Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Quality Comparable to the Very Best
Despite the glamour of the Bordeaux Château and the privilege of getting to try many of the world's best wines in this, their infancy, it can be a somewhat tiring process. Tasting in excess of 150 wines a day, analysing their character to gain a deeper understanding of the vintage as a whole and judging how much each wine adheres to nature's recipe (taking into account each appellation as well) requires considerable concentration. However, getting up early on day four of five knowing you shall shortly be sat sampling in Château Haut-Brion does rather help to reinvigorate one.
As with many Château you arrive at Haut-Brion and it is instantly familiar despite having not been before. After all it is exactly as it appears on the label. However, compared to some rivals it is not so grandiose or extravagant. Rather it is quaint and self-assured, incredibly pretty and suffused with an effortless sense of softly spoken class. Just like the wines then! Our tasting showed the wines exemplify this style and in 2016 they are crafted to age. All about structure, balance and a procession of fruit that systematically progresses from light to dark. A radiant spread of flavours advances, fanning out across the palate and building to a final crescendo where having expressed themselves individually they all fall into line and meld into something new. This is a buy in 2016!
We then travelled to the Pessac-Léognan UGC and what quickly became clear was there was quite a two tiered structure to this appellation. As with the remainder of the vintage one had to pick and choose what was picked early enough to merge ripeness and a crisp sense of harmony.
Many wines showed promise and were quite classic but somewhat lacking in acidity and vital freshness, leading to slightly soupy broad, undefined fruit. Whereas the very best producers had retained a crunchy fruit characteristic with energy and focussed fruit. In the same vein the dry whites were quite variable with many solid and quaffable efforts but very few standout, exemplary exponents of the style. As a result many will reward early drinking and a select few will age with aplomb. Of particular note were: Lamarctic Lagraviere, Pape Clement and Les Carmes Haut Brion.
Domaine de Chevalier's stable was a masterclass in the charm and considerable charisma of the appellation of Pessac-Léognan. Too many positives to list here but the Grand Vin in both its red and white guises were amongst the best of the bunch (and indeed week) with the exception of Haut-Brion and there are many hidden gems with L'Espault in particular really coming of age.
Next to Château Palmer and this was a wine which effortlessly catapulted its way into consideration to be nominated as a potential wine of the vintage. There is considerable concentration and intensity of dark berry, brambly broad and intense fruit alongside a fiercely refreshing acidity which combines in compelling combination! Truly stunning stuff this is. With First Growth Friday visits set for tomorrow there is a little left of the puzzle. Watch this space for a final update and further more specific usages in the queue.
What Thursday has corroborated is that where quality is high it is of a magnitude which will be comparable to the very best, however, quality is variable in some places and needs to be cross referenced with the best market data and our advice.
Oli Smith, Private Client Team