Bordeaux 2016 – Vintage report

2015 was a hard act to follow and very consistent across the board but although slightly less homogenous, the highs of 2016 might actually prove giddier in the long term. 2015 was lush, balanced and very consistent among appellations with a particularly strong set of wines produced in the Margaux commune. 2016 is a hard year to compare with any previous vintages, perhaps less consistent overall than 2015 yet capable of shining more brilliantly at particular chateaux. Margaux was good but clearly not so outstanding as in 2015 whereas some of the Pauillacs, St Juliens and St Estephes produced in 2016 were stunning and there were some brilliant right bank wines produced in pockets of Pomerol and St Emilion. It is easy to make generalisations and I try to shy away from that approach but the key thing that seemed to consistently reoccur in our tastings during our trip to the region was that the excitement and thrill came from the wines whose vineyards possessed a greater proportion of clay in their soils. We will produce a more comprehensive vintage report in due course but the 2 biggest basic factors of the 2016 vintage were the huge amount of winter rainfall which replenished the water table before the growing season began followed by the drought from June to mid- September during it. And generally the great wines were produced from vineyards whose vines could retain contact with that moisture preserved in clay during the seemingly endless dry spell. The grandly named, brilliantly talented and extremely friendly Aymeric de Gironde from Cos D’Estournel described 2016 succinctly as ‘a clay vintage’ and his wine exemplified the style of the most successful in the vintage – energetic, tense, brilliantly defined with fresh fruit to the fore, lower alcohol and juicy acidity. That kind of profile is precisely what excites both the purists and thrill-seekers amongst us with Bordeaux 2016.

The other key aspects of the 2016 vintage bookended the season. Firstly flowering took place quickly and uniformly and produced very healthy potential yields with lots of small berries in the end. Finally, although the drought ended in mid- September the rain allowed the vines to de-stress and with summer and late-season being warm yet not too hot (and showing large diurnal temperature differences) a long, slow ripening occurred. The resultant grapes had good, ripe tannins in the main but lower sugars and vibrant acidity. This overall profile provided wines that in the right hands really excites us – sculpted, energetic, generous and ultimately very fine. I’m reminded of 2010 to some extent but the wines are less ‘huge’, more elegant and defined and lower in alcohol too and all the better for that. We think you will love the pick of them and those are the very ones we will be doing our best to get for you.