So 2016 has been the mainstay of discussion since the April frosts which decimated over 50% of the crop for many growers in Burgundy. The advent of the London tastings two weeks ago saw one or two merchants block access to the ‘greater trade’ for their tastings and limit entry to top clients only. This closed door approach was, for some, a necessary evil: Crop decimation from frost meant that many top producers were reduced to just one barrel in their better plots making even tasting samples hard to come by.
Shortages apart. How is the vintage compared to last year?
2015 saw succulent berried fruit and a vivacity in the reds heralded by some as the best fruit expression in years, even a generation. Whites were broader, more opulent; some lacking that acidic verve that drives the ageability in the more northern communes.
The reds of 2016 shared some of that vivacity of fruit, though tannic grip on better examples served to draw in the bubbly expression and offer some reserve and promise for evolution in the months to come. Whites were tauter, but not shy. The Chablis’ we tried had already garnered some mushroom expression despite many not yet in bottle. An exciting vintage for white drinkers unable to wait to open their treasures! Didier Séguier, cellar master for Domaine William Févre described the vintage in Chablis as “having the freshness of 2014 and the richness of 2015”. Please don’t rely on 2017 Chablis to fill your cellars though: Apparently a late frost in April literally decimated the right bank of the Chablis 1er Crus, leaving left bank crus Vaillons and Montmains to make up for their losses. The last vintage in Chablis with good quantity across the communes was 2011. The climate may be warming globally, but its predictability is becoming more and more erratic!
At the BBR tasting down the road Dominique Lafon gave us a similar picture. His 1er cru Santenots in Volnay was reduced to 1/3 of its crop thanks to the frost. At commune level his Meursault takes up a fraction of the cellar with 5 instead of 50 barrels!! In Monthelie, normally a plentiful producer for Lafon the normal 20-25 barrels was down to just 8 in 2016. Cheerier times for the Maconnais, further south and less affected by the extreme frosts 2016 is looking to be a very good vintage. Jancis Robinson MW suggested in a recent Financial Times article that the Lafon Macons are a sound, good value alternative to the Pulignys and Meursaults which will be very hard to get hold of this year and priced to reflect this.
We’ll be releasing our 2016 Burgundy shortly. It will, quite simply, be a matter of being quick off the mark to secure your favourites this year. Let’s not loose our heads though, it’s not the last ever vintage from this revered area. More wines will be made and 2016 will (hopefully) fade into distant memory, save the occasions you pull the cork on one of the few examples and consider its many merits and how they have developed.