Burgundy 2016 En Primeur

Burgundy 2016 En Primeur - Get Your Skates On

A year of unprecedented low yields and great quality, this is a vintage well worth snapping up quickly.

The talking point of 2016 Burgundy has been the infamously icy night of April the 26th and the 27th morning. Understandable, as Jack Frost bit viciously and on a scale that has not been seen in Burgundy since at least 1981. However this is a huge injustice to the wines themselves, which, in the end, are what it is all about. It has been a fascinating vintage to taste. A watchful eye in vineyard and cellar was clearly needed, though for reds this has turned out to be a wonderfully ‘Burgundian’ vintage – and I mean that in the very best sense of the word. The wines are aromatic, fresh and transparent; Fruity yet savoury, elegant yet not lacking in substance. Their finesse and fruitiness will make them approachable before the 2015s but they also offer an intensity and balance that should see them make old bones. The whites are charming, open, fragrant and fresh, not for the long-haul perhaps, but they will offer great pleasure in their youth. We should rejoice in the wines and forget about Mr Frost, but if that very English inclination to talk about the weather proves too tempting herewith a summary of how it all unfolded.

The frost affected all parts of the Côte d’Or to a greater or lesser extent, bar, largely, Morey St.-Denis. The worst hit villages were Marsannay, Chambolle-Musigny, the south side of Nuits, Chassagne-Montrachet and Monthélie. Losses of up to 90% were recorded. The frost was far from uniform, though. Growers seem at a loss to explain why one plot was affected and another adjacent one not at all. In his decades of experience Gerard Boudot has never seen anything like it “areas not normally frosted were frosted and vice-versa.” What is clear, though, is that the real damage was caused not by the frost itself on the night of the 26th but on the following morning when the rising sun’s rays were magnified through the frozen buds and burned them. Frosted vines not only lost buds but shut down in shock, delaying the growing cycle by some three weeks. Incessant rain followed until June, leading to a mildew onslaught. There were further crop losses as a result. Just as things were looking rather torrid, though, a ray of light appeared. Firstly flowering was successful, which meant those vines that weren’t frosted produced good-sized crops. Secondly – a period of salvation that many growers refer back to – a glorious summer kicked in towards the end of June. Dry and sunny weather lasted all the way through to the end of a late harvest in early October, punctuated only by some insignificant mid-September rain. This, crucially, afforded growers time to wait for the berries of the frosted, and therefore delayed, vines to ripen. As much as a constant surveying of vines and tasting of berries were important in this heterogeneous vintage, so was light touch winemaking. Pinot Noir skins were thick and needed gentle handling. Thankfully growers are more inclined to ‘infuse’ rather than to extract these days. The result are some truly captivating wines of classical Burgundian character.