Geoffrey DeanOlivier Bernard, the President of the Union de Grands Crus de Bordeaux, has revealed that the severe spring frosts in France this year will reduce yield in the region by as much as 40% from the bumper 2016 crop. The late April frosts hit Bordeaux and other parts of France particularly hard, although much of Burgundy escaped unscathed (with the exception of Chablis, which was hammered).

The 2015 vintage, though, showed as well as had been widely expected at the UGCB tastings of that year in London this week. “The 2015 has lovely balance,” purred Bernard, whose family own Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Leognan. “It really shows what Bordeaux can do in a great vintage. The balance of the wines is better than ten years ago in terms of extraction, density and alcohol. ’16 is more masculine and a wine to keep for a few years. ’17 is another story: some properties have made some wonderful wines; some have made very little because of the frost.”

Vines

Bernard revealed that the frost was “everywhere in Bordeaux” but that there was much variation in the sites it affected. Those near the river were not hit because of the warming effect of water. Pichon-Baron was one such, losing only 10% of their fruit according to Christian Seely, their managing director, who added that he rates his 2015 in his top five of all time. It was hard to disagree on tasting.

Another top property largely to escape the frost was Troplong-Mondot on the Right Bank. Myriam Ruer, their marketing manager, said that only one of their plots had been hit, or about 5% of their area under vine. “Our yield is actually the same as in 2015,” she declared. “We were very, very lucky.” The estate’s 2015 was one of the stars of St-Emilion, being fabulously rich and long with beautifully integrated tannins. While powerful and opulent, this wine still exhibited delightful softness and freshness. Investors should give it serious consideration.

Chateau Troplong MondotOther leading chateaux were not so fortunate. Ludovic David, supremo at Marquis de Terme in Margaux, said he lost 25% of his fruit. Domaine de Chevalier’s loss was slightly less (20%) but others, according to Bernard, were facing between 30 and 50%. 

Bernard added that this year’s expected yield will be around 3.3m h/l, while in 2016, it was 5.8m. As a result, Anne Le Naour, head winemaker at Grand-Puy-Lacoste in Pauillac, thinks that technical considerations will be very important. “Wineries will have to decide if they want to produce volume or quality,” she said.

Careful selection will, therefore, be of paramount importance for those aiming to buy the 2017s en primeur next spring. Given the reconfirmation of the excellence of 2015, they may want to invest further in that vintage or in the 2016s. 

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