Small but beautiful.
The Burgundy en primeur season is almost upon us. It can be easy to overlook the delights of Chablis when news of the Côte d’Or dominates the headlines. But for great white wines with drive, energy and longevity, there are few places to equal this unique region.
2016 was complicated in Chablis for many reasons. These are the some of the emptiest cellars in Burgundy after the region was tormented by frost and hail. Nevertheless, the most dedicated growers have produced wines of breath-taking beauty and charm.
The infamous frost of 27th April was particularly costly in Chablis and its damage was compounded by two hailstorms in May. Things were further complicated by mildew in the vineyards as a cool, wet early summer kept skies hanging as a perpetually grey curtain above the vineyards into early June.
By late June a welcome warm spell arrived and the grapes that had survived the turbulent early growing season ripened in excellent conditions and have produced extremely high quality wines. The heat of August helped develop a ripe citrus, peachy quality in the wines, and the later cycle of the year meant Chablis’s quintessential acidity and verve were retained across all levels. It is thus a charming vintage with the ripe, fruity tones of 2015 combined with the zingy acidity and freshness of 2014. The wines glide across the palate with effortless grace.
The stoicism of these four growers in the face of such losses is born of their utter and well-justified belief in the quality of their vineyards and the wines they have made. Due to the challenges presented by consecutive years of reduced yields (the region was afflicted by hailstorms in 2015, and 2017’s volumes will be comparable to 2016, the region having been yet again tormented by frost), prices have understandably risen. But even given the increases, Chablis continues to represent some of the best value to be found in Burgundy.
With such small volumes of many cuvées there has never been a greater imperative to buy Chablis en primeur. The market will certainly miss the supply of premiers and grands crus Chablis over the next few years. Make sure you can sit out the drought by stocking up now.
NB: Our main campaign will be in early January as usual. As 2016 Burgundies will be in short supply, please let me know of any particular wines or producers you are interested in ahead of the launch of the main campaign.