In recent weeks, the excellent 2016 vintage of Bordeaux has been rolled out in a number of U.S. cities.
I first tasted these wines in March and April of 2017, when barrel samples were presented to the wine media and wine trade by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at en primeurs tastings in and around the city of Bordeaux, France. At the time, these wines were available for purchase only via "futures" contracts, in which the buyer pays for the wine two years in advance of release.
Now that the wines have arrived on our shores, the quality of the vintage is suddenly top of mind again.
Here is what I wrote at the time:
The 2016 vintage in Bordeaux got off to a rocky start, with heavy rains in the spring. The summer months began to sow optimism, with warm, dry weather that continued through harvest. Throughout the region, Right Bank and Left Bank, the vines were healthy and the crop bountiful.
The result is an excellent vintage that should please collectors with wines that show tremendous upside potential to age. While the quality was pretty much across the board, I give a slight edge to the Left Bank. The Left Bank wines presented at the annual en primeur tastings hosted by the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux exhibited a consistency that wasn't as evident on the Right Bank, where the quality of the tannins was not as good in my opinion.
The wines of Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Estephe and Saint-Julien were outstanding across the board and in some cases brilliant. Color and concentration were good throughout the region and the wines do not suffer from an excess of alcohol. They are well balanced and possess sufficient fruit to ensure the fruit will outlive the tannins in most wines.
The Left Bank tannins were especially beautiful and often suave, quite an achievement in such young wines. This is an outstanding vintage that may not be as fine as 2005 or 2010, but with scores of wines that would easily fit into either one of those two remarkable vintages. The vintage for the whites of Graves and Pessac-Leognan and Barsac and Sauternes didn't quite match up to the reds, but it is still very good and worthy of consideration depending upon the price.
Bordeaux occupies a special niche in the U.S. wine market. It is considered by many to be the benchmark for fine wine, and the fact that the red Bordeaux grape varieties — cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot — are planted the world over confirms the global influence and acceptance of Bordeaux.
Bottom line: This is an excellent vintage, perhaps the finest of the decade, that exhibits the most classic characteristic of Bordeaux, which is the exceptional ability to improve with age after ten years or more in a proper wine cellar.
Next: My top-rated Bordeaux from the 2016 vintage and some personal favorites.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Georges Duboeuf 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Pays d'Oc IGP, France ($11.99) — It figures that Duboeuf, the King of Beaujolais, would do what he does best when working with a grape variety other than gamay. This cabernet sauvignon has a decided Beaujolais tilt, showing gorgeous aromas of freshly crushed berries with a touch of wood spice. It might not have the weight and depth of a typical cabernet, but for tasty summer sipping it gets my vote. Rating: 87.
Buscado 2016 Garnacha, Spain ($9.99) — Garnacha, aka grenache, is an alluring red wine that pairs especially well with grilled meats. So, if you're looking for a delicious yet inexpensive red for a backyard barbecue, you will find a lot to like in this $10 garnacha from Spain. The aroma of ripe red berries dominates, the tannins are supple and the price is right. Rating: 86.
Cuvaison 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, "Methode Beton," Los Carneros ($35) — Cuvaison has just produced a sauvignon blanc that rivals the two best in California, Spottswoode and Merry Edwards. Winemaker Steve Rogstad experimented in 2017 with fermentation in a concrete (beton) egg rather than the traditional stainless-steel tank. He liked it so much he bottled it separately and called it Methode Beton. Chances are you're going to like it, too. This sauvignon delivers a rich texture on the palate with a strong hint of lemon and a light touch of tropical fruit. Beautifully balanced and suave, a very sophisticated sauvignon blanc. Rating: 96.
J Vineyards Cuvee 20, Russian River Valley ($38) — Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock seems to knock it out of the park with each and every release, and the latest Cuvee 20 is no exception. Created some years ago to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the winery, Cuvee 20 is an elegant commemoration of that event. The current release shows notes of tart red berries and lemon, with a gorgeous mousse, impeccable balance and a long, lingering finish. Rating: 93.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]