Bordeaux’s 2016 Vintage – An En Primeur That At Last Is (Mostly) A Pleasure To Taste
Bordeaux En Primeur 2016 was my first, verging-on-excellence En Primeur campaign. The top end turned out wines that were easy to be choosy about. So much the better when you’re forking over big digits two years before you receive the wines. The vintage also allowed for plenty of charming wines that will be pleasant to drink as well as ones that are overly ambitious. Regardless the appellation, it was exciting to see who teased out just a bit more of everything in their expressions of the vintage through their terroir.
In a vintage that is – mostly – so delightful, it’s easy to just spray cash at good names. But, this would be a shame. Because in a vintage this good, you should save your dry powder for what you really love. After all, the wines won’t be cheap, even if the châteaux don’t explode their prices post-positive press. I argue that if you have the money to buy En Primeur, you should be as selective possible. That, however, requires research.
I can easily disassociate myself from rating a wine highly and not really wanting to drink it. I don’t think it’s that hard to assess a wine for what it is versus what I personally prefer, but many critics cannot extricate themselves from their personal preferences. I find that astonishing, but as “they say” it takes a lot of folks to make the world go ‘round.
As for what I personally tend to prefer, I will usually take Right Bank over Left Bank wines, unless the wines are well-aged. (Age levels the playing field.) While the top appellations in 2016 are terrific, the second and third tier appellations can be spotty. I also tend to love the finesse of Pessac-Léognan in both colors, but especially in red. (Besides, there is no other comparison in the white category.) However, the 2016s in Pessac-Léognan are all over the board and are worth researching.
This written, it’s interesting to see from where my heartthrobs hail in 2016. They lie all over the Bordeaux wine region, and there are more from the Left Bank than I would have expected. Whatever I scored these and other wines, I most want these bottlings for my personal cellar:
Château Latour (99)
Château Calon-Ségur (98)
Château Lafleur (98)
Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (97)
Château Grand-Puy Lacoste (96)
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc (96)
(This is one of Bordeaux’s most impressive whites in every vintage.)
Château Canon (95)
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou (95)
Château Haut-Brion Blanc (95)
This list excludes sweet wines, yet the 2016 sweets are really interesting. For one, there was less botrytis given the dryness of the end of the season, so the wines have more finesse and balance provided largely by acidic freshness. Secondly, it seems Sauternes might be reining back sweetness overall, not just in relation to the 2016 vintage. The latter could be a God-send to an appellation that has long since creeped past the line of too much of something good (especially over the last 10 to 15 years), seeking out higher levels of sugar, extract and new oak.
Now, we just wait for the En Primeur campaign to unfold. You know where I will be placing my bets.