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Steen Öhman: The Burgundy market today

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-24




With the 2015 Burgundies arriving in the market these days and with more to come over the next period the market is showing mixed signals - some of continued excessive demand and some spell disaster for lesser producers trying to claim high prices.


The prices of the 2015 vintage

The price development for the 2015s shows a rather mixed picture at the primary level - some producers have showed great restraint and have in some cases kept the prices at 2014 level, whereas moderate increases have been seen even amongst the top producers in very high demand.

A lot of Burgundy producers are aware of the dangers of high prices even on village level, as these wines are now becoming very expensive in restaurants. If they want to maintain a good representation in restaurants the prices for a village level wine are near the limit - aside from the producers in extremely high demand.

Other producers seem not very aware of these dangers and have increased the 2015 prices by more than 20% - and while this may be viable in the very short run - I have talked to several wine bars and restaurants that have cut allocations already, and many will do so after the 2015 vintage. This will perhaps not have a huge effect on the 2016 vintage as the quantities are very small in some cases .. but in the long run some producers have priced themselves out of the market so to speak.


The 2016 vintage - what to expect

I have tasted some 2016s already and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, as quality looks very fine indeed. The wines are cooler than the 2015s, and in that way more classic. It's still too early to be very firm on the quality - but potentially a quite outstanding vintage - very well balanced and enjoyable for both the reds and the whites.

The quantities are very low due to the April frost, but also very uneven across the producers and appellations. My expectation would be that the low quantity will ensure a continued upward pressure on prices for the wines in demand, but the tendency could be trouble ahead for increases in prices for the wines with no real demand in the secondary market.



Francois Millet, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé - Picture: http://winehog.org/


The long-term effect of prices

In my view, we will see continued increases in prices on the wines in very high demand - i.e. wines getting high prices in the secondary market thus ensuring a margin for those who buy the wines in the primary market.

These wines will still be in demand, as many people will keep allocations as it's a good investment, but larger share will eventually end up in the secondary market. Some of these wines are now priced beyond the limits of the average quite well off consumer, and will be traded accordingly. Restaurants will do the same, and as it becomes more difficult to sell the wines at the tables - they will also cash-in offering wines on the secondary market.

The wines not in demand in the secondary market will eventually have problems, as consumers will cut allocations and move on to other products.

This is where Bordeaux was 15 - 20 years ago, and while the top Bordeaux wines have managed to increase prices the lesser wines from Bordeaux are struggling with low demand and low prices even though quality and the value of these wines often can be tremendous these days.

Take a look at the wine lists of today and note how limited the Bordeaux offerings often are these days - compared to 20 years ago.



Burgundy will prevail but demand will be more volatile

With the small quantities produced in Burgundy the risk of a full meltdown is not imminent even with the latest increases in prices. Some producers will struggle as they will be caught between the need or urge to increase prices and the restrain shown by some of the top estates regarding the prices on the low-level wines.

A good negociant will be facing the fact that their Vosne village will cost the same as the wines from a top end producer in the primary market. That is not sustainable in the long run - and these producers could well see a collapsing demand within a few years.

As prices go up I expect demand to be more volatile, as the focus on the great vintages will increase. This has happened in Bordeaux and with the globalisation and available price information around the clock this will also be the case with Burgundy.

So, I expect increasing and more volatile prices for the wines in demand, and a sluggish market for the producers with high prices without a good demand from the secondary market.


The calculative consumer

As the prices increase the consumers will be more calculative and look at the historic prices and the development in the prices and availability of back vintages. Is it the right time to buy, can the same wine in an equally good back-vintage be found on the market at a lower cost.

The conscious consumer will check these things, and will search for information, to ensure a good price and ensure a good investment, even though the wine is bought for pure pleasure. Importantly consistency in the prices seen in relation to back vintages will be needed at least for wines produced in relatively large quantities.

This will increase the focus on services that offer historic data on prices and the possibility to validate and research the “true” market price.


The rising stars will emerge and shine brightly

Furthermore, we will see new talented producers pop up - and become in fashion within a very short time - and achieve high demand for these wines in the secondary market very rapidly as the producers get the acclaim from the wine press. So, exciting times where buyers and investors must be on their toes to follow the trends in Burgundy.

As a wine writer, it's exciting times in Burgundy as new talents emerge all the time, and old somewhat lacklustre estates are transformed to a new star within a few years with the arrival of a new generation.

So, stay on your toes, stay tuned in and informed on winehog.org - a yearly subscription is only 29€ - sign up here 


Steen Öhman

Chief Tasting Officer

Winehog.org 


NB:

The team at Wine Owners love Steen’s Burgundy reviews. Just like us, he was an impassioned collector, until he decided to pack in his day job and apply his palate to Burgundy for the good of mankind (and perhaps to gain a little personal enlightenment along the way).

An annual subscription with https://Winehog.org is a bit of a bargain; plus the reviews are accessible, and when we taste the wines that Steen’s tasted, we ‘get it’. Furthermore he’s a real discoverer, so if you're the sort of collector who loves the idea of buying into the next young Burgundy buck before the rest of the world catches on and spoils the price, you really should subscribe!


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.




Latour, biodynamics and Demeter

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-17


Latour’s conversion to organically produced vines began almost 20 years ago when they stopped using chemical herbicides. Since then, they started experimenting with new techniques, and in 2015, 100% of L’Enclos was organic and 50% of it was biodynamic.

Producing according to biodynamic techniques is not new. This method applies ancestral practices of using only ingredients from the farm and maximising their impact. For example, fertilizing is from the manure from the cows and horses living on the estate, mixed in with different flowers of certain specific properties. This main idea is to create a sustainable and circular ecosystem aimed at protecting the earth and make it more fertile by freeing nature to multiply the microbial activity in the soil.

Pontet Canet can be considered as one of the pioneers. They did their first biodynamic trial in 2004 and the results turned out to be very positive: the vines were brighter and tighter. Alfred extended the test parcel and the vineyard became fully converted in 2006; a first for a Médoc Classified Growth. Ten year’s on, and their most recent vintages show an aromatic complexity that is quite clearly much more evident when compared to their wines from the mid 200s.

Now more and more vineyards use biodynamic practises to grow their vines and in the winemaking. After decades of intensive farming many of the top vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux, including Domaine Leroy and Domaine Leflaive, began looking for new options since their soils were being exhausted and couldn’t sustain healthy vines with good grapes.

The biodynamic label, Demeter, has recently gained popularity in the Bordeaux region. Chateau Durfort-Vivens has this year been fully certified by Demeter, with the designation proudly added to their bottling in the form of a strip label. In a variable year the Margaux appellation, Durfort-Vivens 2016 showed out of cask as a wine of character, with a lovely aromatic profile,crunch fruit and a chewy, black cherry infused finish.

But it’s far from a one-way argument. As weather patterns become more extreme, protecting the plant and its fruit from the element under a strict biodynamic regime can be risky.

A wave of quality obsessed Burgundy producers increasingly use biodynamic treatments in a mixed approach to vineyard husbandry where the focus is on the soil’s microbial strength. But with repeated hailstorms, and the risk of rot in a warm humid environment, it takes a brave man or woman to forgo other practical fall-back options.

It’s a rich man’s game. Small Burgundy producers cannot afford repeated losses to disease when conditions get really rough and biodynamics might not be sufficient without heavy and repeated doses of copper sulphate,something which producers adopting biodynamic viticulture are reluctant to do with concerns about creating copper residues in the soil.

Château Palmer is a leading proponent of biodynamics and has been undertaking a great deal of research on test barrels of recent vintages, both in the vineyard and in the cellar and reducing use of sulphur as a stabilising agent. In 2016 they misjudged with one too-few copper sulphate treatments resulting in an attack of mildew, reducing their overall production volumes to just 28hl/ha, a miserly figure for Bordeaux in a generous year where most quality producers cropped at 45-50 hl/ha.

Yet biodynamics is ‘back’ here to stay, even if those who apply for Demeter certification are likely to be outnumbered by those who simply practise biodynamic principles and use many of the treatments.

Further north in Saumur, the legendary Loire estate Clos Rougeard has been practising biodynamics for ever. In the 1960s and 1970s when their neighbours embraced synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, they were mocked for holding true to their ancestral principles practised since the time of their great grandfather.

The last word goes to Nadi Fourcault, the remaining brother of Clos Rougeard (only recently bought by the Bouygues family who also own Chateau Montrose). “The only thing that’s revolutionary about us is that we’ve never changed.”



Chateau Pape Clément 2016 – for whom the frosts toll

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-15


The release of 2016 of £775 (12x75cl) is a substantial jump up on the simply marvellous 2015. The previous (in our view better) vintage released at £615 (12x75cl).

So we are looking at a 21% increase YoY. Meanwhile the gap between the two vintages has since closed, with the best offer price of Pape Clément 2015 now trading at £720 (12x75cl).

Not only was 2015 a sound buy for those who jumped in this time last year, it remains an attractive hold, since the release price of 2016 and a rumoured reduction in release quantities attributed to the April 2017 frosts, will lend its price support and push it up to £800+ (2x75cl).





For whom do the frosts toll? Us, the consumer, wine lover, collector…those who buy. The reduction in production volumes now likely for 2017 are difficult for producers, especially in those areas most severely affected, parts of Pessac included. By far the worst affected were those in the lesser appellations on the right bank, St Emilion and Pomerol off the plateaux, and inland in the Medoc. For many of those producers the frosts really were a catastrophe.

As we described here the great estates alongside the Gironde were the least touched by the frost due to the warming effects of the river; those parts of their vineyards affected were on the whole those producing grapes destined for their second wines.

We need to bear in mind too that 2016 production volumes are up 10%-20%, in many instances offsetting the potential losses (subject to a faint possibility of second budding) relating to 2017.

So as consumers, we should sympathise and feel bad for estates such as Pape Clément for their loss of production. We should feel even sadder for producers’ losses in places like Fronsac, Lalande de Pomerol and Castillon, where there will be economic casualties. But it doesn’t mean we will consequently want to buy much more expensive wine.


Bordeaux 2016 or 2015?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-11


The tasting event in Westminster for the trade in early May provided an opportunity to re-taste a number of 2016 Bordeaux comparatively with their 2015 and 2014 equivalents. 

The conclusions reinforce to a large extent the general impressions we formed in Bordeaux at the start of April, but the comparison also showed it’s not one size fits all.

Canon

Starting with the one wine tasted from the right bank, Canon 2016 is showing more aromatics than 2015, very silky, integrated tannins and is thicker-styled, with riper fruit. Canon 2015 showed greater intensity, with a stunningly pure mid-palate of ripe, sticky fruit, and a prolonged finish.  Canon 2014 is more classically styled, with a cedar nose and liqueur-like mouth feel, this is lovely now and looks like much earlier drinking.  

No doubt there are glorious wines from the Libournais in 2016, but both St Emillion and Pomerol do not conform to a vintage stereotype in these two vintages, and you will have preferences for individual wines from one or other year.

Smith Haut Lafitte

Jumping down to Pessac-Léognan, Smith Haut Lafitte (SML) 2016 is firm and properly dry, with crystalline fruit. Very intense and just on the right side of focus, with a very grippy, licorice finish. SML 2015 has a very energetic attack, sweet, refined tannins, a warm, fruity mid-palate and an aromatically spiced finish. SML 2014 was delicious but not in the same league as the other two vintages.

2015 was a stellar vintage in Pessac and Graves across the board. The same is not true of 2016 but SML showed (along with Haut Bailly, Chevalier and Carmes Haut Brion) that the best 16s are superlative and brilliantly architected for the long-term.

Rauzan Ségla

Rauzan Ségla 2016 is refined, with a liqueur-like mouth feel, and a hint of prunes. It’s less pure than Rauzan-Ségla 2015, with its fine nose, superbly energetic attack, refined mid palate and liquorice infused, fruit-driven finish. Rauzan-Ségla 2014 is dry, mid-weight, unforced and classic, with appealing grip, and a great, insistent finish. 

Margaux was a star appellation of 2015, and this wine confirms how relatively disappointing the commune'’s wines are in 2016. They remain fine claret from a good vintage, but they miss out on the excitement of the ‘15s.

Pontet Canet

Our Pauillac representative of the comparative tasting stood out for its increasingly aromatic character, a factor that Justine Tesseron attributes to the growing influence that biodynamic farming is having on the fruit. 

Pontet Canet 2015 was one of the most refined and silky examples of the appellation, yet today it just didn't cut it in the company of the glorious 2014 and deeply serious 2016.  Pontet Canet 2016 displayed a fine nose, wonderfully textured fruit, a really firm mid-palate with bitter-edged fruit before sweetening into the long finish.  Serious, long-haul stuff – and I suspect might become a legend 50 years hence. Pontet Canet 2014 is extremely aromatic, sweetly imbued with angelica flavouring, and with proper, grainy tannins on the finish.

Montrose

Montrose 2015 is delicious and aromatic: a fine showing for the vintage, yet seemed to lack a bit of structure. St Estephe in particular produced some of the best wines in a generation in 2016, and Montrose shows up that difference as does almost every wine from the appellation. Montrose 2016 is equally as expressive as 2015, but feels like a wine for the longer term, with more serious structure and vital freshness. What impresses here is the focus and elegance, which make this one of the stars of the vintage.


Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.


Hard frosts across Europe hit Bordeaux hard

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-28


27th April is a date with heart-rending connotations. On that night last year (2016), the vast majority of the Cote D'Or was affected by a really hard frost. The rising sun the following morning burned the vines and a high proportion of the young plant growth was irrevocably damaged, reducing the size of the harvest by up to 80%-90% in the worst affected vineyards.

Much of the month of April 2017 has been unseasonably warm. In Bordeaux en primeur week of 3rd April saw temperatures in the mid to high 20s centigrade, and that warm weather held for a good 3 weeks, encouraging bud break and a significant amount of plant growth 2-3 weeks ahead of the normal cycle.

But during the night of 27th April, temperatures dived as low as -4c, and in certain sectors a large proportion of the potential crop has been lost.

The best terroirs next to the Garonne were largely if not entirely unaffected, thanks to the warming influence of the river. But away from the river, and near woodland, this year's hard frost hit hardest. That means some areas of Margaux were badly affected, the Haut Medoc, Listrac and Moulis, with bits of lower lying areas of St Julien also touched.

Significantly there has been widespread damage across the right bank including in St Emilion, aside from the Plateau which was spared. Pomerol is said to have also been affected. The right bank satellite appellations have been hit very hard. South of the city certain parts of Pessac and the Graves have been affected, where the damage is said to have been patchy.

Low lying areas have been most affected, which means a lot of second wine from some top estates will have been much reduced if not entirely wiped out.

Fears were that the early hours of the 28th April would create more devastation. The weather forecast did not augur well. And as painful as it is to say, that's exactly what happened. Our hearts go out to all those affected. Like a boxer flat out on the ropes at the bell yet with the prospect of having to go back in the ring to receive more punishment the following round. No doubt low lying areas and estates near woods or forests were once again worst affected. We pray that overall it won't be as bad as 1991.

Aside from the terrible blow the frosts have wreaked, the commercial implications are threefold: there will be less 2016 wine offered at first release than would have been the case, certainly in the worst affected sectors; what is released might be more expensive than it would otherwise have been; and it could slow down the en primeur releases, resulting in a longer campaign.

The best second wines in 2016 could be worth extra focus if you are intending to drink at that level, as there will be proportionally much less next year.



Cos d'Estournel 2016

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-25


Cos d’Estournel was truly fabulous in 2016 and shows a decisive shift of style away from over-extracted to an elegant, dare we say, powerful aristocratic style – the archetypal iron hand in velvet glove.

The great news is that the release price is the same as 2015, with a small increase due to currency exchange.

The price per points analysis shows 2016 to be a rather sensible buy in the context of comparison with the best vintages of the last 17 years.

Comparison with 2010 suggests a modest 10% upside, or a 75% upside versus the 100 point 2009. But, what price per points doesn’t show is the move to elegance, something that’s been applauded by the critics. But in our view, it’s a better wine than both those vintages and arguably at least the equal of Chateau Montrose.

"This is one of the best Cos d'Estournels that I can remember trying at this early stage, it really does have every hair standing up on end. Powerful and deep, with a clear intensity but such delicacy; this is fresh, beautiful and  succulent. It moves effortlessly through the palate without ever letting you forget that it's there. Deep black cherries, touches of dark chocolate and graphite are driven forward by a pulse of energy. From a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc aged in 60% new oak"

Jane Anson, Decanter Magazine

"Energy and raciness on the nose. Gentle and lifted. And then lots of tannins underneath. Fresh almost sandy tannins. Good energy and tea-leaf sensation. Excellent freshness. Long. Restrained. Elegant."

Jancis Robinson




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 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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