Patrice Lévêque of Châteaux Barde-Haut, Clos L’Eglise and Poesia.
By September, just as growers were beginning to panic, cooling showers arrived and the harvest began. Mild temperatures lasted for weeks, creating a picture-perfect ending for the season. “I’ve never seen a harvest like 2016,” says Patrice Lévêque, who with his wife Hélène Garcin, owns Châteaux Barde-Haut, Clos L’Eglise and Poesia. “I could pick anytime I wanted with absolutely no worries. It was a dream.”
As a result of the perfect weather, picking dates varied broadly across Bordeaux. The châteaux in the earliest-ripening sectors of Pessac were among the first to harvest, while Saint-Émilion, always a little cooler, finished last. Château Angélus brought in its Cabernet Franc grapes by October 21st. Château La Fleur Cardinale finished up on October 26th.
So what do we have?
Alain Raynaud, founder of the Grand Cercle de la Rive Droite de Bordeaux, feels that 2016 is a “classic wine with a big amount of everything – and it’s perfectly ripe.” (Wine Searcher)
Véronique Dausse of Château Phélan Ségur, in Saint-Estèphe, describes the new vintage as having “marvelous structure, with freshness and matière. Very precise. Class, and dense tannins, lots of tannins.” (Wine Searcher Pro)
Certainly Cabernet Sauvignon tends to perform better in heat because of the grape’s thicker skin. So, with that in mind, it’s possible that the Left Bank, with a larger Cabernet production, might edge out the Right. Also interesting is the Bordelais enthusiasm for 2016 Cabernet Franc. Many Châteaux increased the percentage of Cabernet Franc in their blends, while Château Angélus produced its first ever 100% Cabernet Franc.
At the other end of the spectrum, the dry whites might have under-performed. The weather contortions may have been too much for the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, causing lower acidity and a lack of freshness. However, early reports from Entre-Deux-Mers and Graves are very positive. Producers describe the wines as having great aromatics and vitality. Fingers crossed!