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Neal Martin - Saint-Émilion

Neal Martin - Saint-Émilion

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Château Ausone

The 2016 Ausone is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc picked 10-14 October and 14-19 October, respectively, at 40 hectoliters per hectare. It is matured in 80% new oak with a light toasting, a move that Alain and Pauline Vauthier have made in recent years just to lessen the impact of the oak. There is a palpable...stateliness about the Ausone this year. It is extraordinarily pure and articulates its terroir as well as any vintage that I can remember over the last 20-odd years. It is not as flamboyant as other Saint Emilions, more correct and precise. The palate is very elegant and precise. I adore the exquisite balance of this Ausone, the precision and fineness of the tannin, the effortlessness that it conveys. This is classy and sophisticated, satin-like in texture with a long and sensual finish. Not an Ausone that is going to blaze across the sky, this is a cerebral, intellectual Ausone that will entrance for many years to come.

Drink Date 2022 - 2070

98 - 100 Points

Château Figeac

The 2016 Figeac is a blend of 36% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, picked from 23 September until 20 October at 49 hectoliters per hectare with 13.9% alcohol. The acidity is 3.67 pH, and it matured in 100% new oak (focused on five cooperages). This is a property that opened a new chapter in 2013, when Michel Rolland’s services as a master blender have been called upon and engendered far greater harmony between the three grape varieties, now all singing from the same hymn sheet. It has a crisp blackberry nose, a little closed at first, opening nicely in the glass and offering raspberry coulis, pencil box and subtle mint aromas—classic Figeac in many ways. The palate is extraordinarily well balanced with a fine lattice of tannin sculpted to perfection. There is a slight edginess to this Figeac that I adore, the Cabernets very expressive, more so than the 2015, with graphite infusing every pore of the black fruit. This Figeac has an outstanding structure and a saline finish that beckons you back for another sip. The 2015 Figeac was stunning and the 2016 no less. Tasted on four separate occasions, and in the end, only one (banded) score became inevitable.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

98 - 100 Points

Château Pavie

The 2016 Pavie is a blend of 60% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon cropped at 38 hectoliters per hectare between 10 and 20 October. The alcohol this year is 14.55%, and it is matured in 80% new oak and 20% one-year-old wood. As Gérard Perse explained, this is a Pavie that has taken stock and shifted in direction in recent years, reflecting more of its exceptional terroir instead of winemaking. It has a very intense bouquet that is extremely well-defined and shrugs off that higher alcohol level. You can find the graphite vein courtesy of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the underlying tension, while a second bottle had a soupçon more florality. The palate is medium-bodied with succulent, ripe, supple tannins that gently caress the mouth. It feels beguiling and charming, totally different in style compared to say Cheval Blanc, offering a more sensual take on the 2016 growing season. It is a very impressive follow-up to the 2015 Pavie and may surpass it once in bottle.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

98 - 100 Points

Château Canon

The 2016 Canon makes it a double slam-dunk for head winemaker Nicolas Audebert and his team, as it is the second of two ethereal wines that will put the estate right at the top of the Saint Emilion tree. This year is a blend of 74% Merlot and 26% Cabernet Franc picked from 22 September until 10 October at 45 hectoliters per hectare. It delivers 14.02% alcohol and an IPT of 65. Matured in 65% new oak, it has a compelling bouquet with intense black cherry and blueberry fruit, a tincture of oyster shell, all with exquisite definition. The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannin, and again, there is stunning, almost ineffable precision. It is attired in a seamless texture with real density yet weightlessness on the finish. The persistence on the aftertaste is extraordinary. I composed this entire tasting note after spitting out the wine, but I can still feel my mouth tingling now. The 2015 was magnificent, but could this 2016 surpass that? “The 2016 is more Canon in style, more classic,” commented Nicolas, and he could be right, although intuition tells me that the 2015 might be a hair’s breadth better. I would not refuse either if they were opened before me.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

97 - 99 Points

Château Cheval Blanc

The 2016 Cheval Blanc is a blend of 59% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc and (the return of) 3% Cabernet Sauvignon from the gravel soils since in this vintage the vines showed absolutely no stress. It delivers 14.25% alcohol with an IPT of 75 and a pH 3.67, which Pierre Lurton told me is a little lower than normal. As usual, it is matured in 100% new oak. It has a very pure, correct and quite penetrating bouquet with black cherries, blackcurrant, graphite and a touch of wild mint. It is bashful at first but opens with confidence with aeration (incidentally, I allowed my sample 40 minutes to open). The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannin and a killer line of acidity that imparts so much freshness from the starting gun. That soupçon on Cabernet Sauvignon does make a difference, lending a subtle vein of graphite that runs throughout the wine. It remains linear, with laser-like focus towards the extraordinarily persistent finish, pencil lead on the “HB” aftertaste. This is a classic and intellectual Cheval Blanc, not as charming perhaps as the 2015 Cheval Blanc, but it will unquestionably age gracefully over decades not years.

Drink Date 2024 - 2060

97 - 99 Points

Château Angelus

The 2016 Angelus is a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc and 60% Merlot with much of the production zoning in on the more clayey soils that are ideal in a dry growing season like this. Picked from 4 to 21 October and matured entirely in new oak, it has a very intense bouquet with multilayered blackcurrant, blueberry and floral notes, very refined and precise, not unlike the 2010 in some ways, but I would argue this is more sophisticated. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, crisp acidity, symmetrical in terms of focus with just the right amount of sappiness on the saline finish. It is a superb Angelus from the de Boüard family, destined to give pleasure over many, many years. Once in bottle, I expect it to land towards the top of my banded scale.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

96 - 98 Points

Château Le Tertre Roteboeuf

The 2016 Le Tertre Roteboeuf is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc cropped at 35 hectoliters per hectare between 14-18 October. This year I was hosted by François’ daughter Nina Mitjavile, who has been working alongside her father for several years. It has a wonderful bouquet, very pure and fresh. I anticipated that François Mitjavile might have been tempted to pick a little later like others, but it was an assiduous decision to have the fruit in the vat by the 18 October and lock in that freshness. The palate is very well balanced with fine tannin, extremely well judged acidity, the new oak present at the moment but in proportion with the fruit. This is a stylish Le Tertre-Rôteboeuf, very sensual and luxuriant with layers of crushed strawberry, blood oranges and raspberry fruit. In a word...irresistible.

Drink Date 2022 - 2050

96 - 98 Points

Château Bellevue Mondotte

The 2016 Bellevue Mondotte is a blend of 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon cropped at 18 hectoliters per hectare because of the old vines and the shallow depth of the earth, 20-30 centimeters until the pickaxe hits limestone. It is matured in 100% new oak, and the alcohol level is 14.84% this year. It has an opulent bouquet with ravishing blueberry and black cherry fruit, crushed violets and a touch of glycerin. The palate is silky smooth on the entry, and whereas I had anticipated being overwhelmed by this Bellevue-Mondotte, it actually retains wonderful elegance and precision. You cannot help but be seduced by this Saint Emilion and its satin-like texture. This is not always my favorite wine from Gérard Perse, as my previous scores attest. However, this year the Bellevue-Mondotte has pulled off a very luxuriant 2016 with a greater sense of control, a wine that should drink beautifully for many years. Tasted twice with consistent notes.

Drink Date 2025 - 2060

95 - 97 Points

Château Valandraud

The 2016 Chateau Valandraud is a blend of 10% Cabernet Franc and 90% Merlot picked between 5 October to 15 October for the last Cabernet Franc, delivering 14.5% alcohol, less than in 2015. It has a very mineral-driven bouquet thanks to the limestone soils (please refer to the January 2017 issue of Wine Advocate where I examine the terroir of Valandraud). The palate is succulent on the entry with fine tannin, crisp and focused with superb definition, a little more finesse than the 2015 last year with a slightly confit-like finish that grips the mouth. It will require five or six years to really mellow and shave off those edges, but this will be a seductive 2016 from Jean-Luc Thunevin.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

95 - 97 Points

Château Clos Fourtet

The 2016 Clos Fourtet is a blend of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc aged in 60% new oak. It has a generous, well defined licorice-tinged fruit that is very focused. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, blackberry and boysenberry fruit with that salted licorice theme continuing. This Clos Fourtet has impressive concentration, yet there is real elegance and persistence, fanning out wonderfully towards the finish. Mathieu Cuvelier has overseen another outstanding Clos Fourtet. Tasted twice, with a second bottle demonstrating a tad more backbone but equally admirable.

Drink Date 2023 - 2055

95 - 97 Points

Château Belair-Monange

The 2016 Belair-Monange, the home of Edouard Moueix and his family, is a blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. It has a tightly wound bouquet with red and black fruit, touches of cedar and smoke developing in the glass, reticent at first but unfolding nicely in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with grippy tannin, a more structured and rigid Belair-Monange compared to recent vintages, adorned with fine salinity on the finish. It will require several years in bottle to show its best, but it will be worth waiting for.

Drink Date 2022 - 2056

94 - 96 Points


Château Grand-Mayne

The 2016 Grand-Mayne is a very different wine from those of old when sometimes it could be pushed too much in the winery. Certainly, the addition of Louis Mitjavile, François's son, has had a positive impact upon Grand-Mayne in the last two or three years. This is very elegant and refined, displaying more terroir characteristics with a gorgeous herbal lift, almost as if owner Jean-Antoine Nony had used some stems! The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, crisp acidity, almost Pomerol-like in style with more mineralité and refinement on the finish. This is a new style of Grand-Mayne, and frankly, it is one of the best I have tasted from this Saint Emilion estate.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

94 - 96 Points


Château La Clotte

The 2016 La Clotte is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc this year, picked on 12 October for the Merlot and 17 October for both Cabernets. Matured in 85% new oak, it has a fragrant bouquet with plenty of redcurrant, wild strawberry and rose petal notes, real gusto here but also elegance. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, a beautiful line of acidity, great substance and fine mineralité on the finish. La Clotte was in a poor state in terms of old and missing vines when the Vauthiers took over the property in 2014, but it is rapidly becoming one of their standout wines alongside Ausone. Superb.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

94 - 96 Points


Château Pavie-Macquin

The 2016 Pavie-Macquin is a blend of 82% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon matured in 50% new oak, picked from 7 October (with the young Merlot vines) until 22 October. The pH is 3.35 and it has 14.4% alcohol. I appreciate the intensity of this Pavie-Macquin. This is no shy retiring flower but comes out with cylinders pumping while maintaining the delineation, the detail that you look for. The palate is smooth and sensual on the entry, velvety in texture with plenty of luscious red berry fruit, vanilla and a hint of blueberry. It glides across the palate, the new oak neatly integrated. This is easily my pick of Nicolas Thienpont's 2016s and one of the best Pavie-Macquins that I have tasted at this stage.

Drink Date 2026 - 2050

94 - 96 Points


Château Troplong-Mondot

The 2016 Troplong-Mondot is a blend of 89% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc cropped at 48 hectoliters per hectare between 3-27 October, matured in 77% new oak. It has a decadent bouquet that seems to carry more alcohol than its peers, very pure and floral and miraculously managing to maintain satisfying delineation. The palate is underpinned by enormous tannins! This is a massive Troplong Mondot that is very dense and sinewy, a bit of a "bruiser" in its infancy. It exerts a vice-like grip in the mouth with layers of fruit laced with black pepper on the prolonged finish. What's the Spinal Tap quote about turning everything up to eleven? This is a Saint Emilion that will either transform into a legend or will topple over by the sheer weight of the tannins, which is why I gave a slightly enlarged banded score. I'll be fascinated to re-taste this in bottle.

Drink Date 2024 - 2045

93 - 96 Points


Château Beau-Sejour-Becot

The 2016 Beau-Sejour-Becot is a blend of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon cropped at 40 hectoliters per hectare, picked between 3-20 October. It has a very pure and precise bouquet, pure with joyful black cherries, blackcurrants, cedar and incense that is beautifully defined. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, very well balanced, sensual and lively with a gentle, caressing finish of cedar and tobacco. There is good structure here, a Saint Emilion that should age with style. This continues the upswing of Beau-Sejour-Becot.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

93 - 95 Points


Château Beausejour (Duffau Lagarrosse)

The 2016 Beausejour (Duffau Lagarrosse) is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc picked between 18 October and 21 October, matured in 55% new oak. The alcohol is 14.4%, with a pH of 3.38. It has a very perfumed bouquet with luscious red cherry and wild strawberry fruit, fine delineation, touches of truffle and smoke in the background. The palate is medium-bodied with very supple tannin that belie the structure of this Saint Emilion. This has a gorgeous salinity and spiciness that lend it character, very long and persistent with a tang of black pepper on the aftertaste. This is a step up from the 2015 last year and should rest at the top of my banded score once in bottle.

Drink Date 2021 - 2040

93 - 95 Points


Château Canon la Gaffeliere

The 2016 Canon la Gaffeliere is a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon (vines organically certified) picked from 26 September to 15 October and matured in 60% new oak. The yield is 42 hectoliters per hectare. This offers one of the most cerebral aromatics that I have encountered from this Saint Emilion estate: mineral-rich red and black fruit, quite edgy, almost flinty in style. I adore the focus of these aromas that are wired directly into the olfactory senses. The palate is very well balanced and governed by the Cabernet component. The black fruit is lifted by some lovely graphite notes that lend it a very Left Bank-like personality. It is fresh, taut and linear with a very persistent finish. Unlike other vintages of Canon la Gaffelière, I feel that this will require four to five years in bottle. As good as the 2015 last year, it might even surpass it.

Drink Date 2023 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château Chapelle d'Ausone

The 2016 Chapelle d'Ausone has the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc at 56% this year, complemented by 22% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon. Matured in 80% new oak, it has a very floral, incense and rose petal-scented bouquet that blossoms from the glass. There is an underlying mineral vein here, but it may take a few years to come out. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, crisp acidity, cohesive with good backbone, with fine salinité on the finish. It is just a fabulous Deuxième Vin.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

93 - 95 Points


Château l'If

The 2016 Chateau l'If, Jacques Thienpont's sister property to Le Pin, is pure Merlot picked on 19 and 20 October at 40 hectoliters per hectare and matured in 50% new oak, the remainder one year old. It delivers 14.5% alcohol with a pH of 3.38. It has a rich and opulent bouquet with crème de cassis and blueberry fruit, a little racy at first, but it seems to calm down in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with a silky texture and very well judged acidity. There is a little more body compared to the 2015 l'If, a bit more density with layers of black cherry and blueberry towards the long, very fresh finish. The 2015 l'If was great, but the 2016 could be even better.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

93 - 95 Points


Château Rocheyron

The 2016 Château Rocheyron was in fact the first sample that I tasted during my tastings. It is a blend of around 15% Cabernet Franc and the remainder Merlot, with a pH of 3.5 (a little higher than previous vintages) and 14% alcohol. My sample actually did not include one parcel that will be in the final blend, and Peter Sisseck told me that it will be matured in a tripartite proportion of new oak, used oak and in concrete tank, racking from one to the other throughout its élevage in order to retard the aging in barrel. He also informed that he did not de-leaf this year, which of course became crucial for protecting bunches in the latter half of the season. It has a gorgeous bouquet with extremely pure black cherries and boysenberry fruit, neatly assimilated with the new oak. The palate is extremely pure with intense black cherry and cassis fruit, pitch perfect acidity and superb precision on the satin-like finish. Unquestionably, this is the best Château Rocheyron made by Peter Sisseck thus far—and I write this having just tasted them all.

Drink Date 2022 - 2040

93 - 95 Points


Château Fonroque

The 2016 Fonroque, part of the portfolio of Alain Moueix, put in a killer performance this year. It has a lighter bouquet compared to its peers with dusky black fruit, quite tertiary and introverted at first, although it does gain more expression and vigor with time in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin on the entry, very refined and poised without compensating in terms of fruit. I adore the finish here, really sleek and stylish with very fine mineralité and classicism. Bravo Alain Moueix!

Drink Date 2021 - 2045

93 - 95 Points


Château La Mondotte

The 2016 La Mondotte is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc this year, picked between 29 September and 15 October and matured in 70% new oak. The alcohol level is around 14.5%. It has a lucid purple hue in the glass. The bouquet is very perfumed, very pure with luscious red cherries, blueberry and a hint of sloes, the new oak discrete and allowing the terroir to shine through perhaps more than the 2015 last year. The palate is silky smooth on the entry, but underneath the bonnet, there is considerable tannic backbone that certainly can be felt more towards the finish that exerts a light grip. In a strange way, it reminds me a little of Château Canon! Give this 4-5 years once in bottle.

Drink Date 2022 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château Larcis-Ducasse

The 2016 Larcis-Ducasse is a blend of 87% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc picked between 12-19 October, matured in 225- and 500-liter barrels. It matured in 50% new oak, which is a lower proportion than you would have found in 2009 or 2010. It has a lively, expressive bouquet with detailed blackberry, briary and cranberry aromas that are neatly embroidered with the new oak, allowing the terroir to show through. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, very well balanced, quite spicy and peppery in the mouth but maintaining satisfying tension from start to finish. This is a very well crafted Larcis-Ducasse although I hope that during the élevage it will just gain more persistence on the aftertaste. One to watch.

Drink Date 2022 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château Le Dome

The 2016 Le Dome is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot picked on 17 and 10 October, respectively, at 30 hectoliters per hectare and matured in 80% new oak. There is 15% alcohol this year. It has a very ripe and decadent bouquet with small black cherries, crushed violet and Indian ink, very open and intense. The palate is rounded on the entry with a lot of wood tannin on the entry that just dry out the second half. It is a voluminous Le Dôme, quite muscular, although I just found a touch of bitterness coming through on the finish.

Drink Date 2022 - 2040

93 - 95 Points


Château Trottevieille

The 2016 Trottevieille is a blend of 45% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon and 53% Cabernet Franc picked on 6 October for the Merlot and 18 October for the Cabernets, one of the latest in recent years. The yield was 37 hectoliters per hectare, and it is matured entirely in new oak. The bouquet is quite intense, although personally I would have employed less new oak. However, it does open up nicely in the glass and imparts nuances such as orange blossom and incense aromas with time. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, well judged acidity, and here I feel the oak is simpatico with the fruit. It has a lovely grainy texture, great depth and maintains precision all the way through to the finish. This is a strong follow-up to the 2015 Trottevieille although it will require several years in bottle to subsume the oak.

Drink Date 2025 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Château Badette

The 2016 Badette is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, the first time that the latter has been used. This has a lovely bouquet with superb delineation, so vivid and lively with ebullient red cherries mixed with strawberry and subtle cassis notes, the 50% new oak neatly integrated. The palate is well balanced with fine, slightly grainy tannin, crisp acidity and a dash of black pepper on the finish. I liked the 2014, I liked the 2015 and guess what? I like the 2016.

Drink Date 2021 - 2045

92 - 94 Points


Château Quintus

The 2016 Chateau Quintus, of course under the umbrella of Domaine Clarence Dillon (Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion), is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc picked between 3 and 20 October. This is the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc since the debut in 2011. Matured in just under 30% new oak, it has a slightly broody bouquet at first with black fruit and hints of allspice and clove. The palate is nicely structured, with the Cabernet Franc lending this impressive backbone (more than the 2015) and a slightly masculine, grippy finish that suggests it will be a long-term proposition. Excellent.

Drink Date 2022 - 2040

92 - 94 Points


Château Chauvin

The 2016 Chauvin, owned by Sylvie Cazes, has a nicely detailed bouquet with blackberry, iris and bay leaf aromas, more understated than the 2015 Chauvin and perhaps more detailed. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, supple tannin, plenty of slightly tarry black fruit but with great structure and focus on the lightly spiced finish. This may be the best vintage that I have tasted in recent vintages, and it should age with style.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

92 - 94 Points