2016 Rhône: Vintage Overview
It can be tough to follow greatness. Just ask George Lazenby, who followed Sean Connery as James Bond; or Andy Robinson, successor to Sir Clive Woodward as England Rugby coach. Imagine my thrill to taste the 2016 wines of the Rhône, which continue the greatness of 2015 with aplomb, perhaps even surpassing their predecessor. I spent a week in the Rhône valley in November, and was consistently wowed by the sheer balance of these wines. With dancing freshness, silky tannins, and pure fruit, they’re some of the most complete examples you will find anywhere.
The North: elegance follows power
Just as 1991’s elegance was overshadowed by 1990’s power, before proving even more exciting, so 2016 in the north may end up the biggest secret.
The wines are perhaps not as powerful as in 2015, but what they lack in concentration, they make up for in finesse: this is a vintage for true Syrah lovers.
It is also a vintage growers love, evidenced by the prevalence of top cuvées made this year throughout the valley.
Notably, in Hermitage, quantities were decimated by hail early in the season. But what remains is brilliant. Secure whatever you can find from this much-hailed hill.
The South: simply outstanding
“It was like harvesting blockbuster grapes from the sofa.” So proclaimed Lucien Barrot of Domaine la Barroche, exalting the quality of the harvest in the Southern Rhône in 2016.
Here has seen one of the greatest vintages in decades. Indeed, 1990 was the comparison that I kept hearing, in cellar after cellar.
The Châteauneufs are powerful but retain the energy and acidity necessary in this part of the world. Appellations such as Gigondas and Vacqueyras, meanwhile, have performed brilliantly, with the added altitude bringing even more vivacity to the wines.
In 2016, I suggest you grab hold of all the wines from the south that you can. From Côtes du Rhône to single vineyard top cuvées, you won’t be disappointed.
The Whites: the hidden gems
The best surprise has been the quality of the white wines, from both north and south.
They carry freshness beautifully, with clean, precise fruit and minerality shining through. Many will be delicious in their youth, with the concentration and energy to age gracefully.
If the Rhône valley is all about reds for you, it’s time to be surprised.