TNs: 30+ 2016 Classed Growth Bordeaux

Last week I attended Spec’s annual “Mostly Cru Classe” Bordeaux tasting for the 2016 vintage. Over 30 producers sent directors, winemakers, or a member of ownership so it was a great reference point for the vintage. Generally speaking, I was surprised by the fine tannins and approachability of the Left Bank wines. The structure of these wines is driven by acid and I found them to be well-balanced. Very few wines were overdone. Since I got married in '16, I’m extremely excited for these wines and most of the producers were as well. The vintage was most often compared to 2010. My quick, basic notes (all '16s):

Pessac Leognan

Ch. Carbonnieux Blanc - really excellent and a great QPR. Concentrated with a long finish.

Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc - much more dense and concentrated than the Carbonnieux. Oak more prominent. Should age well.
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge - 14% alc. Overly ripe and too monolithic for my tastes.

Ch. Carmes Haut Brion - ripe and fruit-driven but with nice mouthfeel and freshness. More red fruited and medium bodied than the SHL tasted just before it. The 2015 I had recently was much more structured and tannic. With the huge price increase in 16, I’m going back to look for more 14s and 15s.

Ch. Haut Bailly - Dense and black. Was more like a Pauillac or St. Julien. Pure fruit profile and great length. This will be great at some point.


Ch. Lynch Bages - big, powerful wine with dense, dark fruit. It has the stuffing to age for decades.
Echo de Lynch Bages - similar in style of course, but more expressive. Qualitatively this was above many esteemed classed growth wines. My favorite 2nd wine of the tasting.

Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste - The most floral nose of the Pauillac wines. This GPL is very structured but polished.

Ch. Pichon Lalande - Sadly shut down. The wine I was most excited to taste going in. I came back late in the tasting for a second shot and it was still very closed. The chateau representative told me that PLL tends to shut down hard around year three so he wasn’t surprised. This being said, the wine was dark, dense, and no doubt has serious potential. More espresso and tobacco than fruit at this point with refined tannins. I’m buying several based on earlier reviews of its potential.

Ch. Pichon Baron - Dark and dense like the PPL but slightly more open. Rich and concentrated with great acidity and refined tannins.

Ch. Clerc Milon - Impressively polished and balanced. Fine tannins and abundant acidity but also loads of fruit. Chocolate and raspberry notes. Long finish.

Ch. d’Armailhac - Great QPR as usual. Less dense than the Clerc but similarly well balanced. Should be enjoyable young and for at least a decade.

St. Julien

Ch. Gloria - this perennial QPR winner should continue the trend with the '16. Slightly riper than recent vintages (haven’t tasted the '15 yet though) with harsher tannins right now than most other wines in the tasting. I would probably wait until 2021 to try again.

Ch. Leoville Poyferre - The nose was closed and the fruit is overshadowed by oak and tannin at this stage. Medium-bodied. The wine possessing the least integrated oak among the major Left Bank wines.

Ch. Leoville Barton - A must buy for me. Super dense and layered. Qualitatively comparable to the Pichon Lalande but with more vibrant fruit.

Ch. Branaire Ducru - Much less dark and brooding than the other St. Julien wines. More red fruit profile than black. Nice fruit. An impressively made wine at this price point.

St. Estephe

Ch. les Ormes de Pez - Great QPR but needs a lot of time. Polished but too tannic for near-term drinking.

Ch. Phelan Segur - Good QPR. More traditionally styled with great balance and fruit. Should age nicely for the medium term.


Ch. Rauzan Segla - Bigger than the other Margaux tasted and less red-fruited. Concentrated with a decent amount of tannin.

Ch. Cantenac Brown - Beautiful floral violet nose. Arguably the most expressive nose of the tasting.

Ch. Brane Cantenac - Really pretty wine. Elegant and red fruited. Should be enjoyable young with a good decant.

Ch. Giscours - Great acid and purity of fruit. Mouthwatering. Floral nose.

Haut Medoc

Ch. Cantemerle - The most distinctive wine of the tasting for me interestingly. Very expressive and elegant. A must buy IMO.


Ch. Gazin - Like the Clinet, very tannic. Hard to taste the fruit but I liked it. Ironically, I walked away from the tasting only getting that gritty mouthfeel young Bordeaux imparts from the two Pomerol I tasted!

Ch. Clinet - Tannic and super structured.

St. Emilion

Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne - Big and sexy. Great QPR.

Ch. Canon la Gaffeliere - Surprisingly approachable and tasty now. Velvety mouthfeel and correct St. Emilion flavor profile. Stephan von Neipperg was pouring and his wines were getting plenty of attention, especially from less experienced tasters who were blown away by the sensual nature of his wines vis-a-vis the big Cabernet-based wines.

Ch. Clos de l’Oratoire - Good QPR. Ripe and velvety.

Ch. Canon - My notes were “meh”. Had high hopes after the supposed greatness of the '15. Price has gone up a ton so I hope my notes weren’t accurate for those that purchased this EP.

Clos Fourtet - Cigar box and floral nose. Concentrated on the palate but relatively shut down compared to other wines from St. Emilion.

Ch. Pavie Macquin - Was experiencing palate fatigue by the time I got to this one but others had a lot of praise for it.

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Thanks for the report David! I picked up quite a bit of Gloria, Branaire, and Ormez, as well as a few of the GPL.

Thanks for the update; I had hoped to attend this event again this year but could not come up with a good enough excuse to travel to Houston. Sadly, busy also for the Philly and NYC events.

I love these kind of punchy, first-impression notes. Really solid way of communicating a big tasting session. That Cantemerle sounds fun! Didn’t like seeing the heavy espresso note on PLL, wondering where this winery is heading. The LB and Gloria, always winners. Well done!

Was Sociando present?

The wines are shipped directly from Bordeaux, arriving usually a month in advance. Some undergo a further long shipment which I suspect doesn’t help. Most wines survive the journey fairly easily, but I can understand that some wines close down. Reports from London for Pichon Lalande were much more positive, and I am curious how they will fare in New York.

Thanks. Between palate fatigue and the tightness of young Bordeaux, it’s extremely difficult to delineate many of the wines’ characteristics at these tastings…or my palate just sucks. Regardless, I find it more helpful to focus on the structure, balance, depth, and general fruit profile of them at this stage.

Surprisingly, Sociando was not there. A few of the more prominent chateaux that were present but that I didn’t get to taste included Talbot, Pibran, La Pointe, Larcis Ducasse, and Haut Bages Liberal.

I just had some servings of 2016 PLL, and found it to be gorgeous. None of the herbaceousness which often seems to characterize this wine when young.

I wish to thank Paul Wagner and Balzac for the generous hospitality.

Very interesting notes. Thanks for posting

Clinet tasted like ash.

Stellar year for Paulliac.

Not herbaceous…bummer

Ditto. That’s what made PLL distinctive.

Interesting. Clinet was by far my favorite of the Pomerols I tried today, though I lean much more left bank. I also loved PLL but was disappointed by Pichon Baron.

My impressions from the NYC tasting are so laughably different. What’s the point of it all? [rofl.gif]

My thoughts exactly.

Why is it surprising ? Sociando is not in the UGC?

Technicality [berserker.gif]

I hope that’s not auto-correct.


Going tonight to the UGC Toronto event—I will append my notes to this thread, now that I’ve found it. I am going to depart from my usual whites-reds-Sauternes-reds strategy to get some Valandraud, Lynch Bages and Pichon if they’re there—don’t want to miss those.


Plenty of Cru Bourgeois are to be found at UGC tastings, why not SM?

I imagine it is their choice. To join, they would have to apply to be a member. Next, they would need to be voted in first by a smaller committee and I think a vote by all the members. As there are about 125 members, it’s not so easy. Though I would think if they requested to join, they would be approved.