October 28th 2019
Neal Martin recently published a thorough review of the 2016 Burgundy vintage, having tasted over 260 different reds at the Burgfest extravaganza held annually in the heart of Burgundy. This is a marathon tasting, every May and September, where many of the wines from a particular vintage are tasted blind, appellation by appellation.
It is well known that in 2016 the growers up and down the Côte had to endure an extremely difficult growing season. You can remind yourself of the details form our vintage report here.
As a result, 2016 was a tiny crop and visiting the cellars in November 2017 for our annual en primeur tasting of the wines, it was truly shocking to witness so few barrels nestling in the cellars of many of our growers. Fortunately, we know the vintage was saved by the warm and dry conditions during the second half of the growing season and our assessment at the time was that 2016 had produced some ‘‘excellent and at times sensational wines’’, albeit in miniscule quantities.
In his recent report Neal comments, ‘‘Generally, the reds live up to their billing. At best, they are highly perfumed with ripe tannins, expressive, vivacious, harmonious and surprisingly approachable. They come with a sense of triumph over adversity. Despite everything that malicious Mother Nature threw at the vineyards, at their peak the finished wines shrug off the stürm und drang that surrounded their birth and are occasionally breathtaking in bottle.’’
In terms of quality, I must agree with Neal that the wines at the top level ‘‘come with a sense of triumph over adversity’’. It is also interesting to read how many of the lesser vineyard sites shone against their grander neighbours, and how he feels it is becoming more and more important to taste wines blind ‘‘since objectivity is too often compromised by price, rarity or reputation.’’
So yes, the quality is high in the red 2016s. The best are magnificent and they certainly have a price to match. Of course, one can become mesmerised by the reputation of a particular 1er or Grand Cru vineyard, and it is from these hallowed terroirs that the most complex and brilliantly ethereal wines of the Côte d’Or are created. However, the next time you are tasting wines, be prepared to note that, on a certain day, it might not always be the grandest wines that steal the show. The skill is to ascertain which of the lesser Crus is punching above their weight, both in terms of quality and importantly value. Don’t be afraid to trust your judgement and your palate!