"2016 is the first vintage in more than a decade from which we will not produce any Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles".
After three years of extremely low yields, we can at last say 2016 has been a generous vintage! Unlike most of France, which was severely hit by hail, frost and sometimes both as in Chablis, Alsace was probably the luckiest of the major wine regions, alongside Bordeaux and Rhone Valley.
The vintage can really be divided in two halves by the weather which caused us great concern initially and then took a turn for the better around the end of June.
2016 started off with spring in January! On Jan 6 we were speechless when we found out that our quince tree at the family’s orchard was in full bud break and when we saw an almond tree from the Mandelberg already in full blossom. But thanks to a cooling of temperatures, bud break started slowly on April 12.
Spring did not unfold without incident though, with a few frost alerts in April and even in the beginning of May, followed by the wettest month of June (157mm) in decades! Careful monitoring of the vineyards was key with an outbreak of mildew, extremely rare in the region. There was severe damage in some areas in the north of the region.
The only window of bright sun came at the end of June, just in time for a perfect and, at least, complete blossoming. These unexpected but life-saving mild and dry two weeks probably caused what we expected to be “an almost non-existent first generation of fruits” to turn into a dream of blossoming between June 17 and 21.
Summer unfolded very dry and hot! Starting on the first of August until the end of the month, it was only on September 18 that we saw the first good rainfall of the second half of 2016, just enough for optimistic harvest forecasts.
Harvest saw dry and cool conditions (only three real days of rain in seven weeks) resulting in perfect sanitary status across all grape varieties. Equally satisfactory was the much awaited yield, after three years of miserable harvests. Due to the late vintage, harvesting started extremely slowly on September 27, one of the latest and longest campaigns of recent years. The big crop caused a few days of rush, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a few years too. As I write, the wines seem fine and pure and very elegant; after the very bold and rich 2015s, we are back to a more classical vintage profile.
2016 is the first vintage in over a decade that hasn’t seen the production of any botrytis wines; due to the late vintage and the optimum health of the grapes, very little grey mould developed. Nevertheless, the long growing season and favourable weather will guarantee wines of great depth, purity and elegance. The Pinots seem once again to be the grape family which embraced the best of the uncommon weather conditions of the year, with ripeness levels in the Sporen, above 15° potential for Pinot Gris. Levels were almost as high on the Pflostig and the Pinot Blancs were just beautiful to look at.
Release from Hugel & Fils