2016 Bordeaux En Primeur
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- 2016 is a thrilling vintage for Bordeaux reds, on a par with the great 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2015.
- The best wines are remarkable for their beautiful harmony: rich fruit intensity is off-set by wonderful brightness. These are lively-yet-ripe wines, where alcohol levels are refreshingly lower than we have seen in the region for several years.
- Great examples can be found across all appellations, and the harvest was a generous one.
- Sauternes and Barsac are of excellent quality: the best have superb concentration and vivacious acidities.
During the first half of the year, as much rain fell on Bordeaux as is normally seen over 12 months. Fortunately, the weather turned dry and sunny for most of the flowering period in June, which went through speedily. So a plentiful crop was in prospect, and one where grapes and bunches would come to ripeness within a narrow window, to be picked at optimum moments. This is an important quality factor, and the early rainfall proved beneficial, for the summer was to be very dry. The accumulated water reserves were vital to the vintage’s success.
July had significantly less rain than the 30 year average (1981-2010), with 10% more sunshine. August had only 20% of normal rainfall, with 30% more sunshine. There was a heat-wave in early September, but mercifully, rainfall came in the middle of the month, allowing those vines which were heat-stressed to spring back to life. The grape-ripening process then proceeded smoothly, with warm days and cool nights allowing precious acidity to be conserved. Virtually no rain fell at all during the harvest period, which went through smoothly and calmly, with growers being able to wait for their individual plots to reach full ripeness.
There are great successes in the northern Médoc, particularly Saint-Estèphe, where the influence of the Atlantic and the wide estuary of the Gironde kept the climate cool during the later stages of the growing season. The great, central Haut-Médoc communes of Pauillac and Saint-Julien saw their plantations of Cabernet Sauvignon being brought to perfect ripeness, thanks to the dry, sunny days of October, just prior to harvest. It is rare to find such classic Cabernets, sumptuously fruity, while freshly ripe. In Margaux, as in 2015, many gorgeous wines have been made, with Merlot often contributing importantly to the successes. Throughout the region, we find lighter alcohol levels than in 2015, with tannins and acidity in perfect balance.
Pessac-Léognan – historically the birthplace of many of Bordeaux’s greatest wines – is a superb source of top reds in 2016, with Petit Verdot often now adding its complexity to the more widely-planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
On the Right Bank, 2016 is undoubtedly first-rate in Pomerol. Several Saint-Emilion properties have also pulled off brilliantly the challenge of bringing their grapes to perfect maturity, while avoiding over-ripeness and over-extractions.
2016 is also an exciting vintage in Sauternes and Barsac, where the “noble rot” which is essential to produce great quality arrived in mid-October. Harmonious, refreshing wines with superb concentration have been produced.
It is always thrilling to navigate through Bordeaux’s intricate system and secure dependable, delicious bottles as economically as possible, by buying early. Our combined experiences of young Bordeaux go back to harvesting the 1964 grapes, to buying En Primeur from the 1969 vintage onwards, and to offering the wines – in an increasingly major way – since the vintage of our firm’s foundation, in 1978. Today, the selections are made following multiple tastings in early April by the HH&C buying team. This is always one of the most challenging, exhilarating wine-buying exercises in the world of wine, which we take extremely seriously! We have secured many lovely wines amongst the 2016 Bordeaux, on both Right and Left Banks of the Gironde. These wines show exceptional balance, with great potential to gain complexity with ageing. They have come out at prices which are perfectly reasonable. We believe that they will never be available more economically, and urge you to consider them without delay, whils stocks last. There are many thrilling, beautiful wines, which we warmly recommend.
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Lalande de Pomerol
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