March 29th, 2017 @ 09:59am Jonathan Maltus Wine 0


              JAMES SUCKLING 2016 REVIEWS


"After tasting 400 wines in the last six days, I can confirm that 2016 is an exceptional vintage equal to the exquisite 2015. In some regions like St. Estephe and the Northern Medoc, the wines are even better."

These young wines already show beautiful fruit, bright acidity and linear tannins. They offer much of the same potential quality as 2015 but in a different profile—energy is the word that comes to mind—with slightly lower alcohols and stronger acidities.

I tasted a wide majority of these wines blind at Chateau Senailhac, our home base for the duration of this month-long adventure, with five of my staff from JamesSuckling.com. We have already visited dozens of estates and spoken with numerous winemakers and merchants. It’s funny to think that the 2016 vintage is my 34th vintage tasted from barrel. I’ve tasted barrel samples for more years in Bordeaux than most of my staff have celebrated birthdays.

With 2016 being such a wonderful year, the vintage now makes it official: Bordeaux has a trilogy of outstanding vintages (2014, 2015, and 2016). We haven’t seen this since 1988, 1989 and 1990. Nor are the trilogies the same. Grape yields were almost double compared to the late 1980s. Also, I tasted those wines of the 1980s from barrel myself, and I can say that the Bordeaux today is so much better and more precise in just about every sense of the word. They have incredible strength yet so much more finesse and sophistication. Moreover, there’s a concerted effort to move away from the extracted and overblown styles we saw in the early 2000s. So many other things have evolved, too, and from their vineyards to their wineries, Bordeaux winemakers are now some most precise in the world. Maybe that’s why I’ve written “best ever” in so many tasting notes already. In estates big and small, winemakers are making their best wines to date.

“These 2016s are real Bordeaux!” exclaimed Christophe Salin, the general director of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) whose 2016 might be the wine of the vintage. “They are wines that can’t be duplicated anywhere in the world.”

The last three vintages are indeed very real. They shows such richness and structure yet remain relatively low in alcohol (many top 2016s are less than 14 percent alcohol) and high in extract and acidity (pHs from 3.4 to 3.7). These sort of figures, particularly in reds, make for vivid, dynamic wines that are beautiful to taste when young and will offer greatness through time.

Between, 2015 and 2016, I’m not sure which vintage is better at this stage. But a few generalizations do seem apparent to me. Wines from Northern Medoc – from Pauillac farther north – seems superior in 2016. That’s why my most exciting wines so far hail from these appellations. Wines such as the Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Lynch-Bages, and Calon-Segur are destined to be modern-day classics.

I’m also impressed with the Margaux appellation after tasting monumental reds from Palmer and Malescot St Exupéry and as well as from less-revered names such as Brane-Cantenac, Giscours, and Durfort-Vivens. As for Château Margaux itself, it’s again great in 2016 but not on the same level as the sublime 2015, which was one of the greatest barrel samples I have ever tasted in my 35-year career as a critic.

The clay knoll of Pomerol looks to be a big winner – namely from La Conseillante and L’Evangile – producing fantastically deep, dense and structured reds that are impressively agile and stealthy. I’ll be tasting more Right Bank wines over the next 10 days in the region.

The unique weather pattern of the 2016 growing season certainly left its mark. There was lots of moisture before flowering. The weather turned dry and hot until mid-September. It was more like Napa Valley than Bordeaux. Winemakers I spoke to over the last three months were worried that they were in for unbalanced wines. Vines were stressed, and the growth cycle was blocked in some from the severity of the drought. But then the weather changed, the rains came in, and vineyards were refreshed.

The only negative I see for the moment is that some vineyards were not revived. Or some wine producers picked before the rains, particularly whites. So wines from these châteaux may lack a center palate or a backbone of fresh acidity. But I need to taste more to confirm this.

Everyone likes to compare vintages, and people here seem to enjoy comparing 2016 to 2010.
I think 1990 or 1986 are more apt comparisons with 2016. This is all up for debate. What we know for sure is that 2016 is an outstanding vintage for Bordeaux for both whites and reds. Mathieu Chardonnier, head of the important Bordeaux negociant house of CVBG, put it best. “This is as good as Bordeaux gets.”



Le Dôme St.-Emilion 2016
95-96 points
Plenty of fruit density and richness with plum and blueberry character. Medium to full body, juicy finish. Very attractive already. Layered and so fine. Beautiful polish. Love it already. Very long finish.

Vieux Château Mazerat St.-Emilion 2016
93-94 points
A layered and rich red with lots of berry, chocolate and hints of toasted oak. Full body. Lovely texture. Big finish. Really impressive. Better than 2015.

Les Astéries St.-Emilion 2016
93-94 points
A tight and firm wine with an attractive density of fruit and tannins. Full body, yet in reserve. The fruit intensity grows on your palate. Love the quality of the tannins.


Le Carré St.-Emilion 2016
93-94 points
Tight and juicy with lots of blueberry and chocolate character. Full and savory. Lovely wine. Exciting to taste.

Château Laforge St.-Emilion 2016
92-93 points
Dense and fruity with a linear and fresh tannin and acidity backbone. Medium to body. Fresh finish. Building on the finish. Lovely finish. Almost all merlot. Could be even higher in bottle.

Château Teyssier St.-Emilion 2016
91-92 points
Solid density of fruit to this young red with firm and silky tannins and lively acidity. Like it.


See more of James Suckling's 2016 impressions here


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