May 2017 word spread that Lafite was out. A few calls were made. But where was the wine? Allocations were down 50% but with the promise of another tranche in a couple of weeks’ time. Négociants waited, not wishing to be stuck with more highly priced second tranche releases.

In tandem the Chateau also attempted to revive its 2010 vintage strategy of tying other wines in the stable to allocations of Carruades and le Grand Vin. Either Rieussec and Carmes de Rieussec were being tied to Carruades, or Carruades was being tied with Duhart, or Duhart was being tied with Lafite.

As an aside, there was nothing subpar with Duhart this year, a properly serious wine in fact. But using it in a bait-and-switch move is unlikely to enhance the bait’s secondary market reputation.

Then, without waiting for the second tranche, more than one of the smaller négociants broke ranks on releasing the first tranche to customers, but estimating the cost of the second tranche and pricing at the intersect of the two. With lack of market transparency buyers were uncertain what fair value might look like.

In fact the majority of estimated intersect prices turned out to be the level of the second release price, handing merchants a handy profit of 20%, and suggesting Lafite were less aggressive with their second release pricing than they had previously signposted.

Thankfully, Lafite 2016 represents a big step up on the previous vintage, so the price increase will likely be justified in the medium term, if as expected, the secondary market adds 25% to its release price over the next few years. In fact Lafite 2016 is simply glorious: an absolute pinnacle of classicism in this great left bank vintage.

Notwithstanding, the Lafite release ‘strategy’ represents everything that is most unattractive about Bordeaux en primeur at its opaque worst.

None of which would matter, if it weren’t for the consumer. It wasn’t so long ago that the Bordeaux market was moribund: the market killed off by aggressive pricing of 2009 and 2010 vintages and a subsequent market collapse. As long as consumers end up nursing persistent losses, there is a high risk of a collapse in market confidence. Commodity-like collectible markets that wine epitomises are particularly sensitive to the maintenance of positive sentiment.

We’re certainly not back in territory as yet. Lafite 2016 released at almost 50% below that of 2010, whilst for UK buyers the collapse of Sterling has magnified price increases, whereas the strength of the US Dollar provides a tailwind for Bordeaux sales into the USA.

But the Bordelais need to be mindful of what happened following the mis-priced 2010 release. Lest we forget, it was barely 3 years ago that the Bordeaux secondary market was still in the doldrums. The remarkable market resurgence that started in late 2014 should not be taken for granted. The Chateaux have a profound responsibility to avoid the Dory Syndrome, named after the forgetful fish in the Disney film animation.

Picture: Wine Owners


Lafite Rothschild’s 2016 tranches

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-23


Early afternoon 22nd May word spread that Lafite was out. A few calls were made. But where was the wine? Allocations were down 50% but with the promise of another allocation in a week’s time at a premium of between 30%-40%. No prices, no offers.

Then, more than one of the smaller négociants decided to pull the trigger on releasing the première tranche, but estimating the cost of the second tranche and pricing at the intersect of the two. Perhaps guessing they were unlikely to get any more and taking attractive profits on the first tranche.

In UK terms the averaged, intersect price is £480 a bottle, which puts the first release at around £384 a bottle whilst the second release could be in the range £540-£575.

That compares to the 2015 release price of £358 per bottle, which in turn leads us to the conclusion that in euro terms the first tranche release price is likely to have been more or less flat year on year. But of course, we can’t be sure.

The rest of the supply chain is sitting tight. The majority of Lafite offers won’t now reach your inbox for another week. The channels of distribution are showing admirable sense and fair play in averaging the two release prices and treating their customers with the egalité most deserve.

So how about the wine? Lafite 2016 is glorious: one of a handful of wines that stand imperiously; pinnacles in this truly great left bank vintage. Is it worth £480 a bottle? A difficult question to answer, but surprisingly, it does look like acceptable value in the context of current market prices of prior excellent or great vintages.

Below is our relative value analysis. Based on our estimations of what’s likely to happen in the next week, 2016 is showing a small advantage over prior vintages. If you consider that 2009 and 2010 are well off their lows, and that the absolute low of Lafite 2010 was £446 a bottle, it indicates that 2016 has very limited downside, and might well run up to around £600 a bottle over the next 3 years.

Once selling commission of 5% inclusive is taken into account and an adjustment for storage fees, your net proceeds would be £567, or a return of £87 a bottle: a return or discount to future market value (depending on your perspective) of 15%. Based on the above illustration an en primeur purchaser will be therefore looking at growth averaging 5% per annum.

It’s tight. There’ll be buyers. Notwithstanding, if the averaged price per bottle shakes out around £450-£460 many more collectors would swing behind it.




Bordeaux 2016 - What should my buying strategy look like?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-24



Bordeaux 2016 - our tasting notes

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-24


For a detailed overview of the vintage, please see What you need to know about Bordeaux 2016 reds

This year’s Bordeaux 2016 en primeur tasting notes reflect the vintage and its character. You’ll see the same words come up again and again in our tasting notes.

For fruit character, that commonly includes "briar fruit", "cassis" or "blackcurrant" and "sherbetty fruit". Very few showed prune or confit fruit character, and we generally marked these ones down as potentially showing overripe characteristics.

For non-fruit character, it’s "licorice" and "cedar". An Interestingly definitional note: Licorice (or liquorice) is extracted from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, a herb whose extract is 50 times sweeter than sugar!

Many of the best wines have a "liqueur-like" refined nose and a similar mouth-feel.

Structurally, a "charge of tannins" is very evident on the attack, often accompanied by a "chewy" finish. This comes from the July/August drought when lack of water led to the plants shutting down and producing correspondingly higher tannins.

The long autumn hang-time with cool nights led to the sense of freshness in the wines. You’ll find lots of wines in my notes that are "mouth-watering", "sappy" and "threaded with acidity".

The finish of the wine is so important when evaluating young, fine (and expensive) wine and this year the finishes are typified by the word "controlled" whilst there was generally very good "insistent" length. It’s that sense of containment and balance on the finish that helps make the best wines so good and sets them apart from the rest.

Further tasting notes will release on the right bank in due course where I did the least tasting, and see these links for what the critics think of St Emilion and Pomerol.

DECANTER - Bordeaux 2016 Right Bank: Anson’s first impression

JANCIS ROBINSON - Bordeaux 2016 : the guide

Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.

SAINT ESTEPHE

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Cos D'Estournel 98 * Cedary, sweet nose. Then a charge of tannin. Firm fruit, progressively building from a cool mid palate to a powerful, broad finish - rather like a fan opening or a peacock's tail slowly revealing its intricate colours.   £££ Saint Estephe
Montrose 97 Liqueur like nose. Cassis and cedar notes in the attack then sweet mouthwatering, very balanced mid palate. Sweet finish. Very fine. £££ Saint Estephe
Calon Ségur 97 * Blackcurrant nose, airy, structured attack, liqueur-like texture, then rich summer fruits and a warmer than anticipated finish. Nice firm undercurrent nonetheless as the soft tannins push through and bring needed focus to the finale. £££ saint Estephe
Le Crock 95 * Refined nose, lovely attack, grainy fruit. Tremendous attack and energy. Dark fruit infused with licorice. Complete, large scaled and satisfying. ££ saint Estephe
Lafon Rochet 95 * This is fine. Spiced, sweet fruit on the attack and mid palate, a big tannic charge and chewy finish. This is long term, big-scaled and really serious. ££ Saint Estephe
Chateau Phelan Segur 93 * Svelte, dense, lots of freshness, spiced attack. Soyeux, with a point of freshness at the finish. ££ Saint Estephe
Cos Labory 93 * Good density and attack. Very good complexity to the fruit. Mid weight. Super length. Quite clearly the best since the superb 1990. ££ Saint Estephe
Ormes de Pez 92 * Seasoned nose, a touch of cassis and cream, glorious cassis fruit and blackcurrant leaf. Great freshness and zesty finish.  ££ Saint Estephe

Pagodes

92 Gentle attack, a sweet flourish and a mouthwatering mid-palate. Attractive, if not the most impressive St Estephe this year. ££ Saint Estephe
Dame de Montrose 91 Lovely attack, good dry fruit, nice lift and fine finish. ££ Saint Estephe
Meyney 93 * Liqueur-like in its texture, a super attack of cassis crème. Long, intense, well balanced and super-well integrated. I love St Estepehe in 2016 £ Saint Estephe
Chateau de Pez 92 * Super-vibrant, a little sweeter than some, but nicely done and a great finish. £ Saint Estephe
Marquis de Calon Segur 90 Evident structure, quite sweet mid-palate but lots of sap to it too to accompany the ripeness, hence the finish coats the lips with a dollop of cassis jam. £ Saint Estephe
Capberne Casqueton 89 Savoury, attractive attack with good weight, a noticeable intensity, but just a little less energy for me than 2010. Second best ever vintage of this wine. £ Saint Estephe
Tronquoy Lalande 89 Briar fruit, quite deep, merlot heavy and correspondingly plush. £ Saint Estephe
Haut Marbuzet 88 It's fine, but in a veritable constellation of terrific St Estephe performances, this is closer to the back of the classroom. £ Saint Estephe


PAUILLAC

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Lafite Rothschild 99 * Subtle, elegant, understated. Buffered tannins, very, very complex fruit with an illuminated fringe of acidity. It's an exercise in balance with a firm, insistent finish. ££££ Pauillac
Mouton 98 Aromatic, perfumed, sensual nose. Lush, huge, spiced with cloves. Powerful and dense. Very fine complex palate, anise seeds. Amazingly well-integrated tannins. ££££ pauillac
Latour 97 Restrained nose, fruit attack, buffered tannins, complex with an iron infusion and a touch a meatiness, leading to a firm finish.  ££££ Pauillac
Carruades de Lafite 96 * Mouthwatering attack, Covered, voluminous fruit. Powerful, serious wine. Licorice. Very, very long. Best ever. ££££ Pauillac
Pichon Longueville Lalande 99 * Subdued nose, then a very refined attack, more backward than many, but there's evident intensity of fruit, a wonderful aromatic quality, with great prickly acidity throughout. Not showy, but extremely impressive in its reserved, elemental state. It feels like it could be a legend in the making. £££ Pauillac
Pontet Canet 97 * Saline, eucalyptus nose, powerful attack. Sweeter than some others. Unctuous but a beautiful balance. The sweet fruit submerges the considerable tannins. Then a sappy, mouthwatering lift. Pure, powerful and in line with the character of the vintage, a firm finish. £££ pauillac
Pichon Baron Longeuville 96 Vinous nose. Fine attack and mid palate, showing balance and control. Super-refined. Aromatic, characterful and complete. £££ Pauillac
Lynch Bages 96 * Deep nose, packed with fruit. Energetic attack. A formidable charge of tannins; chewy, bright attack. Settled, calm finish. £££ pauillac
Petit Mouton 93 Very fine nose, svelte, integrated, balanced powerful, long and large scaled. £££ pauillac
Chateau Clerc Milon 96 * Seasoned nose, restrained, quite high acidity. Very mouthwatering and dry. Vinous mid palate. Firm, damsons, réglisse, very svelte finish. Liqueur quality of texture. Very refined but not polished or made-up. ££ Pauillac
Grand Puy Lacoste 95 * Rich and generous nose, with a touch of licorice. Smooth, supremely balanced wine featuring crystalline fruit. As good as 2010. ££ pauillac
Réserve de la Comtesse 94 * Vinous nose, perfumed with myrrh, delightfully textured and delicious mid palate. It's hard not to fall in love with this. ££ Pauillac
D'Armailhac 94 Liqueur-like, fine nose. Good attack. Fine thread of acidity. Sweet mid palate and very controlled, sweet, sappy finish. Lots of tannin, very well integrated.  ££ pauillac
Echo (Lynch Bages) 92 Large-scaled, aromatic fruit, nice grip, sappy, dry mid palate. Characterful. ££ Pauillac
Chateau Duhart Milon 91 Warm, vinous nose. Quite an overt palate. Slightly bitter twist to the fruit. Quite intense. Powerful tannic charge in the mid-palate. Reminds me of the 89s when they were babies. Ambitious. ££ pauillac
Chateau Croizet Bages 91 Covered, thickly styled fruit, cedary fresh and insistent, long finish. Cedary and good overall balance. ££ Pauillac
Chateau Lynch Moussas 90 Iron-infused fruit. A little fierce, but likely to settle down with a bit of bottle age. There is proper intensity there and it's certainly 'real' young wine; a bit disjointed but with the key elements in place. ££ Pauillac
Pedesclaux 93 *

Good concentration, fresh, with a taut citric core. Mouthwatering then the dense fruit kicks in towards the end. Very progressive and very good. Retested May 17: Classical and firm, fresh damsons, spicy, sweet.

£ Pauillac
Lacoste Borie 90 Nice density, good weight, freshness and very silky tannins £ pauillac
Batailley 90 Pretty, confit fruit. Earlier drinking but delicious for what it is. £ Pauillac
Grand Puy Ducasse 89 At the sweeter end of the spectrum in the vintage context. £ Pauillac
Griffons 89 Dense and texturally interesting. Liqueur-like, fruity, and a charge of tannins, that perhaps prematurely curtail the finish. £ Pauillac
Pibran 87 Slightly odd. A bit of fur on the fruit. A little savoury and wild for my taste. £ Pauillac
Tourelles de Longueville A bit dull. Uninteresting. £ Pauillac


SAINT JULIEN

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Leoville Las Cases 96 Super aromatic nose. Savoury. Finely crafted fruit, comprising redcurrants, briar and cherry. Cushioned tannins, and a very integrated finish, with an orange-peel lift.   £££ Saint Julien
Ducru Beaucaillou 95 Vinous nose of blackberry leaf and cedar. Bright attack, chewy without a tannic charge of the year seen elsewhere. Very covered in plush fruit, though fresh and with good energy. Blackcurrant and mint. Cushioned tannins. Lovely but perhaps a little polished for so early? £££ Saint Julien
Chateau Leoville Barton 95 * Lovely firm-fruited attack, intense but not huge. Very fine mid palate Sweet fruited and medium weight. Insistent and elegant. ££ Saint Julien
Chateau Gruaud Larose 94 Cool reserved nose, controlled, fine attack. Very fine tannins. Beautifully balanced. ££ Saint Julien
Branaire Ducru 94 Complete wine, great mouth-coating texture. Big but fine tannins. ££ Saint Julien
Beychevelle 94 * Liqueur-like nose, vivid attack, rich progressive finish but reassuringly controlled. Excellent. ££ Saint Julien
Leoville Poyferré 94 Cedary, saline nose, big cassis and briar fruit, with a touch of warmth. Controlled progression, super-integrated tannins, then a dry tannic charge kicks in with chewy, fresh, matière. ££ Saint Julien
St. Pierre 94 * Powerful attack and tannins but a sweet and long mid palate. Complete and long. Much better balance than the over-polished 2015. Much better and unforced in 2016. ££ Saint Julien
Langoa Barton 93 Round, sweet mid palate and a mouthwatering finish. Charm and character. ££ Saint Julien
Gloria 92 * Cool nose, fine mid palate, good energy and a citrus lemony finish. ££ Saint Julien
Talbot 92 A bit bigger on the attack than some,  but certainly not too sweet, and although a little unknit at this stage, there's a fine sap to the finish and it could evolve into an excellent Talbot.  ££ Saint Julien
Chateau Lagrange St Julien 91 Cool restrained nose, super charge of tannins, and a sappy finish. A little bit unknit at this stage to be hyper-critical, but the intensity is there, hence the positive score. ££ Saint Julien
Clos du Marquis 90 This is very good, peppery, reserved nose, mid weight. Crystalline, crunchy fruit. £ Saint Julien
Moulin Riche 89 Rich, chewy, with a cocktail of cherry and briar fruit. Gives the impression of being more alcoholic than others. Good length. £ Saint Julien
Petit Lion 89 Liqueur-like and refined on the palate, quite a bit of acidity and right now, not the longest finish. £ Saint Julien
Lalande Borie 88 Mid weight, sappy and a reasonable finish. 2010 a better prospect at this level. £ Saint Julien
la Petite Marquise 88 Cassis nose, creamy and field herbs, including anise on the palate. Approachable and well-balanced with an attractive fresh finish, that is nevertheless on the short side. £ Saint Julien
Croix de Beaucaillou 88 Vinous, liqueur-like nose, sappy, sweet with soft, svelte fruit. Forward. £ Saint Julien


MARGAUX

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Palmer 98 * Lots of energy, the attack is incredible. 29 ha/ha due to a mildew attack resulting from a miscalculation (too little) of copper treatment on this biodynamic estate. Creamy briar fruit in a mid-weight+ frame. So much more elegant than 2015. Classy firm fruit. Sweet sherbetty mid-palate and an interesting herbaceousness on the finish. Beautiful wine. ££££ Margaux
Margaux 96 Refined nose, faintly perfumed. Cassis and energetic attack. A less harmonious mid palate than 2015, but still with a at least a good dab of summer pudding emerging with air. More of a sappy character, firm tannins lurking in background but barely surfacing. This could be very good but is somewhat backward today.   ££££ Margaux
Pavillon Rouge 92 Subdued nose, saline. Savoury palate, quite powerful attack. Rather unusual 84% cabernet composition, signaling the ongoing and increasing seriousness of Margaux's second wine, lending some support to its market price. £££ Margaux
Ego (de Palmer) 94 * Delicious! Croquant fruit, fine lingering finish, Evident purity. ££ Margaux
Chateau Durfort Vivens 93 * Characterful and grippy. Quite crystalline, crunchy fruit, with black cherry infused mid palate. Chewy finish competes with persistence of fruit on a mid-weight frame. This is different to 2015, that came across as richer and more mineral (iron), but the minerality is still there. Time will tell which is the more satisfying, they are both excellent in their very different ways. Demeter certified this year (French biodynamic certification).  ££ Margaux
Brane Cantenac 92 Rounded, showing as forward in the context of the vintage, back cherry infused mid-palate, lifted by freshness and with a very nice finish. £ Margaux
Rauzan Segla 90 Very classy as always but it's not 2015. £ Margaux
Lascombes 89 Nice attack, then mid palate fades away. Maybe just closed? £ Margaux
Cantenac Brown 89-91

Very nicely balanced, mid weight, not a patch on the 2015. Retasted May 17: Ripe, progressive, spiced and very energetic. This has come on leaps and bounds in 6 weeks since previous tasting.

£ Margaux
Prieuré Lichine 88 Good energy, just lacking character. £ Margaux
Malescot St. Exupery 88 I worry that there's a bit of a hole in the middle of the palate. £ Margaux
Kirwan 88 OK, but not as exciting as the rather good 2015. £ Margaux
D'Issan 88-91 A bit stalky? Not a patch on the marvelously saline 2015. Retasted May 17: lifted and fine. £ Margaux
Ferriere 87 I love this Chateau for its direct character blending ripe fruit with a classic mould. I'm afraid 2016 isn't one of those vintages I can recommend. You'd be best looking backwards at least 5-10 years for value for money drinking. £ Margaux


MOULIS EN MEDOC

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Mauvesin Barton 92 * Superb texture and good length £ Moulis en Medoc
Chasse Spleen 92 * Liqueur-like texture, solid mid-palate and a fine finish. Very good indeed, and this should be a sensible buy as it always performs in the secondary market. £ Moulis en Medoc


LISTRAC

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Forcas Borie 89 Superb, fleshy merlot. A lovely near-term wine that should drink on release but has the stuffing to last. A surprise and another good showing for Moulis in 2016. £ Listrac


MEDOC

 Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Les Grands Chenes 91 * Juicy, fruity nose. Liqueur texture in the mouth with a controlled, fresh, mouthwatering finish. Young vines on what Bernard Magrez describes as a very impressive terroir with a little bit of gradient to it. This is not at all what I was expecting: classical and quite fine for what it is. £ Medoc
Goulée 88 Quite rich, warm inviting nose, not the longest. £ medoc
Chapelle de Potensac 87 Savoury nose. Approachable and easy, a certain density notwithstanding, then savouriness on the mid palate and a nice bright finish. Far less serious than Potensac but does that make it any the worse? £ Medoc
Tour de By 86 No £ Medoc
Tour St Bonnet 86 No £ Medoc
Potensac 86 Aromatic attack, a tannic charge and a slightly rustic finish. This is an agitated wine. Big chewy end-game. £ Medoc


PESSAC LEOGNAN

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Mission Haut Brion 97 * Vinous. Round, inviting nose. Aristocratic, juggling dense, firm fruit and a mid-weight+ stature. Fresh mid palate, mouthwatering, a fine thread of acidity coaxes the wine into a long, lingering finale. More approachable than Haut Brion and today all the better for it. ££££ Pessac-Leognan
Haut Brion 95 Floral notes precede a cool nose of ripe fruit. On the palate the fruit is firm, a little more withdrawn at first than MHB, showing a touch of oak, but the tannins are super-fine. Cool finish despite the obvious lurking size of the wine. Should show more in the future, for now probably quite impressive, and elemental just like 2015 was, not obviously showy. In terms of ranking I's suggest more like 1998 than 1989, and a notch or two below their super-serious and intense 2015. My guess is the quality of the Cabernet Franc last vintage was a step up. £££ Pessac-Leognan
Carmes Haut Brion 95 * Firm, proper and mouthwatering from partial whole bunches. Very good length. Classy and a standout in Pessac at this level. ££ Pessac-Leognan
Domaine de Chevalier 94 * Lightly seasoned nose. Firm, fruit, bright aromatic mid palate and finale. Sherbetty and refreshing. Fine tannins. Nicely judged weight. ££ pessac-Leognan
Clarence de Haut Brion 90 Fruity accessible nose, touch of white pepper. Textured entry allied to a lightness of feel, then a touch of warmth and caramel on the finish.  ££ pessac-Leognan
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion 90 Vinous, fine tannins, crystalline fruit, and a licorice twist towards the back of the mid palate. Mid weight and delicious.  ££ Pessac-Leognan
Pape Clément 90 I fell in love with Pape Clément last year. It had such exceptional balance, lift and class. The terroir truly expressed itself combined with a velour quality to the fruit and great definition thanks to its freshness. 2016 is a step backwards, with hints of over-ripeness within the rich fruit, and (for me) missing a sense of place. ££ pessac Leognan
Malartic La Graviere 91 * Superb, mid weight and moorish claret with gently sweet mid palate. £ Pessac-Leognan
La Louviere 89 Good mid weight, with some intensity and charm £ pessac-Leognan
Esprit de Chevalier 89 Aromatic character, present tannins and graves like dry finish. £ Pessac-Leognan
Solitude 88 Mid weight and nicely balanced £ pessac-Leognan
Espault Martillac 88 Padded savoury fruit. £ pessac-Leognan
Chateau Carbonnieux 88 A bit rustic £ Pessac-Leognan


SAINT EMILION

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Cheval Blanc 96 Subdued nose, stony and earthy. Very fine mid palate, progressive, aromatic attack, juicy dark licorice and spiced finish. ££££ Saint Emilion
Figeac 99 * Perfumed nose with jasmine. Energetic attack. Cedary mid palate. Fresh pithy attack. Then chewy bitter, dark cherry conclusion. This is excellent. A bit less of an eager labrador than 2015, it misses the rich summer pudding quality of last year but has greater elegance and is nigh on perfect. £££ Saint Emilion
Petit Cheval 91 Liqueur textured elegance, leading to a dark, slightly pruney finish £££ Saint Emilion
Quintus 91 Sweet fruited nose, good volume, nicely done. ££ Saint Emilion
Quinault L'Enclos 95 * Great fruity nose, very aromatic. Lovely liqueur like mouth feel on a river of flavour. Effortless and fine. Highly recommended. £ Saint Emilion
Corbin 93 * Quite fat, red fruit predominate, super intensity, quite creamy. Bramble and sloe. Very good. £ Saint Emilion
Destieux 92 * Liqueur eau de vie nose, character and energy, good intensity and a properly chewy finish. This will be good value. £ Saint Emilion
Fombrauge 89 Good intensity, tannic charge and grainy texture, with a slightly loose finish £ Saint Emilion
Le Dragon de Quintus 89 Fruity nose, firm fruited palate. £ Saint Emilion
Labergorce 87 Savoury, some intensity, cherry finish but slightly rustic £ Saint Emilion
Saintayme 87 Powerful, lifted attach, with a very firm, slightly bitter mid-palate. (Was this a bad tasting moment of mine?) £ Saint Emilion
La Dominique 87 Middle of the road, nothing to complain about - or to get excited about. 2015 considerably better. £ Saint Emilion


POMEROL

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Vieux Chateau Certan 97 *
Reserved nose, with a  lovely infusion of eau de vie. There is a very substantial tannic charge in the mid palate, with plenty of intense dark, covered fruit and licorice to compete. Impressive but my guess is that will be a pretty backward wine for years to come.  £££ Pomerol
Eglise Clinet 95 Intense, firm, backward, impressive. £££ Pomerol
Conseillante 95 Seasoned nose, cool. Creamy and dense cassis fruit, the attack is rather aromatic. The expansive mid palate is spiced. Chewy but soft and silken tannins on the progressively rich finish. Rich yet there's a crystalline aspect; a control and focus that constrains the eager fruit. £££ Pomerol
l'Evangile 92 Dark hued and correspondingly darker flavours than many in 2016. Cassis, mulberries and a hint of plum. There's a certain freshness that duels with a little warmth on the finish, like a welcome current of air alleviating an otherwise hot day. Those who enjoy bigger wines will attract to L'Evangile. £££ Pomerol
Petit Villages 95 *
Cedar nose, cool. Liqueur like texture, the fruit infused with eau de vie. Super charge of tannins, racy balanced and elegant. Is this the best Petit-Villages ever? ££ pomerol
Vray Croix de Gay 92 *
Reserved, elegant with a fine finish. Good vinosity. ££ Pomerol
Chateau Rouget 92 Good definition, intensity and freshness ££ Pomerol
Petite Eglise 90 An exercise in restraint for the vintage, but for now it presents as a bit angular. (Was this a bad tasting moment of mine?) £ Pomerol
Chateau Beauregard 89 Nice control on he finish though comes across as a little monolithic £ pomerol
Chateau La Pointe 88 Big attack, sticky ripe fruit, quite monolithic £ Pomerol 


LALANDE DE POMEROL

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Siaurac 92 * Classy, balanced, controlled, rich and delicious. £ Lalande de Pomerol
la Chenade 88 Mid weight, sappy, pure, grippy bitter fruit. Good length and satisfying finish. What I don't get is a specific character. £ Lalande de Pomerol
Cruzelles 87 Bitter cherry, a little drying in the mid palate ((Was this a bad tasting moment of mine?) £ Lalande de Pomerol


Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.


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