In one whole year, only 8 hours determined 90% of the commentary about the vintage and 75% of the vintage yields.
The night of the 26-27 April delivered temperatures of between -3°C and -5°C. Not only was this not forecast, it was colder than 99% of the winter nights. There was very little rhyme or reason as to what was scorched – places never in living memory hit by harsh frost had 90% losses – most of Montrachet for instance – though precocious growth or ground-cover exacerbated losses. Then there was the pressure of mildew in the damp months that followed. 2016 brought few positives for organic or bio-certified producers, indeed some chose to save what they had through synthetic means, waving goodbye to their next three years of certification.
The biggest losses were the vines in the flat of the land – here is where the majority of Burgundy’s villages and Bourgogne Rouge & Blanc is grown. I like the quote of David Duband about the choice he faced: “I wasn’t going to lose certification for my whole domaine, just to save what was left of my Bourgogne.” – Though it sounds like his choice was more clear-cut than that faced by most.
Marsannay, Chambolle and Savigny were the cruelest hit, along with Pouilly-Fuissé and Chablis – but it was hail for those latter two. Certain sectors have made less wine in the 5-year period of 2012-2016 than they made in the single vintage of 2009!
What was harvested, generally had good ripeness, if only because there was so little fruit to ripen – grape-juice concentration could be very high in some areas, even more-so than 2015! I personally saw some of the greatest looking bunches of grapes ever in my short (13 year) harvesting career.
Still, both the reds and whites look ‘interesting’ – at least from a largely pre-malo perspective.
Ooh – what a scorcher!
Fortunately the scorching was pre-veraison, August and September were simply ‘normal’ temperatures – though clearly the heat of the growing season contributed to early harvesting and thick-skinned small grapes. Very lucky were the growers in the Côte d’Or and Chablis (not Beaujolais or Mâconnais) who largely had rain just when it was needed, as the vines began to suffer. The last dump of rain just before harvest literally added 20-30% to yields in some places – but the grapes were already so concentrated that you would hardly notice.
But what about the wines? I’ve tasted nice Chablis but ‘insight’ will have to wait for my annual visits in January. The Côte d’Or has great reds – though with many styles from extracted, to round to super-fine linear wines. The Côte d’Or whites are big, 2005 with more elegance and certainly less brutality, but there is plenty of compelling drinking – though without the alround brilliance of 2014.
The Côte Chalonnais reds are fabulous, the whites more variable, likewise the whites of the Mâconnais vary from a little hot to beautiful wines that manage to hide natural alcohols usually (well-) above 12.5%.
The reds of Beaujolais, like those from the Chalonnais, are simply as good as you could wish. They don’t have the elegance of the 2014s, but they are massively constituted, brilliant things. 2011 was a great vintage here, and 2015 will be at as least as good – I’m looking forward to tasting with the producers in February 2017.
More time and experience has shown that the 2014 reds are not just fine and tasty, but of more layered depth than was anticipated pre-bottling. They will never compete with 2015 from the perspective of concentration, or length of finishing flavour. That said, many producers opine that the 2015s, like the 2005s before them will close – the engaging character of the 2014s currently imply that they will offer much more interest, and for a number of drinking years, if that is really the case.
The 2014 reds are certainly much better than any 2000, 2007, or 2011 and I’m still confident in saying that the 2014s are the greatest red wine vintage ending in a 4 since at least 1964 🙂
But what of the whites?
From the Mâconnaise all the way north the Chablis, they remain great wines, wines of elegance yet freshness and intensity. By what you want for drinking young, or if you’re a die-hard ager of wine, you should consider a little extra protection for your investment, and choose wines from one of the many producers now sealing with DIAM, or even screw-cap, such as Benjamin Leroux.
Red or white – enjoy…