Each year, in early autumn, British Columbia Liquor Stores begin to offer the latest vintage release of wines from Bordeaux. The highly anticipated 2016 release will be available September 28.
Since 2010, Barbara Philip, the curator and category manager of European wines for BCLS, has selected the offerings put on sale. It’s a huge task for Philip, who was the first designated Master of Wine in Western Canada. She chose the wines for this week’s 2016 release in the spring, during the annual En Primeur Week in Bordeaux, where buyers from around the world come to taste young wines from the region and place orders three years in advance of their delivery.
“It’s difficult to do,” Philip admitted during a recent tasting of some of these statuesque and soon-to-be-unveiled wines. Tasting between 500 and 800 wines in a week is undoubtedly daunting, especially when they are young and tightly wound, and Philip has to carefully gauge the quality of the vintage she’s buying. “I look at wines that have proven themselves in our market, yes, but I go from appellation to appellation and see which ones stand out,” she explains. “In a great vintage, even the value wines are good.”
Bordelaise wines, like all wines, are impacted by vintage variation; climatic conditions can make or break a year. Yet even for Bordeaux, which manages to maintain demand even in a so-so vintage, a good year is cause for celebration. Philip feels the 2016s are the best she has ever bought for BCLS—in fact she bet heavy, purchasing 12,000 cases, her largest amount ever.
From the 216 different labels being offered (of those, 34 are Bordeaux blancs and sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac), standouts include L’Esprit de Chevalier Blanc from Pessac-Léognan. Made from sauvignon blanc and Sémillon, it seduces with dried white flowers, honey, and hazelnut aromas. The long finish is mouthwatering.
At the premium end, Château Margaux is the most complete and harmonious. It is silky and finely woven, and shows unquestionable finesse and length. Meanwhile, the decidedly modern Château Beychevelle, from Saint-Julien, proclaims inky purple fruits, supported by leather and earthy aromas. It has beautiful levity and holds the promise of longevity for those who age their wines.
Indisputably pretty and buoyant, the Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe is laden with plush purple and red fruits. It’s also chic and juicy, and has impressive structure. The Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste is classic Pauillac—expect suppleness, weight, and balance. Earthy and spicy with graphite notes, it has a complex palate. Philip declares it “a wine-lover’s wine.”
And if you’re looking for a great Bordeaux starter wine that offers good value, Château de La Dauphine from Fronsac delivers rich notes of dried roses, black fruits, licorice, and earth. The palate is supple and packs a lot into every mouthful.
Whether you are a new collector or a connoisseur of Bordeaux wines, there is a 2016 vintage bottle for everyone.
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