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Bordeaux 2016: ‘definitely a Cabernet year’

The 2016 vintage in Bordeaux is, “definitely a Cabernet year” thinks Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande’s CEO and winemaker, Nicolas Glumineau.

Nicolas Glumineau of Pichon Lalande

Speaking at a masterclass given yesterday (26 January) at the Maisons Marques & Domaines portfolio tasting in London, Glumineau at first joked: “Of course you have all heard that 2016 is the ‘most beautiful vintage ever’ – but this time it’s true!”

Bordeaux was not affected by the severe frosts and hail that struck so many other areas in France last year but Glumineau nonetheless noted it had been a “strange year” marked by a cold and very wet spring that then stopped just before flowering and the weather was, more or less, “perfect” from then on.

In terms of volume, he told the drinks business afterwards, he expected it to be the same as 2015 but he noted that, elsewhere in Pauillac at least, some producers seemed to have made a little more and some a little less – “there is no rule”.

He was convinced, however, that it would prove to be a Cabernet year as the hot summer was perfect for the variety. Merlot on the other hand “was good” but it had perhaps been, he suggested, “too warm”. The best plots were proving “very elegant” but in many instances the wines appeared a little flat.

If this is so it will be interesting to note the levels of Cabernet Franc in many Right Bank 2016 wines.

He mentioned that it was likely – though not absolutely confirmed – that the blend for Pichon Comtesse in 2016 would be 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc – but probably no Petit Verdot although Glumineau said he and his team would taste the wines again soon to be sure.

The proposed amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend is unusually high and only the 2009 and 1996 (a vintage Glumineau clearly admires very much) match it from more recent vintages – except the 2013 which was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, “but that was unique” noted Glumineau.

On the other hand, the preference for Cabernet Sauvignon is very much in line with the direction of the estate in recent years.

Around 20 years ago the proportion of Merlot in both the vineyards and blend was much higher, closer to 40%.

Over time the Merlot plantings have been reduced to around 28% with Cabernet Sauvignon’s share rising to 62% and the remaining 10% split between Cabernet Franc (7%) and Petit Verdot (3%). Glumineau said he was happy with that proportion, for now at least.

The switch to more Cabernet was not without some tough decisions, Glumineau remembered in particular the relatively recent grubbing up of a two-hectare plot of 80-year-old Merlot vines.

“Those were very good,” one old hand commented. “Which was true,” said Glumineau, “but on those gravelly soils, the Cabernet will, for sure, be even better.”

Overall, Glumineau made it clear that 2016 was, “good everywhere” and, “a vintage is great when it’s great everywhere and that’s the case.”

He told the room at large that he considered the 2016 to be part of a trilogy with 2014 and 2015 and that the trio would be linked together in much the same way as the 1988-1990 or 2008-2010 vintages.

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