Bordeaux '16 Vintage Quality Likely To Push Wine Prices Higher
The Bordeaux 2016 vintage is shaping up to be potentially the best for at least six years, comparable in structure and richness with the landmark 2009 and 2010 wines and in some respects surpassing them, according to producers and merchants interviewed this month.
Buyers who attended trade tastings in the region agreed quality is high and indicated they expect that to be reflected in increases of 10 percent or more for ’16 release prices relative to 2015s. The wine is sold forward while still maturing in barrels and will be offered to the international trade over the next few weeks.
The vintage comes after a difficult period for Bordeaux, which saw prices peak in 2011 on the back of speculative buying, then slump more than 40 percent in the following five years. A run of poor harvests between 2011 and 2013 was followed by an improved crop in 2014 and a high-quality vintage in 2015. Now producers are saying 2016 marks a new high point.
“It has the structure of 2010 but the elegance of 2015, 2009,” according to Veronique Sanders of Chateau Haut Bailly in Pessac-Leognan. “The tannins are very round.”
The character of the vintage was shaped by highly unusual weather, which featured a very wet spring followed by an exceptionally dry summer and then cool nights and warm days in September and October allowing grapes to ripen while preserving their freshness.
August temperatures were 5 degrees Celsius more than normal while the month had 30 percent more sunshine than average, according to a study by Laurence Geny and Axel Marchal of the University of Bordeaux. The first 13 days of September were the hottest since 1950, followed by brief rain and then more sun which gave renewed impetus to ripening.
“It’s rare to have such balance,” Philippe Dhalluin of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac said. “It’s due to the summer. Maturity came very slowly.”
At nearby estate Chateau Pichon Baron, owned by Axa Millesimes, Christian Seely said that amid the favorable vintage “tannins needed to be controlled,” while across the road at Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Nicolas Glumineau summed up the vintage as “everything in balance.”
Over on the right bank 2016 was “a great combination of the terroir and the technique,” according to Marielle Cazaux at Chateau La Conseillante in Pomerol, while Jean-Valmy Nicolas at nearby Chateau Figeac in Saint Emilion said the estate’s 2016 was “the best Figeac produced in the modern era.”
Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal of Chateau Angelus in Saint Emilion said the 2016 vintage was characterized by “a lot of freshness, precision” and that while the favorable harvest weather would have allowed the estate to produce more bottles, “we decided to be more selective.” Her cousin Thierry Grenie de Bouard, who joined her last year in the estate’s top management, said 2016 was exceptional for its “long maceration, long extraction.”
“A vintage which seemed so challenging at the beginning totally exceeded expectations,” James Snoxell, head of buying at Armit Wines in London, wrote in his vintage report. “The vintage turned out to be a remarkably successful one.”
U.K. buyers will have to contend not only with potentially higher release prices for the wines, but also an 8 percent drop in the pound against the euro since last June’s referendum on Britain leaving the European Union, which will exacerbate any premium.
Philippe Kalmbach of the Wine Source Fund said that while unchanged prices, excluding currency fluctuations, would be the “best-case scenario,” he anticipated price increases since Bordeaux producers were reaping the benefits of investment in new wine-making facilities and cellars. “With all this investment, there is a feeling they can’t make a bad wine,” he said. “The tannins feel very silky.”