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Neal Martin - Saint Julien

Neal Martin - Saint Julien

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Château Leoville-Las Cases

The 2016 Leoville-Las Cases comprises 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc picked between 30 September and 19 October, during which the harvesters were out in the vines for 16 days. It is matured in 90% new oak and delivers 13.60% alcohol and an IPT of 82. It is initially tightly coiled on the nose and needed coaxing from the glass. There are scents of small black cherries, boysenberry, crushed violets and a slight flintiness that emerges with time. The definition is very impressive—you can almost pick the aromas out one by one. The palate is awe-inspiring. The tannins are so filigree, in fact not dissimilar to their neighbor across the border at Château Latour. That seam of graphite lends this Léoville Las-Cases a Pauillac-like personality, but ignoring stylistic similarities, it is the intensity, depth and arching structure that astounds, with detail on the finish that rivets your feet to the spot. Then the finish is ultra-precise, one of the most mineral-driven that I have encountered in almost 20 years visiting the estate, plus it is endowed with one the longest aftertastes you will find in 2016. Yeah, it’s good.

Drink Date 2030 - 2070

98 - 100 Points

Château Beychevelle

The 2016 Beychevelle is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc cropped at 45 hectoliters per hectare between 3 October and 18 October. It is matured in 50% new oak. Furthermore, it is the first vintage to be matured in the new chichi winery whose glass exterior overlooks the passing traffic on the D2. It has a very pure, fragrant bouquet with black cherries, cassis, cedar and wet limestone, extremely precise to the point where you might think it was from the Right Bank (logical given the proportion of Merlot in the blend). The palate is sensational: understated at first and bridled with ultra-fine tannin, it is a Beychevelle armed with a disarming sense of symmetry. It builds in the mouth towards a fabulously tensile finish that is so fresh and full of energy that the senses are almost overwhelmed. Frankly, it leaves all the other Beychevelles in recent years standing. This is an electrifying 2016 from winemaker Philippe Blanc and his right-hand man, technical director, Romain Ducolomb.

Drink Date 2026 - 2060

96 - 98 Points

Château Ducru Beaucaillou

The 2016 Ducru Beaucaillou is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot cropped at 36 hectoliters per hectare between 24 September and 14 October and matured in 100% new oak barrels (for a total of 18 months). The alcohol level comes in at 13.63% with a pH of 3.71. The bouquet is very closed at first, and so I aerated the Grand Vin by transferring from one glass to another. It gradually unfurls to reveal scents of blackberry, bilberry, cedar and a touch of pencil lead. The palate is medium-bodied with a firm backbone cloaked in layers of black fruit. The new oak is probably more present here than some of its peers, but there is more than sufficient substance to absorb that. The mineralité surfaces right towards the persistent finish, completing what is a Ducru Beaucaillou built for the long term.

Drink Date 2026 - 2065

96 - 98 Points

Château Leoville-Poyferre

The 2016 Leoville-Poyferre is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Didier Cuvelier told me that color leeched out naturally and he conducted an 8 day pre-fermentation maceration. Matured in 80% new oak with some malolactic in barrel, it has a typical bouquet for this estate with opulent but neatly controlled, billowing scents of black cherries, black plum, crème de cassis and violets. The palate is beautifully balanced with fine tannin, a killer line of acidity and perhaps one of the most harmonious Poyferré that I have encountered at this juncture. It just glides across the mouth and slips down the throat with consummate ease. Superb.

Drink Date 2024 - 2060

95 - 97 Points

Château Lagrange

The 2016 Lagrange is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot that is matured in 50% new oak. The yield came in at 46.5 hectoliters per hectare, lower than in 2015. It has a very well defined bouquet with intense black cherry, red plum, touches of cedar and with continued aeration, a hint of blueberry. It certainly is one of the most expressive Lagrange that I have tasted (and I write that having tasted them all back to the early 1980s). The palate is extremely well balanced with tensile tannin, vibrant and animated with blackberry, crème de cassis, a hint of orange zest. This is a great Lagrange, one that almost “zings” around the senses, barely able to contain the energy. A superior Lagrange to the 2015, this may well rank as the finest produced.

Drink Date 2025 - 2060

94 - 96 Points

Château Saint-Pierre

The 2016 Chateau Saint-Pierre is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc picked between 29 September and 3 October for the Merlot and 5-17 October for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is matured is 50% new oak. The Cabernet comes through strongly on the nose as you would expect: quite intense black fruit, graphite and just a touch of dried herbs. There is lovely definition and focus on display. The palate is well balanced with grainy tannin, a crisp line of acidity, classic in style in keeping with the style of the vintage with very fine mineralité and tension towards the sprightly finish. It is one of the most Pauillac-like Château Saint-Pierres that I have tasted, a very well crafted, almost understated but sophisticated wine that will age for 20 to 30 years. This is a fantastic Saint Julien that may well rest at the top of my banded score.

Drink Date 2022 - 2050

94 - 96 Points


Château Clos du Marquis

The 2016 Clos du Marquis was picked from 30 September to 19 October and consists of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, matured in 55% new oak. Yields came in at 40 hectoliters per hectare and the alcohol at 13.55%. The bouquet is very intense at the moment with small black cherries, incense, iris and a touch of shucked oyster shells. The palate is beautiful, perhaps one of the most powerful that I came across in Saint Julien, certainly no shy retiring flower, yet it effortlessly manages to retain the precision and tension one expects from this cru. There is a firm back bone here, but the tannins are so precise that you barely notice, while the aftertaste has superb salinity. This is a majestic Clos du Marquis, but it will require several years in the cellar.

Drink Date 2025 - 2055

93 - 95 Points


Château Gloria

The 2016 Gloria is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 7% Cabernet Franc that was picked from 29 September until 17 October. It is matured in slightly less oak than the Saint-Pierre, at 40%. This is a little more backward and broody compared to the Saint-Pierre and indeed its Saint Julien peers, demanding more coaxing from the glass. It almost reluctantly unfolds and unveils subtle pencil box and dry tobacco aromas. The palate is more outgoing than the aromatics with a vibrant, almost citrus-fresh opening, tensile tannins and a satisfying sense of energy. This feels nimble and agile in the mouth with a touch of white pepper lingering on the aftertaste. You come away with the feeling that this Gloria has something up its sleeve for those with patience to cellar it for eight to ten years.

Drink Date 2024 - 2060

93 - 95 Points


Château Gruaud Larose

The 2016 Gruaud Larose is a blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc this year, picked between 29 September until 15 October (with the Petit Verdot) and matured in 80% new oak, the remainder one or two years old. The alcohol is a modest 13.02%. It has a generous bouquet with scents of blackberry, briary, a touch of sandalwood and tobacco, gaining more precision as it aerates in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, certainly one of the most finessed Gruaud Larose in recent years, with perfectly judged acidity. I love the focus here, a little understated at first but you cannot deny the intensity and precision on the finish. Moreover, this seems to be a slightly more detailed Gruaud, nuanced and long in the mouth. Excellent—and I suspect it might be a little more approachable than some of its peers.

Drink Date 2023 - 2060

93 - 95 Points


Château Leoville-Barton

The 2016 Leoville-Barton is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot picked from 29 September until 13 October, matured in 60% new oak and delivering 13% alcohol. It has a more intense bouquet compared to the Langoa-Barton, plenty of intense blackberry and raspberry fruit, minerals, cedar and a hint of licorice. The palate is a little chewy on the entry with good grip in the mouth. This demonstrates the backbone of the finish, just the right amount of spiciness with excellent salinity on the long finish. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime Leoville Barton, but (as usual) it just seems to do everything right. Maybe it's not quite up there with the stellar 2015 Léoville Barton, which I re-tasted at the time, but it is not far off.

Drink Date 2026 - 2055

93 - 95 Points