A guide to the 2016 harvest: France

Scenes from the harvest in FranceThe 2016 harvest was certainly not an easy one in France and production is significantly lower than average, making it one of the smallest harvests in the country for the last 30 years. However, there are some quality highlights – see our round-up from a selection of key regions below.


Champagne

Champagne had its fair share of challenges this year, but according to Bollinger it’s “not all doom and gloom”. Ruinart’s chef de cave, Frederic Panaiotis, agrees: “The musts are offering fresh fruit and a lively feel on the palate, demonstrating the high quality of grapes. Overall, a challenging year has turned into a ‘miraculous’ vintage thanks to the high quality harvest, and we are looking forward to tasting the 2016 wines.”


Loire Valley

Frost and hail damaged large parts of the Loire Valley this year, with some appellations more affected than others. According to Alexandre Meunier of Loire Proprietes, yields are down around 35% in the region. “Almost all of the Loire was struck by the frosts – from the Sancerre and Pouilly, all the way to Touraine.”

Charles Sydney, courtier for Chateau Pierre-Bise, explains that although Muscadet and the Anjou have come through fine, the lower-lying vineyards in Chinon, Bourgueil, St Nic and Champigny were hit by frost. “Vouvray and large chunks of Touraine were also hit, while Sancerre is fine overall,” he says.

 

Burgundy

Although volumes are down, it looks to be a good quality harvest throughout Burgundy. Bibendum Sourcing Manager for Europe, Stuart Grundy, explains that there’s no ‘in general’ this year, with heterogeneity being the key word.

“Chablis was hit by significant frosts, with production the lowest in over a decade. Fortunately, most of the easterly Premier Crus and Grand Crus were unaffected and these wines promise to be exceptional,” he says. “The Cote d’Or has had a great red wine vintage, while the 2016 whites are expected to be very good, with more freshness. Yields are, however, down dramatically.”


Beaujolais

Volumes are up in Beaujolais, with a very good crop and decent quality overall, although some areas were affected by hail. Stylistically the 2016 wines will be more in line with a ‘classic’ Beaujolais vintage.

 

Bordeaux

This region had an exceptionally warm and dry vintage, with yields up. Wine quality is expected to be good, although less concentrated wines are likely. Bordeaux Magazine reported that the region’s winemakers have good reason to be optimistic. “A wet spring and dry, sunny summer led to a bumper crop for many, and a promising harvest.”

“Early indicators suggest that the 2016 vintage will deliver its full potential in terms of quality and quantity, with the wines set for true terroir expression. The young dry whites are aromatic and lively, with a lovely freshness. The reds are generally outstanding: crispy and fresh, with intense aromas of blackberries. The semi-sweet and sweet wines are also showing good concentration and great aromatic freshness.”

 

Rhone

While volumes are down slightly, 2016 is potentially a very good quality vintage for the Rhone. Caroline Frey of Paul Jaboulet Aine explains, “This vintage was harmonious and homogeneous, thanks to the contrast between a rainy spring and a stable summer, resulting in balanced wines with remarkable finesse.” However, they didn’t completely escape disaster and a hailstorm struck the famed Hermitage hill in April. This caused damage to the white grapes on the eastern side, but thankfully spared the emblematic Syrah parcels.

For Xavier de Carmejane of TerraVentoux, the 2016 vintage benefited exceptional weather conditions. “The grapes were harvested at optimal maturity and despite slightly lower volumes, 2016 looks very promising,” he says.

 

Languedoc

The overall harvest is down due to hail and heat stress, but this varies significantly among sub-regions. For Francoise Frissant Le Calvez of Chateau Coupe-Roses in Minervois, the harvest was very interesting in terms of quality, although small in quantity – “we have lost about 30% in total, mostly white wine. However, since we harvest later than other places in Minervois, we benefitted from the rain at the beginning of September and the resultant wines have a lot of colour, are full-bodied and the tannins are well-integrated.”

In Saint-Chinian at Domaine des Paissels, the overall harvest was small, with yields dropping by 20%. However, according to Marie Toussaint and Vivien Roussignol the wines looks promising, with good concentration, freshness and length.

At Les Vignobles Foncalieu, yields were moderate, while the white grapes retained their acid balance. The year posed a major challenge for the teams making Provence-style rosés, but their hard work prevailed and the wines are juicy, with precise fruit notes and varietal characteristics.

 

Provence

The harvest at Domaine Astros was healthy, producing top quality fruit. Nathalie Vidal-Dupré explains, “Due to a lack of rain, yields are down around 20%. This high concentration of juice has led to complex, rich and very aromatic wines, with flavours of red fruits, white flowers and citrus.”

For Chateau Leoube production director, Romain Ott, “2016 was a dry year in Provence and the vintage is fairly concentrated, but promising. The juices are beautiful and will be representative of what the property can produce.”

 

Find out more about the 2016 harvest across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere here, or sign up to our newsletter for regular updates on our producers and products: 


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Date:
22nd December 2016


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