Day Three of the 2016 Bordeaux En Primeur

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We had another early start today as we headed north to meet with Bordeaux legend and Lynch Bages owner Jean-Michel Cazes and his son Jean-Charles at their St-Estephe property: Ormes de Pez. (Château Lynch Bages itself is undergoing a complete renovation with a projected re-opening of 2019, hence our need to meet elsewhere). The 2016 Lynch Bages sample we tasted was a study in quiet power, confident and self-assured. “Perhaps the best we have ever made from a technical perspective,” said Jean-Michel. Quintessential Pauillac, the wine is—so far—one of the standout wines of the vintage. But there were other Pauillacs yet to taste, names that for over a century and a half have represented the best that Bordeaux can offer: Mouton, Lafite, Latour.

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We discovered that the magic of the 2016 vintage—some alchemy of variable weather and essential terroir—was merely to allow each to show their true character. The 2016 Mouton was not showy, but still grand and magisterial. The 2016 Lafite was weighty and opulent, while the 2016 Latour was lush and convivial. A quick detour northward to St-Estephe led to more revelations. The 2016 Cos d’Estournel brought tears to my eyes; a return to form that recalled their many great, classic vintages from the 1980’s. Montrose was a marvel—intense, concentrated and brooding. Calon Ségur understated and reserved.

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We finished up the morning with Alfred Tesseron at Pontet Canet. Their very justified reputation has brought increasingly larger crowds to their door, but we were able to sneak in for a peek at the 2016 vintage. It’s bound to please many palates with a lush, rich texture and above average ripeness with hints of blackberry jam. Before sending us on our way, Mr. Tesseron was kind enough to offer us a delicious lunch, which was accompanied by the delightful 2007 Pontet Canet.

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After lunch we added another Dexuième Cru to our tally with a tasting at Pichon Lalande—a genuine classic, polished and elegant. We found time also to stop by Léoville Las Cases and Ducru Beaucaillou. Both showed excellent form and great typicity, in keeping with the vintage. Running a bit ahead of schedule in the afternoon we took a few moments to stop in to the UGC tasting for St-Estephe and Pauillac hosted by Château Batailley. Château d’Armailhac and Clerc Milon, along with Grand Puy Lacoste, were particular standouts.

Overall, 2016 looks to have been a very successful vintage for the northern Médoc, much improved over 2015. The wines are notable for their freshness and liveliness, and for their moderate alcohol levels. Most are in the 13% to 14% range. Warm days and cooler nights in the late summer and fall meant that the most successful wines are intensely aromatic. Of the six allowed Bordeaux grape varieties, cabernet sauvignon flourished in such a late-ripening vintage, and many blends incorporate it in the 75% to 95% range.

After a long day, Clyde treated us all to a casual dinner at Le Lion d'Or in Arcins, a restaurant frequented by many château owners and wine industry persons and famous for its classic Medocaine cuisine, especially the Lamproie a la Bordelaise: eel cooked in red wine. Celebrating his birth year, Clyde opened a bottle of the 1945 Grand Puy Lacoste, and ordered a bottle of the 2007 vintage from the wine list for comparison. We also enjoyed the 2001 Lynch Bages, and the 2000 Clos du Marquis (a sample from Barrières Freres—Clyde is considering it for the stores), both absolutely delicious. Then, back to the hotel and a well deserved rest.

A busy but exciting day. Tomorrow we will be headed to Saint Julien and Margaux—stay tuned.

-Jeff Garneau

Jeff Garneau