Having heard that the 2016 vintage in Burgundy was a disaster because of early frost and mildew, I was not exactly excited about attending Bouchard’s comprehensive tasting of both its red and white 2016 Burgundies. I had momentarily forgotten that a disastrous vintage for the growers--and the Burgundy merchants--actually meant that there will be a shortage of 2016 wines available on the market. Those grapes from 2016 that were harvested and vinified, at least by Bouchard, really turned out very well. In fact, a short harvest in Burgundy is often a blessing for consumers; only the best grapes are harvested, and the cool spring climate provides us with concentrated grapes.
What saved the 2016 Burgundy vintage was a rather warm summer with no rain and a warm autumn with a little rain. By contrast, 2015, a warm year, yielded a large harvest of massive, ripe Burgundies--pretty much the opposite of the 2016 Burgundies. The 2015s, called outstanding by many critics, are popular and are selling well, but for my taste, 2016 yielded the classical style of Burgundies that I prefer.
The 2016s I tasted, both red and white, were gorgeous--lighter-bodied than the 2015s for sure, but with much better acidity than the 2015s. They are delicious right now and will be for some time. In fact, Bouchard winemaker Frédéric Weber declared that the 2016s, “have a greater aging potential than the 2015s due to the increased acidity.”
It certainly helps that Bouchard is today one of the most reliable large Burgundy firms, with access to many vineyards throughout Burgundy, some of which it owns, and other vineyards for which it has long-term agreements.
The Bouchard story is a remarkable one in the world of wine. The Bouchard winery, centered in the town of Beaune, has a huge négociant business that grew throughout the 1700s and 1800s. It has been one of the giants in the world of Burgundy for a long time. But a tough stretch followed after World War II. When I first became interested in Burgundy during the 1970s and ‘80s, Bouchard Burgundies were passé. Then a great thing happened. Joseph Henriot (of Champagne Henriot), saw the winery’s potential, and purchased Bouchard and its vast underground cellars in 1995. A few years later, I visited Bouchard in Beaune. I was amazed by the transformation of the Bouchard winery in such a short time. New winemakers, clean cellars, all old Bouchard wines discarded, and its new Burgundies were vastly improved.
Joseph Henriot also purchased the smallish William Fèvre Chablis firm in 1998; at that time, William Fèvre was making rather ordinary, over-oaked Chablis. Today, William Fèvre is one of the largest Chablis houses, owning many Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards. No new oak is used during fermentation and aging. In my opinion, William Fèvre is now one of the top Chablis producers on the market today.
It would have been impossible to taste all of Bouchard’s 2016 prices in one sitting, but the Henriot team provided writers with a sizable selection: 11 of its red and 4 white Burgundies to taste, followed by four William Fèvre Chablis. (Prices have not been determined for many 2016s in the U.S. yet; 2015 prices are listed. 2016 prices will be the same as the 2015s or slightly higher; where the 2016 price was available, it is noted below):
Bouchard Red Burgundies 2016
Côte de Beaune Village Level:
2016 Santenay— In the southern end of Côte de Beaune; Burgundies here are always light-bodied, as was this wine, but the purity of the fruit shines through. $31, 89
2016 Savigny-lès-Beaune—About three miles north of Beaune; refined and elegant; delightful for current drinking. $31, 90
2016 Pommard—Sturdier and rather full-bodied, typical of Pommard; good acidity; fine Pinot Noir aromas; velvety and dense. $31, 89
Côte de Nuits Village Level:
2016 Nuits-Saint-Georges—The southernmost village in the Côte de Nuits. Silky texture; elegant; very good depth, concentrated finish. $60 (NY) 91
2016 Gevrey-Chambertin—Quite full-bodied, typical of Gevrey-Chambertin; located in the heart of Côte de Nuits. Plummy, floral aromas; fleshy; lovely. Great Village Burgundy $65 93
Côte de Beaune Premier Crus:
2016 Pommard Premier Cru—A blend of several Pommard Premier Cru villages; rich, plummy aromas; velvety and dense; long, rich finish. $80 (East Coast) 91
2016 Beaune Clos de la Mousse—A Monopole (entirely owned) of Bouchard; in the family for centuries; always one of Bouchard’s greatest Burgundies. Red cherry aromas; silky and harmonious; pure, rich fruit, with great acidity; very good depth; long finish. $65. (2016) 94
2016 Volnay Les Caillerets—A great Premier Cru from an outstanding vineyard; floral aromas; really silky and elegant; very good depth; classic Volnay. $75 (2016) 94
2016 Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus—This vineyard is situated in the heart of the Beaune Grèves appellation, purchased from the Church in 1791 by Bouchard. This has always been my favorite Bouchard red Burgundy (in fact, my favorite Beaune red); it is great from year to year. Black cherry and plum aromas; full and ripe, with great depth. $115 (2016). 96
Côte de Beaune Grand Cru:
2016 Le Corton—The only Grand Cru Vineyard in the Côte de Beaune. Classic Corton, full and rich, with some tannins; it needs time to soften, typical of Corton. $110 (2016) 93
Côte de Nuits Premier Cru:
2016 Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Cailles—Blueberry and blackberry aromas; elegant, but concentrated and minerally; lots of depth; often, it is this village’s best Burgundy $95 (2016) 94
Bouchard White Burgundies—2016
Côte de Beaune Village Level:
2016 Mersault Les Clous—Bouchard’s single-vineyard Meursault, not Premier Cru, but really of the same quality. Herbal, honey, nutty aromas; a rich Meursault with depth and concentration.; needs time to fully develop. $52 93
2016 Puligny-Montrachet—Creamy, silky, very concentrated; leaner than Meursault; long finish. $70 93
Côte de Beaune Premier Cru:
2016 Beaune Clos Saint-Landry—Fairly rare white vineyard in Beaune, which has mainly red vineyards. One of the oldest (perhaps the oldest) Chardonnay vineyards in Beaune; a Monopole, purchased by Bouchard in 1791. Nutty, pineapple aromas; rich and full; a powerful white Burgundy; ready to drink now. $57 94
Côte de Beaune Grand Cru:
2016 Corton-Charlemagne—The white Grand Cru of Corton usually outshines the red Corton. For me, this was the standout Burgundy of the tasting--red or white. Fresh lemon, spice, and grapefruit aromas; a powerful wine, with great acidity. Elegant, but authoritative and concentrated, with creamy texture. It will live for many decades. A wine to keep before drinking--at least ten years. $175 (2016) 98
William Fèvre Chablis—2016
The weather in Chablis was similar to that in the Côte d’Or, but even worse in the spring. The Chablis crop in 2016 was very limited. Chablis lovers should act fast in acquiring some 2016 Chablis because the wines are very good, similar to 2014 and 2008 (also cool years). The 2016 Chablis have concentration and great acidity, very much like 2014.
Chablis Premier Crus:
2016 Chablis Montmains—Always one of the better Chablis Premier Crus, with minerality, power, and excellent aging potential; nutty, green lemon aromas; Creamy and lean, with high acidity and excellent concentration. $47 92
2016 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre—Arguably the best Chablis Premier Cru. Very minerally, with great depth and concentration. Drink now, or hold (I would keep it a while). $52 93
Chablis Grand Crus:
2016 Chablis Bougros “Côte Bouguerots”—This part of the Bougros Grand Cru is owned by William Fèvre. Very lean and chalky, with excellent concentration; authoritative and rich; I would give this Grand Cru a few more years to develop. $80 (West Coast). 94
2016 Chablis Les Clos—Les Clos is usually regarded as the greatest Grand Cru Chablis. Very white, chalky soil exhibited in the wine’s chalky aromas. Very good depth; refined and elegant; very concentrated; long, long finish! It’s all there. $100 to $110. 96
The 2016 vintage is very impressive, both for its red and white Burgundies, including Chablis. Bouchard’s red Beaune Burgundies especially showed well. And Bouchard’s Corton-Charlemagne is a glorious white Burgundy. All of William Fèvre’s Chablis wines were great, especially Les Clos. These wines will not be around long because of the small crops. A word to the wise: Buy them soon.