Bordeaux en primeur 2016
Welcome to Bordeaux 2016 en primeur, week three new releases. The new additions to our campaign are Camensac, Alter Ego, Branaire Ducru, Siran, and the four properties of Denis Durantou (owner of l’Eglise Clinet), in the Satellites of Castillon and Lalande de Pomerol: Les Cruzelles, Montlandrie, La Chenade and Saintayme (St Emilion); all of which offer some of the best value wines of Bordeaux. All the wines for en primeur so far are listed at the bottom of this offer.
It bears repeating that the estates released this week are some of the best-value wines on the market and, as Neal Martin pointed out last year, for the French wine lover there is simply no Burgundy equivalent. Furthermore, the new world arguably does not produce wines with comparable fruit profiles, minerality and fine tannins. While these are not the most hallowed terroirs of Bordeaux, they are nonetheless totally unique terroirs unchallenged for value on the global market. The estates in the satellites of Lalande de Pomerol, Cotes de Bordeaux, Castillon, and Fonsac have seen a marked improvement in winemaking in the last decade as top estate owners like Denis Durantou purchase land in these appellations and invest in new vines, winemaking facilities and better vineyard management. The gains made by the top estates utilising the cutting-edge technology such as ultra-violet light sorting tables and the like are marginal but the investments in satellite appellations improve the wines immensely and they remain affordable to the average wine lover. These wines are at the top of their game and the prices are reasonable.
In 2015 I was able to secure only a small volume of these wines, most sold out to savvy buyers on the watch in the first week they were released. This year I have been able to secure reasonable volume but these will not last. If great-drinking Bordeaux is something you love then these wines are perfect for medium-term cellaring and many will be approachable upon release. Buy up and enjoy, Claret lovers.
En Primeur Update
In other news on the campaign front week two of the en primeur season has seen some drama… but what would an en primeur campaign be without a little gossip and scandal? Firstly Bordeaux experienced (along with much of France) a severe frost event early this week which affected the vines and may have an impact on crop for 2017. There are rumours abounding about price rises to offset lower crops this year and some are suggesting Cos d’Estournel made a huge error releasing one of the wines of the vintage in the first week and at the same price as last year…
The other big news, and the one more likely to influence prices (from my cynical standpoint), is that Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate has released his reviews and scores for the EP season. As appears to be his custom, Martin has written a magnum opus and made a special point of tasting the wines on multiple occasions from separate samples. He is, in my mind, the foremost authority on Bordeaux writing in the English language and striving to fill Parker’s large shoes… and it looks like he is succeeding. Those afraid of “Parker style” wines need not fear as the British born Claret lover has often professed a preference for cooler wines of a more moderate and classic style than his predecessor; a preference the Bordelaise seem to have embraced.
I have attached the full vintage (33,000 word) report from Neal Martin below but in summary he believes this is one of the best vintages he has tasted in twenty years. In his analysis: this is a vintage which has a surfeit of fruit, consistent freshness and energy, precision, breathtaking fineness of tannin (highest recorded in some cases, yet least perceptible) and, that haloed quality, very clear terroirs and authenticity. Finally, some of the most thrilling wines are located in the lower echelons of the Second to Fifth Growths.
The markets! Well what can I say to Bordeaux en primeur buyers without sounding patronising? The last decade have been some of the most turbulent for the Bordeaux market since the 1970s and this is our second offer since the wildly speculative 2010s. Thankfully it appears the speculative elements will stay away from en primeur but the big news is that with the Pound falling the British market has softened, yet the Americans are (tentatively) back. Asia has never really left, just matured quickly into more intelligent buyers. It’s swings and roundabouts. As to pricing we are seeing between a 5-10% increase on the 2015 vintage for the Cru Classe wines of the left bank and the esteemed properties of the Right Bank. Sauternes, despite having an excellent vintage appears to remain stable with prices in line with last year.
Please remember the wines below are my personal selections and recommendations based on reviews, historical experience with the chateaux and pricing. If there are wines you would like which are not listed here please send a request as almost all wines are available.
2016 is being hailed as an excellent vintage across both the right and left banks, with great wines being produced in some of the star appellations on both sides of the river. It is worth noting a few points about the vintage which are rather unique and will inform many customers of the market conditions and the style of the wines.
The 2016 growing season offered a somewhat bizarre and unique set of viticultural conditions. One of the driest vintages on record (driest summer since 1893) with essentially no rain falling in July and August. Simultaneously these months were warmer than historical averages. However night-time temperatures where much lower than historical averages as well. The combination of heat and drought essentially caused vines to shut down through July – August, preventing sugar accumulation. This, combined with the high diurnal shift between days and nights ensured a long, even ripening period once rains began in September and a late harvest in mid-October.
The question is what does this mean for the wines? Both Antonio Galloni and Jancis Robinson agree this creates a unique set of characteristics in the wines not really seen in recent history. The late harvest resulted in high (in many cases higher than 2010), very ripe and soft tannins; “barely perceptible at all” according to Galloni. The high diurnal variation and cool nights resulted in cool fruit profiles which avoid the overripe characters seen in recent vintages such as 2009 and moderate alcohol levels around 14% or below across both the right and left back. To quote Galloni:
From a stylistic standpoint, the recent vintage that comes to mind is 2014, also a late-ripening year, but the 2016s have more mid palate depth and greater density. Some observers have suggested that 2016 is a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010, but I fear that is mostly an attempt to recreate the hype of those two highly speculative vintages. The 2016s don’t have the opulence or volume of the 2009s, and although they are very tannic, they feel nothing like the overtly powerful, structured 2010s… Many producers opted for longer macerations (time on the skins) than normal, but at lower temperatures and with gentler extractions than in the past. It will be interesting to see if one of the outcomes of 2016 is a move towards greater finesse and less overt power than in the past…
As Jancis points out, the backbone of the 2016s is not just tannin or fruit, but acidity. The combination of ripe tannins, concentrated fruit, and high acidities makes for a vintage Galloni flags as balanced:
“The 2016s are absolutely remarkable wines. The word that comes to mind, unfortunately so often overused, is balance. In technical terms, the 2016s boast off the charts tannins that in many cases exceed those of wines from massive vintages such as 2010. And yet, the best 2016s are absolutely harmonious, with the tannins barely perceptible at all.” ANTONIO GALLONI
The top performing communes are the usual suspects with the highlights being Saint-Julien, Pauillac, the northern Medoc, Grave and on the right bank Pomerol and Saint-Emilion along with the satellites of Lalande de Pomerol and Fronsac.
It is important to remember any Bordeaux en primeur buying strategy should include a number of petite chateaux or smaller estates. While the top properties receive much of the attention of the press and markets, it is at the lower end where the best bargain wines can be found. I have included a number of great value wines in the list below. This is a vintage which is relatively homogeneous in terms of quality top to bottom and as I maintained last year it is at the bottom and middle tier of pricing where the best value and most pleasurable drinking can be found.
Last year we altered our purchasing requirements with minimum orders for en primeur wines:
This year we will follow the same model as it is the only way we can effectively run the campaign. We will have minimum requirements of 6 units for 750ml bottles and 12 units for 375ml bottles for the majority of wines and a lower minimum purchase for the first growths of 2 bottles, and a minimum for the super second growths of 3 bottles.
One change we have made is the exception of sweet wines which will be offered in minimum purchase lots of 3 bottles for 750ml and 6 bottles for 375ml across all sweet wines regardless of price.
All pricing includes taxes and duties and is the final price of the wines to the consumer barring domestic shipping costs once the wines arrive. This will be calculated based on our basic freight rates.
Wines will be offered on a case by case basis, as they are offered to us from the negociant houses.
All wines are subject to availability and until you receive confirmation, all orders are subject to change.
All wines are available in alternate formats of half bottles and magnums at a minor additional cost. Minimum order for all half bottles is 12 units.
Payment in full is required upon confirmation of your order. All prices are fully inclusive of all shipping, taxes and duties.
The nature of en primeur offers means prices fluctuate; additional requests for wines beyond initial offers are subject to price changes.
If you have specific wines you follow or chateau you collect, please feel free to make a request and we will do our best to fulfill your orders.
All wines will be available for delivery in 2019
I have attached Neal Matin’s Bordeaux coverage here
I have attached an edited synopsis of Jancis Robinson’s Bordeaux coverage notes here.
I have attached Antonio Galloni’s Bordeaux coverage notes here
I have attached Antonio Galloni’s Top Value coverage notes here
I have attached the 2016 Vintage report from Bordeaux University here
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