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Neal Martin - Pauillac

Neal Martin - Pauillac

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Château Latour

The 2016 Latour is a blend of 92.9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.1% Merlot (no Cabernet Franc of Petit Verdot this year). The IPT is 83 and the alcohol a modest 13.5%. It represents 36% of the total production of the estate. Wow... this is some nose. It contains brilliant delineation and an unbridled sense of mineralité and terroir expression. It is not powerful per se, quite succinct and perhaps more detailed than the 2005 Latour that I tasted alongside. The palate is medium-bodied and incredibly precise. You are overcome with the sense of a wine running like clockwork, like a Swiss watch--think Piaget. It is bestowed with astonishing length and yet there is a sense of weightlessness and precision that beckons you back for another sip. It is simply one of the best examples of Château Latour that I have tasted from barrel over the 20 years that I have been tasting at this address.

Drink Date 2028 - 2070

98 - 100 Points



Château Mouton-Rothschild

The 2016 Mouton-Rothschild is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, the latter two co-fermented, picked from 26 September and finished on 14 October. As usual, it is being matured in 100% new oak. It has a very intense bouquet with blackberry, raspberry, cold limestone and crushed violet aromas that if anything, appear to gain vigor with aeration in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with supple, juicy tannin. There is a lot of fruit packed into this Mouton-Rothschild and therefore one can feel the weight in the mouth, yet the acidity keeps everything on tip-toes. The finish has superb precision and opulence, completing a Mouton-Rothschild that will rivet you to the spot. Tasted on two occasions, the second confirming that this is simply a magnificent wine. Whichever artist eventually designs the label is going to be drinking well.

Drink Date 2026 - 2065

98 - 100 Points



Château Lynch Bages

The 2016 Lynch Bages is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot with 13.7% alcohol and an IPT of 95, the highest ever for this property and probably one of the highest on the Left Bank this vintage. It was picked between from 27-30 September for the young vines, then the picking team stopped, restarting on 3 October with the Merlot and the Cabernets finished on 12 October. This vintage is matured in 75% new oak. It has a very concentrated, almost opaque bouquet that required some coaxing from the glass, developing floral and crushed limestone scents with time: disarmingly fresh and with stunning vivacity. The palate is concentrated and tannic, although they are not obtrusive and appear neatly embroidered into the multi-layered black fruit. This is a classic Lynch Bages with ambition and recalls vintages like 1990, a Lynch Bages built for long-term ageing. That arching backbone is counterbalanced by the keen line of acidity and a freshness that knows no bounds. There is ethereal delineation and tension on the finish, but I would give this at least ten years in bottle to enjoy this audacious Lynch Bages at its peak. Maybe the biggest surprise of the vintage, this has all the makings of a sensational wine.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

97 - 99 Points



Château Lafite-Rothschild

The 2016 Lafite-Rothschild is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot picked from 23 September until 12 October with the Cabernet Sauvignon (and unused Petit Verdot). It has 13.3% alcohol, a pH of 3.65 and the IPT of 74. Matured in 100% new oak, it has a fresh and vibrant bouquet whilst retaining the classicism of this First Growth. This is more subtle than Mouton-Rothschild or Latour, which is always the case at en primeur, yet there is a brooding intensity that draws you in as it unveils some gorgeous blackberry and graphite aromas. The palate is just superb. This has more density, more vigor, more depth and you could even argue more ambition than the 2015 Lafite-Rothschild showed last year. It gently grips the mouth with unerring focus and symmetry, just a touch of spiciness developing with a long, saline finish that lingers two minutes after the wine has departed. Lafite-Rothschild always develops and meliorates in barrel during its élevage and I suspect this will ultimately turn out to be a regal Lafite-Rothschild.

Drink Date 2030 - 2070

96 - 98 Points



Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

The 2016 Pichon-Longueville Baron is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot picked between 3 and 18 October at 39 hectoliters per hectare for estate (therefore the Grand Vin will be less). It is matured in 80% new oak and 20% one year old for 18 months. It has a very intense, extremely pure bouquet with blackberry, bilberry, cedar and graphite notes; it is a straight-down-the-fairway Pauillac. The palate is medium-bodied with a very tensile opening, that seam of graphite penetrating the black fruit. There is a wonderful structure here, unapologetically classic in style with just the right amount of austerity on the aristocratic finish. The aftertaste is incredibly long, lingering after two or three minutes in the mouth. This is a majestic Pichon-Baron and it may well to surpass both the 2009 or 2010.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

96 - 98 Points



Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

The 2016 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc (compare that to the 2010 that had 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, for example--that should give you some pointers). The alcohol level is 13.32% and a pH of 3.76. I tasted from a new oak barrel and the final blend will include around 60% new wood and 40% one year old, which is something I took into account. It has a very succinct bouquet, one that is almost understated at first, gradually unfolding with blackberry, cedar and graphite scents, in the vein of say the 1986 or 1996 Pichon Lalande of the past. The palate is very well balanced and what I appreciate here is that it is still as much identifiable as Pichon Lalande as it is a Pauillac and a 2016. There is that touch of roundness imparted by the Merlot, even though the Cabernet dominates the blend, surely the terroir sculpting the wine. It gently builds in intensity, maintaining freshness, a gentle but insistent grip towards the finish and a very long aftertaste. This is probably just a notch up on the outstanding 2015 Pichon-Lalande, a Rolls Royce with a purring engine.

Drink Date 2025 - 2060

96 - 98 Points



Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste

The 2016 Grand-Puy-Lacoste is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot that matured in 75% new oak. It has 13.3% alcohol this year. It has an extraordinarily pure bouquet with blackberry, briary, touches of pencil shaving and cedar aromas--quintessential Grand-Puy-Lacoste, basically. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine tannin. Gone are the days when this Pauillac was as hard as nails for the first decade. The tannins are nowadays much finer and the acidity lends this tension and plenty of freshness. There is an effortless quality to this Pauillac with wonderful length and such finesse on the finish that you immediately want to go back and re-taste it. Like so many others, this improved with aeration, gaining ever more harmony and precision. What a brilliant wine. It is classic Pauillac to its core.

Drink Date 2024 - 2050

95 - 97 Points



Château Pontet-Canet

The 2016 Pontet-Canet is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot and 39% Merlot, less Cabernet this year because of the size of the berries. I tasted the wine on two visits to the property around two weeks apart, plus additional tastings at négoçiants. It has an intense bouquet with layers of blackberry, sloes and fresh mint, just a hint of black truffle in the background. It is certainly a little more opulent compared to its peers. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine tannin, a little spicier than I expected (in a positive sense) with gentle grip in the mouth. It fans out with confidence, a voluminous Pontet-Canet with an extremely persistent aftertaste, and a saline and balsamic finish. This is an extravagant Pauillac for the vintage that will age over many years.

Drink Date 2026 - 2050

95 - 97 Points



Château Batailley

The 2016 Batailley is a blend of 12% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon cropped at 50h hectoliters per hectare. Matured in 60% new oak. It has an intense graphite infused bouquet with fine delineation, some freshly picked Pauillac mint coming through with aeration. The palate is medium-bodied with firm tannin that grip the mouth insistently; with graphite and tobacco-infused black fruit dominating, this a classically styled Batailley in the vein of previous vintages with the elegance coming through towards the finish. This is one of those wines that grows on you, perhaps not as easy or as charming to taste as other Pauillac 2016s at this stage, but knowing this property well, I know how it can blossom when it matters, which is when you and I drink it.

Drink Date 2022 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château Les Griffons de Pichon Baron

The 2016 Les Griffons de Pichon Baron is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 48% Merlot matured in 60% new oak. The harvest was between 26 September and 18 October, and it represents 30% of the total yield. It has a very pure and detailed bouquet with blackberry, briary, cold stone and graphite aromas. This seems to meliorate in glass. The palate is very well balanced with fine tannin, a Griffons that is nimble and agile, the finish very precise with an almost clinical graphite-tinged finish. This is superb.

Drink Date 2021 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château Pedesclaux

The 2016 Pedesclaux is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, picked between 29 September and 18 October, matured in 60% new oak. It has a tightly-wound bouquet with blackberry and raspberry fruit, a touch of iodine and graphite. I like the subtle nature of this Pedesclaux, the brooding intensity. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine tannin, crisp and fresh, a gorgeous salinity and a long and persistent, lightly spiced finish. This leaves the 2015 Pedesclaux far behind.

Drink Date 2022 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château D'Armailhac

The 2016 D'Armailhac is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot that was picked between 27 September and 14 October. The bouquet is very impressive, typical d'Armaihlac in terms of the opulence and flamboyance with lush black cherry and boysenberry fruit, a subtle floral note developing with time in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with a crisp and tensile entry; there is immense purity here with some lovely blue fruit appearing on the finish. This is a d'Armailhac that is emboldened by unprecedented tannic structure that gives it real backbone and a sense of authority. Quite simply, this is one of the best wines of Château D'Armailhac that I have tasted, somehow not a million miles away from Grand Puy Lacoste in style.

Drink Date 2021 - 2045

92 - 94 Points


Château Les Forts de Latour

The 2016 Les Forts de Latour is a blend of 64.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35.3% Merlot and 0.4% Cabernet Franc, and it represents 37.5% of production this year. It has a surprisingly opulent bouquet, almost a lushness to it thanks to the power of the Merlot, lending it an almost Right Bank allure (possibly due to one parcel in Artigues being declassified from the Grand Vin into the Les Forts de Latour). The palate is very well balanced with supple tannin. Occasionally this Deuxième Vin can be austere like the Château Latour, but this year I find this to be lithe in the mouth, quite sensual with the structure surfacing towards the graphite tinged finish. The length is very impressive here. It will be interested to see when the estate eventually release this wine. This is a plump 'n lovely Les Forts de Latour!

Drink Date 2023 - 2045

92 - 94 Points


Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse

The 2016 Grand-Puy-Ducasse follows up the 2015 with a 2016 that is equally good, marking--one hopes--a change in direction for this Pauillac estate that frustratingly under-performed in the past. This has a very attractive bouquet with pure blackberry and raspberry coulis aromas, just that hint of pencil lead leading you towards Pauillac. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, plenty of sappy black fruit and a hint of tar and graphite towards the persistent finish. This is an excellent "G.P.D" that should give a couple decades of drinking pleasure.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

91 - 93 Points