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Lucien Le Moine Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2016

Lucien Le Moine Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2016

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"(two barrels from three origins, in the top, middle and bottom of the Clos): Good dark red. Sexy dark berries and musky black cherry on the nose. Juicy and imploded on the palate. with its dark berry and smoke flavors communicating a rather cool character and little in the way of easy sweetness. Showing a bit less energy in the early going than the Clos Saint-Denis. Saouma says the fatness comes from the top of the Clos, and the coolness from the bottom. One of the most austere of these 2016s today; am I underrating this wine's complexity? 91-93 points

“Every vintage is the year of the century but this time it’s true,” said Mounir Saouma only half in jest about vintage 2016. Like a few of his colleagues, he compared ’16 and ’15 to ’10 and ’09, noting that ’15 and ’09 gave us our most mature grapes ever but that “in ’16 and ’10 we were surprised at the successful results.” He went on: “People learned from their mistakes in 2009 and did better in 2015; in this very warm vintage, many very fresh, fine wines were made. The ‘16s were born by Caesarean: the baby was not sitting well, mom was hysterical and the doctors were in panic. So we cut out the baby and he’s a genius.”

The key in 2016, said Saouma, is how to bring out the tannins and keep enough energy without allowing the wines to dry out by the time they go into bottle. “There’s a fresh, mineral aspect to the vintage, but I'm a bit concerned that if we make wines with tannins that are too supple, we’ll lose length, but if we go in the direction of tannins, we risk having dry wines.” Still, he maintained that alcohol levels are “classical” (i.e., below 13.5%) and that acidity levels and pHs are good. In fact, he went on, the 2016 tannins are fuller-bodied than those of the ‘15s, which since the beginning he has considered a bit soft and fragile. “With the ‘16s, you can do anything you want to the tannins. The wines are not sensitive by nature, although there was a lot of sameness at the beginning. We started with fresh, crisp, clean, almost underripe grapes, and we had to extract in order for the wines to express terroir. And of course the tannins of 2016 will soften with longer élevage.” He went on: “Even for producers who torture their wines by racking, pumping and fining them and by bottling early, the tannins of ’16 will give their wines some protection, but 2015s made this way really suffered. The ‘16s are about black fruits and spices but they also have flesh. There’s also an impression of acidulation—almost a flash of citrus—from the not-quite-ripe grape skins. It’s a vintage that’s full of life.”

Interestingly, Saouma managed to make four more barrels of wine in 2016 than he did in 2015. One explanation is that some producers who normally have, for example, six barrels of a given wine only had two in ’16. Rather than sell one barrel to Saouma and age a single pièce in their own cellar, they found it simpler to sell both barrels to Saouma. None of the ‘16s had been racked at the time of my visit and the wines were very low in sulfur. (And several reds hadn’t even started their malolactic fermentations.)"

Stephen Tanzer, Vinous (01/18)