Each year Vintages sends two of their expert buyers to Bordeaux, France, during En Primeur week. This year, Shari Mogk-Edwards and Paul Farrell will taste wines from the 2016 vintage. After reviewing hundreds of wines from both the Right and Left Banks, they will curate a Bordeaux offer representing the very best from 2016.
The 2016 vintage in northern France started in dramatic fashion with frost, hail and floods hitting many vineyards. In Bordeaux, flowering was a little late and took place in the spring, during the only week that was sunny, so their vineyards were largely spared. The drama continued with an extremely rainy spring. Vineyards with old, well-established vines fared best, and when the deluge subsided, the situation improved quickly. Summer was—as it was in 2015—very hot and dry. The mounting threat of drought stress was washed away by much-needed September rains, followed by an ideally long, warm fall that gave the rain-plumped grapes enough hang time to reach optimal concentration. Yields are better than 2015 and quality appears to be on par with 2015, albeit with more consistency and less regional variation.
The 2016 wines will have good concentration, moderate alcohol, lower acidity and soft, approachable tannins. Ultimately, the vintage should yield very good wines, especially from the top terroirs.
We look forward to sharing our experiences in the coming weeks.
Shari & Paul
Greetings from Bordeaux! Our first impression: This is a very good vintage indeed.
The wines are very impressive, and some are outstanding. Stylistically, the 2016s are more classic than the 2015s but still very ripe. The long, warm fall ensured both physical and phenolic ripeness, and the wines have preserved their freshness, having benefited from cool nighttime temperatures over the season.
The highlight so far has been Pomerol, where the clay soils absorbed the water during the wet spring, which helped the vines thrive during the dry, hot summer days. Pétrus is a standout this year. Saint-Estèphe wines are also showing incredible concentration.
It is sunny and beautiful today as we begin our journey through the 2016 vintage.
Quote of the Day:
“This is a Pétrus like no other.”
—Christophe Jacquemin Sablon, CEO/Directeur Général, Clés Distribution (Château Pétrus)
Another bright, sunny day today as we explored the Médoc and visited 14 châteaux…
Our first impression of the Left Bank was of the consistent, luscious ripeness of both the Cabernet and Merlot—a trait that speaks to the homogenous good quality from 2016, across all regions and price ranges.
This ripeness is the result of a long, dry autumn (preceded by hot weather during the summer) that allowed grapes to hang in the vineyard until they reached full maturity. The vintage also benefited from the cool nights of the growing season – this preserved the natural acidity in the wines, keeping the grapes both vibrant and fresh due to the higher pH levels. Classic lower alcohol levels were also a common theme through the wines.
There were a few standouts, like Calon Ségur and Montrose. In general, the further north we moved, the bigger the wines became. Of course, there are many exceptions, and it should not be interpreted that bigger is always better. The best quality wines of the vintage show a balance between ripe fruit and fresh acidity.
Highlights today included the tastings at Châteaux Lafite and Mouton Rothschild. We are off to explore St-Émilion tomorrow.
Quote of the Day:
“This is a good vintage with delicate tannin structure.”
—Augustin Lacaille, Sales & Communication Director, Château d’Issan, Margaux
Check back here on Friday, April 7 for more impressions from Bordeaux.
We had another day of sunshine in Bordeaux as we tasted at 16 châteaux on the Right Bank. And again today, all the wines showed plenty of ripe fruit.
Our most noteworthy discovery of the day was the quality of Pomerol—the wines are full of charm, texture and richness. From our perspective, Vieux Château Certan and Château Figeac are among the top wines of the vintage.
The 2016 wines from Saint-Émilion are very good indeed, though we are seeing a range of styles and quality. We think the varied soils of the region produced wines of mixed quality due to this vintage’s extreme weather conditions.
We’re off to Pessac-Léognan tomorrow…
We began our day with a broad tasting of petits châteaux at the offices of a local négociant.
The ripe fruit, combined with good acidity levels and soft tannins, will define this vintage. This is consistent across the more affordable wines as well. Vignerons say they struggle to think of another vintage that possesses such consistent balance across the entire region.
In the afternoon we headed for Pessac-Léognan, where we visited some top châteaux, including Haut-Brion. For many, this part of Bordeaux was the star of the 2015 vintage, but 2016 may be even better. Whatever Pessac-Léognan may have lost in intensity (which isn’t much), they more than make up for in vibrancy and purity of fruit.
As was the case last year, the wines of Haut-Bailly were very impressive, and Haut-Brion may be the wine of the vintage.
Tomorrow we end our time in Bordeaux with an extensive tasting that includes wines from all regions.
Quote of the Day:
“Haut-Bailly is the best ever!”
Check back here on Thursday, April 20th for the final report by our buyers.
On Friday, April 7th, we visited a very large négociant for an extensive tasting spanning all the major regions of Bordeaux. This was a comprehensive opportunity for us to confirm, or perhaps debunk, our overall impression of the vintage developed over the week.
2016 is not a vintage of blockbuster wines. In fact, most alcohol levels are 1.0 or 0.5 degrees lower than in 2015. Instead, this vintage will be defined by two characteristics:
Though the summer saw hot days, the evenings were uncommonly dry and cool; these conditions preserved the grapes' natural acidity. September rains were followed by a moderate and dry autumn. The châteaux were able to let the grapes hang on the vine until they reached full phenolic and physiological maturity. The defining weather events—hot summer days, cool nights and a dry autumn—occurred across Bordeaux and combined to create homogeneity of the quality of this vintage.
We were particularly impressed with the wines from three different geographical areas within Bordeaux: Saint-Estèphe (Northern Médoc), Pessac-Léognan (Graves—south of the city of Bordeaux) and Pomerol (Right Bank).
While in Pessac-Léognan, we were particularly impressed with Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion and Haut-Bailly. Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier and Latour-Martillac also all showed very well. The whites were bright and fresh, though they did not exhibit the same vibrancy and consistency in quality as the reds.
It is an excellent vintage for Sauternes and Barsac. The wines are opulent, rich and very lush. The best are outstanding.
In conclusion, 2016 is a solid vintage. It will be a wine lovers’ vintage, in which balance and vibrancy reign over power. It will be a vintage in which buyers can take risks with their purchases. The quality is very consistent across regions and price bands.
We look forward to a solid campaign and hope for realistic prices from the châteaux. We will select and bring you our best choices from the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux.
Vice-President, Products, Sales and Merchandising
Head buyer for the LCBO and Vintages, Shari has been instrumental in introducing the best wines to Ontario for most of her 36 years in the industry. She has been involved in the En Primeur campaign since 2005 and has cultivated relationships with top châteaux and négociants. Shari is a seasoned professional who holds a diploma from l'Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux and is an international wine judge.
Category Manager, European Wines, Vintages
Paul and his team evaluate 25,000 wines per year, bringing approximately 5,000 of these to the market. Paul has been with the LCBO and Vintages since 2001, first as a Product Consultant in stores, next as a writer for its website and catalogues, and, since 2008, as a buyer. He holds a WSET diploma and is recognized as one of the top product experts at the LCBO.
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