2016 Bordeaux en primeur


2016 Bordeaux en primeur

Power. Perfume. Finesse.

If you follow the Bordeaux decade cycle you will be used to the year ending in 6 being very good but overshadowed by the year ending in 5. It is entirely possible that this pattern will be broken by the teens.

A season of two halves
The first part of Bordeaux's 2016 growing season is a story of the strongest El Nino ever; the second part: the corresponding La Nina. At the beginning of the new year, the heavens opened and pretty much stayed open for almost 6 months. After that, those same doors slammed shut and allowed virtually no rain for the rest of the year. The turnaround happened on the night of the 20th June; the sun came out and the temperature went from the high teens into the 30s.

All that early rain was to be much more useful than anyone would have thought as at least the aquifers were now full and vines would have a fighting chance during the subsequent, severe drought. Thankfully, July wasn't that hot and the soil retained a certain amount of moisture which enabled the grape skins to develop and thicken evenly, making them better equipped for what was to follow. August was as dry as July and the days much hotter but there was another defining characteristic: cool nights. This contributed to the freshness and the perfume which make the wines so alluring.

Harvest
On the 13th September temperatures plummeted and summer ended as abruptly as it had begun. That night brought the first significant rain for almost three months and this breathed new life into the vines, gave balance to the fruit and allowed ripening to continue more slowly and preserved freshness. The weather continued fine but cool, with more rain on 30th September, ensuring a healthy harvest - both by quality and quantity.

Winemaking
The winemaking was not so straightforward in 2016 as in 2015. In 2015 winemakers could pretty much do what and when they wanted. In 2016 it was infusion rather than extraction that was to prove successful. The 2016 fruit gave up its colour and flavour very easily and quickly and winemakers were best advised to follow their ferments, not try to force them. So extractions were short and gentle.

The first great, dry vintage since 1990
If there was any consensus on parallels with other vintages then it was that parallels are hard to draw. In Pessac-Leognan, Haut-Brion said the last great, similarly dry vintage was 1990, but that the 2016 wines are much fresher. At Carmes Haut-Brion, Managing Director Guillaume Pouthier says the wines have unprecedented perfume for a powerful vintage and he thinks Carmes will drink after 2-3 years but last for 50 (he served us the '59 as if to reinforce his point). In Margaux, Rauzan-Segla reminds their consultant Eric Boissenot of (their legendary) 1986, but with modern expertise, and several chateaux eulogized their Cabernet Sauvignon. Moving north, Nicolas Glumineau says it's the best Pichon Lalande he's made - and the best vintage in his 13 years of winemaking - though at Grand-Puy-Lacoste, technical director Christelle Spinner thinks the '16 is better than the '15, though maybe not as good as the '10. Didier Cuvelier likened the vintage to 2010 for his St-Estephe, Le Crock, except it's "more rich and round". There's much more clay in St-Estephe so it does disproportionately well in dry years. At Pavie Macquin, Nicolas Thienpont says power and finesse are the vintage's hallmarks.

So a Cabernet vintage?
At first glance, it seems that it should be a left bank/Cabernet vintage. But anyone who tasted Le Pin and L'If - both 100% right bank Merlot - should argue otherwise, and there were many other fine Pomerols and St-Emilions. If anything, Margaux seems to have reclaimed its title for the most patchy commune, and seems inherently better suited to more challenging vintages. By the same token, St-Estephe over-achieved. There's more clay in St-Estephe and so it does better in hot and/or dry vintages such as 2003, 2010 and 2016. Pauillac and St-Julien are unlikely to disappoint and, once again, there is quality and value aplenty down in Pessac-Leognan. There are good dry whites and some very fine Sauternes and Barsacs, albeit in a less powerful style than 2015.

What else?
Oh yes, I nearly forgot: price. We argue like crazy about this on these trips. But many Bordeaux owners simply don't want to flog all their stock en primeur. If you simply must have Palmer then I'm afraid you have to stump up or shut up. But instead, why not try Rauzan-Ségla, which is as close in style as it is in physical distance, but (hopefully) a fraction of the price. Fond memories of Cos? Try the excellent Calon. Pontet-Canet? Buy Batailley or GPL. For every proprietor who doesn't want to sell there's another one who does.

Prices
Early signs are encouraging, especially yesterday's prix de sortie from Cos d'Estournel - which was the same as last year. But that still means increases to sterling buyers of around 10% and we are expecting this to be another campaign where there is high demand for only a select few of the major chateaux. It is also, however, a vintage where there are a lot of really good, inexpensive wines from less fashionable properties and/or areas. Please look out for our recommendations or ask our advice.

Climens and other early releases
Apart from Cos, the early days of the campaign for the reds have belonged to the petits chateaux, many of which release their wines en primeur at very attractive prices - including the top 3 in the table below. For whites, the spotlight has been on Sauternes and Barsac. These fantastic sweet wines remain unfashionable and modestly priced. Our favourite is Climens - the finest wine of Barsac, a biodynamic wine from limestone, on a par with Yquem but about a sixth of the price. /AR

/AR 

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Vintage Description Cs sz Bt Sz Cs ib Cs inc Bt inc
2016 young d`Aiguilhe (Cotes de Castillon)
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6x 75cl £95.00 - - Buy
2016 young Alter Ego de Palmer (Margaux)
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6x 75cl £285.00 - - Buy
2016 young Angludet (Margaux)
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12x 75cl £250.00 - - Buy
2016 young Angludet (Margaux)
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6x 150cl £250.00 - - Buy
2016 young Angludet (Margaux)
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1x 300cl £120.00 - - Buy
2016 young Angelus (St-Emilion)
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6x 75cl £1,790.00 - - Buy
2016 ready d`Argadens Blanc
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6x 75cl £39.00 £62.39 £11.95 Buy
2016 young Armailhac (Pauillac)
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6x 75cl £195.00 - - Buy
2016 young Barde-Haut (St-Emilion)
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6x 75cl £160.00 - - Buy
2016 young Batailley (Pauillac)
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6x 75cl £210.00 - - Buy
2016 young Batailley (Pauillac)
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12x 37.5cl £215.00 - - Buy
2016 young Batailley (Pauillac)
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3x 150cl £215.00 - - Buy
2016 young Batailley (Pauillac)
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1x 300cl £175.00 - - Buy
2016 young Batailley (Pauillac)
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12x 75cl £420.00 - - Buy
2016 young Beaumont (Haut-Medoc)
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12x 75cl £105.00 - - Buy
2016 young Beaumont (Haut-Medoc)
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6x 150cl £115.00 - - Buy
2016 young Berliquet (St-Emilion)
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6x 75cl £160.00 - - Buy
2016 young Beychevelle (St-Julien)
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6x 75cl £340.00 - - Buy
2016 young Clarence de Haut-Brion (Pessac-Leognan)
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6x 75cl £600.00 - - Buy
2016 young Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
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6x 75cl £315.00 - - Buy
2016 young Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
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12x 37.5cl £320.00 - - Buy
2016 young Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
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3x 150cl £320.00 - - Buy
2016 young Branaire-Ducru (St-Julien)
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6x 75cl £234.00 - - Buy
2016 young Branaire-Ducru (St-Julien)
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12x 37.5cl £239.00 - - Buy
2016 young Branaire-Ducru (St-Julien)
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3x 150cl £239.00 - - Buy

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