Perhaps the most amazing thing about the seven year run of difficult vintages in Burgundy from 2010-2016 (hail, frost, mildew, short crops, and assorted combinations thereof) - is that the quality of the wines produced in each of these years has been generally outstanding. Despite the unprecedented adversity mother nature has thrown at the vignerons, the Burgundians have risen to the occasion time and time again. 2016 was the toughest road of all, with 50-90% crop loss due to a killer spring frost and off-the-charts mildew - and yet the resulting wines are not only good, they’re quite great!
So how, why? While there’s no definitive answer to a very complex issue, we have some ideas. First, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as the saying goes. The Burgundians have out of necessity had to learn to deal with extreme conditions. It has become apparent that “what has always worked before” is no longer applicable, and the new generation of winegrowers has been willing and able to look at everything anew, thereby adapting and changing according to the conditions thrown at them. 20 years ago, few if any changed their vinification protocols to suit the given vintage - now I’d wager that most of them do.
Worldwide demand for Burgundy has done nothing but explode during the same time period, a market force that can only cause prices to continue to rise. While none of us want our favorite wines to get more expensive, there is a major benefit to higher prices. Now that they can charge a decent bottle price for the Bourgogne and Village wines, they’re able to keep their yields down in these appellations, which were historically hugely over-cropped in many cases. Thus the quality at these lower levels has vastly improved. As we’ll see below, the frost-ravaged Bourgogne vineyards performed exceptionally well in 2016, thanks to the small crop that was there to begin with.
The first wave of reviews for the 2016s is now out, most importantly the new report from Burghound - Allen Meadows, whose notes and scores carry the most weight in the Burgundy world. Here are some highlights from his vintage overview -
“From a wine quality perspective, one of the most important things about the 2016 vintage to appreciate is that very good to excellent wines were made up and down the appellation hierarchy. There were of course many excellent to even great wines made among the grands crus and best premiers crus but there were just as many fine villages and regional examples made as well and particularly so in the latter. Why? Because the frost damage was often the most severe (though certainly not always) in these lower lying vineyards. As such, the too often excessively high yields, which impairs wine quality for regional wines, largely didn’t occur.”
Allen’s key words for the ’16 Côte de Nuits reds - “Freshness, Energy and Grace”
But what you really want to know is, should you buy them, and how deep should you go, right? Here’s Meadows again -
“The best wines are wonderfully refreshing, transparent and graceful with moderately firm tannic spines where the all-important element of balance is supplemented by good but not high acidities. They are balanced wines built for medium to sometimes longer-term aging yet they should also be reasonably approachable young if youthful fruit is your preference. Before I offer more detail, the short answer is yes on both accounts that the 2016s deserve a place in your cellars and there is no reason not to go heavy – I for one will be buying all that I can afford and find. More specifically, there are two aspects that I absolutely love about the 2016s which are those of the crystalline transparency to the underlying terroirs coupled with their refreshing drinkability. One just feels like drinking the 2016s, in fact it’s hard not to like them.”
I spent three months tasting the 2016s throughout Burgundy, and I fully concur with Allen. These wines are really delicious, and great examples of what Burgundy lovers really love about Burgundy. The key, of course, will be getting hold of the wines you want. The quantities are severely diminished, and many of your favorite wines were not even made in ’16 - yields were so drastically small that many single-vineyard 1er Cru or Village wines were blended together.
We’ll be offering all of the ‘16s from our producers (including a few new members of the family) on pre-arrival offers over the coming weeks and months. Please keep your eyes on your email and respond as quickly as you can when you see something you want (from us or wherever else you may buy your wines). Not on our mailing list yet? Sign up here!
Thanks for all of your continued support - it’s going to be an exciting year!