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Neal Martin - Saint-Estèphe

Neal Martin - Saint-Estèphe

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Château Cos d’Estournel

The 2016 Cos d’Estournel takes the 2016 baton and runs with it. A blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc that was picked between 26 September and 15 October at 45 hectoliters per hectare, this fabulous Saint Estèphe will be matured in 60% new oak. The alcohol level this year is 13.07%, which proprietor Michel Reybier reminded me is almost 1.5% lower than in 2010. This is clearly a more classically styled Cos d’Estournel that is completely different than say, the 2009 Cos d’Estournel and the more flamboyant, exotic wines in recent years. It actually bears more stylistic similarities to its neighbor Montrose. It is extremely detailed with blackberry and a touch of boysenberry, the fruit almost “creeping up” on you by stealth and then underneath, an undertow of minerals, wet limestone and even flint. The palate has astonishing: exquisite balance, perhaps the most precise and detailed Cos d’Estournel that I have encountered in many years of tasting at this address. It segues into a Pauillac-like second-half with veins of graphite strafing the black fruit, but what marks this Cos d’Estournel is the palpable energy and tension allied with an effortless nature. The persistence, the reverberation in the mouth is quite magnificent, perhaps even longer on my second visit to the property compared to the first. It really is a brilliant Cos d’Estournel that oozes class and sophistication, moreover, a wine that is going to give serious amounts of drinking pleasure over a very long period of time. Boom—and Cos drops the mic. Tasted twice, almost three weeks apart, with consistent notes.

Drink Date 2026 - 2065

98 - 100 Points

Château Montrose

The 2016 Montrose is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc (no Petit Verdot this year) picked between 23 September to 14 October and matured in 60% new oak. It has a very sophisticated bouquet with blackberry, briary, a touch of blue fruit and violets. Sometimes this Saint Estèphe can be a little broody at en primeur, but this certainly is more expressive, maintaining very fine delineation and precision, unfolding with each swirl of the glass and revealing a hidden graphite/marine influence. The palate is very fresh on the entry. The first facet of this wine that strikes you is the freshness that lasts from start to finish. This is an animated, vivacious Montrose that starts in almost understated fashion yet builds in the mouth towards what is almost a sensual finish, not a descriptor often applied to Montrose. It is a disarmingly and hauntingly beautiful 2016, extremely long and the aftertaste lasting two or three minutes. NB This is one example where I felt my second visit, over a fortnight after the first, revealed a wine with much greater potential, and I therefore raised my banded score accordingly.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

97 - 99 Points

Château Calon Segur

The 2016 Calon Segur is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot cropped at 42 hectoliters per hectare between 29 September and 15 October (finishing with the Cabernets and the Petit Verdot). Notice that Cabernet Franc, which excelled not just here but around Saint Estèphe in this vintage, given that there was not a drop in the 2015. It has a very elegant bouquet, very pure with small macerated black cherries, blueberry, a hint of licorices and juniper berries, all effortlessly detailed and exuding what I term “controlled opulence.” The palate is medium-bodied with a sense of symmetry on the entry, the acidity very well judged and the tannins far less rustic than the Calon-Ségurs of old. What I like about this Calon-Ségur is that it could not come from anywhere apart from Saint Estèphe: that structure, that obduracy counterbalanced by the opulence bestowed by the growing season. There is freshness locked in here from start to finish, with a subtle tang of seaweed and black pepper on the long aftertaste. For me this is a serious step up from the 2015, and the structure augurs a Calon-Ségur destined to last as long as those legendary wines from the 1920s and 1940s. Chapeau to winemaker Vincent Millet and estate director Laurent Dufau. This is easily the best Calon-Ségur that I have tasted from barrel.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

95 - 97 Points

Château Les Ormes de Pez

The 2016 Les Ormes de Pez is a blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 52% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot picked from 28 September until 12 October. It has an impressive bouquet: blackcurrants, boysenberry and crème de cassis, all with very well integrated new oak. There is a lot of panache here, a word perhaps I have not associated with this Saint Estèphe in recent years. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, a lovely grainy texture, quite pure with lovely blackberry, melted tar and slightly savory, almost meaty notes. Harmonious right to the end, this is an excellent Les Ormes de Pez that seems to revel in the 2016 vintage. This might be one of the best wines from the estate.

Drink Date 2022 - 2045

92 - 94 Points