A Tale of Two Seasons
As some of you will have perhaps seen in the media, France has had a very challenging year. As we start the 2016 harvest a quick look back on the conditions in the vineyards this year …
The months of March, April and May were wetter than average and affected flowering, which in turn had an effect on the quantity of grapes.
Widespread frosts at the end of April devastated vineyards as far north as Chablis and as far south as the Languedoc. In some places up to 80% of the potential yield was lost.
3D vineyards, Domaine Vrignaud in Chablis, Domaine Lucien Jacob in the Côte d’Or, Domaine de la Chevalerie in Bourgueil and Domaine de la Cune in Saumur-Champigny were particularly badly hit.
However, July and August were hot and sunny in most areas and, if anything, many regions could have done with a splash of rain to ease the pressure on the vines.
In Sancerre and in the Anjou at the end of August, the grapes were tiny and some were suffering from sunburn. This was really evident during our Sancerre picnic weekend. However our vignerons continued to keep smiling and were wonderful hosts as usual.
Most vignerons would say that the key months for quality are August and September. These months have been very fine – so all is not lost.
Many have just started their 2016 harvest and some are waiting until October before they begin. This is 2-3 weeks later than last year.
Domaine Lucien Jacob made a start on their 2016 harvest last week. A small team (Jean-Michel, Chantal and Tim) went through the Beaune 1er Cru and Pernand vineyard. Their very limited yields were healthy and ripe and the overall quality was excellent.
Christine Jacob took a video of 3D partner’s Gevrey-Chambertin En Songe Pinot Noir grapes coming in, she claims they are ‘outstanding’.
For regions like Burgundy, which has seen lower than average yields during the last five harvests, there will inevitably be scarcity in future years.
This will without doubt be the story across most of France. The quality may still be good, but the quantity in many places will be miniscule.
Some vignerons will not be able to make certain wines this year – for example, the many Crus which the Caslots make in Bourgueil, or many of the different Premier Crus made by the Jacobs in Burgundy will not be possible.
Whilst we wait for the final reports on the 2016 vintage, we recommend seeking out some of the fabulous 2014 and 2015 vintages from places like the Loire Valley, Burgundy and Beaujolais – certainly before they disappear altogether.
Good luck to all our hard-working vignerons who will be hoping that vintage 2016 will have a happy ending after all!