2016 was a vintage of contrasts in Bordeaux. Many different climatic conditions came together to make this vintage all in all quite difficult. The weather in the first part of the year was (too) humid and the region saw 850mm of rainfall during this period, a stark contrast to the 400mm that fell in the same period in 2015. As a result, powdery mildew plagued many vineyards during the spring. Luckily, like most other regions in France, the summer drought in June helped to chase off the disease but this drought nonetheless outstayed its welcome and nearly three months without a drop of rain caused water stress in many vines. Cool nights were Bordeaux's saving grace and allowed the grapes to mature slowly (which is always the best way for grapes to mature). Another blessing came in the form of some moderate rainfall on the 13th and 30th September which helped revitalise the somewhat tired vines after a long, hot summer. These wines will therefore mature slowly and develop great depth which suits the local grape varieties perfectly. Despite the far from ideal weather, 2016 will certainly go down as an exceptional vintage, particularly for the Cabernet Sauvignon led wines from the left bank. 2015, a powerful and sunny vintage, is a tough act to follow but 2016 has stepped up to the occasion, displaying balanced wines that are more elegant and fresh in style than their 2015 counterparts. The 2015/2016 vintages are reminiscent of the famous 2009/2010 pairing.
The left bank appellations (Médoc and Graves) have come out on top this year, with excellent wines coming out from big name and small name domains alike. The best Crus Bourgeois will prove a sound investment for the savvy collector. Right bank Merlots are also very good but with a higher ABV the balance will be ever so slightly compromised compared to the left bank reds. Wines form the Côte de Bordeaux and the Fronsac appellations will also be very good. The particularly savvy buyers will want to consider some of the more ‘generic' Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur bottles that have come out of this vintage as there are many superb everyday wines to be had at good prices.
On the whole the whites have also done well and show good depth and ripe aromas (even a little exotic at times). The 2016 vintage won't be a particularly memorable one for Sauternes: with not quite enough noble rot developing on the grapes the wines are lacking some power. Nonetheless, there are many delicious, albeit more delicate, white wines to be found in this vintage: they should be drunk young and enjoyed for their fruit.