2016 Red & White Burgundy
The 2016 Red & White Burgundy En Primeur has now closed, however we still have stocks of some wines, Click here for a full list of available wines.
Superb wines with a remarkable character
'…the intense aromas of a cool year and the sweet palates of a ripe year
It is difficult to compare this special vintage with previous ones: the wines have the aromas of a cool year and the palates of a ripe one. Normally, wines with ripe palates will have less intense aromas, while aromatic wines can have excessive acidity or scratchy tannins. In 2016, we have all the benefits and none of the disadvantages.
The only big problem is quantity: 2016 produced roughly half a normal crop due to a severe frost.
What has been made, however, is exceptional.'
This offer has closed.
Reds: pure, intense and exquisite
These are some of the purest and most intense pinot noir aromas I have enjoyed in young red Burgundy (especially in the Côte d’Or, which had the best weather). Combine this with deep colour, ripe fruit, sweet tannins and a fresh finish, and one has something very rare. The ripe character and the quality of the tannins are remarkable.
There is some inconsistency in style – the frost damage is very variable, so that leads to great differences in yield and therefore ripeness – but quality is uniformly high, with medium to long-term ageing potential. An exceptional year.
Whites: aromatic, ripe but fresh
The whites have a similar blend of freshness and ripeness – traits that are usually diametrically opposed. To find them in the same wines is very unusual.
There is a little more variation in style and quality than for the reds. The Côte d’Or was the warmest region, while Chablis was distinctly cooler, with a rainy September, making bright, tense and classic wines. The Mâconnais, spared the frost, was successful too, but 1,500ha were damaged by hail in the south of the region.
The vintage report
Click here to read a detailed summary of the weather and harvest conditions in this remarkable vintage. However, a vintage overview can only be a generalisation, and I encourage you to read the comments on the individual domaines and wines where I have described how each has performed.
A note about Diam corks
We continue to be pleased with the performance of Diam corks. These are manufactured from cork using patented processes, and have solved the problem of cork taint and variable porosity. Many high-quality producers are using them in Burgundy, and we have noted in this offer which ones. I am also now giving longer drinking dates for white wines closed with Diam corks than natural corks.
Click here for more information.
You now have the opportunity to store your en primeur wines with The Society ‘in bond’, which means that the Duty and VAT are payable when the wine is delivered to you. Click here for more details,
How can the 2016s be so aromatically intense and yet so ripe?
It’s difficult to explain. What follows is supposition. With so much attention focused on the massive frost, it’s easy to forget this was, in the end, a warm year, with an especially beautiful September bringing the wines to an attractive level of ripeness.
Analytically the wines are lowish in acidity but the perception of the aromas and palates is that they are fresh. It seems a number of factors conspired to push the ripening into the cooler month of September, and even October for some, so the aromas were not burned off by the normal August heat. What’s more, September 2016 was exceptionally sunny, very dry and with just above normal temperatures. This may have allowed for maturation of flavour and tannins with minimal loss of acidity.
The vines probably take two or three weeks to recover from a traumatic frost. The rainy May (in Chablis, the River Serein overflowed its banks) and cool, wet early June produced the conditions for a massive pressure of mildew, with growers spraying twice as often as a normal year. This also may also have delayed maturity.
Flowering was two weeks later than normal. Also, strangely, almost three months of hot and particularly dry weather from 21st June, with temperatures a little above normal and very low rainfall (until some light relieving rains on 17th and 18th September) de-blocked the maturity, caused some heat stress during which many wines shut down and ripening stopped. This may have delayed véraison (the date grapes change colour), which was a few days behind the average; and this may have preserved the tartaric acid in the grapes.
September was key to the quality of the vintage, and it was a beautiful month with plentiful sun – way above average. After the beneficial rains over the 17th and 18th, growers were free to choose their picking date throughout superb weather until early-mid October. This choice of harvest dates means there is a certain variation in ripeness in 2016.
I note these dates where known, although a direct comparison is sometimes a trap as yield and ripeness vary between producers! Those who had successfully combatted the mildew had beautiful grapes with no botrytis (rot).
The 26th–27th April frost was widespread, from Chablis to the Côte Chalonnaise. Some villages and vineyards were spared, others were destroyed, and some were affected anywhere between the two extremes.
Apart from the temperature, other conditions conspired to deepen the damage. It had rained on the 26th, meaning it was humid, with available moisture to freeze. The skies cleared, the frost came and went, and then the morning of the 27th was very sunny in places. The sun defrosts the plants quickly so the water expands and ruptures the plant’s cell walls, destroying the buds and other plant tissue. The well-exposed slopes, for example, in southern Puligny, those of Le Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet, caught the morning sun and were devastated; yet, curiously, the northern crus of Puligny – Referts, Combettes, Champs Canet – escaped. Chassagne, Chambolle and Morey seem to be very badly hit, while Santenay, Vosne and Gevrey were less affected. Cloud cover may be the reason they escaped damage.
It is hard to explain what got damaged, and how badly, and what survived. One producer explained that in the same premier cru vineyard in Volnay, the bottom third was badly frosted and produced nothing, the middle third produced half a crop and the top third produced twice as much as planned.