Nearly every day for the past several weeks, my inbox has been flooded with offers for 2015 Burgundy. Just as many emails come in from friends asking me about whether this or that wine is worth its high price tag. Yes, prices for 2015 Burgundy have gone up considerably for the top domaines, given its quality and increasing global demand.
Thierry Brouin, the steward of the Lambrays Estate. JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images
After nearly two weeks in Burgundy tasting over 600 wines from the 2015 vintage in December 2016, it was clear to me that this vintage offers some of the most attractive, luscious and generous red wines since 2009. The whites are less impressive, very uneven, with some wines being wiry and lean, picked very early, while others are flabby and broad and some just forthright and delicious. Overall a good but not great vintage for whites to enjoy young but it is not for long-term aging.
The best red Burgundies are at a different level. They are sensual, seductive and ripe – a true hedonist’s wine. The nose is intoxicating, with its exuberance and exotic sweet spices and ripe berry flavors; but it is the intensity, concentration and the lingering finish that suggests they will age and evolve beautifully over the coming decade or two. Jacques Devauges of Clos de Tart, says, “To make bad wine in 2015, one must wake up and say to yourself, ‘I will make bad wine’.”
2015 was certainly not an easy vintage and at times growers were tearing their hair out given the various climatic challenges mother nature hurled at them. In late April, frost affected parts of Burgundy, including some of the top vineyards in Cote de Beaune – especially in grand cru vineyards Montrachet and Chevalier-Montrachet. This gave way to wet and cool temperatures in May until the weathering shifted abruptly to balmy weather starting mid June to late July.
Powdery mildew pressure was high for some growers in late spring but it never got out of hand. The berries remained small and under water stress until August arrived, with its off and on downpours, and ‘saved the vintage’. The high heat and drought conditions meant berries remained small and ripening was hastened with the high temperatures. According to Eric Remy at Domaine Leflaive, “Between June to August, we had 35 days when the temperature was above 30 degrees Celsius and 15 days when the temperature was above 35 degrees Celsius.”
Harvest window was narrow because potential alcohol levels were creeping up while acidity was dropping. White wine producers harvested end of August and nearly all the red wine producers harvested in the first week of September. Many red Burgundy producers were very excited about the vintage. Cecile Tremblay says, “2015 had the best ripeness at harvest since I started winemaking. There was big quantity of polyphenols and too much of everything – I kept thinking of what to do with it. The big question was: Who am I making this wine for and what is the wine’s drinking window?”
There were many decisions in terms of style that a grower could make with this vintage because there was so much material to work with. Red wines can be elegant and ethereal, and purposefully made so, with light maceration and gentle handling or it could have been made into a dense, chewy full bodied red reminiscent of wine from warmer climates – all from the same bunch of grapes. Ultimately, I found that most domaines stayed true to their own styles while retaining the vintage characteristics of sweetness, intensity and generosity.
Many growers compared the 2015 to 2003 and 2009 but with better balance. I felt the vintage was not as hot as 2003 and slightly more tannic and denser than the 2009. Overall, the red Burgundies in this vintage are so lush, delicious and generous that one doesn’t need to go to grand crus vineyards to find wines with depth, intensity and wonderful balance. I suggest buying the village level and premier cru wines from your favorite growers; the quality difference is not as great in this fantastic year but the price difference will be huge.
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These are my top 15 premier cru red Burgundies from the 2015 vintage:
1. Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses
A sensual, complete, intense wine with great depth and intensity. I love the purity and precision and delicate character of this wine. Sensational!
2. Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jacques
A glorious wine with amazing layers of flavors, from violets and roses to dark cherry and red plum fruit. The finish is incredibly long.
The generosity and depth of this wine is impressive and the wine seems to grow bigger on the palate. A fabulous Cros Parantoux!
4. Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Suchots
This is a powerful, generous wine, in size and depth but without any heaviness. A wine built for the long term – best after 2025.
5. Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Les Saints-Georges
Intense, concentrated Nuits with amazing layers of flavors that continue to unfold on the palate. This wine, with a long finish, has the potential to age for many decades.
6. Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jacques
This is a beautifully composed Clos St-Jacques with delicious sweetness and ripe mixed berry fruits. Tannins are fine grained and silky, lifting the flavors towards a long, sweet finish.
7. Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noellat Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Suchots
There is fantastic depth and complexity; the palate combines density, power and minerality. Layers of stone, chalk and savory spices can be found on the palate along with gentle, sweet red fruits.
8. Domaine Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jacques
This is a sensual Clos St-Jacques with layers of lovely impressive flavors and gorgeous aromatics. An intense wine to savor for its plush tannins and long finish.
9. Domaine Arlaud Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru Les Ruchots
This is a sexy wine. Filled with exuberant flavors of sweet jasmine flowers, violets and spices along with delicate red berries. This is one of the best Morey premier crus I tasted in this vintage.
10. Domaine Cecile Tremblay Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Beaumonts
A gorgeous red with velvety firm tannins and great core structure and depth – it will no doubt allow the wine to mature towards a ripe old age (at least 20 years). Extremely long finish.
11. Domaine de Montille Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Aux Malconsorts Christiane
An elegant Malconsort with great finesse and silky tannins despite the quantity and density of tannins in this vintage.
12. Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Les Champeaux
Elegant and delicate Vosne Champeaux with fine-grained tannins and lifted perfume of cherries and roses. The palate is delicate yet persistent with a light touch.
13. Domaine Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Aux Malconsorts
This Vosne Malconsorts is powerful and minerally, the kind you leave alone for at least 10 years before approaching. This wine is all about potential and the future.
14. Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses
Les Amoreuses can’t be anything other than sensuality in a bottle – in 2015, Mugnier’s rendition is all that times two. This is an elegant, enticing wine; sadly only 5 barrels of this wine was made in 2015.
15. Maison Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Petits Monts
This is a fabulous Vosne Petits Monts with lush tannins and an array of flavors from red plums and blackberries to violets and sweet spices. Mouth-filling and generous on the palate with a very long finish.
Jeannie Cho Lee MW
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