The Southern Rhône sets a new benchmark in 2016, while the North also excels
By James Molesworth
When I first tasted the 2016 reds from the South ern Rhône, I realized immediately I needed to do one thing: Taste them again. That was back in the summer of 2017, as I visited numerous top estates in the region, tasting from barrel. I was struck by how vividly ripe the wines were, yet also detailed and fresh.
Comparing them to other benchmark vintages, they had the tannic spine of 2010 and 2005, the racy length and eut of 2011 and 2001, and the ripe fruit of 2015 and 2009. But I had never seen all of these characteristics com bined in a single vintage. Simply put, I hadn't tasted wines before that were so rich and electric at the same time.
I wasn't the only one who suspected something truly special was in the making. One of the vintners I visited was Mounir Saouma, whose Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuvées have established a new paradigm for the appellation. "2016 is something totally new," he told me at the time. "We don't have words for it yet. There is something unusual between the color and the tannins. When you pour the wine and see the color, it's so dark. But then the wine is so fresh, the tannins so integrated. We don't know why, but it's doing its thing."