A phenomenal vintage
In the New World the year is usually nowhere as pivotal for quality as it is in ancient areas like Tuscany, Burgundy or Bordeaux, although all are changing gradually due to the greenhouse gasses that we are pumping into the atmosphere.
I have looked at a vintage chart for Bordeaux, which is an area where the Romans found vines growing when they arrived there some 2,000 years ago. Looking at the years 1959 to 2016 there is only one other that has rated the almost perfect 99/100 that 2016 has achieved - 2000. The years 2005 and 2009 garnered 98/100.
We have just landed a few of the stunning 2016s, a year where some properties made the best wines in their history.
Let us lead off with an old favourite of mine for many years, that will offer you the opportunity to taste the perfections of Mother Nature in impeccable harmony for $38. I refer to 2016 Chateau Cambon la Pelouse Haut Medoc (Stock #9603). Pelouse translates as “lawn” and Suckling rates it 93/100; Wine Enthusiast and Vinous 92/100.
Here is what Antonio Galloni of Vinous writes: "The 2016 Cambon La Pelouse is fabulous. Pliant, generous and totally sexy, the 2016 exudes richness in all of its dimensions. Succulent red cherry, plum, leather, spice and herb notes build into the resonant, fleshy finish. I expect the 2016 will drink well right out of the gate. Hubert De Boüard consults. Tasted twice.”
Moving over to the Right Bank of the Dordogne river and memories of listening to “garagiste” Jonathan Maltus explain his meticulous wine making methods, we find ourselves at Chateau Teyssier St Emilion Grand Cru. At 15,000 cases this is his “work horse” wine that supports his other tiny production offerings.
Here is what Canadian critic Natalie MacLean thinks of his 2016, that she rates 92/100: “A fragrant, full-bodied merlot and cabernet franc red wine blend with crushed violets, warm plum and dried tobacco leaf aromas on the nose. Juicy, plushy with dark plum, baking spice, savoury herb flavours and smoky oak spice flavours, smooth on the palate. Vibrant acidity for food. Pair with a roast of pork, pizza, pasta, rare steaks, pork tenderloin, hard cheese.” $46 (Stock #8314).
Next, we visit the appellation of Margaux and find out about the second wine of Chateau Prieuré-Lichine Grand Cru Classé en 1855. As we contemplate 2016 Confidences de Prieuré-Lichine, we find currant, black cherry, plum, bell pepper, olive, oak, smoke, toast, tar, blackberry, cherry, asparagus, spice, ginger, vanilla, violet, rose, truffle, coffee, cedar and a few other goodies. James Suckling rates it 91/100 and comments: "The red fruit is very appealing here with a wealth of raspberries and mulberries, as well as redcurrant notes. The palate has attractively juicy and succulent red berries and a chalky, piercing finish. Second wine of Château Prieuré-Lichine. Try from 2023." $50 (Stock #9629).
Another of the chosen ones in 1855 is Chateau Calon Segur in the commune of Saint-Estephe and we also have their second wine that is 2016 Marquis de Calon Segur. The vineyard is just over half cabernet sauvignon with merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot making up the rest. Usually about 40 per cent of the fruit goes into their top bottling, 35 per cent into Marquis and the remainder into a third wine called Chapelle de Canon. To better understand this selection process not all fruit on a piece of land that may be 100 in area, ripens in the same way. Many things influence this, such as elevation, drainage, angle to the sun and differing soils.
Both Suckling and Vinous rate our Marquis de Calon 93/100 with the former writing: “Plenty of beautiful aromas of blackcurrants, blackberries and hints of spice and cedar. This is very fine-grained with medium body and a delicious finish. Savoury and fine and so delicious. Second wine of Château Calon Ségur. Try from 2022.” The latter writes: “The 2016 Le Marquis de Calon Ségur is just as gorgeous from bottle as it was from barrel. The high percentage of merlot comes through beautifully in the wine's succulent, racy personality. Raspberry jam, mocha, white flowers, spice and blood orange all race through this succulent second wine from Calon Ségur. Best of all, the 2016 will be ready to drink upon release. Tasted three times. (AG).” $62 (Stock #9628).
Although there are more that have just come into stock, I will wrap this up with one that has often found itself on our dinner table over the years on evenings where a special treat is justified. I refer to a 75 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 10 per cent merlot, 10 per cent cabernet franc and 5 per cent petit verdot blend from a 114-acre vineyard in Margaux with 1,000 years of winemaking to their credit, this is the 2016 Chateau du Tertre Grand Cru Classé en 1855 in Margaux. Thomas Jefferson came up with his own classification during a visit to Bordeaux in 1781, but it was Napoleon who orchestrated the selection of about 150 (out of a few thousand) in 1855. This was based on the prices they had fetched over the previous hundred years or so.
James Suckling awards this an impressive 94/100 and says: “Extremely deep and ripe on the nose with dried-berry, chocolate and plum aromas that follow through to a full body, round and soft tannins and a flavourful finish. A rich and soft-tannin structure to the wine. Try after 2024.”
Also, in at 94/100 Wine Enthusiast shares this: “Partnered with Château Giscours as far as the winemaking team is concerned, this estate has created its own style. This wine shows a hint of initial austerity before opening out with rich fruits and structure. It needs time and the wine will not be ready to drink before 2025.” Wine Spectator feels that it will be ready to try this year. $86 (Stock #9579).
I suspect that this 2016 vintage will be difficult to find in the near future, as anyone with a cellar will want to put some away. If you do not have such a facility but can at least store at an even temperature around 70F, I feel that a mixed case should be safe for a few years. Let us get past the Super Bowl and I will mention a few more.
This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm