Some Off-the-Hook Bargains from Bordeaux's 2016 Vintage
Recently, I’ve come across a bunch of articles claiming that Bordeaux is poised to make a comeback. I don’t know what all those writers have been drinking, but here at K&L, Bordeaux never went away. Sure we get a lot more requests for, say, skin-contact wines from Slovenia than ever before—and we love that—but Bordeaux has always been a staple for our customers. And perhaps that’s because y’all are extremely savvy people who know that Bordeaux wines are among the most ageable on the planet. But I’d wager there are just as many of you who buy Bordeaux because it can offer spectacular bargains if you know where to look.
One such place to look is the Cru Bourgeois designation. In 2010, this Médoc designation was revamped to reflect the quality of the wines (as opposed to honoring châteaux, as in the 1855 Classification) based on both production methods and finished product. We just brought in an excellent example from the Haut-Médoc from Château Bibian, made from mostly old-vine fruit grown on an estate that dates back to 1857. It’s a bit tight upon opening but yields beautifully with some air to reveal raspberry confit, currants, and leather aromas then a balanced, gracious palate. It’s a food wine to be sure with a very dry finish and I can attest it did nicely with steak tacos. Those tannins bode well for socking this away, maybe up to ten years.
Vintage is another great tool in a Bordeaux value-hunter’s kit, with gangbuster vintages like 2016 making it hard to go wrong. The 2016 bottling from Haut-Musset in Lalande-de-Pomerol comes from the same team that makes Tour St-Christophe, one of our best sellers. It’s spicy and plush and complex on palate. It’s velvety in texture but well-structured with a touch of lingering black licorice. 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Great value can also come from under-the-radar appellations such as the Right Bank’s Côtes de Castillon, which is essentially an eastern extension of St-Emilion. The appellation is situated on an alluvial terrace above the River Dordogne and gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The 2016 d'Arce is the third vintage of this new project from Hélène Garcin Leveque, who also makes wine from the well-loved Barde-Haut. The grapes are farmed organically and sustainably with a final cepage of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine is very plush and broad, with notes of cherry cola and a touch of espresso on end, all framed by firm tannins.
The combination of structure and sexy fruit are a hallmark of all the 2016s I’ve had to date. They aren’t bombastic, but they are vivid and exciting—well worth seeking out, and you’ll do well among a wide spectrum of price points. With a nod to Mr. Cool J, don’t call it a comeback! 2016 is coming in strong, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to drink well.
- Kate Soto