‘EXTRAORDINARY WINES FROM A DIFFICULT YET MIRACULOUS VINTAGE’
Having been in two minds to engage with the 2016 Burgundian wines following the rich and hedonistic 2015’s and the devastating combination of both frosts hail that struck many vineyards in April and May, we decided to meet the producers and taste over 300 wines earlier this month. The news was that, while volumes are down – in places up to 60 to 80% - there were a number of quite brilliant wines that were seeking attention.
The defining moments of the 2016 vintage really all happened over a 48 hour period over the 28th and 29th April. There has been a lot of rain in the vineyards before night descended on the 28th, during which temperatures dipped below
freezing. While we all celebrate sun and blue sky after rain and frost, when the brightness and piercing rays of the 29th shone down on the vineyards, it caused the frozen moisture to explode within the young buds of the vines, destroying
all the potential fruit of the vintage in a moment. Up to 80% of the potential fruit was destroyed in parts of the Cote de Beaune, and while the Cote de Nuits escaped such ferocity, Nuits St Georges suffered 50 to 70% loss, and Chambolle
was close to a write off. But life had to continue despite the bruised spirits of the owners and workers, and the vintage
unfolded gently in the normal and nervous fashion towards a harvest in late September of clean and pristine fruit under dry skies, surrounded by a gentle autumn warmth. Comparisons with previous vintages are tricky. Some recall the
tighter style of the 2010’s after the riper 2009’s. In my earliest wine days, I can remember the opulence of the 1985’s, particularly in Chablis, where April frosts had destroyed so much yet a perfect vintage then followed. The best whites from the Côte de Beaune are tight and restrained with an intense minerality and a viscosity waiting to unfold like a rose bud requiring time and patience. To the north in Chablis, many of the wines are more opulent than normal, while to the south in the Côte Chalonnaise, where the frosts were not so vicious, there are, quite simply, great wines at amazing value. The reds are deep, dark and intense and should be ideally be left while the 2015’s are enjoyed – and probably even the 2017’s which will prove to be a return to normal.
Why buy? I shall give you three good reasons:
1) Scarcity. Not only is there not very much Burgundy in comparison to Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, but the volumes are very much thinner than normal. And these are not being compensated with equivalent increased
pricing from the growers. The truth is that despite the quality, it has been a very testing vintage financially for the growers.
2) Quality. There is no point buying a hard to find wine if it does not taste fantastic. These are great wines, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
3) Best price. Buying En Primeur does give you the very best price, as well securing exactly the wine you want. Even when you pay the duty and vat after shipment you will pay about 20% less than waiting for the wine to be on the
shelf – and it may never get this far anyway since it will all be gone.
Should I buy 2016 if I bought 2015 – or even 2014?
I must say that now that the 2015’s are all shipped settled and being drunk and enjoyed, they are so good. Everybody is loving them – and we do have some stock available. The 2016’s offer an intensity and concentration (especially in
the reds) that is unprecedented within the last decade. The whites are generally more backward and tighter than the ebullient 2015’s – but once shipped and settled they will be compelling and delicious.