Bordeaux 2016: the verdict

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Ch. Léoville-Poyferré. Photography: Jason Lowe

As Bordeaux 2016 en primeur gets underway, with the first major release (Cos d’Estournel) today, our Buying Director Max Lalondrelle provides his thoughts on the vintage

It’s been more than two weeks since we finished our annual en primeur week with a late afternoon tasting at Ch. Haut-Bailly and a quick game of pétanque before catching the late flight home. This year was easier than most, as the barrel samples were so easy to taste. There is no doubt in my mind that 2016 is the strongest vintage since 2010, with the best wines displaying freshness, tantalising red fruit, ripe tannins and drinkability.

The barrel samples we tasted, across 56 châteaux, were marked by their purity, elegance and energy. About halfway through the week, I began to think that this was a return to a very fine style of winemaking and maybe a “re-set” for many wineries, away from the over-oaked and over-macerated styles we saw in the early 2000s, moving instead to a more classical style, respectful of the fruit and terroir. The lower alcohol levels are testament to this; the wines combine the freshness of a top vintage Loire Cabernet Franc, with the elegance and intensity of a Grand Cru from Chambolle-Musigny.

If I had to describe this vintage in one word, it would not be great or classic or even very good (although that is two words): it would be “unique”. In many ways this is a truly unique vintage and there are many benchmark wines that collectors will long to have in their cellars.

Quality was high across both Left and Right Banks and we found good consistency among the small amount of properties in the commune of St Julien.

We know the quality of the wine is extremely good in 2016 but as we approach the business end of the campaign, all eyes turn to pricing. Prices are never straightforward in Bordeaux. 2015 was a very good campaign with many châteaux selling out. But only 30 wines or so really sold-out and we can find, albeit at higher prices because of the exchange rate, most of the other wines still in the cellars of the châteaux or Bordeaux négociants. So we believe a similar price to last year in Euros would translate into an small increase in Sterling, which would in turn reflect the uniqueness and high quality of the vintage.

In the US, Donald Trump is threating to impose a 20 percent tax increase on wine imports, Sterling is still weak and Asia is still reluctant to buy wine en primeur. So, with this in mind, we hope that there will no increase in the Euro price, allowing the market to absorb the volumes released and making it a must-buy for consumers.

That said, 2016 is a very special year and, as the wines are released over the coming weeks, we are confident that they will make lovely additions to your cellar.