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Bordeaux 2016 in Médoc: Anson’s first impression

April 10, 2017

by JANE ANSON (Roederer awards 2016: International Feature Writer of the Year. Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent, has lived in the region since 2003. She writes a monthly wine column for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, a weekly column for DecanterChina.com, and is the author of Bordeaux Legends: The 1855 First Growth Wines (also published in French as Elixirs). In addition, she has contributed to the Michelin guide to the Wine Regions of France and was the Bordeaux and Southwest France author of The Wine Opus and 1000 Great Wines That Won’t Cost a Fortune. An accredited wine teacher at the Bordeaux École du Vin, Anson holds a masters in publishing from University College London, and a tasting diploma from the Bordeaux faculty of oenology..)


Bordeaux 2016 en primeur wines are better than 2015 across the northern Médoc as a whole, and drinkers may find more buying options in second wines and smaller estates than in recent years.

I loved tasting the northern Médoc wines during Bordeaux en primeur week.

Almost across the board, the northern Médoc has out-delivered the 2015 wines by some strides. They are the best since 2014, and significantly better than 2014 in most cases.

There is an extra dimension to many of the wines in terms of acidity and structure.

A dry and warm summer – though not overly hot – burnt right through the pyrazine in the vineyard, so there is very little of the green pepper flavor that can indicate underripeness.

This is one of the main reasons why there could be value at all levels in the Médoc.

That said, some northern Médoc estates priced too high in 2015 for the quality up there, because generally their lower priced 2014s were better. So I wonder where they will go this year? We must wait and see.

There have been many comparisons to the 1996 Médoc vintage, but the 2016 barrel samples have more elegance and also reflect the improvement in viticulture over the past 20 years.

Further south, the issue for Margaux is that the 2015 wines were so exceptional. This is a nice problem to have, but it’s hard for 2016 to clearly exceed ’15 – even if most wines are undeniably doing a great job of keeping up.

Eric Boissenot, consultant at many top estates in the Médoc, told Decanter.com, ‘The fact that there are many great second wines is a good indication of quality. It is more regular in this aspect than 2009, 2010 and 2015 in many ways. There is a race and elegance to the tannins this year that is remarkable.

It’s a fascinating year for understanding terroir impact. First came the wet early season, and then the exceptionally dry summer. Put that together with a relaxed picking season where many could really pick their dates and it means that terroir differences came through strongly – as did the effect of vine age.

‘The rain was largely before the flowering so had no affect on ripening, although young vines suffered from the drought,’ added Boissenot.

That said, it’s worth remembering that we shouldn’t let 2016 overshadow the success of the 2015 vintage, especially on the Right Bank, and in Pessac-Léognan and Margaux.

Bordeaux 2016 is not a blockbuster vintage in the main, so if you prefer richness in your glass, I would consider sticking to 2015 on the Right Bank – or indeed Pessac and sometimes Margaux.