First a few words from Jonathan Maltus who always provides a refreshing view of the vintage. Whereas I finished my tasting week with François Mitjavile, I had started it with Jonathan the previous weekend. "It wasn't that easy a vintage", he began. "We needed the early rain after the 2015 vintage, but then we had the really hot summer, and it was beginning to look a bit like 2003. The turning point in the vintage for us, down on the plains of St Emilion, was the rain of 13th September. We had a lot of rain and it saved the vintage. Up on the limestone plateau, the soils held the water better, so it was easier up there".
"We did not start picking until 3rd October, which was late even for us. We started late because of the rain. Others, including some top names in the appellation, started very early [see my 2016 St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé notes for more on this] but we tend to be later. When winemakers in Pomerol are picking, that's when we start washing down the equipment in readiness. We're not as late as some in St Emilion, but nor do we follow the traditional pattern of harvest as it spreads east and north across the region. And it wasn't an easy harvest; there was a threat of rot on one parcel, some shrivel on another, there were lots of different issues. So while the wines have turned out good, I won't tell you it was an easy vintage".
St Emilion Summary: Mirroring the words of François Mitjavile, and of the information already presented in my 2016 St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé report, this is a top vintage for the appellation, with broad success from all of St Emilion's terroirs, whether expressed through the medium of Merlot or Cabernet Franc.
2016 RATINGS AND REVIEWS
Le Dôme 2016
17.5-18.5/20 • 95-97/100
From the 3.2-hectare parcel of vines, very close to Angélus, Jonathan Maltus and winemaker Neil Whyte have fashioned a classic example of Le Dôme, with a traditional assemblage of 80% Cabernet Franc, picked 17th October, and 20% Merlot, picked 10th October. Cropped at 30 hl/ha, the fruit was cold-macerated and then fermented in wooden foudres, followed by malolactic fermentation in 100% new French oak. The time in oak may be as long as 19 months. The wine they have made carries its 15% alcohol very well; other vital statistics include a total acidity of 3.22 g/l and a pH of 3.81. The aromatics are dark, floral, perfumed with tobacco, freshly-picked rose petals and violets, the aromatic expression from the Cabernet Franc showing really strongly this year. And so it is simply charming. On the palate, it has freshness, perfume, texture and energy, a remarkable and challenging style, loaded with grip, tobacco, chocolate fruit and limestone dust, with a really firm, long and polished style. Incredibly tense, full, fresh, pure, very impressive, with great potential.
Vieux Château Mazerat 2016
17.5-18.5/20 • 95-97/100
One of two top cuvées made by Jonathan Maltus, from 4.15 hectares of vines close to Château Angélus. The varieties are 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc, picked 17th and 19th October respectively. The yield was 30 hl/ha, the alcohol 14.35%, total acidity 3.47 g/l and pH 3.82. This is pure, with a perfumed character, fresh and bright. This perfumed purity and freshness comes through onto the palate, which is also imbued with cocoa powder, praline, chocolate and dried cherry skins. Despite this evident richness it feels fresh and tense, and incredibly energetic. A hugely impressive wine, empowered with great substance and yet tense, sinewy, fresh and bright, features that keep it dancing along through the finish. Grippy and polished, a remarkable energy and force here.
Les Astéries 2016
16.5-17.5/20 • 93-95/100
From classic calcaire à astéries, the fossil-rich limestone of the western plateau. Often the more minerally of the single-vineyard wines, in 2016 the distinction between this cuvée and the rest of the Maltus range seems less profound, the quality of the vintage having lifted the entire range. This is 83% Merlot, picked October 17th, and 17% Cabernet Franc, picked October 14th (before the Merlot, note), sourced from a single hectare of vines, cropped at 32 hl/ha. Although it shows the typically rich house style, it feels fresh, and I was surprised to learn that the wine has 15.2% alcohol. Other analyses show the wine has total acidity 3.97, a higher figure which no doubt helps in achieving its balance, and a pH of 3.44. The anticipated élevage will be around 12 months, in 80% new oak. Aromatically it is smoky, dense, with classic struck-limestone suggestions, concentrated, fresh and pure. It possesses flavours of dark chocolate and dried cherries, yet it is bright with intense acid freshness and a grippy tannic backbone giving it a valuable frame. A minerally character, pure, but so structured, with an impressive balance. In the finish there is a wonderfully intense tannic energy, and a seriously long grip. This is very backward, with stacks of minerally character on the finish. Give it time.
Château Pontet-Labrie 2016
16.5-17.5/20 • 93-95/100
The newest addition to the Maltus stable, previously called Le Pontet but now called Pontet-Labrie. The vines are 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc, planted on 0.98 hectares across from Château Grand Pontet. Cropped at 32 hl/ha, although just 28 hl/ha after a saignée. The Merlot was picked on October 10th, the Cabernet Franc on October 14th. It has a dark and expressive nose, smoky, filled with currants, coffee and roasted black beans. The palate is substantial, polished, impressive, with huge depth, dark fruits, dark chocolate, coffee and praline, along with bright acidity. Deliciously polished, bright, fresh with vibrant tannins, which give the wine a long, grippy, acid-fresh finish. Piles of flavour here, packed in wall-to-wall, and wrapped in a huge, glossy, voluptuous substance. An impressive result.
Le Carré 2016
16.5-17.5/20 • 93-95/100
One of the Maltus single-vineyard wines from up on the limestone plateau, this is 85% Merlot, picked October 2nd, and 15% Cabernet Franc, picked October 15th. The yield was 32 hl/ha, from just a single hectare of vines. Analyses show the alcohol to be 14.5%, with total acidity 3.51 g/l and pH 3.71. The anticipated élevage will be somewhere between 14 and 18 months, in new oak, with bâtonnage and microbullage at the beginning. The nose is filled with dark roasted fruit, quite perfumed in style. The palate is fresh despite that rich base of alcohol, it feels pure, displaying a smoky concentration. It brims with flavours of tobacco, coffee bean and dark chocolate, with some really convincing grip and freshness in the finish. Bright, pure, textured, grainy, polished and impressive, this is a vibrant, characterful wine with a fine and grippy length.
Château Laforge 2016
16-17/20 • 92-94/100
This Maltus wine comes from a total of 7 hectares of vines; Merlot accounts for 92% of plantings, with 8% Cabernet Franc. The yield was 30 hl/ha, the Merlot picked between October 3rd and the 11th, the Cabernet Franc on October 14th. These days the fruit comes entirely from the plain of St Emilion. Analyses show the wine has a robust 14.8% alcohol, with a total acidity of 3.78 g/l and a pH of 3.61. The vinification started with a cold soak, true of all the Maltus wines. The aromatics are smoky, with a floral and perfumed character, looking rather pure and polished. On the palate it is substantial, fresh, grippy, tense and cool, with a real sense of purity. This is pure, detached, with a dry and savoury, tannin-rich structure, quite acid-fresh, the finish dusted with tobacco and praline. An impressive result.
Château Teyssier 2016
15.5-16.5/20 • 91-93/100
The blend includes 30% Cabernet Franc, the remaining 70% Merlot, the former started picking on October 13th, the latter on October 3rd. The alcohol is 14.8%, total acidity 3.83 g/l, and the pH is 3.53. A traditional vinification, with one-third new oak for the élevage. A fresh nose, dusty, perfumed, smoky and charming. The palate is similarly fresh, bright and pure, with savoury, fine-grained fruit, nuanced with tobacco. It is nicely textured, correct, fresh, quite perfumed and grippy, especially so in the finish. Charming, fresh and approachable, with lovely substance. One of the best examples of Teyssier I have tasted.