Late January is the time of year when the Bordelaise vintners bring their wines from a vintage approaching three years of age to the USA for evaluation by the trade. This year we rendezvoused at City View at Metreon in San Francisco, a venue set up by our gracious organizer Balzac Communications, for the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) tasting of the 2016 vintage. The venue provides a spectacular panoramic 180-degree view through walls of glass and from the outdoor patio of the city below. The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is an organization composed of 133-member wineries that promote Bordeaux Grands Cru wine.
In the 2016 vintage Sauternes, Barsac, and Pauillac have a knock-out punch in terms of high quality wines. The equilibrium of sugar and acid in 2016 Sauternes and Barsac is the very epitome of balancing these two entities while creating synergy. The Botrytised fruit of Sauternes and Barsac always have a high sugar content, about 120-220 gm/L Without adequate acidity the sugar might appear cloying. Elevated acidity allows the sugar to be fully delineated, more dimensional, and really appreciated. Conversely, the generous sugar content coaches the acid into being more than just sharp. Sugar brings out the acid’s definition, ability to lift, and to virtually generate electricity.
Acid levels in 2016 Pauillac appeared substantial. This helped create the stunning definition of the rich fruit that their wines demonstrated. Pauillac also delivered exceptional purity of fruit with rock solid structure.
The 2016 Pomerol wines offered flavor content from the rich fruit and mid-plus size. Slightly higher acid levels from some of the other AOCs would be welcome.
My Tasting Notes
The Sauternes and Barsac Botrytised Wines
90, Château Bastor Lamontagne, Sauternes, 2016
This 2016 is highly focused. The considerable level of acidity gives complementary freshness to the sugary botrytised fruit. Showcases honeysuckle, flowers, tropical fruits, grilled nuts, and the imprint of Botrytis cinerea in Sauternes. Finishes with intensity and length. About $32.
95, Château Doisy Daëne, Barsac, 2016
Château Doisy Daëne has been owned by the Dubourdieu Family since 1924. In 2016 Château management passed from former oenology professor and recipient of the French Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, Denis Diebordieux, to his sons Jean-Jacques and Fabrice. This 87% Sémillon, 13% Sauvignon Blanc is an exceedingly intense sweetie! Possesses great richness yet remains highly detailed with elevated acidity, the wine exudes an intoxicating blend of honeyed apricots, white flowers, ripe tropical fruits, just a whisper of pared lime-rind, and of course the Barsac signature of “Noble Rot” (Botrytis cinerea). Delivers superb balance with great purity of fruit and an elegant touch. About $40.
93, Chateau de Fargues, Sauternes, 2016
This radiant bright-gold effort from the Lur-Saluces family displays detail and precision complementing its rich fruit and layered flavors of candied lemon rind, honeyed apricots, orange marmalade, and that telltale signature that only Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Botrytis cinerea can create in the terroir of Sauternes and Barsac. The lofty acidity generates refreshing energy and balances the substantial sugar. About $90.
92, Château Guiraud, Sauternes, 2016
This luminescent gold 2016 Guiraud is light and racy, but it makes its presence very well apparent. Attribute the wine’s nimbleness to the 35% portion of Sauvignon Blanc, higher than most other Sauternes and Barsac botrytised wines. Conveys notable intensity, exquisite balance of components, lively acidity, a slight tangy nuance, and the unmistakable mark of Sauternes “Noble Rot”, Botrytis cinerea. About $45.
93, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2016
Production of wine commenced in the 17th Century at Lafaurie-Peyraguey. The 2016 blend is mainly Semillon with 7-9% Sauvignon Blanc and the remainder in Muscadelle. This sweetie is quite intense and exotic offering exotic flowery scents and great flavor content of tropical fruit, honey coated pineapple, and sliced mango. Highly focused, refreshing, and endowed with good energetic freshness and agility. About $55.
90, Clos Haut Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2016
Quite an intense palate on this heavy-weight bringing tropical fruit, butterscotch, with aromas of caramel and honey. Plenty of viscosity with a rounded touch and rich fruit. About $40.
93, Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, 2016
The 2016 Suduiraut is very well cut with a precise demeanor in spite of its inordinate richness and generous flavor content. Brilliant in burnished gold, the heightened acid level keeps sugar in check and provides vibrant refreshment. Exceptional flavor content delivering wild thyme-honey, crystallized ginger, a trace of bitter orange, and clearly the Sauternes mark of “Noble Rot” (Botrytis cinerea). About $75.
92, Château La Tour Blanche, Sauternes, 2016
Pale gold, this 2016 provides a lighter more elegant style with good purity of fruit. The 2016 blend adds 5% Muscadelle into the mix along with 12% Sauvignon Blanc and 83% Sémillon. Demonstrates good balance of components and the lift of acidity. About $40.
The White and Red Wines
91, Château Carbonnieux blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2016
Carbonnieux’s 2016 is a pale, light-weight entry delivering Asian pear, lemongrass, and white flowers. This Pessac-Leognan unveils purity of fruit in a refreshing manner that fits the wine’s overall character that is smooth and mild. About $35.
94, Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac 2016
A big one, is d’Armailhac’s 2016, gushing with flavor content of black fruit, crème de cassis, blue Damson plum, and sweet tobacco. In royal purple with ruby meniscus, the wine unveils exemplary purity of fruit with precision delivery and a solid frame. The acid level generates vibrant lift and the equilibrium of components is textbook. Despite the wine’s size, its tannins are well integrated with the fruit and remain tame. Bet on this with grilled red meat. About $60.
92, Château La Cabanne, Pomerol, 2016
Loaded with luscious red and black fruit, this deep-ruby colored 2016 La Cabanne offers a kaleidoscope of aromas and flavors including black cherries, mulberries, and red plum compote with notes of violets and rose petals. Showing a gentle, velvety texture with mild, well-integrated tannins, this captivating wine finishes very long. About $35.
93, Canon-la-Gaffelière, St-Émilion, 2016
Marvelous flavor content in this deep ruby, organically certified St-Émilion. Red berry compote, sweet tobacco, and a note of caramel are all on display. Presents a harmonious, refined character with ripe fruit and mild, sweet tannins. Shows a soft silky touch throughout, good balance of components with sufficient acidity, and an enduring finish. About $100.
94, Château Clinet Pomerol, 2016
Beautiful deep purple is this mid-plus-weight Clinet. This 2016 is generously composed of 90% Merlot with the balance in Cabernet Sauvignon. Delivers crème de cassis, blueberries, freshly baked piecrust, and a waft of violets. Very well delineated from the opening through the lengthy finish. Smooth and supple with layered complexity – a classy effort! About $110.
92, Château Giscours, Margaux, 2016
This deep ruby effort unveils aromas of rose petals and black-cherry cobbler with a delicious, broad palate of very ripe, succulent red and dark fruit, notes of raspberries, and dark currants. Displays a gentle, soft and full demeanor, mild tannins, excellent balance of components, and finishes long. An enticing wine. About $65.
94, Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, 2016
The deep-ruby-purple 2016 Haut-Bailly offers intensity and structure while simultaneously demonstrating refinement and allure. These traits are in concert. The rich fruit yields notes of lavender, crème de cassis, dark plum, berries, and hints of tobacco, stone, and cedar. Tannins are grippy but the substantial fruit is the perfect companion. All the components are in equilibrium and the wine finishes nicely. About $150.
92, Château Langoa-Barton, Saint-Julien, 2016
This deep-purple, ruby-hued 2016 Langoa boasts a focused personality and possesses a well-built frame on which quality fruit is hung. Possesses medium-plus bodied breadth as well as length. Unveils notes of black currant, blackberry, cedar, and forest floor. Acidity generates lift and impact. About $55.
91, Château Larcis Ducasse, Saint-Émilion, 2016
This inky ruby displays red and black fruit with a soft deportment. Offers blackberry pie, cedar, and black cherry. Balance is there, tannins are inobtrusive, and the fruit is ripe. About $75.
91, Château Lascombes, Margaux, 2016
Pretty ruby with purple hues, dark inviting fruit comes forward in a charming flavor profile of black currants, Chelan cherries, with a nuance of black tea. Soft in character with a lengthy finish, the good balance is apparent. About $55.
92, Château Gazin Pomerol 2016
Medium garnet-hued purple, this 2016 Gazin offers up pretty aromatics of peony, juniper, and sandalwood, followed on the palate with flavors of Chelan cherries, red currant compote, and a nuance of caramel. Tannins are mild and well integrated assisting the soft-spoken character to show subtleties. About $85.
92, Phélan-Ségur, St-Estèphe, 2016
Deep purple with black hues, this mid-plus-weight reveals its density and inobtrusive grippy tannins. Unveils notes of black currants, forest floor, cigar box, and lead pencil. Shows intensity and freshness, the wine finishes long. About $47.
94, Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac, 2016
The 2016 follow-on to the stellar 2015 is outstanding. Pichon unveils a tensile structure with great purity of fruit, precision makeup, and good detailing while demonstrating a firm touch with elegance. Delivers black currants, walnuts, star thistle, graphite, iris, and Cuban cigar wrapper. Mild, integrated tannins and good length. About $180.