Right Bank overview 2016


After 2 days in the Medoc I was looking forward to the change in tempo of the right bank...it's far more relaxed & trundling around ancient limestone walls & small estates which on the surface eludes to some kind of holiday vibe...except that you have 300 skin extracted wines to put into your mouth! Extracted, tannic, oaky wines of this nature are generally more of an issue with the myriad of St Emilion estates than in Pomerol. Thankfully there are less & less of these creatures made these days though super ripe Merlot still does make its presence felt far more than with the Cabernets (& Merlots) of the left bank. Even in a lower alcohol vintage. One feels so refreshed & revived when one hits a seam of well balanced wines but then...eeeek...a burning, steeped, chilli dog hits the cheeks & one hopes the spittoon isn't crowded. I'd rather swallow than wait! But this year there was less of that kind of nastiness & I found some attractive wines in St Emilion.  Last year I highlighted the rising star of Fonplegade & I had another enjoyable visit here with their fleshy, dark purple, charming 2016. The wine is very good QPR there but this year my value St Emilion tip is...drumroll...Ch Bellefont Belcier which has no flashy winery, no 10 zillion investment just old skool concrete tanks, absolutely beautiful sloping terroir & passionate, history informed wine making. This will be going into my cellar almost definitely his year bar a €++ price hike. The wine is very fresh & pure & time will reward you with an entertaining friend at the table. It's tannic but correctly so, I don't shy away from tannin. Second wine Marquis de Bellefont is great too get some in for weeknights!  At L'If Jacques Thienpont told me he decided to not use any of his Cabernet Franc & made less volume than 2015. Sad as I was hoping for another few bottles this year. It's great stuff - silky & Black Forest gateau, fresh cream-esq if you get my drift! At Cheval Blanc they did make a second wine this year & both are as classy as ever.  Last year I was bowled over by the tasting experience but this year I just stole a moment & quietly nodded. Totally charming, hugely enjoyable but no double wow factor as I've explained in my left bank notes. Just superior quality. I didn't get to Canon unfortunately but heard it was amazing (again) & I'm to taste it in May. Troplong Mondot was not in the league of 2015 for me as if I'm honest were many of the second tier St Emilions. They really can't justify putting their prices up IMO. Neither can they in Pomerol though there were some moments of pure unadulterated tasting joy here.

   I turned up at Le Pin to find a note on the door to 'knock at No 21' so I sauntered up the lane counting the houses & at 21 was greeted by a very polite young man George Thienpont & ushered into the study as though waiting for the headmaster...but I was looking forward to seeing this one! I then tasted Le Pin & l'if with 2 other merchants & JT was signing autographs like a rock star again. He is of course in wine terms & he deserves to be revered for his liquid triple platinum that is Ch Le Pin. It's the latest Le Pin ever picked (Oct) & doesn't disappoint in any way...it glows with life & the juice is pure diamond cut, only (marginally) beaten all week by his cousin Alex at Vieux Ch Certan. I had the best tasting I've had of La Conseillante this year too but VCC trumps all with its racy, opulent flavoursome quality. Perfection of purity...zero rough edges but all the balanced tannin, acidity, fruit a wine could ever need for a long life ahead. It is likely the best ever made as Alex believes it is...'2010 ++' was how he described it. It's not like the 10 though, as with other 16's the tannins are like a featherweight boxer - strong but dancing...nimble...lithe. I accept that I'm not the most erudite chap in the village so this kind of experience can leave me a tad gasping for words! Astonishing & profound is about as good as I can add but if I had my drum kit to hand I I might be able to relay something higher...I'd be off in a cartoon-devil-Keith-Moon-esq frenzy & you'd know about it! 'What's got into him?' ....VCC 16 is what & it called for artistic interpretation! It makes you want to prance about like an idiot but I managed to hold onto the table.
It was quite difficult going back to the more generic Pomerol after this experience but I noted & enjoyed Croix de Gay (a likely bargain as ever) Nenin & Gazin. The former is usually worth an EP purchase as it can run out by the time it's bottled. We'll see what prices the latter guys offer? I'd like to make a special mention of tiny Lalande de Pomerol estate Ch Perron as well. This was my final right bank visit that involved the delightful 2016 then many back vintages (find the 06 if you can!) with Cotes de Boeuf cooked over vine clippings (pictured) with the family. Though I had many a swanky dinner & designer visit this year, tasting fantastic age-worthy wine with different generations of the family that have always made it was my most memorable moment if I'm honest. It's testament that there is still fantastic value to be found out in the less prestigious AC's. Bordeaux is also about unpretentious, honest, informed winemaking & these are the sort of guys I like to work with & build trust...there's always a more complex financial agenda with the big estates which can get a bit tiresome year after year. The gap between the wine quality of the top end & the best of the lesser properties is in no way equal to the price difference. It's nice to be reminded of that from time to time!

So, as with the left bank & graves estates, we have some totally beguiling wines & some interesting prospects that will be fascinating to follow over the years. As I've said before it's a highly nuanced vintage that will be the topic of lively debate. We now have to grapple with the prices as they hit us in this post Brexit era. Will we in the UK be dealing with extra tariff's in years to come? Arrrrrgh....but no one knows of course & that isn't happening now. We have enough to occupy our minds & pray that there won't be more reasons to complicate buying of our fave Clarets. One thing I did really pick up from talking to many Bordelais,
for what it's worth, is the genuine sadness that the UK is leaving the EU. I think was somehow expecting a different reaction but of course it's not really what many of the wine trade wanted to happen. One well known Chateau owner said to me "but the young people in the UK don't want it do they?" with a tinge of hope in his voice that the demographic might just change before Brexit actually happens - if it's strung out long enough. This is not the place for that kind of debate though & we can discuss it over a glass of 2016 in future! I do surmise that a lot of Chateau owners will not find it easy to price this vintage...we heard that prices would be going up a fair amount but I get the sense that some might renege from that now. The trade liked the vintage but I didn't witness the totally bowled over vibe I did with 09 & 10. It's harder to read than those vintages but could possibly be an 82 of the future that gave those holding it much gladness when firm conviction of it's quality finally bedded in. These are very uncertain times & even as I write this the Prime Minister has called an unexpected general election...as ever we will watch & learn & make the best decisions we can? I hope you enjoy the ride!