HDH Wine
     
 

Ben Nelson Reflects on the Greatness of 2016

A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful time touring the Médoc with a group of very knowledgeable wine friends. While we had the good fortune to try many older vintages, I was particularly excited to taste some of the top wines made in 2016. I believe last year in the Northern Médoc, where the Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested under perfect conditions, some future legends of Bordeaux were made.

To understand what makes 2016 great, it’s important also to understand how it differs from 2009, 2010 and 2015. 2009 is all about ripeness, with wines impressively packed with ripe fruit and high alcohol levels. They are showy, in-your-face, and full of pleasure. The 2010s have the fruit and alcohol levels of the 2009s, but with a compelling freshness on the finish that balances the fruit and provides a perfect sense of structure. (That’s why, with certain exceptions, I generally prefer the 2010s over the 2009s.) In 2015 there were some truly great wines from the right bank, Graves, and Margaux where the weather was nearly perfect. In the Northern Médoc, however, it rained just as picking was underway, so while those wines are wonderful, they ended up a notch below perfection.

In 2016 by contrast, the last half of the growing season was dry, with timely rain showers, sunny days, and cool nights into October. These conditions made for that perfectly ripe Cabernet Sauvignon that is the backbone of the best wines made in 2016. Alcohol levels are 1-1.5 degrees lower in 2016 than in 2009 and 2010, with gorgeous pure fruit flavors, perfectly ripe tannins, and a precision and structure that evokes the 2010s, but in a much more subtle, complex style. While it would be a stretch to call a Cabernet-based northern Médoc wine “Burgundian,” the wines do show precision, purity and transparency, which are all descriptors used more often in Burgundy. What struck me the most about my favorite wines was the precision of the super-intense, pure fruit flavors on the mid-palate, and the long, long finishes. If the 2009 and 2010 were showy and hedonistic, then 2016 approaches the sublime. I said “wow” to myself a number of times (and even a couple of times out loud).

I highly recommend that you add some of these to your collection. We sold a record number of futures this year, and many of the top wines have either sold out or are in short supply. Our team has worked very hard to obtain nice allocations for you, and we hope you will enjoy owning these remarkable wines for decades to come.

I didn’t have the chance to taste the vintage exhaustively as we were on a more leisurely tour, but I want to share some of my favorites:
 
 
Wine
 
 
Case Price
 
     
 
Château Mouton Rothschild (6 bottle case)
 
 
$3,270
 
 
BUY
 
 
This is our top selling wine by value this year, which is understandable as nearly every professional reviewer who tasted it gave it a 100-point score. The sample I tasted was massive, tannic, and really tight. While it is clearly a monster wine, it was hard to taste. My score: 96-98+ (100 JS, 98-100 WA).We have a bit of this wine left at first tranche pricing.
 
 
Château Pichon-Longueville, Lalande
 
 
$1,968
 
 
BUY
 
 
Our second best-selling wine by both volume and value, the 2016 Pichon Lalande is a spectacular wine that I believe will be Nicolas Glumineau's first 100-point wine since he took over four years ago. It is all about precision, balance, and persistence. While it hasn't lost the finesse of Lalande, it has an extra dimension of power and depth that makes it truly special. This is the best wine from this Château since the great 1982, and in my opinion, probably the greatest Pichon Lalande ever made. My score: 98-100 (97-100 AG, 96-98 WA). We have sold nearly 200 cases of this wine, and when the last of our stock is sold out, it will be impossible for us to get more.
 
 
Château Montrose
 
 
$1,990
 
 
BUY
 
 
This is our top selling wine by volume and our third best-selling wine by value. Montrose has been on a roll, making some of the highest rated wines in Bordeaux since 2009, and in my opinion, operating at a first growth level. This was one of my wow wines. I love the 100-point rated 2010 Montrose, but I found this wine to be more refined with a longer finish and a blast of beautiful fruit in the mouth. If the 2009 and 2010 are 100 points, then I have no idea how this couldn't be. My score: 98-100 (97-99 WA, 97-98 JS).We are sold out of this wine at first tranche and nearly sold out at second tranche.
 
 
Château Léoville Las Cases
 
 
$2,880
 
 
BUY
 
 
This is our third best-selling wine by volume, and fourth by value. The 2016 Léoville Las Cases is about as sure a thing as you can buy in 2016. If you can't stomach the prices of the first growths, but want an unquestionably stunning wine from a first growth caliber terroir, then the Léoville Las Cases is for you. I can't imagine a better place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere in the world, and this is a perfect year for Cab. A super structured, long, pure wine that is very Léoville Las Cases but with no rough edges, this is a wine that will keep more or less forever. My score: 98-100 (98-100 WA, 98-99 JS).We have sold most of our allocation of this wine.
 
 
Château Margaux (6 bottle case)
 
 
$3,354
 
 
BUY
 
 
Our fourth bestselling wine by value. I must say that while I agree with everyone that the 2015 Margaux has the edge, I cannot say anything bad about the 2016. It's sort of unfair to compare them. While the 2015 is assuredly a 100-point wine, this is surely a 98 or 99-point wine at the least. Flawless and very pretty, I would imagine the best move if you can afford it is to own them both. My score: 97-99 (97-100 AG, 97-99 WA).
 
 
Château Lynch-Bages
 
 
$1,548
 
 
SOLD OUT
 
 
Our fourth best-selling wine by volume, and it would have been higher, but sadly we cannot find any more to sell! This was a gorgeous Pauillac and one of the greatest Lynch-Bages ever made. If you can find some, you should buy it, but it is unfortunately sold out at HDH. My score: 97-99 (98-99 JS, 97-99 WA).
 
 
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
 
 
$2,220
 
 
BUY
 
 
This is our sixth best-selling wine by volume. This is a monster wine, and I cannot lie... it was a bit tough for me to taste. While it is clearly a powerful wine, it was so closed that it was hard for me to get a read on it. It would be difficult for me to imagine this won’t be great considering the vintage and the terroir. My score: 95-97+ (97-98 JS, 96-98 WA). One to lay down for a long time...
 
 
Château Palmer
 
 
$3,768
 
 
BUY
 
 
This is in our top ten by both value and volume. In my opinion, this is the best Palmer I have ever tasted en primeur. While it would be hard to say it is better than the 2015, I cannot think of a bad thing to say about it. My score: 97-99 (99-100 JS, 95-98 AG). We are down to the last of our allocation of this beautiful wine.
 
 
Château Beychevelle
 
 
$936
 
 
BUY
 
 
This was the best value wine of the Northern Medoc, certainly the best Beychevelle ever made, and a steal at under $1000 a case. If you want to own a great wine from the 2016 vintage and not pay a fortune for it, this is the wine to buy. We are down to our last cases of this wine and when it is gone, we will not be able to get more. My score: 95-97 (96-98 WA, 94-95 JS).
 
 
Château Pontet-Canet
 
 
$1,608
 
 
BUY
 
 
The Pontet-Canet didn't come out with great fanfare upon release, but it has been our hottest selling wine of late because it was the surprise wine of the trip for me, and I have been telling everyone I know to buy it. While the 2009 and 2010 both received 100 points, this to me is by far the best Pontet-Canet I have ever tasted. While I find those wines to be a bit over the top for my tastes, the 2016 is a gorgeous, pure, stunning wine of precision, length and an inner mouth perfume that I cannot get out of my head. Back in 2010 the Montrose was the wine I couldn't stop thinking about when I came home. In 2016, that wine, for me, is the Pontet-Canet. This is $1000/cs cheaper than the 2009 and 2010, and is what I think a 100-point wine should be. Highly recommended, my wow wine of the trip. My score: 98-100 (98-99 JS, 96-99 AG).
 
 
  2016 Wines in Limited Supply:
 
 
Wine
 
 
Rating
 
 
Case Price
 
     
 
Château Ausone (6 bottle case)
 
 
98-100 WA
 
 
$4,650
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Beychevelle
 
 
96-98 WA
 
 
$936
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Branaire-Ducru
 
 
95-96 JS
 
 
$660
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Cheval Blanc (6 bottle case)
 
 
97-99 WA
 
 
$3,990
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château La Conseillante
 
 
99-100 JS
 
 
$2,400
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Gruaud Larose
 
 
95-96 JS
 
 
$876
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Hosanna (6 bottle case)
 
 
96-97 JS
 
 
$864
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Margaux (6 bottle case)
 
 
97-100 AG
 
 
$3,354
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Pavie (6 bottle case)
 
 
98-100 WA
 
 
$2,232
 
 
BUY
 
 
Château Trotanoy (6 bottle case)
 
 
96-98 WA
 
 
$1,674
 
 
BUY
 
 


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