L'Assemblage Blog

Bordeaux 2016 – First Impressions

Posted on 21/04/17, filed under Bordeaux | No Comments

The Bordeaux 2016 Vintage – A classic with exceptional balance and finesse

In the first week of April we made our annual pilgrimage down to Bordeaux to taste hundreds of barrel samples, especially as 2016 has been hyped as the best of a trio of consecutively fine vintages. We weren’t disappointed.  Certainly the 2014s, now in bottle and landed, surprised us with their cool fruit, solid expressions and fair value. The 2015s are more powerful in body and structure from a warmer, riper vintage. These 2016s have the attributes of both these vintages, being so precise with exceptional balance and finesse. In years to come this classic will sit beside the best vintages.

Such greatness is rarely achieved without a struggle. Most vignerons fear heavy rains just before the onset of harvest, especially when the grapes have not reached full maturity and the threat of mildew lulls. Some 30-40mm of rain fell on September 13th. This welcome storm refreshed the vines as little more than a drop had fallen since June.

Bordeaux had suffered its wettest spring in years but lower than average temperatures increased the threat of downy mildew. Repeated spraying was necessary in most areas. Fortunately there was a successful flowering season, promising a bountiful crop until dry hot weather hit from June 23rd. For the next three months the whole region experienced one of its longest droughts recorded. Ripening ground to a halt among the most stressed vines, most noticeably on the sandier free draining soils. Alexandre Thienpont of Vieux Chateau Certan likened their conditions to those of the dry 1947 vintage and Chateau Margaux had to carefully treat their recent vine plantings. Those with deep roots were able to tap into the water reserves, especially in the northern Médoc appellations of St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. 

Miraculously the heavens opened and kick started the whole ripening process again. The rains refreshed the vines and plumped up the berries. Normally the bunches would have been ready by mid September but many had to leave their grapes on the vine until mid October, to achieve optimum fruit and tannin ripeness. A clear dry autumn helped.

Although the summer was dry it was not too hot. Fresher nights helped to preserve the aromatics and acid balance in the wines. Fortunately the concentration was partially diluted by the rains, giving wines that are medium full with vibrant pure fruit and textured ripe tannins, energised by spritely acidity and moderate alcohols. The resulting wines are generally not as full and powerful as the 2015s but have freshness, aromatics and a fine balance between cool fruit purity and terroir expression.  The Cabernet dominant blends excelled most with many wonderful wines down the whole classification hierarchy to Bordeaux AOC, a clear sign of a great vintage.

The dry whites are good for short to mid- term drinking with Sauternes and Barsac enjoying another fine vintage for full bodied sweet wines.

Prices usually rise with every great vintage regardless of any economic and financial instability in the world. We know that most chateaux enjoyed higher than average yields and we rely on le place to negotiate fair pricing. The trade needs a successful en primeur campaign. As always, we will buy selectively, focussing on genuine value compared with other vintages currently available. 

Our complete tasting notes will be available soon.

Chateau Latour 2016

Chateau Latour made a fantastic 2016. Our top wine of the vintage.

Carmes Barrel Facility 2016

Chateau Carmes Haut Brion 2016

Famous architect Philippe Stark, has designed this practical new barrel facility at Ch Carmes Haut Brion maximising the limited space in their small valuable vineyard. Another great vintage from here.

Tasting Calon Segur 2016

Value for money, you can’t go wrong with Ch Calon-Segur. One of the stars of the vintage.

Alexandre Thienpont

Alexandre Thienpont of Vieux Chateau Certan made one of Pomerol’s finest in 2016, despite the drought conditions that threatened his vines.

Domaine Romanée-Conti 2014 – A tasting of their latest releases

Posted on 13/02/17, filed under Burgundy, Wine Tasting | No Comments

Despite some dramatic climatic conditions, the 2014 finished on a positive note for DRC. A long tumultuous growing season ended with an Indian summer of sunny, warm, dry weather. Then came the cool cleansing northerly winds to dry the deep coloured bunches. The harvest started around the 16th September in Corton and finished with Le Montrachet on the 22nd. Vinifications under the watchful eye of Bernard Noblet, ensured a long secondary fermentation in oak casks before a final bottling in Spring 2016.

Here are my notes on the main grand crus. We know 2014 was a magnificent vintage for white burgundy but not quite as big and ripe as 2015 for the Pinot Noir. However, these '14s display the pure terroir expression of a cool, classic vintage and have the fruit, acidity and tannin balance required for ageing. We have tasted some seriously fine reds in this vintage with DRC and a hand-full of other growers leading the field.


Deep red with a bouquet of wild strawberry, briars, incense and hedgerow. Earthy sour cherry and berry fruit, herbal notes with mineral edge . Robust, medium full with firm tannins for now. 89+ GW


Fresh raspberry and blackberry with floral notes. Textured slightly sour fruit with notes of tobacco, dry tannins with a metallic earthy finish. 88+ GW


Aromas of rose, scorched earth and berry fruit in the background. Currants, all spice, herbal with textured tannins constructing a profound medium bodied expression of this great grand cru. Clearly defined layers energised by precise acidity and a mineral tension that compels you to take another sip. Seriously sophisticated. 94+ GW


Wonderful aromas of sweet raspberry, cinnamon and cherry. A full palate displays generous sweet fruit with a saline mineral edge. Seductive, very finely textured tannins, mixed spice and acidity that lifts the finish. Superb example. Drink from 2020+ 95 GW


Deep bright ruby, some nice ripe red fruits though restrained, especially in the mid palate. The tannins are finely textured but there is a solid compact mid palate with brisk acidity on the finish. This is layered but so closed that it will take at least 5 years to come round. 94+ GW

La Tâche

Deep red hues. Light sour cherry fruit, floral hints and cinnamon spice on the aromatics. Earthy restrained fruit with tea leaf nuances. Intense but austere at present with a solid depth of finely textured tannins. Layers of complexity but disjointed and will need 3-4 years to integrate. Great potential though. 95+GW


Intense aromas of earth, briars, rose and dusky fruit beneath. Powerful sinews of sour edged fruit, raspberry and blackberry pith that tastes a little austere now. This sits between layers of earthy minerality, mixed herbs, sappy tannins from the wood and stems. Not bitter but dry and savoury. This is packed with flavour, compelling complexity with a prominent acidity that projects a long lateral finish. Awkward, brooding and introverted for now but given another 5-7 years, the components should weld together to form a truly classic terroir driven style. 96+ GW

Notes and scores by Guy Willings

THE FINE WINE MARKET – Winter 2016 to 2017

Posted on 12/11/16, filed under Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, News | No Comments
There has been a dramatic shift in the value of the pound since the referendum, demand is high and our international sales have grown significantly. We are optimistic that despite the economic challenges ahead, there are some great recent vintages to sell from the classic regions of France and beyond. The 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages maybe variable in quantity but outstanding in quality. Fair pricing and slight inflation will help supply and demand forces thrive.
Good back vintages are rising in value regardless as they are available now, ready to drink and dwindling in supply. Many of our clients who bought wine en primeur over the years are now selling back to us and making very healthy returns.
If you have fine wines surplus to your requirements please contact us for a competitive quotation. We often pay above auction hammer prices for good provenance stock.