Is 2016 Bordeaux For You? Early Results Are In

Bordeaux En Primeur Week was April 4-6, 2017. Experts gathered from around the world to sip, swish, and spit their way through thousands of 2016 Bordeaux. And while the individual assessments are clear, we’re left feeling a bit confused as normal wine drinkers.

Many are saying this is the best vintage in six years. Others are saying that 2015 was better. So, what’s the final verdict? Should we bother dropping the cash for a nice 2016 Bordeaux? The answer: it depends on how you like your wines.Pick 2016 Bordeaux If You Like…

Fresher, lighter, wines. 2016 was a “year of extremes” according to many, with a very wet winter and spring, followed by a complete drought in the summer.

Cellaring. The higher acidity and slightly underripe tannins of the 2016 vintage will need decades to soften and integrate. Once they do, your patience will be rewarded when you wow your guests (and your decades-older self) with a round, mellowed-out, earthy Bordeaux laden with aromas of truffle, tobacco, and spice.

Picking your wines. Certain regions really excelled in 2016, while others were less exceptional. Via Jane Anson on Decanter, left bank Bordeaux shone: Haut-Medoc, St. Estèphe, Paullaic, and St. Julien. Right bank Bordeaux, including St. Emilion and Pomerol, was more mixed. While you can still count on quality from top estates, there is less consistency with the lower- and mid-tiers.

Terroir. As a year with inconsistent weather, differences in terroir are significantly more pronounced in the 2016 vintage. So, if you want to truly taste, for example, the difference between grapes grown in the water-retaining limestone plateau of St. Emilion versus the clay/gravel soil of Pomerol, 2016 is your year. 

If the above doesn’t sound appealing, you may want to lean stick with 2015. For the most part, 2015 is the opposite of 2016. The 2015 vintage had a drought similar to 2016, but it was relieved by rain in the late summer. This allowed for even veraison, or fruit set. Ultimately, this equated to riper grapes, and lusher, more powerful wines. With lower acidity and riper tannins, the 2015 vintage needs less cellaring, and some wines are approachable now.

While many critics still feel it’s too early to tell, the verdict is actually pretty consistent: buy 2016 now, enjoy later.


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