Michael Edwards gives his verdict on “superb” Burgundy 2015 vintage
The Côte d’Or in 2015 had one of the warmest summers in recent years. But unlike the arid heat of August 2003 when the temperature at night didn’t fall below 40 degrees C, August 2015 was blessed with cool nights and gentle rain at the beginning and end of the month.
In truth, the best estates having learnt the lessons of opulent 2009, this time they started the harvest in the first days of September, based on better vineyard practices refined in the intervening six years: the elimination of herbicides, a more rigorous husbandry of the vines in order that they might dig deeper into the soils for water nourishment – and not least, protective canopy management, shading the plants against the heat of high summer.
The harvest took place in superb conditions, the Pinot Noirs were formed in perfect bunches of small, thick-skinned, intensely flavoured grapes; there was little need of sorting tables.
For Giles Burke-Gaffney, buying director of Justerini & Brooks, the situation is quite clear: “2015 is among the best vintages in Burgundy of the last 25 years.”
Best of the reds
For some of us old dogs who were stagiers in the Beaune of 1968, enjoying the privilege of tasting venerable bottles en rouge like 194, 1955, and much more recently 1985, 1990 and 2005, this judgement has the ring of truth.
The Côte de Nuits 2015, mostly tasted from cask in infancy, looks like a very strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. The entry-level Bourgogne Rouge and Villages wines from top growers are quite exceptional, always the sign of a great year. The Grand Crus of Gevrey and Morey are magical, whether whole-bunch fermented or de-stemmed.
Clos des Lambrays leads the charge, which must be a great way for Thierry Broin to be remembered in imminent retirement. Mention should be made of Olivier Bernstein, a micro-merchant grower based in Beaune with peerless parcels in Gevrey Cazetiers, Mazis and Le Chambertin, or Rossignol Trapet’s so graceful Latricières.
There’s a fine revived name, Gilbert & Christine Felletig, in Chambolle. And Vosne this year is off the scale – exquisite expressions of Malconsorts (touching La Tâche) from Albert Bichot and Sébastien Cathiard, and the truly magnificent Romanée La Grande Rue of Domaine Lamarche.
Best of the whites
In this solaire vintage, the whites are difficult to judge, plumper, richer, more open than the aristocratic class of the 2014s, which as a rough rule of thumb deserve to be aged further, while drinking the soft and opulent 2015s sooner. There are of course some good exceptions in’15: Cooler mineral Corton Charlemagne, Ladoix and Pernand Blanc are conspicuous successes, as are the Beaunois whites of Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Chanson.
The Meursault Charmes of Domaine Germain is as always excellent. So are several domaines in St. Aubin: Olivier Lamy led the way, starting to picking his Chardonnays there and in Puligny as early as August 25th to protect their freshness and energy, made more complex by his subtle liberating use of oak – without lowering woody heaviness.
Chablis, wonderful tense true Chablis, you might think would be imperilled by the heat: Some famous names were, plump to the point of flabbiness. Yet the picture in the Yonne is more nuanced: in half a dozen, top domaines, exceptional winemakers met the challenges of the weather and read their terroirs right, particularly in cooler sites.
As in Champagne, 2015 Chablis separates the men and women from the boys and girls. Generalisations are usually misleading but one that is sound is that, again, the cooler crus fared better in those of south-west or north easterly sites, none more so than Domaine Nathalie Fèvre in her Grand Cru Les Preuses, over marly limestone soils that shaped florality with substance and real keeping power.
Another ageworthy wine is Long—Depaquit’s 1er Cru Les Lys which north-east facing had a freshness and vigour to counter the summer heat of climate change.
A brilliant newcomer is Pierrick Laroche of Domaine des Hâtes in Malighy, whose soils are more clay than limestone and show orchard fruits like yellow peach and greengage more than citrus. His village, athletic Chablis sings and a special parcel of older Cuvée Chatillons shows more substance and complexity than several premiers Crus.
At the peak of the pyramid were two outstanding Grand Crus that should be kept until 2025 – Domaine Pinson’s Les Clos, going to greater heights under the daughter of the house assisting her father Laurent- and the stunning Valmur of Samuel Billaud, Samuel having regained his inheritance after 10 years of litigation with his uncle Bernard.
On down past the Côte d’Or, the Chalonnais is a happy hunting ground for fairly- priced mineral white Burgundy that coped well in the high temperatures, due in part to the growers’ foresight in replanting their rootstock 20 years ago, to excellent effect. Domaine Claudie Jobard, an oenologist, has a fine array of Rully blancs of differing exposures, as does the more established Jacqueson family who are impeccable winemakers. Mercurey Blanc is often very good in ‘15 from a variety of soils. La Mission Blanc from Devillard is excellent, so too the wines of the new winemaking team at Château de Santenay, which has 14 ha in Mercurey.
The Mâconnais highlights
Sixty miles south of Beaune at noticeably higher temperatures, the Mâconnais had a sweltering summer, with no rain in August and a hot southern wind that blew up the Saône at the month’s end. Committed growers like Dominique Lafon and Sophie Cinier in her bijou domaine at Pouilly Fuissé have brought home the bacon, despite the odds. The Devillard fils et fille ( children of Bertrand) have fashioned a vital mineral Mâcon Bussière, near to the rock of Vergisson, which is real value for money.
The Cave de Prissé ( Terres Secrètes), probably the best co-op in the region have made some delicious Mâcon Clochette and St Véran de Montceaux in their admired non-oxidative style -fresh as a daisy for delicious immediate drinking this summer.
And finally, 2015 is a great year for Beaujolais crus, especially Brouilly Pisse Vieille+ the Morgon Côte du Py of J-P Brun and a clutch of Moulin- à -Vents, from the Parinet, Bichot families in Vérillats and Clos de Rochegrès.
The Morgon of Château des Jacques ‘i5 is the best vintage I’ve ever tasted at this Jadot property. Embaresses de Richesses from Maligny to Romanèche-Thorins this season!