Vintage 2016

wandering around the côtes this weekend

By billn on May 16, 2016 #travels in burgundy 2016#vintage 2016

DSC00257-1A mix of rain, cloud and sun – it’s immediately 20+°C when the sun breaks through – otherwise we are stuck in the 12-15°C rut – and it feels much colder than that when the wind blows. The weather is still a little bizarre though, this morning it was a little less than 2°C in the vineyards of Beaune – probably less in the Hautes Côtes…

Honestly the vines are ‘all over the place’ you can really see the lack of consistency when you walk in the vineyards; there are big sprouts of growth here-and-there, surrounded by a much smaller average growth of leaves. The first, larger shoots, are those who survived the frost, the latter is the new growth (recovery) from the previously dormant buds. I’ve never seen such higgledy-piggledy growth in the vines.

Taking the road by Criots Bâtard-Montrachet towards Puligny Tremblots, and this is a very badly affected area – really there is very-much more new growth here, with an occasional sprout of growth from the un-frosted buds…

Also very easy to spot between Nuits and Vosne, on the hillside above Nuits 1er Crus Bousselots and Chaignots is a little ‘heavy-remediation.’ The soil has been scraped back, a new supporting wall has been added and the rock broken up. It seems they are now waiting to roll the 20-50cm of soil back over the newly broken-up rock substrate. I’m not clear if this is the last part of Aux Thorey or the tiny Champs Perdrix 1er Cru, but it looks like the style of work done by Boisset – though they normally build a prettier supporting wall! But I’m still guessing it’s Aux Thorey:

Lastly – (edit) – while we had some big rainstorms in Beaune on Friday afternoon, it was much worse for our friends in Chablis; even more rain and some hail has certainly left it’s mark. It’s too early for more detail, but the pictures speak for themselves…
All picture are culled from a couple of Facebook posts from Potins Chablisien & Tonnerrois plus Domaine Daniel Seguinot – they are not my photos…

the effects of frost in marsannay (and wider)…

By billn on May 12, 2016 #vintage 2016

DSC00235Right: Pictured today in Marsannay Les Grandes Vignes – compare it to the picture at the top of the page – that’s what the growth looks like (this week) in an average year!

It was nice and warm just over a week ago in the Côte d’Or, but this week the weather is back into winter mode – well, winter 2015/2016 anyway. It’s been cool and wet for a few days now – 10-14°C – that really is the same as much of November to February. Marsannay also had two days in the last week with only 2°C in the early morning – pinot needs an average of 12°C over the day to grow. For the last week it probably hasn’t done much growing!

Sylvain Pabion, winemaker at the Château de Marsannay – who own 28 hectares of vines in Marsannay – says “Marsannay has been one of the villages most affected by the frost. Depending on the plot, as much as 90% has been lost.”

Two years ago I saw the first flowers in Meursault on the 21st May – so that’s unlikely to happen before June this year.

Right, you can see a mix of normal buds, not frosted with their latent flowers, you can also see the new buds, replacing those that were frosted. The way the weather is going, it could easily be another October harvest – and for the first buds – which would certainly put paid to hopes of harvesting something from the second buds. More importantly the next two weeks will show whether there is life in the cordons or not – if the only new growth is from the old wood rather than the cordons, then this is largely sterile, so there will also be no grapes in 2017! One grower shared with me “You know when there’s hail, after the initial shock we jump into the vines to save what we have, but this year we will still have to work the whole year in the vines, already knowing that in some cases there will be no harvest…”

frost – a couple of informative notes:

By billn on May 07, 2016 #vintage 2016


From Jasper Morris at Berry Brothers & Rudd

And from a merchant:

Lots of good info, though with respect to the second link, Burgundy is not ahead of an average year, despite a relatively warm winter, because average temperatures were insufficient for growth in most of March and April – up until 1 week ago it was considered ‘average.’ Indeed, since then it has continued rather cool – I noted the first flowers about the 18th May 2 years ago – at this rate they may not open before the 18th of June! Which won’t be helpful for anyone thinking they might get crop from the newly moving ‘dormant buds…’

frost – 2+ – the côte de nuits…

By billn on May 02, 2016 #vintage 2016

As promised, I also toured around the vines of the Côte de Nuits on Friday and inspected vines ‘here and there’ along the way.

As-ever, it seems that the Côte de Nuits has the lighter of the frost damage – though I’m definitely talking ‘on average’ because:

  • Marsannay – most producers are desolate – it’s very bad here – plenty of reports of 80%+ losses
  • Gevrey – on the hillside it mainly looks okay, but occasional crus such as Fontenys are cooked. Clos Varoilles and La Romanée are not so bad, but it’s complicated, because one producer will report that their Charmes is 100% okay, another will point to about 20% losses – Chambertin and Bèze are equally hit and miss – mainly the lower sections had problems here.
  • Morey and Chambolle are similarly affected to Gevrey – mainly the lower vines having problems, but the crus not so much in Morey, more-so in Chambolle.
  • Musigny (Petits Musigny) and the kings of Vosne look hardly affected (see the pics) though I noted some crisped leaves between Echézeaux and Grands Echézeaux.
  • The real issue is that, like in the Côte de Beaune, it is the ‘bulk’ wines, those regional and village level plots that have been very badly affected. Really it’s too early to say, but in some places, like Marsannay, potentially well over 50% seems to have been lost.

Any improvements on ‘hearsay’ estimates will come only after fruit-set – so in about 4-8 weeks more…

Some are asking why candles were not used in the Côte d’Or to avoid damage – and ‘are they legal?‘ Well, yes, they are not particularly environmentally friendly, but they are legal. I even saw a nice ‘facebook picture’ of one producer’s square block of vines in Les Amoureuses, filled with candles. The problem is that nobody is ‘prepared’ to deploy them, and for two reasons:

  • Unlike in Chablis, there’s no automatic alarm system to wake everyone at 4am when a trigger temperature is reached.
  • Also, the last small frost damage (whites mainly) was 2010, you have to go back to 1991 for the last significant episode of damage.

So it’s really not on the radar of most producers – and just like in Chablis, it would be the important vineyards that were protected, not the vast majority. So really there would have been little difference in the volume of vine-growth that was lost.

The night in question (last Tuesday) was actually not that cold, rarely reaching as low as -2°C, but the ground was damp after plenty of weekend rain. If it had been dry, the vines would hardly have been troubled at that temperature…

Anyway, I showed enough pictures of singed leaves last week – so no more of those are required. From Friday:

frost – 2

By billn on April 28, 2016 #vintage 2016


I asked a couple of producers this morning if it was bad, or really bad, both said the latter.

Without doubt it is a very important event, though I’m sure it’s better to wait until after the fruit-set to see if 30% or 75% of the potential harvest is lost. But however we look at it, it’s a massive loss, which (so far anecdotally) is a loss shared equally between the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits – for once!

Whilst it’s still a tiny snapshot, I walked in a lot of the Côte de Beaune vineyards today:

  • Santenay hillside – looks 90%+ okay
  • Chassagne 1ers Morgeot and Maltrioe – some vines totally blitzed, other maybe lost only 25% of buds
  • Chevalier-Montrachet (lower) and Montrachet – the same as in Chassagne
  • The bottom of Meursault wasn’t good, the bottom of Perrières, including the Clos des Perrières, looked okay.
  • The top of Volnay and Beaune looked not bad, the bottom of both was not good – Grèves included in that.
  • Bottom of Corton on Pernand side, not good
  • Mid-Charlemagne (below the cross) looked fine, likewise mid-Bressandes too.

From what I looked at, the top vines did better than the bottom vines, but a couple of vignerons told me it was the reverse in some places. The leaves ‘burned’ by the frost are obvious – already silver grey and crispy dry versus the green of healthy leaves. Pinot often looks okay, probably because it is a little behind chardonnay in the growth cycle, but there were also pinots with tiny but clearly frosted buds…

I will be charging around the Côte de Nuits tomorrow…


By billn on April 27, 2016 #vintage 2016

Whilst in ‘relatively’ warm Beaujolais this week, I’ve watched all the pictures of ‘candles’ and water-sprays to combat the frost in Chablis, but this morning it seems the Côte d’Or has been touched – and it seems to have been more severe than a ‘touch.’

“I think I lost 90% in the villages and regional appellations. For the 1er crus in the order of 40 to 60%…”
Jean Pierre Charlot – Joseph Voillot, Volnay

I’ll be in Côte d’Or vines in both côtes over the next two days looking at the potential damage. I’ll keep you posted…


By billn on April 18, 2016 #vintage 2016

Puligny, this afternoon.

The weekend in Switzerland was okay – half sun, half rain, but to quote an unsmiling vigneron in Puligny-Montrachet today, “The rain was much more consistent than that here!” Indeed, the TGV took me through many a flooded area this morning.

The vines look fine though, the first chardonnay leaves starting to unfurl from their buds. It’s such a shame to see all the herbicide-laced plots in Puligny though…

a storm in morgon – worse in pouilly

By billn on April 14, 2016 #travels in burgundy 2016#vintage 2016

WP_20160413_16_20_41_Pro (2)

Mid-afternoon yesterday (Wednesday) the skies considerably darkened in Morgon. Thunder, lightening, a little rain and a lot of wind. But It was less ‘fun’ in Pouilly as you can see from the images below, images of vines near Solutre, sent to me by a producer. Many young, opening, buds were damaged or completely removed.

It’s very early in the growing season for this kind of weather, normally the hail only arrives from May onwards. Hopefully there were enough buds on those vines, and/or it was early enough to make little difference, but clearly many were sacrificed…

volnay – not so still-life…

By billn on April 01, 2016 #travels in burgundy 2016#vintage 2016


Yesterday touched 20°C in the vines. Despite what has seemed like a winter of consistent 10°C days, the vineyards are not particularly precocious this year – so-far at least – because the night-time temperatures have been ‘cool enough.’

It was a beautiful day in the vines, without the ‘April showers’ of Wednesday – so much ploughing is underway. I visited a few of the Volnay vines of Bouchard Père – their full compliment of over 20 tractors were hard at work yesterday – well they do have 130 Côte d’Or hectares to tend!

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