As you may well know, we have been waiting to receive the second tranche of Château Lafite-Rothschild 2016 as the initial release represented a small volume of stock. We now have details and I am pleased to offer what various commentators regard as the wine of the vintage at £2900 per 6 bottle case in bond. Indeed, a survey of all merchant members of the Liv-ex exchange revealed this to be the wine of the vintage.
The price from the estate is carefully pitched and it offers some value against the 2009 and 2010 vintages which are currently trading at £7,400 and £6,900 per 12 respectively. The 2016 certainly ranks among these great vintages and it is encouraging to see Neal Martin acknowledge that Lafite is typically slow to show its colours. One senses that he believes it will merit a higher score in time. It is fascinating to see the contrast in views to James Suckling, who awarded the unfinished barrel sample he tasted a straight 100-point score.
I think it is worth re-iterating the fact that 2016 is a highly unusual vintage, an unexpected return to a more classical style of Bordeaux – notably on the Left Bank and moreover, in the Northern Médoc, where Pauillac and St.Estèphe represented two sweet spots in this vintage. The lower alcohol levels and freshness that the best Cabernet Sauvignon achieved make for a striking sense of balance and poise. The resultant style has an effortless concentration and remarkable refinement. I have no doubt that the best of the vintage, such as Château Lafite-Rothschild, will rank as some of the very finest wines of the last two decades. ‘Fine’ is truly the word for the greatest 2016s and I do not expect the unusual vintage conditions that have led to such successes being replicated frequently in subsequent vintages as Bordeaux vintages have tended to be warmer and resultant in bolder styles.
As to Lafite itself, I’ll let the following three critics comment on its undeniable qualities.
2016 Château Lafite-Rothschild, 1er Cru Classé, Pauillac
£2900 per 6 bottle case in bond
(96-98) points, Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
The 2016 Lafite-Rothschild is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot picked from 23 September until 12 October with the Cabernet Sauvignon (and unused Petit Verdot). It has 13.3% alcohol, a pH of 3.65 and the IPT of 74. Matured in 100% new oak, it has a fresh and vibrant bouquet whilst retaining the classicism of this First Growth. This is more subtle than Mouton-Rothschild or Latour, which is always the case at en primeur, yet there is a brooding intensity that draws you in as it unveils some gorgeous blackberry and graphite aromas. The palate is just superb. This has more density, more vigor, more depth and you could even argue more ambition than the 2015 Lafite-Rothschild showed last year. It gently grips the mouth with unerring focus and symmetry, just a touch of spiciness developing with a long, saline finish that lingers two minutes after the wine has departed. Lafite-Rothschild always develops and meliorates in barrel during its élevage and I suspect this will ultimately turn out to be a regal Lafite-Rothschild. Drink : 2030-2070.
100 points, James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Even stronger and more toned than the excellent 2015, this Lafite shows incredible power yet also finesse. Full-bodied, superfine and chewy wine. Muscular yet agile. Goes on for minutes. Stunning. Perhaps the greatest Lafite since the legendary 1959?
(95-98) points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
The 2016 Lafite-Rothschild is polished, silky and captivatingly beautiful. There is a level of precision to the flavors that is simply mind-blowing. Even so, the 2016 remains ethereal and light on its feet, with all the grace of a ballerina. I imagine the 2016 will develop into a stunning wine once it comes together a bit more fully. Even so, it is striking today.
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