To Buy or Not to Buy — 2016 Bordeaux En Primeur

25 April 2017
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee

Haut Bailly 3. Director Véronique Sanders 

The Director Véronique Sanders of Château Haut Bailly


As I mentioned that 2016 is going to be compared with 2015 for many years to come, so that you may want to know if 2016 is worth your time and money. 


Nearly all of the Bordeaux château owners and winemakers I met with were smiling this spring; they were happy and also surprised. The 2016 vintage was a roller coaster vintage that started out poorly with a very wet spring, that by the end of June, growers had given up hope of having a great vintage. Many producers battled with both downy and powdery mildew and vigilance in the vineyard was key to surviving this challenging period. Those adhering to organic and biodynamic principles had to be especially careful.


Then over two months of drought ensued starting in July, with many young vines or those on very dry soils, halting growth from hydric stress. There was a constant question about how the grapes under these conditions would fare and many were surprised when the grapes were brought into the winery to find that the juice was looking pretty terrific. In 2016, the grapes matured slowly with an ideal warm Indian summer with cool night providing the contrast and quality parameters to produce grapes with both concentration and purity.


Unfortunately, this excellent vintage comes after a much acclaimed one (2015), which has often proved to be problematic. Look at 2010 and the insane price tags of these wines following an already expensive 2009 vintage (hindsight would consider both these vintages over-priced en primeur). Given that the market and buyers acknowledged the quality of 2015, with many of the wines selling well en primeur, there is a chance this vintage could start the escalation of prices that we saw leading up to 2009 and 2010.


Whether we should buy the 2016s will depend finally on the final price and how it compares to older vintages in the market and also vis a vis 2015. Is 2016 a much better vintage than 2015? No. In certain parts of the Medoc such as Saint-Estephe and Pauillac, there was a marginal difference, slightly higher in quality in 2016 than 2015. Also in Pomerol, I preferred the more detailed, lighter bodied, purity of the 2016 versus the 2015. But in much of the lower Medoc and Saint-Emilion, whether 2016 was better than 2015 differs château by château.


Smart release prices, that are similar to 2015, would make these wines a wonderful choice, especially those who prefer classic, less voluptuous styles. If the price is right, I will definitely be looking out for good value wines in the northern Medoc.


Below are some of the wines (excluding First Growths) that I have my eye on and would like to add to my cellar if the price is right:


Château Montrose 97 points


Château Leoville Las Cases 97 points 


Château Brane-Cantenac 97 points


Château Troplong Mondot 97 points


Clos Fourtet 97 points


Vieux Château Certan 97 points


Château Haut-Bailly 97 points


Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 97 points


Château Calon-Segur 96 points 


Château Lynch-Bages 96 points


Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 96 points


Château Pontet-Canet 96 points


Château Branaire-Ducru 96 points


Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 96 points


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