2016 Bordeaux – It’s in the Barrel! by Nicolle Croft

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The first wine of the 2016 harvest emerges from its fermenting vats; deep inky purple-black with intense aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry and violets. Following the successful 2015 vintage, ‘the daring’ are saying it is even better and with its balance of power and freshness could rival the great 2010. It is still early days but this is what we know so far….

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2016 pumping over at Leoville Poyferré

  • Some heterogenity – Terroir really matters this year but differently than usual. In the drought conditions of this summer, soil that had no capacity to hold any moisture (deep sands and gravels) meant that vines suffered too much. This meant that the vine’s metabolism slowed down and ripening came to a standstill. Even clay in the subsoil of some areas of Pomerol dried out to such an extent that it became like concrete and the vines were not able to find any moisture. Young vines were the most to suffer with their undeveloped roots which did not go deep enough to reach the water table.
  • Saved by the wet spring – A spring that had 60% more rain than average filled water tables so that vines struggled during the hot, dry summer (17% more sunshine hours than average, 2°C higher on average than usual) but stayed resilient. A few more dead leaves on the vines than usual but mature vines stayed mostly green.
  • Lack of water (53% less rain than average) produced small berries with high skin to juice ratio have produced powerful, ripe deep coloured tannins. Even so with the long-awaited rain that finally fell mid September yield is on average slightly up on last year and expected to be 5.5 Million Hl (2015 5.3 M hl, 2014 5.27 M hl, 2013 M Hl)
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    Stealing a taste of the ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at Leoville Poyferré, St Julien 2016

  • Coolish nights (so no official ‘heat-wave) with a big difference between night and day time temperature, even during the heat of the summer, kept black fruit flavours fresh with finesse and complexity. This was not the case in 2015.
  • Harvest Timing – harvest was later than expected due to slow flowering and sluggish conditions due to heat in the summer. Most started around end September but this year there was much stopping and starting as producers were able to pick and choose perfect moments to pick as the sunshine continued well into mid October. Very relaxed draw out harvest on both the right and left bank. Skins were thick and needed time to thin and ripen. The alternate cool nights and hot sunny days accentuated the contracting and dilating of the grape skins during the autumn helped this to occur towards the end of the season
  • Macerations on the skins are not too long this year (around 3 weeks total vatting time including fermentation) as the tannin levels are high and there is a risk of over-extraction
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