I cut this year's Bordeaux trip down by a couple of days back in the Fall of 2016 when we originally booked our flights. After hearing the weather reports in May and June, and then during their long, dry summer, I figured we would just go, see our friends at the properties and a handful of négociants, taste a few wines and come back to concentrate on the very good 2015 vintage. As the winter progressed we kept hearing better and better reports about 2016, but we guessed it was just more Bordeaux hype as another “vintage of the century” was born. But some of our most trusted sources in Bordeaux (e.g. Bill Blatch) came out just before our trip with reports of a fantastic 2016 vintage. Oh well, we had to cram ten days into eight, which meant twelve hour days instead of nine hour days. We're professionals, are we not? Our group included myself, Ralph Sands, Jeff Garneau, Steve Bearden, and two rookies, Jason Marwedel and Tristan Stringer. I must say that the trip featured several grueling marathon days, but the crew performed admirably, and not one person missed an appointment or meal.
So, with hopes that the reports we heard about a good vintage were true, we arrived on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and immediately went to a tasting at Barrière Frères just past Château La Lagune and across the street from Château Cantemerle. We got our first sampling of 2016s with a taste of Lanessan, Beaumont, Beychevelle and Cantemerle, and wow, these wines were delicious. The first thing we noticed was vivid color, then fresh and very perfumy aromas, and then very ripe, precise, pure fruit flavors with very round and soft tannins. The wines drank so easily, just like 2015 and 2009. Unlike 2009, these 2016s really tasted like the properties’ terroir and not like the vintage as a whole. We thought of 1982-1983, 1985-1986, 1989-1990, 1995-1996 or 2009-2010—we have back-to-back good vintages in Bordeaux! Hurray, but not so fast—what happened in those other consecutive good vintages? The prices for the wines in the second vintage were higher than those in the first, and the following campaigns stalled as a result. In fact, I remember the 1996 vintage vividly—we had bought a lot of 1996s, just like the 1995s, but the 1996 campaign came to a halt just after summer and I ended up selling a lot of the wines back to the négociants. Wouldn’t you know it, but Robert Parker came out in January 1998 with a glowing 1996 report and I had to buy the wines back—at 20% higher prices! Lesson learned—I think.
-Clyde Beffa Jr.