November 9, 2016

A Second Take on Burgundy 2015s

Following our initial notes on Burgundy 2015 we have been at it again. At the end of October, we visited most of our remaining growers in Burgundy and so now have a reasonable idea of the vintage.

Bonneau du Martray

My ‘take’ on 2015 in Burgundy has not changed greatly since visiting in September. In fact, the only clarification I would make is that whereas before I said to “keep an eye on acidity in the whites”, I have been pleasantly surprised to find really no whites lacking in crispness. It is true that levels of malic acidity were low in 2015, but tartaric was healthy and there is plentiful freshness throughout.

The comparison with 2014 is an interesting one. Whilst 2015 is shaping up to be a seductive vintage, an absolute charmer, 2014 will perhaps appeal more to the classicists in time, making up in adroitness and precision what it lacks in sex appeal. If 2014 is the conscientious first child, 2015 is the baby of the family who can do no wrong.

Here are a few snapshots, with more detail to follow in the individual releases.

Domaine Bonneau du Martray

This was the point at which I threw my ‘white wine acidity’ caution to the wind and accepted that the acids are absolutely fine.

Whilst Adam Brett-Smith called the white “almost sensuous by the domaine’s standards”, Jean-Charles shot back “oui, but… 2011 was very ‘flattering’ at first but look at it now”.

Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet

The first vintage with Brice de la Morandiere at the helm throughout. I will leave the detail of the individual wines for the imminent release, other than to take Folatieres as an example of 2015. This vineyard should be flamboyant and extrovert – characteristics which suit 2015 down to the ground. By contrast, while I loved 2014 Folatieres, it seems to have had its wings clipped alongside the soaring 2015.

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Vosne-Romanee

This was always going to be a (or the) highlight of the trip. DRC is one of the few domaines which still releases ‘late’, once the wines are in bottle. We were therefore tasting the 2014s, which as is customary took place with Aubert de Villaine, around a large oval-shaped wooden table deep in the heart of the cellars.

I have been hugely lucky to get to know these great wines during the past few years. There is a danger of being dazzled by the wines’ renown and sheer quality. More than elsewhere, you have to force yourself to approach them as ‘just wines’. In that vein, this was the tasting of Romanee-Conti which brought home to me what a difference the use of stems makes to the style of wine made here.

The stems character, whereby DRC leave a minimum of around 60% of the grapes undestemmed, gives a sappy tension and a tea-leaf, exotic spice character to the wines which is, if not unique in Burgundy, certainly the apogee of this uncommon style of winemaking. Whilst the 2014s were on average 70% whole bunch, the 2015s (which I tasted afterwards from barrel with Bertrand de Villaine – lucky me) are 100% whole bunch, for the first time since 2009.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault

A “millesime outstanding” in the words of Thierry Matrot, small quantities notwithstanding. There is only ‘half a harvest’ for the reds at Matrot, the summer heatwave causing millerandage and coulure. But quantity is excellent – these buzz with minerality and are concentrated.

Domaine Francois Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet

Lots of activity at Francois Carillon – some of the 2014s were being bottled and there was the drone of building work which seems to be a permanent feature of our tastings here. Not that it impedes the enjoyment – Perrieres and Macherelles were my picks.

Domaine A&P de Villaine, Bouzeron

A quick dash down to the Cote Chalonnaise, where the inquisitive, energetic Pierre de Benoist was on typically philosophical form. Along with championing the unfairly maligned Aligote grape, Pierre believes strongly that wine should be considered as any other food. Indeed, he pointed out that in old French, one said “I eat wine”. We left well fed.

Domaine Roty, Gevrey-Chambertin

This was my first tasting at Domaine Roty since the sad death of Philippe Roty last year. The family has taken the pragmatic and understandable decision to bottle everything under the name Domaine Joseph Roty from 2014 onwards. This is another ‘late release’ domaine, so 2014 was the vintage we tasted here.

After a dash up the autoroute to Gevrey-Chambertin, we were received at a bleary 8am by Madame Roty and Pierre-Jean, for both of whom it was clearly too early to taste. The ‘lesser’ Roty wines are outstanding value and should be on every Burgundy drinker’s radar.

Domaine des Varoilles, Gevrey-Chambertin

Gilbert Hammel, not one to mince his words, called this a “small crop, but the best in the last 20 years”. Watch this space.

Domaine Trapet, Gevrey-Chambertin

This is an imminent release, always one of the first of the season. There is something very special in Trapet 2015, a ‘luminosity’. They brim with energy too: wines which thrill the palate.

Domaine Gilles Jourdan, Corgoloin

Always a go-to option for quality on a budget – and that is meant as a compliment – this is a gem of a domaine, the cellar located over the railway tracks in sleepy Corgoloin. The 2015s are rich, quite voluptuous wines, but with beautiful crunchy fruit.

Domaine Lafarge, Volnay / Domaine Lafarge Vial, Fleurie

Another highlight of the trip for me, the Lafarge Volnays embody elegance and finesse. Asking for a vintage comparison (horrible question), Frederick Lafarge said that his father Michel had compared 2015 to 1929 – a “mythical vintage” of his youth. The point I took away was that this is a domaine for whom time moves slowly…

Fleurie is a new departure for the Lafarges: this is only the second vintage. These wines have upped their game massively in 2015. They are delicate, but with a seductive corporeal juiciness.

Marquis d’Angerville, Volnay

An enlightening tasting with the domaine’s François Duvivier, who spoke of “perfect” quality, but not-so-perfect quantity (an average 25 hectolitres per hectare). 2014 here appears more classical, whereas 2015 is a crowd pleaser. François acknowledged some similarities to 2009, but there is more acidity in 2015 than 2009. Relatively big wines, which will need patience.

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