En Primeur 2016 is just round the corner, and it’s looking to be a fruitful one indeed. Last October’s harvest of top Bordeaux wines was the largest in over a decade, according to official figures.
A total production of 577.2 million litres of the fine reds and whites – over 770 million bottles – was the biggest recorded since 2006, when there was 10% more vineyard space.
These promising figures are of course starkly contrasted by those of the less fortunate French wine regions in 2016.
Fine wine production in numbers
In fact, at an average of 52 hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha), last year’s was the highest yield per hectare since the largest crop of the century to date – 54 hl/ha – in 2004.
“The yield on the Merlot,” Gavin Quinney wrote in Bordeaux 2016 – quality and quantity, “is the biggest I’ve seen since 2004 and the quality is far superior to that attractive but uneven vintage. As Bordeaux is 89% red and Merlot accounts for two thirds of that 89%, it’ll be a big crop out in the sticks.”
Overall, the reds accounted for 85% of production, with 10% dry white, 4% rosé and 1% sweet white. Cabernet Sauvignon was less plentiful than Merlot, no doubt due to uneven flowering in June and smaller bunches of the glorious grape. Younger vines on more porous soils were also hit by the Summer drought, when a tenth of the normal rainfall fell in some areas, which affected crop size.
Generic Bordeaux red made up 35% of production with yields of 56.6hl/ha across 35,700 hectares – a great step up from 51.1hl/ha and 51.7 hl/ha in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Top Bordeaux crept up almost 60 million litres, yielding 50.4 hl/ha across 11,850 hectares.
Bordeaux wine yields by region
Most Bordeaux rouge and Bordeaux Supérieur comes from the Entre Deux Mers region and the Right Bank, which are responsible for two thirds of the total output. Most of the generic dry white also comes from the Entre Deux Mers.
Meanwhile, the Left Bank accounted for substantially less wine in 2016. The entire Médoc and Haut-Médoc – including Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe – and the Graves and Pessac Léognan combined produced 100 million litres of red. That sounds like a lot – but it adds up to little more than a fifth of total output of Bordeaux red last year.
Quantity vs quality
It is also the third good Bordeaux yield in a row, following on from the slightly disastrous 2013 (34hl/ha), and with the annual En Primeur tastings to kick off in late March, we will soon see whether the 2016s hit the mark in terms of quality as well as quantity.
When the time comes, the focus for the Primeurs will, as ever, be on the top 300-400 wines from the leading Appellations. Watch this space for updates and critic scores as the tasting notes roll in!