En Primeur Bordeaux 2016

The wines with tasting notes

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[Add to shopping basket] Cheval Blanc St Emilion £6,400 - 97-99 96-98 98-99 18-19 - 96-99
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The 2016 Cheval Blanc is a blend of 59% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc and (the return of) 3% Cabernet Sauvignon from the gravel soils since in this vintage the vines showed absolutely no stress. It delivers 14.25% alcohol with an IPT of 75 and a pH 3.67, which Pierre Lurton told me is a little lower than normal. As usual, it is matured in 100% new oak. It has a very pure, correct and quite penetrating bouquet with black cherries, blackcurrant, graphite and a touch of wild mint. It is bashful at first but opens with confidence with aeration (incidentally, I allowed my sample 40 minutes to open). The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannin and a killer line of acidity that imparts so much freshness from the starting gun. That soupçon on Cabernet Sauvignon does make a difference, lending a subtle vein of graphite that runs throughout the wine. It remains linear, with laser-like focus towards the extraordinarily persistent finish, pencil lead on the "HB" aftertaste. This is a classic and intellectual Cheval Blanc, not as charming perhaps as the 2015 Cheval Blanc, but it will unquestionably age gracefully over decades not years.

Score: 97 - 99 Neal Martin, robertparker.com Maturity: 2024-2060

59.5% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Franc, 3.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeply coloured with expressive dark fruits, floral notes and a hint of coconut. The palate is cool and satiny with a dense core of fruit and minerals, very precise and calm with brilliant freshness.

Score: 96 - 98 Albany Vintners

This is very powerful Cheval with searing tannins and bright fruit, acidity and mineral undertones. Full and muscular yet beautifully formed and polished. It’s all about the form to this. Better than 2015.

Score: 98 - 99 James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com

The property is divided into 45 different plots and each plot has made some grand vin in the last five years. This is from 33 plots. 38% Cabernet Franc, 59% Merlot. The remaining 3% is Cabernet Sauvignon, from a parcel that has been replanted with Cabernet Franc successively. But they have decided to recover this gravelly plot by the road to St-Émilion with Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the first year it's in the grand vin as a reflection of the traditional assemblage of Cheval Blanc. Tasty floral start and then quite rich. A bit of grainy astringency (from those concrete vats?) in terms of texture - by no means unpleasant. Lots of floral notes, hint of putty and then lovely richness underneath. Quite a contrast between nose and palate. Smudgy palate and precise nose. Tannins really present on the end. Very floral on the nose. Big gap! Not sweet!! (18.5+ Points)

Score: 18 - 19 Jancis Robinson MW, Jancisrobinson.com Maturity: 2028-2045

A wine of precision and extraordinary beauty, the 2016 Cheval Blanc is also one of the highlights of the year. In the glass, it is precise, delicate and understated. Hints of espresso, plum, spice and wild cherry all develop in the glass, but it is the wine's feel and vivid personality that stand out most. I expect the 2016 will put on weight during its aging, both in barrel and later in bottle. It is an absolutely stunning wine in every way.

Score: 96 - 99 Antonio Galloni, www.vinousmedia.com

Another excellent Cheval, this is a wine that every year stands among the greatest in the region. The main impression is of a softly-spun silky texture with complete focus and clarity through the palate. There is some of the density of 2010 here, with the florality of 2005. Gorgeous. Many people spent a long time picking in 2016, but at Cheval Blanc everything came in within just 10 days, rather unusually picking grapes on gravel and clay at the same time. The blend is 59% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 100% new oak.

Score: 98 Decanter Maturity: 2027-2050

[Add to shopping basket] Clarence Haut Brion (2nd wine of Haut Brion) Graves £1,230 - 89-91 91-93 94-95 17 - -
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The 2016 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is a blend of 51.3% Merlot, 13.1% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2.6% Petit Verdot. It has a little more fruité compared to the La Chapelle de la Mission Haut Brion, yet not quite the same mineral tension or complexity. The palate is medium-bodied with supple black fruit, a fine line of acidity and gentle grip, but I would be seeking a little more personality and depth towards the finish. That said, it does have commendable freshness, but my money would be on the La Chapelle this year.

Score: 89 - 91 Neal Martin, robertparker.com Maturity: 2020-2032

More brooding on the nose than Chapelle, intense darker fruit. Blackberry, damsons and stones with complex flavours and sweetness but not too much. Quite measured with strict tannins finishing dry.

Score: 91 - 93 Albany Vintners

This is powerful and intense with lots of minerals, crushed stones and dark fruit. Dense and linear. Minerally and very energetic.

Score: 94 - 95 James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com

Dark crimson. Intense nose that's very Haut-Brion. Fine, restrained and just a bit low key. But very classy fruit and oak. Would give a lot of pleasure quite young.

Score: 17 Jancis Robinson MW, Jancisrobinson.com Maturity: 2023-2038

As with La Mission Haut-Brion and La Chapelle, there is a beautiful signature here running from grand vin to second wine, a clear indication of quality. This is a little more intense than La Chapelle, which was pretty and floral, showing a firmer side with cassis and blackberry. A gorgeous, confident wine. It's very hard to think of a vintage where things are so well constructed and yet so soft. Clarence de Haut-Brion represents 31% of production, from a blend of 51.3% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.1% Cabernet Franc and 2.6% Petit Verdot aged in 33% new oak.

Score: 94 Decanter Maturity: 2023-2040

[Add to shopping basket] Clarte de Haut Brion Dry Whites £730 - 87-89 91-94 93-94 - - 88-91
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The 2016 La Clarte de Haut-Brion Blanc is a blend of 23.7% Sauvignon Blanc and 76.3% Sémillon. It has a light lime flower scented bouquet that does not quite have the vigor of the 2015 last year. The palate is well balanced with crisp acidity, taut and linear with fresh grapefruit and hints of pineapple towards the brisk finish.

Score: 87 - 89 Neal Martin, robertparker.com Maturity: 2019-2028

23.7% Sauvignon Blanc, 76.3% Semillon. The second wine of both Haut Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc. Crisp aromas of lime flowers, lime oil. Gorgeous slightly waxy texture combined with the crisp delicacy of white flowers and sweet citrus. Great acidity and juiciness.

Score: 91 - 94 Albany Vintners

Very salty and fruity with lots of dried pineapple and lemon rind. Medium-to full-bodied, dense and long. White pepper, too.

Score: 93 - 94 James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com

The 2016 La Clarté de Haut-Brion feels quite rich and intense owing to the high percentage of Sémillon (76 percent) in the blend this year. A phenolic, broad white, the 2016 has plenty of personality, although it naturally lacks the pedigree of the top selections. It will be interesting to see if the Clarté finds a bit more harmony during its aging. Today, some of the edges show through. Citrus peel, stone fruit, mint and chalk add closing nuances.

Score: 88 - 91 Antonio Galloni, www.vinousmedia.com

Exceptionally rich flavour and succulence on show here, a lovely Clarté in a tough vintage that is more exotic than in some years but absolutely works. Some spicy herbal notes of rosemary pick up the mid-palate and there is a freshness that ensures a mouthwatering uplift to the finish. An interesting side note - there is 60% new oak here, significantly more than in the grand vin, showing just how the technical team truly is led by what is best for the wine, not what is expected of it. 76.3% Sémillon and 23.7% Sauvignon Blanc, harvested to 13th September. The pH ranges from 3.16 to 3.22 across lots.

Score: 90 Decanter Maturity: 2018-2025

[Add to waiting list] Clerc Milon Pauillac £600 - Sold Out 92-94 94-96 94-95 17-18 93-96 90-93
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The 2016 Clerc Milon is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmenere (the latter vinification intégrale, so that it includes 50% of the stems, and Philippe Dhalluin said he was pleased with the results). It has a very pure bouquet, a mixture of red and black fruit, a touch of cedar and ash in the background. It takes time to really unfold in the glass. The palate is adorable: svelte tannin, beautifully pitched acidity, great depth with a silky smooth finish that just caresses the mouth. There is a little tightness here compared to the more expressive 2016 d'Armailhac, but I have no doubt that it will turn into a top-flight Clerc-Milon.

Score: 92 - 94 Neal Martin, robertparker.com Maturity: 2023-2050

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere. Exciting polished blue and black fruits, crème de cassis and spices. Intense, long and mineral with high toned fruits in the middle and bright acidity. A great Clerc Milon.

Score: 94 - 96 Albany Vintners

Refined and ultra-fine with a linear and polished character. Full-bodied, yet tight and racy. A classy and sophisticated young wine.

Score: 94 - 95 James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com

Real aromatic lift. Calm, collected, lovely 'minerality'. Completely pure. Fully ripe but not a trace of sweetness. So cool! (17.5+)

Score: 17 - 18 Jancis Robinson MW, Jancisrobinson.com Maturity: 2025-2043

Very fresh in feel, with bright cassis and cherry fruit racing along an iron edge. Shows a good sleek feel through the finish and a light tug of earth at the very end. A vivacious and delicious wine in the making.

Score: 93 - 96 James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

The 2016 Clerc Milon is dense, plush and undeniably appealing. Plump fruit and supple tannins add to the wine's considerable charm. Here, too, the texture is sweet, plush and quite generous. A burst of dark blue/purplish fruit, grilled herbs, menthol and licorice punctuates the vivid finish. Clerc Milon has been terrific on each of the three occasions I have tasted it so far.

Score: 90 - 93 Antonio Galloni, www.vinousmedia.com

An estate that has been making great leaps forward over recent years, and once again we have a gorgeous Clerc on our hands. This is extremely succulent, with aromatic complexity and a freshness that just bursts out of the glass. Things start off closed for the first minute or so, then the juice comes rushing through. The mid-palate is smooth and polished but also bursting with energy. This is quite clearly one of their best ever wines, ripped through with sweet cherry and wild blackberry fruit, tightened up by slate and cedar. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmenere (some of the oldest plantings of this grape in Bordeaux).

Score: 96 Decanter Maturity: 2027-2050

[Add to shopping basket] Climens Sauternes/Barsac £560 - 95-97 - - 18 - 93-96
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The 2016 Climens was tasted from the 12 different lots that will go into the Grand Vin, with some selected from the Deuxième Vin, Cyprès de Climens. As usual, I had to assemble them in my mind and relate commonalities, though at a négoçiant a week later I re-tasted four preprepared micro-blends. I found much elegance this year. It is not a powerful Climens in the making and even with the higher alcohol lots that reached 14.9%, you could not feel any warmth and the wines maintained the tension. Some lots displayed saline finishes, perhaps a little more than usual. Perhaps the most important factor was just how "Barsac" they all tasted. Sometimes some lots can taste more Sauternes-like in style, but not this year.

Score: 95 - 97 Neal Martin, robertparker.com Maturity: 2021-2055

Climens is usually blended over a prolonged period of at least a year with various lots assembled painstakingly along the way. Until 2017 this has meant that tasters have to visit the chai and schedule a good hour for the barrel-by-barrel process (see What may go into Climens 2015). This year Mathieu Chadronnier of CVBG persuaded Bérénice Lurton of Climens to provide samples of the four main ingredients in Climens 2016 for their tasting at Ch Belgrave in the Médoc, thereby putting it on the itinerary for far more tasters. A much-appreciated initiative. Sample from northern parcels (picked 30 Sep and 18 Oct, 14.1% alcohol, RS 120 g/l, 16% of the crop): Liquorice and rich and round and exciting. Thick and round. Sample from the eastern parcels (picked 29 Sep and 3, 4 Oct, 14.2% alcohol, RS 131 g/l, 27% of the crop): Toasty, deep and edgy with a green streak. From the western parcels (picked 28 Sep, 4, 8 Oct, 14.4% alcohol, RS 129 g/l, 14% of the crop): A bit loose and sweet with bracing acid. Big and bold, with a firm end. From the southern plots (picked 6, 19, 20, 22 Oct, 14.2% alcohol, RS 141 g/l, 43% of the crop): Friendly, round, fresh and floral, gorgeous. Bright fruit. 18+

Score: 18 Jancis Robinson MW, Jancisrobinson.com Maturity: 2026-2048

I tasted the 2016 Climens from four separate lots identified by location, harvest dates, alcohol, residual sugar and the percentage each lot represents of the harvest. The four wines were remarkably different. The Nord was both plush and tropical-leaning, yet with notable freshness, while the Sud managed to be both deep and also light on its feet. I found the Ouest to be the most precise and aromatically lifted of the samples, while the Est was the most concentrated. A simple, impromptu blend of the four lots suggests the 2016 Climens is shaping up to be a magnificent Barsac. The interplay of the various components is quite remarkable.

Score: 93 - 96 Antonio Galloni, www.vinousmedia.com

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