Friday 31 March: A brilliant spring day marked by a gustative “hapax legomenon”.
What do these hours have in store for me? There is no worry or real interrogation in this query; it is a way to set the scene after yesterday, full of marvellous wines. The sky is clear, austere; it shows no impatience, no unexpected lights. A sky that Constable could have painted if he had followed Benjamin West’s advice to paint it like “a white sheet placed behind objects.”
But let us leave pictorial perspectives aside: a great spring day is upon us. For me, the day begins in Ausone, where I am greeted by two Weinmaraners standing guard in front of the day’s first visitor. Ausone 2016 is a tapered gem, full of light and dynamism; it is the real essence of the terroir.
The same impressions come up later, at Cheval-Blanc, though the wine tells a different story, just as fascinating. Pierre-Olivier Clouet, the technical director, alludes to the great classicism; according to him, 2016 sums up the DNA of the Cheval Blanc terroir.
Things are getting more and more exciting and I carry on my slashing tasting experience, lining up Vieux Château Certan, l’Evangile and La Conseillante during the rest of the morning. Each of the drafts tasted in each of these estates (remember that these are wines in the making, samples taken directly from the barrels) appears to concentrate, with mind-blowing precision, not only the style of the estate, but also its terroir. It is similar to a sensorial X-ray of the latter; a pixilation, even.
At the end of the day, after visits at l’Eglise-Clinet and Lafleur (another stunning wine of the vintage), I am absolutely convinced that, for most of the châteaux visited in the last two days, 2016 will not be comparable to any other year because it is unique. Nothing seemed to announce it and there will be no repetition. A “hapax” year, to use the Greek word. I use this word as adopted by the philosopher Jankélévitch on purpose: his theory underlines the exceptional character, unique and non-reproducible, of what he calls “hapax” or “real occasion”! At first the word was used by translators to highlight words or expressions that were difficult to translate precisely because they occurred only once in the literary corpus.
It is not enough to say that beauty is unique, this must be explained.
In Lafleur, Baptiste Guinaudeau’s thoughts will help me to clarify my intuition: “It is the first time that such radiance, such aromatic freshness is associated to an important structure. Yet, he explains, much time was needed to grasp it. This vintage put us face-to-face with new questions, and we really only understood its greatness after the malolactic fermentations. Today, these are “proud” wines, and they will remain as such. We are at the opposite of 2015 where one is inside a ball of custard.”
Translation : Alex Limpach