During my recent tastings of the 2014 vintage (report to come very soon) I found myself heading out from Château La Mission Haut-Brion, where I had just finished tasting all the Domaine Clarence Dillon wines (so Château Haut-Brion as well, reds, whites and second wines, and Château Quintus too) in the direction of Château d’Yquem. My route took me past the gate of Château Brown (well, almost – maybe just a small detour). What else to do but call in and see how the 2014 Château Brown was tasting?
I tasted the red 2014 with proprietor Jean-Christophe Mau (pictured below). There was no chance of tasting the white; this cuvée is in great demand, and Jean-Christophe was entirely sold out. That gave me a few minutes of free time, so I thought I had better ask how the 2016 vintage was looking. After all, in a region known for its hyperbole, you can rely on Jean-Christophe for an honest, no-nonsense appraisal of things.
Me: Can you please tell me a little about 2016?
J-C: The 2016 vintage is a bigger style than 2015. I have tasted them side by side. In 2016 the acidity is higher, presumably because of the stress in vineyard. We had a long dry summer, and the vines shut down in these conditions. From September onwards we had some rain, but the time between the arrival of the rain and the need to pick was too short for the vines to be able to get the acids down.
The tannins feel large, but it is difficult to say more at the moment. I will look at the tannins again after a year of evolution. But with these tannins and acidity the wine should keep well.
Me: What about picking and alcohol levels?
J-C: We started picking the reds on October 3rd, and finished on October 22nd. Obviously the whites were picked much earlier than that. In 2016 the alcohols varied at picking between 14.5% and 15%. This is for Château Brown of course. I can’t comment on other châteaux and what they have in 2016, but I assume it is something similar.
Me: Is it better than 2015?
J-C: I think to say 2016 is better right now is a little arrogant. We will need to wait and see.
Me: Although you sold Château Preuillac, in the Médoc, I know you still manage it for the new owner. How did the vintage go up there?
J-C: We had a similar experience at Preuillac, although we started picking slightly later, starting October 6th and finishing October 21st. I think here 2016 could be a great vintage. We haven’t finished the malolactic fermentations yet, but it seems like the quality is very good.
Me: Thanks Jean-Christophe.
These early Bordeaux 2016 reports are essentially funded by Winedoctor subscribers, the first purpose of this latest trip to Bordeaux having been to taste 2014s for a forthcoming report on that vintage. If you find these reports interesting, please consider taking out a subscription to Winedoctor, for just £4.50 per month (or £45 per annum).