2016 Bordeaux Pre-Order En Primeur
Clarets with beautiful vitality, ripe tannins and lovely bouquets
I am delighted to report Bordeaux has produced an abundance of superb wines in 2016. The best reds exhibit real energy and vitality, with pure bouquets, silky tannins, plenty of mid-palate fruit and impressive length of flavour. Slightly lower than average alcohol levels, allied to the perfumed fruit and ripe tannins that typify the 2016 vintage, will ensure wines with excellent balance and capacity to age.
Comparisons of 2016 with previous vintages are hard to draw, and none of the owners and winemakers that we talked to during our visits to Bordeaux in early April were willing (or able) to suggest a similar vintage in terms of wine style. Nicolas Audebert, who makes the wines at Châteaux Canon and Rauzan-Ségla, uses the description ‘un kilo de plumes’, or a pound of feathers for those preferring imperial measures, meaning that the wines have volume as opposed to weight. This comes closest to capturing the essence of the 2016s.
Unlike last year the successes of the 2016 vintage come from all corners of Bordeaux. Cabernets from the Médoc ripened beautifully from Margaux to Saint-Estèphe, as they did in Pessac-Léognan and the Graves, with both Pomerol and Saint-Emilion enjoying a healthy, ripe merlot crop.
We anticipate our main offer of 2016s, which will include a broader range of reds, dry whites and sweet wines, to be mailed and available online in June. The date depends entirely upon how quickly the Bordelais release their prices.
The barrel room at Calon Segur
Weather conditions were far from straightforward, with extremes in the form of both wet and dry spells. Winter and spring were mild and very damp, with some places receiving more rain in the first two months of 2016 than in the whole of the previous year. But miraculously there was a short window in early June, crucial for successful flowering, when the whole of Bordeaux enjoyed a spell of dry weather. The ensuing summer was hot and extremely dry, with virtually no rain falling between the last week of June and mid-September. This meant that the vines had to dig deep for sustenance. These conditions favoured old vines on good soils, and as a consequence the best wines reflect their true origins (or terroirs).
Thankfully nature intervened on 13th September when a welcome rain shower relieved and reinvigorated the vineyards, ensuring that the grapes continued ripening. The harvest, as in 2015, took place in perfect conditions with châteaux able to select the optimum time to pick. The berries, particularly those of the cabernets, were small and skins relatively thick, resulting in deeply coloured wines with plenty of ripe tannins.
It is difficult to second guess how Bordeaux château owners will price their wines this year. The pound is already around 10% weaker than at the same time last year, so even if release prices are in line with the 2015s the wines will be more expensive for this market to buy. On the positive side the crop is larger than average (apparently the biggest in a decade), so this could be a moderating influence for some châteaux. Setting the price bands for the wines for this offer has therefore been tricky and it may be that some wines will be released either above or (less likely) below our estimates. Time will tell.
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