Recently, the Wine Spectator extolled the virtues of the 2016 vintage. This gave me the opportunity to revisit wines I have not tried in a long time. My introduction to wine began with Bordeaux and I was enjoying these with friends, primarily top growths, for many years. My change to enjoying California wines began with representing Robert Mondavi Winery and favorably comparing California Cabernet Sauvignon to Bordeaux. Also French wine began its price escalation and therefore became more difficult to afford.
This article described the 2016 vintage as the best since 2010. A hot, dry summer, with a little rain in September, made for an optimal growing season. It differentiated between the left and right banks of the Gironde river which separates the Medoc region (left bank), from St. Emilion and Pomerol (right bank). The Medoc wines focus primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon, while St. Emilion and Pomerol are Merlot based. Both regions are required to grow both grapes as well as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The blend is up to the chateau and depends largely on the characteristics of the grapes, weather, and tasting style of the chateau. The article stated that the left bank Cabernet Sauvignon wines were slightly superior to the right bank Merlot based wines.
I was able to find two Bordeaux wines locally from the 2016 vintage. This is early for shipments, with the bulk of more expensive wines arriving over the next two years. However the first arrivals often give an indication of the quality of the vintage and provide an opportunity for the producer to make some money while the more prestigious wines age and are shipped later. Bordeaux are the most expensive wines in the world with some costing over $1000.00 per bottle. Fortunately there are many less expensive. These were around $12.00 each. The reasons for the price disparity are the scarcity and reputation of the chateau. In my experience, I have not found a thousand- dollar bottle to be any better than a hundred-dollar bottle.
Barrail Meyney 2016 was an unexpected pleasure. Created in the small town of Genessac near St. Emillon, it was composed of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. My initial impression was a rich, dark, brooding wine with the musty character “gout de terroir” (taste of the soil). I enjoyed it with rack of lamb and as the meal progressed the wine became much smoother and more balanced. It certainly has aging ability and will be even more enjoyable in a few years. For the price, it was a wonderful introduction to the vintage and the Bordeaux characteristics I remember.
Michel Lynch Bordeaux 2016 led me to an interesting discovery. This is a wine blended from a number of appellations in Bordeaux but also includes wines from Fronsac, Cotes de Castillon and Blaye. It is meant for the mass market which desires a currently drinkable wine with the features of Bordeaux. Blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, percentages were not available. It was created by Jean Michel Cazes, the longtime and honored proprietor of Chateau Lynch-Bages. It was named after Michel Lynch, the original proprietor of Ch. Lynch-Bages and mayor of Paulliac during the French Revolution. It was a delectable wine with good color, intensity and balance. Flavors of blackcurrant and Cassis were noted.
It looks like 2016 was indeed a good year for Bordeaux and I look forward to enjoying many more.