Berry Bros hails quality of reduced 2016 Burgundy vintage

Berry Bros & Rudd has praised the quality, charm and complexity of the 2016 Burgundian vintage and claims to have an industry-leading offer.

The vintage was defined by catastrophic spring frosts, which caused a huge reduction in yields, but BBR said that what remains is of superb quality.

Burgundy buyer Adam Bruntlett said: “Without doubt, the 2016 vintage from Burgundy will most likely be remembered for the terrible frost on April 27. However, while there is no question the volumes are greatly diminished, the quality of the wines is excellent.”

Bruntlett spent six weeks in the region in October and November, tasting wines from hundreds of growers.

He has added two new producers to BBR’s portfolio, Chablis winemaker Sébastien Dampt and Puligny-based Olivier Leflaive.

“What has emerged is delightful: 2016 has given wines with real charm, classic Burgundian profiles and a complexity which at the top end hints at serious ageing potential,” said Bruntlett.

But he acknowledged the pound’s weak performance, saying it would combine with the shortage of supply to spark further price rises.

“Consider lesser-known villages such as Marsannay, Santenay, St Romain and Auxey-Duresses,” said Bruntlett. “There are also some great wines to be found from Cru Beaujolais – where wines are made by established growers as well as recognised names from the Côte d’Or.

“Producers are tapping the potential of Beaujolais’ exceptional terroir. Now is an interesting time for the region and I’m excited to see how it will develop. Watch this space.”

BBR has started selling wines from 100 domaines today.

Bruntlett added: “The catastrophic frost damage incurred on 27th April will define the vintage, but there was also hail in the southern sector of the Mâconnais a fortnight earlier, and two instances in Chablis on May 13 and 17. The extent of the frost varied wildly, with some parcels being completely destroyed, while neighbouring vines remained untouched. Only Santenay, Puligny-Montrachet and Morey-St Denis escaped relatively unscathed.

“Spring was wet and cool, opening the door for mildew, which hit weakened vines hardest and tested growers, particularly those practising organic viticulture. Just in time, the weather picked up from mid-July, with warm and dry conditions lasting through August, and rain arriving when needed.

“September was dry and cool, with harvest taking place in optimum conditions. Thankfully, the season’s extreme climatic events had limited impact on the quality of fruit, with very little sorting required.

“The white wines generally have a fresher, more classic feel than their richer 2015 counterparts. Some frost-affected vineyards display a more angular profile, but many of these filled out over the course of the autumn barrel tastings and will continue to do so with further élevage.

“The very best white wines will come close to matching those of the 2014 vintage. While the Chablis crop was particularly small, the wines are generally very good and offer more of the classic marine characteristics than last year.

“The overall quality of the red wines is more consistent than the whites, with interest at all quality levels. Across the board, the wines display an unmistakably Burgundian Pinot Noir fruit character.

“They offer a beguiling paradox of initial rich fruit on the front of the palate and succulent acidity on the finish, leaving one delightfully perplexed as to whether this is a warm or cool vintage. The very best wines are the equal of the 2015s, albeit in a style that will appeal more to the traditional Burgundy drinker.”

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