The En Primeur barrel tastings have just begun in France, but already reveal an impressive vintage, from the simplest reds to the most celebrated wines.
By Roger Voss
It may be early in the marathon that is Bordeaux En Primeur—the world’s biggest weeklong barrel-tasting event—but it’s not too soon to say that 2016 is a great vintage overall.
In Bordeaux, 2016 was a strange year. It was exceedingly wet the first half of the year and bone dry for much of the second half. Combine the two and the resulting wines are balanced, much to many producers’ surprise.
Vineyards caked with mud and rampant with mildew are not a great sight in the middle of summer. But come July and August, there was no rain, and instead wall-to-wall sunshine.
That weather continued to the end of harvest, except for a storm on September 13 that provided much-needed water. It was never too hot, just dry and warm, with cool nights.
The results? The wines are full and dense, with ripe tannins and generous fruit. The secret ingredient in the success of these wines is their crisp acidity, and that balance is what makes a great Bordeaux vintage.
“It is such a special vintage. We have ripe fruit, we have exceptional tannins and then we have so much freshness,” said Olivier Berrouet, director of Château Pétrus in Pomerol.
“Balanced.” Elegant.”. “Almost perfect.” These are the key words being used to describe 2016 Bordeaux—a vintage some winemakers are claiming is the greatest they have ever had.
2016 Scores and Reviews
Le Dôme 2016 Barrel Sample
This is a magnificently perfumed, smoky wine. Rich and concentrated, it is hugely dense while keeping a sense of elegance. Black plums, black berries and damsons show a fruitier side. It is a superb wine, concentrated and solidly structured, made for the long haul.
Les Astéries 2016 Barrel Sample
This is a beautifully balanced wine. Tannins and a mineral texture are contrasted by acidity as well as plump blackberry and black plum fruits. It is textured and structured, with considerable aging potential.
Vieux Château Mazerat 2016 Barrel Sample
This is a concentrated, structured wine, with dark tannins and acidity in balance. Black plum skins and spice show strongly, along with a touch of pepper from the alcohol. It is a big and powerful wine.
Château Pontet Labrie 2016 Barrel Sample
This wine is finely structured, with a perfumed, smoky character upfront. The tannins are rich and dry, with a striking balance between the fresh fruit and structure on the palate. The aging potential is considerable.
Le Carré 2016 Barrel Sample
This is a rich, smooth wine, with a creamy texture as well as ample tannic structure. It is concentrated and dense, but with a pleasant acidic lift. The juicy character of the wine masks its firm tannins and background structure.
Château Laforge 2016 Barrel Sample
This wine is structured and impressively firm, yet surprisingly juicy, with a rich, dense texture balanced by fine acidity. The spicy, smoky character shows through strongly.
Château Teyssier 2016 Barrel Sample
This wine is spicy and fruity, with fine tannins. The fine structure and the fruit are already harmonious. With ripe black currants and berries, this is an immediately attractive wine.
Le Nardian 2016 Barrel Sample (Bordeaux Blanc)
This is a sumptuous wine, full of ripe tropical fruits, with just enough acidity to balance. Juicy apricots, peaches and spice from the wood aging mingle together harmoniously.