The 2016 Vintage

October 1st 2016

Now that the harvest is under way – it began un the Côte dOr in the last few days of September – it is now clear where the frost damage at the end of April has been at its worst. Chambolle has been badly hit, as have Clos de Vougeot and the two Echézeaux, Savigny has been affected, but not the hill of Corton, and the crop is much reduced in Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Meursault. Elsewhere, in many communes, such as Morey Saint-Denis, the harvest will be no worse than a small average.

As far as a second generation is concerned, this is elusive. One grower was heard joking to his team: by all means come back and help me pick, but not until the 18th of November.

On the first of September the potential for the 2016 crop was looking high, but the vineyards needed a little rain. Happily this is exactly what ensued. September was characterized by a day or so of intermittent drizzle followed by several days of warm sunshine. It remained cool overnight, an advantage as this discouraged any threat of rot. Growers had earmarked Monday 26 September as the day the harvest would commence. Many, as it happened, advanced their start date into the previous week. The weather continued very pleasant right up until Saturday October 1st, and as I write this we are getting the first bout of proper rain for many weeks. To all extents and purposes the harvest will be finished by the end of this week: and for the time being, the forecasts are unthreatening.

So it looks like a good if not very good vintage; better in red than in white, as in 2015. The pity is that, for the fifth vintage out of six, there is so little of it.

September 1st 2016

The 2016 summer has continued to keep holiday-makers happy. With the exception of a few days in the first week, the weather has been largely hot, if not very hot, dry, and abundantly sunny. Threats of oidium and mildew (see last month) have been kept to a minimum. Thankfully there have been no thunderstorms. It is as if nature has been conspiring to make up for the miserable weather in April and May. Moreover, despite the heat during the day, temperatures have descended at night, thus helping preserve the acidities.

But let us not count our chickens before they have hatched. The quality of the 2016 harvest depends on the weather from now on; not on how warm or how cold it has been in July and August. It is now we need the fine weather – a bit of rain won't do any harm – right until the last grapes have been gathered at the end of the month. We know it is destined to be a very small harvest. Good? Keep your fingers crossed.

August 1st 2016

Following three woeful months the weather in July has been on the whole very pleasant; largely dry, mostly warm, and occasionally nice and hot. There has been the odd thunderstorm, but any lightening has more worried the dog at Château Coates than caused any damage in the vineyards.

There are two points of concern, however. The mildew this season has been worse and more widespread than for many years, with serious and persistent attacks from Chablis to the Mâconnais. And ripening is uneven. All this points to a harvest which will not start until the 20th September, and may be long and drawn out.

July 1st 2016

At the start, the weather in June continued the rather unprepossessing pattern we have experienced since April: rather too much rain, hardly enough sun, and an absence of real warmth. But finally, at the time of the equinox, which was also a full moon, there were a few days of real, proper heat. Those with swimming pools rushed out to take advantage. Since then, if not nearly as hot, life has been pleasant, and the forecast for the first ten days of July is promising. The flowering has been protracted, but there has been, thankfully, no further damage to the vines. A small crop, in many cases tiny, is expected to be ready around the 20th of September.

June 1st 2016

To add insult to injury – following the frosts at the end of April – May has been exceedingly unpromising. Normally we can expect at least one week of sunny, warm weather. This year the temperatures have struggled to exceed 20° C, and only for a brief afternoon on the 28th did it reach 25°. (And then there was thunder, lightning and torrential rain in the early evening.) It has also been depressingly wet, with storms when it wan't just drizzling, and some hail, though this seems to have confined itself to Chablis and the Beaujolais. Given the early start to the season, we are still on track for a flowering at the normal time, that is around the 10th of June. But it would be nice to have some blue sky.

May 1st 2016

More bad news from Burgundy, I'm afraid. After several years of hail damage – 2015 being a welcome exception – we have now had frost. After a very mild winter; the warmest since 2010 – April was distinctly cold, and on the night of 26/27 April temperatures descended to zero. This was enough to freeze off the just-emerged buds, and not only on the lower slopes, but further up. Losses are serious. It will remain to be seen what percentage of a normal crop will eventually result. But hopes are low. Inevitably prices of the 2015 will rise further, and they were already high. More worryingly, in the longer term, will be the effect yet another small crop will have on the smaller, less financially secure domaines.