2016 Bordeaux EP
You’ve probably noticed about 80 Chateaux have released their EP 2016’s in the past week, and things will continue to ramp up in anticipation of Neal Martin’s scores due to be published in the Wine Advocate this weekend. It seems like a good time to share my thoughts on the vintage.
In a nut shell 2016 was a tricky year weather wise. A very wet but mild winter helped to replenish the ground water. There was a break in the weather around flowering, so most producers didn’t have a problem there. Unfortunately, the weather returned shortly thereafter and it rained pretty much continuously until around 18 June. This was problematic for biodynamic and organic producers because their treatments for mildew and rot can be less effective with constant rain.
After the rain stopped in June, the weather was beautiful but very dry, almost no rain fell until the middle of September. Temperatures were hot but not excessively so, as in 2003, there was lots of sun and cool nights preserving balance and acidity. Because there was so little rain, vines began to shut down in August, grapes were small and younger vines suffered. Finally, in the middle of September a couple of days rain brought relief from the drought conditions and revived the vines, especially older vines. Many young vines had suffered too much hydric stress and wouldn’t produce much useful fruit even after the rain.
Perfect ripening conditions – Warm sunny days with cool nights prevailed in the second half of September and into October. The harvest was quite late with many producers not finishing the harvest until mid-October. The result perfectly ripe, if small grapes with relatively thick skins, good acidity, high tannins and relatively low potential alcohol. The best came from old vines with deep roots in soils that held some moisture during the drought.
The wines were certainly easier to taste than last year, most are more classically styled than in other recent “Great” years. There are many excellent wines, the best are elegant, beautifully balanced with good natural concentration, lovely deep flavours, wonderful aromatics, smooth silky tannins and superb freshness with good acidity. It is definitely a terroir driven vintage. Look for wines from producers who have a large proportion of older vines or the average age is quite old. Over-Extraction (some people can’t help themselves…) was really the only potential problem because of the relatively small, thick skinned grapes. Alcohol levels were generally a bit lower than in recent years ranging from 13 – 13.5 percent, which is more in line with classic Bordeaux wines.
I really liked VCC (perhaps the best wine ever here), Ausone, Lafleur, Gazin, Trotanoy even Pavie, while still huge, showed surprising elegance and complexity on the finish. All the first Growths are beautiful (Haut Brion & Margaux are amazing) but they’ll be expensive. Montrose, Ducru and Pichon Lalande are all lovely. I could go on and on and there are many very good mid-range wines, as well.
It really comes down to how much you are prepared to spend and what you consider to be good value. If your time horizon is 15-20 years and cashflow is not a problem, fill your boots. Most of us have to be a bit more cautious and if release prices are 15% higher than last year, as expected, you may want to consider waiting a few years to buy these wines. At those sort of prices, the top wines will not disappear from the market and will probably not appreciate very much between EP release and 2 years from now when the wines are physically available. Good value mid-priced wines that get good scores will get snapped up quickly and are likely to increase in value, especially in the £25-40 per bottle range. There are more people wanting to drink good Bordeaux every year and disposable income continues to rise.
But remember! They make hundreds of thousands of cases of good wine in Bordeaux every year!! We do our best to drink it all but there will always be more next year…;o)
I would be delighted to help you get the wines you want, so send me your wish lists and I will do my best.
I will be sending out offers on good wines that I think are sensibly priced. Don’t hesitate to send me specific requests if other merchants can’t help you.