Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

BORDEAUX EXCELS ITSELF IN 2016 VINTAGE – PART I

November 2018. A splendid range of clarets from the 2016 vintage was recently presented in London by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. What follows are my descriptions of some forty of the numerous wines on show. Colours were universally dark and lustrous; few wines were over-oaked or over-extracted. Harmony and refinement were the keynotes.

 

PESSAC-LÉOGNAN

 

2016 DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER

Smooth and oaky on the nose, but with optimal concentration of fruit, this exhaled a medley of plum jam, chocolate/cocoa, and cinnamon. I’m struck by the wine’s lovely ripe-grape sweetness. There’s a sense of massive, held-in concentration, of classic restraint. Smooth-textured, full of energy, the wine, though still in chrysalis, shows considerable length, with refined earthiness typical of top Pessac-Léognans.

CHÂTEAU DE FIEUZAL

The nose is more immediately assertive, with a special kind of thrust I associate with the Petit-Verdot grape (5% at Fieuzal). On the day, the PV / Cabernet-Sauvignon duo seem to dominate over the 45% Merlot, especially on the nose, though this can change as the wine evolves in bottle. It smells like sweet prune, black fruits, and roast chestnut. A well-crafted wine.

CHÂTEAU DE FRANCE

The colour is of maximum depth, the nose buoyant and suggestive of black cherry and damson. Very dense in the mouth, but fresh and with uplift, it tastes like a meld of blackberry and damson. Good acidity underpins the fruit and the tannins provide additional support. A bit less refined than the two preceding wines but very good.

CHÂTEAU MALARTIC LAGRAVIÈRE

The colour, only medium deep, could mean they’ve tried to avoid over-extraction. The very precise, focused aroma conjures up blackcurrant and damson with a flowery element too – peony in particular. The flavour is soft and cushiony, but with all the structure it needs for long ageing. The subtly tannic finish is long and silky. A lovely Malartic and, like any fine claret from a top vintage, able to improve for decades.

2016 CHÂTEAU PIQUE CAILLOU

The nose is soft and creamy (hints of fine clay) and very focused. A second sniff evokes suggestions of red rose, lingonberry, and Victoria plum. The flavour is likewise smooth and inviting, its ample flesh tautened by judicious tannins. Medium long at present (that could change as time goes by. A very sound wine with good P.C. character.

2016 CHÂTEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE

Darker than most, this emits an intense, noticeably oaky aroma of real intensity, suggestive of black cherry, blackcurrant, and damson jam, with a lovely ripe-grape sweetness at its core. It‘s well balanced, long, and homogeneous, with close-meshed tannins providing just the kind of graininess needed. It’s so ripe – but not to excess – one could almost think there’s a gramme or so of residual sugar. Very stylish.

 

SAINT ÉMILION

 

2016 CHÂTEAU BEAUSÉJOUR-BECOT

A vivid crimson, this gives off a strikingly fresh scent that suggest cherry, sweet plum, and raspberry. The globular aroma, full of generous fruit, is Merlot-dominated (70% at this property). The flavour is dense and sumptuous, though the tannins on the finish leave a dryish farewell. But tannins are protean: hard one day, soft another. This will develop well.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU CANON

The aroma comes out to meet you, giving off strikingly pure, seductive scents reminiscent of raspberry, cherry jam, and peony. It’s a buoyant, flowery nose promising depth, intensity, and length. The refined flavour, while typically Saint Émilion, shows a certain affinity with a fine Chambolle-Musigny. There’s so much going on here I resolve to retaste it later (but as things turned out, time’s hurrying chariot frustrated that intention!).

 

2016 CHÂTEAU CANON LA GAFFELIÈRE

Very dark, this gives off a smooth aroma that’s both compact and assertive. Reeking of ripe fruit, it smells like black cherry, chocolate, and carnation. There’s a reprise of that sumptuous fruit on the palate and a feeling of unforced concentration and depth. In short, a wine that’s rich and weighty but in no way heavy. Good ripe tannins keep the ample fruit in order.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LA COUSPADE

Once again, a Merlot-rich wine of maximum depth of colour. The nose is forceful yet lushly fruity, promising depth and definition. The oak is noticeable but should recede in time. Weighty on the palate, it’s patently a very solid wine. But the aftertaste lacks the nuances that distinguish the previous Saint Émilions.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU FIGEAC

Others ‘16s may be darker, but Figeac has that special lustre that separates the superlative from the merely good. The lovely, expressive aroma is full of nuances, a blend of black cherry, raspberry, and blackcurrant with a hint of peony soon augmenting the other scents. The flavour, too, is rich yet with classic restraint, with a cascade of sub-flavours leading into a fanning out of damson and crème de mûre savours of great persistence.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LA GAFFELIÈRE

This lustrous wine possesses a smooth, notably fresh aroma of damson and raspberry with a core of pronounced ripeness. It’s a round, even globular scent with a seamless quality. Voluminous, yes; but buoyant too. Red fruits are in the ascendant, with hints of carnation and peony supplying additional nuances. There’s a dancing quality to the flavour, the wine seeming almost to hover in your mouth. The tannins are of the finer kind.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LARMANDE

Solidly dark, this has a smooth aroma, of black fruits in general and damson and black cherry in particular. Quite full on the palate, with plenty of flavour with a fruity groundswell finishing on a note of ripe Victoria plum.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU TROPLONG MONDOT

The rich, blackish colour suggests that extraction was pushed to the limit. True to type, both nose and flavour are forceful and assertive, with ample fruit. Solid almost to the point of heaviness, it is long on exuberance but a bit short on subtlety. But it will shed excess flesh as it matures, and its tannins soften, and should show well when at its peak a couple of decades hence.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU TROTTEVIEILLE

Containing 53% Cabernet Franc, this Trottevieille has a noble, authoritative aroma that conjures up black cherry, damson jam, and roast chestnut. It’s a superbly balanced wine that, while densely fruity, remains aerial. The strikingly fresh finish is protracted and delivers mouth-watering acidity. This will mature beautifully in the decades to come. Surely one of the best in recent decades.

 

POMEROL

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LE BON PASTEUR

This property is owned by Michel Rolland, an oenologist whose declared aim is to achieve the maximum possible level of alcohol. His wines are not among the most refined but are always richly fruity and hedonistic. This has a full, globular aroma, crammed with fruit, but buoyant too. My mind turns towards cherry, pomegranate, and chocolate. It’s fullish and distinctly fleshy on the palate, with plenty of savour. On the day the tannins seem a bit dryish but that’s doubtless a passing phase.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU CLINET

The nose is full and expressive, sending out wafts of blackcurrant and raspberry. In the mouth it’s very fresh, with a flowery aspect, and ends on a note of Victoria plum and cherry. This charming wine possesses typical Pomerol grace, growing increasingly nuanced and velvety in the glass and showing the kind of lively freshness that augurs well for the future. Very good.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LA CONSEILLANTE

This beauty of a wine has a richly expressive aroma, sending off wafts of black cherry, and peony/iris. One is instantly struck by a fusion of exceptional harmony, restrained sweetness, and silky texture. The flavour more than lives up to this, with its gorgeous texture and delectably fruity flavour of real distinction and complexity. Tasting it blind, one could be forgiven for guessing at a top Vosne-Romanée. A wine of great poise and one of the finest in the entire tasting.

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LA CROIX DE GAY

This well-coloured wine has a fine, vigorous nose of liquorice, black cherry, and damson. It shows all of the Merlot’s (98%) best traits: freshness, roundness, and a delectable sweetness of fruit, with hints of crasse de fer in the subsoil lending a subtle hint of truffle.

 

HAUT MÉDOC

 

2016 CHÂTEAU LA LAGUNE

This reliable wine has a solid look that promises a full, vinous aroma that, sure enough, is soon delivered to your nose. What’s instantly noticeable is the backbone and rigour jointly supplied by the Médoc subsoil and the dominant Cabernet-Sauvignon grape. Suggestions of black cherry and graphite rise from the glass, backed up by a subtle minerality. A copybook Médoc of distinction.

 

COMING SOON : BORDEAUX 2016 VINTAGE – PART II

 

© Frank Ward 2018

 

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