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Bordeaux 2016 - How good is the vintage?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-24



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, 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.

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, progressive building from a cool mid palate to a powerful, broad finish like a fan opening.  £££ 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 odd, bitter 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 88 Iron-infused fruit. A bit fierce, perhaps it'll settle down with a bit of bottle age? ££ Pauillac
Pedesclaux 92 * Good concentration, fresh, with a taut citric core. Mouthwatering then the dense fruit kicks in towards the end. Very progressive and very good. £ 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.  ££ 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). 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 91 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 Very nicely balanced, mid weight, not a patch on the 2015. £ 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 A bit stalky? Not a patch on the marvelously saline 2015. £ 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, but today although it's less of everything than 2015 was. 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 88 I fell in love with Pape Clément last year. It had such exceptional balance, lift and class. 2016 is a step backwards, with a bit of syrupiness evident within the rich fruit. ££ 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 87 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 £££ pomerol
l'Evangile 92 £££ 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.


Bordeaux 2016 - François-Xavier Maroteaux from Branaire Ducru

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-11


Here's what François-Xavier Maroteaux has to say about yields and quality as demonstrated by Bordeaux 2016 primeurs. A 'hard' and uniform fruit set in resulted in large-sized bunches but of small berries, so whilst volume is up 10% above a 'normal' harvest, don't think it was because berries were big, quite the reverse was the case. Phenolics levels were high too, reflecting lots of tannins and colorants. Tannins are rich and refined, with rich fruit coating the big structure.


Bordeaux 2016 with Nicolas Glumineau from Pichon Lalande

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-10


Nicolas Gluimineau recounts the growing season in 2016; the twists and turns of a difficult drought summer following an enormous amount of rain in the first 6 months' of the year. Thankfully the rains finally stopped in June, followed by an almost completely arid July and August. Drought conditions caused winemakers to fear dry, tough tannins, because when a vine can't take on the water it needs in order to ripen the fruit, the berries produce tannin in lieu. Think 1975. Yet that fear was not realised, and whilst we found a few wines with awkward tannins (at this early stage) on the right bank, in the Medoc and Graves tannins were uniformly rich. For Nicholas the end result is "just incredible" and "a miracle". #PichonLalande is one of our picks for wine of the vintage.


What you need to know about Bordeaux 2016 reds

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-10


One or two commentators and one famous Bordeaux consulting oenologist are calling 2016 the best red Bordeaux vintage since 1982. Hyberbole indeed.

Bordeaux lovers and collectors have become somewhat inured to these sorts of statements. A bit like Peter, if you cry ‘wolf’ too often no one believes you when you really mean it.

Calling a vintage as a whole so early might be considered a touch reckless or over-enthusiastic, but after all that's part and parcel of the en primeur sales promotion process. It’s the wine marketing equivalent of the Oscars and it’s entirely understandable that on the back of a fine production the main actors and directors will be inclined to think their most recent performances are the best ever. New-borns are always the most miraculous and beautiful in the eyes of mesmerised parents.

But more importantly, for a vintage to be considered truly great, we think it has to be utterly consistent at a very high level across all major appellations, and ideally, relatively speaking brilliant in a number of the smaller, less grand appellations too.

2016 is not a consistently brilliant vintage across the board.

Yet Bordeaux 2016 is in many ways the perfect foil to 2015.

At Chateau Latour. Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.

Whereas 2015 was particularly strong in Margaux and Pessac-Leognan, not to mention some of the satellite right bank communes, 2016 was especially strong in St. Estephe and Pauillac.

I’d go so far to say that 2016 was the best vintage since 1982 – but only in St. Estephe. That appellation really nailed it.

Pauillac was also fabulous, possibly unsurpassed, but we also found the wines to be very consistent at an extraordinarily high level in 2010, whilst it’s hard to imagine more complete wines than the heights achieved by many in 1989. With so many great vintages already present in the Pauillac trophy cabinet, we’re going to avoid phrases such as ‘best ever’. But 2016 Pauillacs are very, very good indeed and we are truly smitten.

St Julien is a commune of great consistency once again. It’s the perennial ‘safe pair of hands’ of Bordeaux, with all the major protagonists delivering very satisfying results with great regularity. 2016 was no different: a fine result all round. Overall we think 2016 is going to be better than 2015 with greater complexity and character, and is certainly the finest since 2010 or 2005.

The bits of the Haut Medoc appellation just north of St. Estephe and south of St. Julien produced a few terrific wines in 2016 as well. But this sprawling catch-all produces 33,000,000 bottles of wines a year from 4,600 hectares and spans 29 communes across the Medoc peninsula from top to bottom, taking in the windswept mouth of the Gironde estuary to the grim warehouse agglomeration north of the city, so don't be surprised that quality is extremely variable.

Moulis and Listrac produced a few strong contenders this year too, showing none of the astringency associated with average vintages.

Margaux is a commune with a range of geographies that commonly delivers a corresponding patchwork of results. This year the wines presented as relatively bland and middle-weight, a bit of a disappointment after the stunning result achieved across the board in 2015.

Those who didn't buy Margaux in 2015 will want to revisit at some point. Nonetheless the small number of highlights were exciting to taste for their aromatic complexity and lightness of feel –consequently they are elegant, refined wines.

Chateau Margaux, framed. Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.

South of the city in Pessac-Léognan, the wines were a bit of a mixed bunch too. Some presented as truly beautiful examples of classic claret, threaded with fine acidity, moreish thanks to sherbetty fruit, but I thought 2015 was a stronger overall vintage for this large appellation, whose production has increased 3-fold in the last 40 years.

On the right bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol the homogeneity of the vintage is less clear. I tasted less wine here, though many that I did were gorgeous: beautiful wines with up to a full percentage point less alcohol than in 2015. But others with loaded tannins left a faintly bitter fingerprint on the mid-palate, whilst a few seemed just a touch too powerful and black-hued. The impression I got is that the difficulty of the summer drought was much more evident here and there when compared with the left bank.

The summer drought was a period during when the plants shut down and compensated their lack of water by producing more tannins. The best results on the right bank will have been achieved by gentle handling of the fruit during fermentation preceded by a rigorous triage of those berries showing any signs of surmaturité.

Frédéric Faye at Chateau Figeac describes their fermentation process as an ‘infusion’ with the gentlest of extractions achieved from the submerged cap, and no pigeage. This seems to have been an ideal approach in a vintage of climatic extremes such as 2016.

Is it a coincidence that my two favourite right bank wines, Cheval Blanc and Figeac, both include cabernet sauvignon, in the case of the former, for the first time ever? On the other hand I didn’t taste the top Mouiex wines or Le Pin, which I gather all showed brilliantly, so clearly many factors, including resisting picking too early to avoid a harsh edge to the tannins, were at play in this vintage.

Generalising, 2016s show greater freshness than 2015, and so come across as more delineated and complex.

"Saint Estephe made its best wine EVER in #Bdx16". Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.

Finish is one of the most desirable attributes in a wine that is expensive and sought-after in equal measure. Acidity helps in this regard, freshening sweet, ripe fruit, lending energy to the wine, and accentuating a lingering finish. Persistence and focus are the hallmarks of 2016. Whereas 2015 right bank wines tended to a somewhat alcoholic finish, overall there’s more control to the finishes in 2016.

The balance of the best 2016s is exquisite, with a mass of ripe fruit coating the very substantial tannins of the year. The vintage’s trademark freshness makes each wine’s character more discernable, and at this stage of the wines’ evolution it’s natural to want to pick those out as personal favourites.

My favourites were also the wines that combined the vintage’s ripe briar, cassis and black cherry fruit characters with a sense of minerality and a fine line of acidity threaded through the ensemble.

Much has been said of the volume of wine produced in 2016. Production is up on 2015, but much of that comes from a very ‘hard’ and uniform fruit set that led to larger than normal bunches, i.e. with a greater number of berries per bunch than normal, but with berries of only a moderate or smaller than average size. Production volume, assumed by some to be a potentially negative factor, is a red herring in 2016.

Consequently the juice to skin ratio is no higher than normal, and 2016 has the highest ‘IPT’ numbers of any modern vintage. IPT is a measure of the combined phenolic compounds in the juice - principally tannins and anthocyanidans (colorants responsible for the red, purple and blue hues in grapes).

When all is said and done, there are plenty of exciting wines to pick from this year. I suspect many will close down with a bit of time in bottle with all that underlying structure, no matter how well resolved and integrated the tannins tasted at this early stage in a great many of the wines. Nevertheless, the tannins are generally not quite as silky as in 2015, though they are richer. 2015 may therefore turn out to be more immediately gratifying, if ultimately less exciting.

Now it’s going to be down to release prices. After all, without an obvious and sizeable price advantage for buying early, there’s little or no logic in tying up large amounts of cash on unfinished wine. It’s improbable that prices won’t increase, but those increases may be rather more patchy than normal this year appellation by appellation. And if Chateau owners can resist taking too much of the upside off the table, they may well have a winning campaign.

The Bordeaux whispers suggest an early campaign, over by the end of June, which may lead many to hope for moderation of any price increases. We shall have to wait and see.


Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur Pricing

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-05



Mouton 06 - buy or sell

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-03-28


Keen followers of Bordeaux can’t have missed the striking price revivals that have been in progress over roughly the last 12 months, and Mouton Rothschild 2006 makes for in interesting case study.

We’re looking here at what is effectively an over-performing wine in an under-appreciated vintage. 2006 Mouton has consistently been rated highly by both Robert Parker (last scored at 96 in 2014) and Neal Martin (scored at 97 points in May 2016), and compares very favourably to the other First Growths in 2006. Latour consistently scores around 94-95; Lafite at 95 from Neal Martin, 97 from Parker; Margaux at 94 and Haut Brion at 96.

Not only that, it outscores or equals itself in what ought to be better vintages. The 2005 is likewise rated 97 by both Parker and Martin, and 2006 is only outscored in recent vintages by 2009 and 2010. No doubt then that winemaker Philippe Dhalluin did exceptional work in the vintage, and those buying at the nadir of the market in and around January 2015 were picking up a serious bargain at around £3000, the same price as the far less interesting 2007, and rather cheaper than the less well-rated 2008.

However, having risen in value throughout 2016 from £3200 to £4400, the market price has stagnated since October 2016, and now stands at £4500, with bids standing around £4130, which is still the highest this wine has traded at since 2011, but starts to look like the top of the market. For drinkers, this seems to continue to represent good value, but for those interested in wine as a store of value, quite possibly one to swap out.

Click here to see live trading information on Mouton 2006.


Did you know...? British artist Lucian Freud was commissioned to create the label for the 2006 vintage of Château Mouton-Rothschild. "Far from the tormented portraits and nudes for which he is renowned, [he] chose a joyously exotic transposition of the pleasure of drinking, in which the vinestock is transformed into a springing palm tree and the wine lover into a happily anticipatory zebra." Source: Chateau Mouton Rothschild.



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Bordeaux en primeur 2016: a weepy

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-03-28


The potential of the 2016 Bordeaux en primeur assessed from a comparative examination of the weather conditions

There is a weather station located near the airport in Bordeaux which has been recording details of rainfall and temperature since 1911. It’s worth mentioning that rain in Bordeaux-Merignac does not mean rain in St.Emilion; nor does the absence of rain in Merignac on a particular day signify no rain in Margaux. But if the 2016 Bordeaux en primeur campaign is to find traction then some consideration of the weather is important.

THE RAIN

Looking at a Table of Cumulative Precipitation (below) which covers several of the greatest vintages of the last 2 centuries (with a couple extra thrown in to demonstrate the ‘exceptions which prove the rule’), one is immediately struck by one anomaly - the 1982 vintage (the others we know about).

It is a sine qua non of red wine grape production to have a sufficient period of dry weather in the summer to induce hydric stress in the vine so that the plant will cease growth and focus on maturing its fruit. It’s also a general rule that wet weather at harvest time is not conducive to healthy picking conditions and produces rot.

Table of Cumulative Precipitation

THE HEAT

It is widely accepted that warm weather (as opposed to canicular heat - remember that 2003 had 50 days of temperatures warmer than 30°) is another critical ingredient in the production of great wine (also interesting to see just how much cooler it was in 1982) - see the table below of Maximum Average Temperatures.

Maximum Average Temperatures

Clearly, the temperature progression during 2016 was unusual and extraordinary. Not shown, but also relevant, is a table constructed of average minimum temperatures: 2016 was about average, and slightly cooler than many other years in July; certainly not as warm as 2003.

ASSESSMENT OF BORDEAUX 2016 VINTAGE

Whilst the general weather picture for a vintage is a good prognostication of the quality of the wines not everyone will have been dealt the same cards. Terroirs are not the same. Not every estates’ ambitions are equivalent. Not every vigneron has the tools, techniques and vision to maximise the potential. Some producers will undoubtedly over-reach themselves. Comparing the general climatic conditions for 2016 with other remarkable vintages several features of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage stand out:

    - First, 2016 had no phenomenological events of any significance eg frost.

    - Second, the precipitation in the growing season and replenishment of the water table set it up for drier conditions later in the year. Of course, warmer humid weather at this time meant vigilance in case of mildew etc.

    - Third, the uniformity of temperatures and the progression of average temperatures until August, without the heat spikes of 2003.

    - Fourth, August was an unusually sunny month in 2016.

    - Fifth: the dry, warm months of July and August were followed by a beautiful autumn.

On the face of it, the charts above, general as they are, demonstrate that 2016 was one of the most remarkable years that Bordeaux vineyards have ever experienced. One might, with some justification, call it a ‘benchmark’ year. Coupled with the advancement in oenology and the investment in the vineyards which have been undertaken in the last 30 years and if meteorology were the only factor in determining vintage quality (so ignoring viticultural practises, key husbandry decisions, winemaking approaches and trends, sharp temperature spikes masked by monthly averages) then 2016 could be one of the greatest, if not the greatest of Bordeaux vintages. However, the true quality of the vintage will only be demonstrated by the en primeur tastings which are about to commence.

Estates are surely crying (with happiness) over their wines and as for the rest of us, to paraphrase Goethe: “If you've never drunk wine while crying, you don’t know what life tastes like.”

Stay with Wine Owners as we taste our way through the Bordeaux appellations next week. Follow our tweets @WineOwners1. As ever we shall represent the voice of the wine lover and collector pointing out where there's value and where it makes no sense to buy early. Not forgetting the merits in back vintages that en primeur comparative evaluation often spotlights. We look forward to your company along the way.

Tables: compiled and coloured by Wine Owners from data by Infoclimat


La La Land

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-03-22


Few producers ever achieve the magical 100 point rating from the Wine Advocate. Parker’s ratings have been the most influential in the world, so to achieve the magic century is quite some accolade; to achieve it more than once is the stuff of dreams; to achieve it 28 times as have Guigal’s famed Cote Rotie triumvirate of La Landonne, La Turque and La Mouline (collectively nicknamed ‘the La Las’) is unprecedented. No other producer from a single appellation comes close.

You might have thought that these three wine with a claim to be among the finest in the world should cost the earth, shouldn’t they? Well, in fact they don’t – at least not in comparison with the finest wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and California.  

For the purposes of this analysis we’re going to look at the 2009 vintage, which paints a fairly typical picture for these wines. Historically there is very little variation in the values of the three wines, with prices often within a 3% range. So, this chart for La Mouline ’09 is mirrored closely by the other two. What is immediately noticeable is that prices have, until midway through last year, fallen consistently. This despite two 100 point scores in November 2013 and September 2014!

The fall in price is on a par with the falls in value of Bordeaux wines in the same period, but importantly the La Las did not have a huge price rise immediately prior to the falls that insulated many buyers from the slump. It seems, on the face of it that Guigal’s amazing wines were simply the victim of a lack of global interest in Rhone wines at the top end.

This seems to be changing however, as over the last 6 to 9 months the relatively attractive pricing has found favour, and sentiment seems to have turned positive. All good vintages across all three wines are moving upwards, and demand is out-stripping supply for the first time in many years. 

La Mouline 09 is 15% up since July, and is on its way back to the £4000 a case level last seen in early 2013. In our view there is reason* to be confident that this recovery is a fundamental re-evaluation of the value of the wine, rather than simply the beneficial effect of weak Sterling, and there is definitely reason* to add this to a cellar, for both investment and drinking purposes.

So, what is this reason you may well ask?

Sadly, the La La’s were among the chosen wines of various boiler room, sales led operations who decided that they were ideal wines to sell as investments to unsuspecting investors at way over fair market prices. This created skewed pricing and led to reputational damage to the wines that caused prices to drop. Thankfully most of these operations have now closed down, and their negative impact on the market has dissipated. The secondary market is now a healthier place for these great wines, and prices are once again reflecting the supreme quality and longevity of Rhone’s finest.



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