Our Product Manager Paul Miller gives us his thoughts on the 2016 Harvest in Burgundy after he had the chance to meet with some producers and witness first hand the effects of the year’s poor weather.
In September I was traveling in France for business, which is certainly the best time of year to go to France, and particularly, to Burgundy. Partly as this period of the year usually sees some of France’s best weather, but also as this is the most anticipated time year for anyone in the wine trade: harvest time!
On this occasion I was able to meet François Bertheau from Domaine François Bertheau in Chambolle Musigny. When we met François had not started harvesting yet and was planning to commence on 1st October.
The team of Patrick Piuze harvesting
This year brought with it fresh worries for the harvest given the unsteady weather of the year. During the night of 27th April, the whole of Burgundy was hit by a spring frost, Chambolle Musigny being one of the villages most severly affected. The timing was unfortunate as most of the buds had already emerged, and were extremely fragile at the time of the frost. These vines do ordinarily produce a second bud, however their yield is considerably lower.
Walking through the vineyard you can clearly see the effects of the frost with noticeably less grapes than usual, as well with some millerandage. François’s Bonnes Mares were badly hit and while he usually produces up to 5 barrels of Bonnes Mares in a good year, he was sceptical of having more than 2 this year. The struggle is undeniable for such small estates and many producers are worried of the financial consequences it will impact. François also has a plot of Amoureuses, which is in my opinion the best Amoureuses you can find on the market. Luckily for François (and for us) the Amoureuses was less touched by the frost and he hopes to be able to do the same volume as usual.
Team of Domaine Romanée Conti (DRC) at harvest time in Vosne Romanée
After meeting François, I took some time to pass through the vineyards of Vosne Romanée and witnessed the team of DRC (60 pickers and 3 tractors strong) harvesting in Richebourg. Aubert de Villaine briefly shared with me his concerns about the small crop of Richebourg as this parcel was badly hit by the frost. On the other hand La Romanée Conti and La Tache seemed to be out of trouble despite some irregularity of ripeness, once again as a result of the frost.
Aubert de Villaine inspecting the DRC Richebourg, Vosne Romanée
Before heading back to Hong Kong I paid a visit to the talented Patrick Piuze in Chablis. Patrick started harvesting on September 22nd, the first one in the entire town of Chablis. He was generally satisfy by the quality of the fruit and, worried of some fruit rotting, decided against waiting any longer. Chablis was not only hit by the frost but also two hail storms. Premier and grand cru are unfortunately down by 30% but the most concerning are his village appellations, which are down by 50%.
Patrick Piuze hands on for harvest
2016 has been a challenging vintage for Burgundy, however the quality was present and given that only 50% of the work is yet done, this is still a vintage to watch. Many actually appreciate challenging vintages to express their talent as winemakers. But given low quantities, prepare to have to search.
– Paul Miller