The 2016 vintage in Bordeaux had all the ideal conditions for a healthy growing season. Rain during the first three months, along with a record warmth, gave way to an early bud break.
With an early bud break, fears of shatter arise, but in 2016 Mother Nature was generous and fruit wasn’t lost. In the following months the region experienced low temperatures that slowed down the development of the grapes, and rain wasn’t seen until mid-September, which allowed the clusters to fully develop.
Certainly a reason to celebrate considering the variability of other years resulting in catastrophic numbers.
Last week, hundreds of the top wine enthusiasts gathered in San Francisco to taste the 2016 bounties. Attendees included numerous Bay Area sommeliers, winemakers, retail buyers, wine writers and collectors. The buzz throughout the room had a positive and joyful feel.
As the walk-around tasting progressed, the favorites arose. Some regions like Pomerol showcased an herbaceous and dark-toned spice, with finesse and savory notes. Margaux producers were amongst the favored, their wines showed red fruit notes with a muscular undertone overall.
Saint-Julian, heavily recommended, brought layers of complexity to the mix with masculinity and robust dark fruit but elegantly presented. And areas like the Medoc and Haut Medoc showcased generous aromas but restraint on the palate.
Some of the standouts in no specific order went as follows:
—Château Clinet, one of the most prominent estates in Pomerol, is located on the highest part of the Pomerol plateau, where they grow Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in clay and gravel dominant soils. The aromas were characterized by dried sage and incense with a slight burnt rosemary layer, complemented by granite and a touch of red fruit. The mouthfeel was seductive and velvety with a juicy mid-palate and a prominent tannin structure that will develop over the years into a warm hug to the senses.
From Pauillac Château D’Armailhac, a Grand Cru Classè of the 1855 Classification sits on gravel and clay-limestone soil, giving the depth and complexity to their wines. This wine is made of Cabernet Sauvignon mostly, with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and some Petit Verdot. The aromas are beautifully intoxicating with hints of green tobacco, dark cherry, cigar box and in the palate a juxtaposition of sweet core and dark fruit tied by generous tannins.
Château Beychevelle brought the goods for Saint-Julien. This legendary estate, built in the 17th century and awarded Grand Cru Classè status in 1855, counts with deep garonne gravel soils. Made of just over 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the result is a lush and heady floral note of purple flowers, lead by violets and joined by lilacs. Holiday spice is experienced and complemented by big tannins and stamina in the form of electric acidity on the finish.
As for Margaux, Château Kirwan stood out to me. This estate built was in the 18th century by Mark Kirwan, an Irish businessman, in the village of Cantenac. Also awarded the Grand Cru Classè status in 1855, it has soils characterized by Pyrenean gravel on the plateau and sand and gravel on the clay subsoil giving it the Cantenac stamp.
The blend is a classic Bordeaux style, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot aged for an average 20 months in 50 percent new barrels. This wine told a story, from the red driven fruit notes, dried rose petals to a meaty and bold structure lifted by strong tannins.
The examples are endless, and one has to mention the white wines from graves like Château Carbonnieux, a Grand Cru Classé a Sauvignon Blanc dominant blend partnered with its friend Semillon to create a cleansing, citrus-driven wine necessary in any Bordeaux tasting.
Bordeaux has much to offer, and vintages like 2016 with generous and balanced attributes highlight the gifts of the wine world. Cheers!