Author Photo - Written by The Vinorium

Decanter - Saint-Émilion

Decanter - Saint-Émilion

Jane Anson is Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent and has lived in the region since 2003, here are her en primeur tasting notes and scores for the St-Émilion 2016 wines..

More scores by Decanter


Château Ausone

The incredible succulent power in Ausone puts a different perspective on other wines, as it so often does. The epitome of perfumed finesse. The yield is up at 40hl/ha, high for these poor limestone soils, and the remarkable clarity of expression that runs right through the delicate but fleshy raspberry and smoke-tinged palate is helped by a pH of 3.5 (compared to 3.6 last year). In my book this counts as one of the truly exciting signatures of the vintage and that is only boosted by the limestone terroir. Stunning, with enormous persistency and a finish that just doesn't want to quit. From a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc, aged in 80% new oak barrels.

Drinking window 2027-2050

99 Points


Château Cheval Blanc

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.

Drinking window 2027-2050

98 Points


Château Canon

This vintage delivers a beautiful, classic style of Canon that is right at the top of what St-Émilion can offer. Compact and dense without being hard, it is finely structured both in terms of the texture of the cassis and blackberry fruits and in the shape of the tannins. It demonstrates a clear minerality and a feather-brushing of violet notes. This is less obviously sexy than 2015, but is a wine that offers a masterclass in what limestone terroir can convey - salinity, succulence, hints of austerity and reserves of power. I retasted it a few times, and the main take away of what to expect is layers of flavour and huge persistency. The details of how they worked the vintage are an added bonus to understanding how they achieved this result. When it started getting hot and dry, they left all green cover on the vines, and did no green harvesting except tidying up in September. The result was loading the vines to avoid over-concentration. 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Franc, with the final blend aged in 70% new oak. 3.6pH.

Drinking window 2027-2050

98 Points


Château Figeac

2016 keeps Figeac on the trajectory set out in recent vintages, and is proof once again that power does not have to mean sacrificing precision and juiciness if it is done right. This is a great wine, with purity and focus from the balanced black fruit delivery. You don't feel anything drop through the palate - each element is held in suspension and it finishes strong with a mouthwatering flourish. 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 26% Cabernet Franc aged in 100% new oak. 3.67pH.

Drinking window 2027-2050

98 Points


Château Angélus

A wonderful Angélus, rich in the character of this vintage. Stunning length on the silky tannins. This extends outwards, and the architecture is very much more linear than circular (as it is in some vintages), with a lovely freshness and power. I just love how effortless this feels, with deeply intense black fruits and a dried herb edge. The flesh isn't overt but absolutely present. Likely to take on some more weight over time and it will certainly take its time to reach its perfect drinking window. Wonderful sense of energy, power and intensity, yet it's so drinkable now. The 100% new oak is very well-integrated, a brilliant success. Blend is 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, with the lowest pH for many years at 3.7 (the 2009 more like 3.9), mainly because the wide temperature differences between day and night slowed down the maturing process and kept freshness.

Drinking window 2027-2050

97 Points


Château Pavie

One of the most thrilling surprises of the vintage, here a new approach to a more finely-wrought Pavie has collided with a vintage that has natural freshness and acidity. The result shows the potential of this terroir. Without a doubt the best Pavie that I have ever tasted, and one where I have not had to say, 'yes, but...'. Let's not pretend that it's night and day from the old regime, but nor should it be - Pavie needs to keep its signature black fruited glamour and intensity, as that is part of what delivered its new status, but to my mind this is a far better balance than in the past. The blend is 60% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, the lowest amount of Merlot since Perse arrived. This still has reams of intense fruit, but the tannins are not immovable as they have been in some years, and pulses of minerality leap up on the finish to make your mouth water. Gorgeous. It is also fascinating to learn the technical details that have helped bring out the vintage character - besides the lower Merlot content, there were 10 days less maceration than last year and only 70% new oak.

Drinking window 2027-2050

97 Points


Clos Fourtet

This showcases why Clos Fourtet is such a confident, powerful wine. It gets the balance right between the sappy, saline quality of its limestone terroir and yet reflects the ripeness and flashiness of Merlot that makes St-Émilion such a well loved appellation. Excellent, serious quality, cerebral but sexy.

Drinking window 2027-2050

96 Points


Château Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

Wow, that is rich, tight and closed in. It is absolutely dancing with minerality, and just gets better and better on the palate. It doesn't try to force itself on you, but it certainly walks in the room five paces ahead. This is what St-Émilion can do, and could always have done if it didn't try so hard. A beautiful deep colour and pure fruit, what a lovely fresh, lifted but concentrated wine. Nicolas Thienpont is consultant here.

Drinking window 2027-2050

96 Points


Château Bélair Monange

The epitome of St-Émilion plateau power and elegance, this is beginning to rival Canon. It has the deftly worked berry fruits, the creamy caress of cappuccino oak, the dancing minerality that gives focus, and a touch of austerity to the finish. An utterly lovely wine. 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc from 23.5ha consisting of Asteries limestone on the plateau and blue clay over limestone on the slopes.

Drinking window 2027-2050

96 Points


Château Troplong Mondot

This is stunning. Troplong never has trouble conjuring up wonderfully rich fruit, but here it is plump and dense without being pumped up. The tannins are chewy rather than chalky, but the elegance of the vintage is unmistakable, and the rich chocolate flavours are dusted with mint. There is a very pretty salinity on the finish that lasts for minutes. I had a fascinating visit here at the start of the week, and retasted several times as this is a wine that I sometimes have trouble understanding. My main takeout is that the majority of the richness here is found naturally in the terroir - limestone on the plateau but with cool clay over the top, which explains why they are such late harvesters. But there are always winemaking and viticultural choices coming into play in any wine, and here there are adjustments being made to bring out a more finely wrought version of what is always a high impact and successful wine. Yields are higher this year, up at 48hl/ha, which helps, as does the style of the vintage and quieter extraction in the cellar, but Troplong remains true to itself. 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Drinking window 2027-2050

95 Points


Château Valandraud

An estate that is fascinating to taste in this vintage. Cassis, blueberry and liquorice flavours have huge persistency, with a dense but creamy texture across the palate. For the past two years they have carried out much less green harvesting and the yield in 2016 is at 50hl/ha, the highest ever. ‘Us, the big proponents of low yields’, Jean Luc Thunevin tells me with a smile. He knows, as I do, that this is a big success, an extremely lovely wine that still impresses plenty. No surprise that this counts as my favourite Valandraud to date. 92 IPT. 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in 100% new oak. More than 96% of the production in this grand vin.

Drinking window 2027-2050

95 Points


Château La Serre

Up on the plateau, La Serre’s vines are planted on clay over limestone and showcase just why this soil type is such a success in this vintage. Juicy and restrained without withholding or begrudging. Gentle caffè latte oaking that emphasises a creamy mid-palate without ever starting over the line to sweetness. I always love this château and it is a huge success in 2016. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc aged in 50% new oak. 3.5pH. Stephane Toutoundji consults.

Drinking window 2025-2040

95 Points


Château Trotte Vielle

A striking start to this wine as the ripe black fruits bristle then soften against the tannic structure, held carefully through the mid-palate and then lifted up on the finish to reveal their juiciness. Aromatic freshness combines with flavours of bitter dark chocolate, tight black cherries, slate and mineral notes. The 100% new oak is barely discernible except for a very light edge of charred cedar. I like this very much. 53% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Drinking window 2027-2050

94 Points


Château Beau-Séjour Bécot

Right on the limestone plateau, this has a lovely delivery of extremely ripe black fruits dotted through with minerality and little pulses of electricity. Extremely successful, this will age well thanks to elongated tannins that are chalky in all the right places. Again, we have this slight austerity on the finish, a reminder than 2016 is not the right bank party we saw in 2015, but this is excellent with such a beautiful balance.

Drinking window 2027-2050

94 Points


Château La Dominique

Restrained and elegant on the attack, this has plenty of dense, dark black fruit to back it up. The palate opens to show complexity and intensity of fruit, and totally delivers on its opulent and silky billing, with lovely touches of spice to pick up the finish. Well constructed. It is planted to 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in 70% new oak with Michel Rolland as consultant. 49hl/ha yield, 3.75pH.

Drinking window 2027-2050

94 Points


Château Pavie Macquin

This is a Derencourt-Thienpont wine, working together as a consultancy. Deep, intense, autumnal berry fruits make for a great St-Émilion delivering huge impact. It veers towards chunky, but the tannins are not solid and there is a freshness and life to them that makes them present without being choking. Very good indeed.

Drinking window 2027-2050

94 Points


Château Quintus

The sixth vintage under the wing of Haut-Brion. The vines didn’t block in the heat here, which is why the alcohols are generous, but this is absolutely perfectly balanced. The generosity of the ripe blackberry and cassis fruit stretches out with the juice running right through it, joined by some exotic spice and grilled oak touches through the mid-palate. But they never overwhelm the gentle extraction, and overall this is an extremely successful Quintus that leaves a beautifully fragrant quality in the mouth. 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc.

Drinking window 2027-2050

94 Points


Château Bellevue

From the Angélus stable, this lovely property has a 0.5ha slice on the top of plateau, with the remaining 6ha on clay limestone top slopes. Late ripening soils mean that this can be austere when young, even though it is 100% Merlot. Plum fruits, wild berries and a touch of austerity through the mid-palate. Needs time in the glass, but it opens to reveal lovely elegant mineral notes that layer over the top of restrained power.

Drinking window 2027-2045

93 Points


Château La Marzelle

Deeply-scented on the nose, this has well-placed fruit and the impact of a confident St-Émilion, but holds itself back. Attractive, luscious and juicy, this is a success in 2016. A blend this year of 80% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged mainly in new oak but with a portion aged in 500 litre amphorae. Second year of biodynamics at this 17ha property.

Drinking window 2025-2045

93 Points


Château Fonroque

Rich damson in colour, with a clear vibrancy to the nose. This must be one of the best ever wines from this property, combining an almost menacing depth and power with an unmistakable St-Émilion raspberry fruit ripeness, a brush of fern and violet florality and the saline lick of limestone. 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Organic and biodynamic.

Drinking window 2025-2040

93 Points


Château Soutard

Soutard has received huge investment in recent years. This is a successful, enjoyable wine, rich and firm, with the cassis side of the fruits emphasised. Extremely measured but intense, and totally gorgeous, with big, slightly chalky tannins. Here the plantings are 63% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec, aged in 60% new oak.

Drinking window 2025-2040

93 Points


Château Fonplégade

Château Fonplégade is beginning the conversion to biodynamics as of 2017 across the entire estate, after being certified organic in 2013. This is a lovely wine that sacrifices zero power but just shoots those silky, rich Merlot fruits through with a whoosh of life. I think it could go further in upping the minerality on the finish, but that should come naturally over the next few years and this is extremely successful. Stephane Derenoncourt consultant as of 2015. 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc aged in 60% new oak.

Drinking window 2025-2040

93 Points


Château Grand Corbin-Despagne

This is an accomplished, grown up wine from Francois Despagne. Lovely toasted almonds and grilled baguette on the nose. The Cabernets (24% Franc and 1% Sauvignon) give a clear austerity to the structure. It is always a little more restrained than many on the Corbin plateau in its early years. It is closed right now, but the hugely silky texture and a beautiful ripple to the tannins makes this one to age.

Drinking window 2027-2050

93 Points


Château La Graffeliére

The Malet-Roquefort family has produced an extremely lovely wine in 2016, with the playoff of intensity and juiciness very well handled. The clay-limestone terroir has held freshness, and the floating floral aspect is clear right through the mid-palate and through to the finish. Beautifully balanced. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc aged for 15 months in 50% new oak.

Drinking window 2027-2050

93 Points


Château Corbin

Annabelle Cruse works on elegance without sacrificing the fleshiness of her rich berry fruits. I really like this, it shows great balance and has punch but controls its delivery. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc on gravel-clay soils.

Drinking window 2025-2045

93 Points


Château Grand Corbin

Serious tannins that are well extracted, beginning to stretch things towards a more dramatic, plush expression without ever overstretching. Savory but rich fruit. 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 30% new oak barrels. Hubert de Bouard consults.

Drinking window 2025-2040

91 Points


Château Canon-la-Graffeliére

Another successful wine in St-Émilion, with the signature of careful extraction. Well-brushed black fruits and a lovely push-and-pull effect between supple tannins, rich fruits and fresh acidity. Certified organic since the 2014 vintage.

Drinking window 2027-2045

93 Points


Château La Fleur Morange

A successful wine that manages to combine the undoubted power and intensity of the fruit with juice, freshness and vitality. Still no question that there are notes of coffee, dark chocolate and cassis, but combined with well wrought, fine tannins, and a fresh juicy finish that balances out the fairly high alcohols for the vintage and the 100% new oak. 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc.

Drinking window 2025-2045

93 Points


Château Moulin St Georges

This is utterly gorgeous as ever, and it must be one of the most consistent deliveries out of the big names on the right bank, showing lively, fresh and juicy black fruits. Maybe a little soft on the finish, but hard not to love this. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc in the blend, with a yield of 30hl/ha, naturally low due to mildew.

Drinking window 2025-2045

93 Points


Château Laroque

This is an attractive wine with darkly spiced fruits and good acidity that’s just giving out the right amount of mouthwatering tension. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a better example of this wine. The blend is 95% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Drinking window 2027-2050

93 Points