The Vintner Out & About
“A vintage that largely defies generalisations but which has produced some excellent, even outstanding reds, albeit in miserable quantities” The Drinks Business
“The 2016 vintage is not a year to buy blindly, but its’s certainly a vintage to buy” Decanter
Similarly to Bordeaux, the 2016 vintage in Burgundy was a tale of two contrasting halves. The first half played out like a Greek tragedy with the gods chucking the worst possible weather conditions at the hapless vines. Fortunately, whatever survived the onslaught enjoyed ideal conditions to salvage the vintage and even produce some excellent wines. Beware though, only the most meticulous vignerons and their teams were successful at finding the right balance of ripeness and acidity.
It all started with a very mild winter that encourage the vines to get to work early during a premature spring. The danger of frost is always a concern but all the more fearsome should it follow an early bud break. So during the night of the 26th April and then the following morning, the worst fears were realized as a fierce frost struck. Temperatures dropped as low as -4°C in some parts meaning frost not only affected the more commonly hit lower vineyards but also many 1er Cru and Grand vineyards further up the hillside (previously never seen in Echezeaux). Vast sections from Marsannay in the north down to Chassagne in the south were heavily affected with only a handful of areas escaping.
It didn’t stop there though as cool, wet weather followed bringing an attack of mildew during the rest of spring. Many producers that suffered frost had to give up their organic principles to salvage what was left. To add insult to injury, hail struck in May with Chablis worst affected during two separate localized storms. The villages of Burgundy, to varying degrees, had suffered a tough 3 months enduring losses of 70% or more in certain areas.
Fortunately, from mid-July onwards the weather was warm and dry. Rain arrived at just the right time and September provided optimum conditions for harvest. It was crucial during this stable time for the team in the vineyards to manage their crop and pick carefully. Where small crops ripened rapidly the wines can be exotic, whilst other wines reveal sharp acidity from unripe second and third generation fruit that emerged weeks after the frost. Finding the balance of ripeness and freshness was required and picking each parcel at just the right time.
So what does this all mean?
A very inconsistent vintage because some villages escaped the carnage whilst others were devastated. The production is very small but the quality of what is left is very good. A cooler vintage has meant we have a classic style for both reds and whites, however the reds are more consistent and generally better. Careful selection will be greatly rewarded – which we have already done for you!
The best wines are very similar to the 2015 but with more finesse. There is lovely concentration of rich, ripe fruit like the 2015s whilst also backed up with slick acidity, akin to the 2014s. The best wines find the perfect balance between the two, displaying elegance and intensity. You will find juicy, succulent red fruit, precision and purity, and clear freshness on the finish (suggesting long life). In southern Burgundy, 2016 is a consistently superb vintage, particularly in Mercurey, mostly thanks to avoiding the climatic troubles further north.
The whites are more classic than the opulent 2015s thanks to the extra freshness, although exotic fruit can be found coming through some. The best whites resemble the 2014s with a charming citrus fragrance and lively acidity. Chablis might be tiny, but the quality of what is left is generally excellent with superb minerality and classic characteristics.
We have been particularly selective this year, opting to commit only to the really special wines of 2016, regardless of how tiny the allocation are. Whilst we only have 24 bottles in some cases, we prefer to offer you only the crème de la crème.
We are very proud to secure a handful of cases from the legendary Domaine Etienne Sauzet – a clear stand out producer in 2016 - as well as the excellent Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard. We also have very sought after parcels from Chablis legend Domaine Samuel Billaud, and the highly prized Domaines Fourrier, Henri Gouges and Taupenot Merme.