The very best red wines from 2016 are on a par with the 2015s claims Adam Bruntlett, Burgundy Buyer for Berry Bros & Rudd while the whites are fresher and have a more classic feel than the richer 2015 counterparts. But with quantities of Burgundy 2016 so low, now is the time to be looking at lesser-known villages within Burgundy and other areas such as Beaujolais where interesting developments are taking place.
The April frost will always define the 2016 vintage – which could have spelled complete disaster for many producers. Weather was then kinder and what wines have been made are of a very high quality – if you can get them or afford them that is.
Without doubt, the 2016 vintage from Burgundy will most likely be remembered for the terrible frost on 27th April. However, while there is no question the volumes are greatly diminished, the quality of the wines is excellent.
The white wines
The white wines generally have a fresher, more classic feel than their richer 2015 counterparts. Some frost-affected vineyards display a more angular profile, but many of these filled out over the course of the autumn barrel tastings and will continue to do so with further élevage.
The very best white wines will come close to matching those of the 2014 vintage. While the Chablis crop was particularly small, the wines are generally very good and offer more of the classic marine characteristics than last year.
The red wines
The overall quality of the red wines is more consistent than the whites, with interest at all quality levels. Across the board, the wines display an unmistakably Burgundian Pinot Noir fruit character, they offer a beguiling paradox of initial rich fruit on the front of the palate and succulent acidity on the finish, leaving one delightfully perplexed as to whether this is a warm or cool vintage.
The very best wines are the equal of the 2015s albeit in a style that will appeal more to the traditional Burgundy drinker.
The catastrophic frost damage incurred on 27th April will define the vintage, but there was also hail in the southern sector of the Mâconnais a fortnight earlier, and two instances in Chablis on 13th and 17th May. The extent of the frost varied wildly, with some parcels being completely destroyed, while neighbouring vines remained untouched. Only Santenay, Puligny-Montrachet and Morey-St Denis escaped relatively unscathed.
Spring was wet and cool, opening the door for mildew, which hit weakened vines hardest and tested growers, particularly those practising organic viticulture. Just in time, the weather picked up from mid-July, with warm and dry conditions lasting through August, and rain arriving when needed.
September was dry and cool, with harvest taking place in optimum conditions. Thankfully, the season’s extreme climatic events had limited impact on the quality of fruit, with very little sorting required.
The low volumes
Pressure on volumes in combination with the weakened position of sterling has unsurprisingly resulted in price increases so 2016 would be a good time to look beyond the bigger names.
Consider lesser-known villages such as Marsannay, Santenay, St Romain and Auxey-Duresses. There are also some great wines to be found from Cru Beaujolais – where wines are made by established growers as well as recognised names from the Côte d’Or.
Producers are tapping the potential of Beaujolais’ exceptional terroir. Now is an interesting time for the region and I’m excited to see how it will develop. Watch this space.
2016 is a vintage that has developed slowly in barrel and tank, gradually gaining in complexity and depth, as though the wines had initially been stunned by the trauma of the frost.
What has emerged is delightful – 2016 has given wines with real charm, classic Burgundian profiles and a complexity that at the top end hints at serious ageing potential.”