2015 Burgundy: one of the greats
Hugely rewarding wines for the medium and long term
Wines will be offered over the next couple of weeks
2015 in Burgundy was a solar year; largely dry and certainly warm during the day. But nights were often cooler and there were brief intervals of rain, usually pretty well timed. It was a pretty textbook season. Reds or whites? Your wine critic, being an overworked type, has a simple formula for classifying Burgundy vintages. Is it blindingly obviously stellar? Then it is a red wine vintage. Anything else? It's a white vintage. 2015 is clearly both. We'll often talk about classic styles of vintage where terroir definition is clear. 2015 is one of these. We talk a lot about picking dates too nowadays and 2015 was a vintage where these were critical, perhaps more for whites than reds. What is clear is that the harvested fruit was in wonderful condition with very little sorting necessary and that in 2015 those who use whole bunches found themselves with all the ripe stems they wanted, if they had tank space to accommodate them.
Winemaking has continued to change and develop in Burgundy and is arguably as fashion-driven as it is anywhere else in the world. The late Henri Jayer was one of the gods of red Burgundy and a pioneer of cold maceration but Jean-Marie Fourrier (a former apprentice) told us its adoption was entirely pragmatic; Jayer couldn't start winemaking until the pickers had finished and left, so this was often around 6 days. Nowadays you hear growers quoting this as holy writ.
Equally the approach in the vineyard has changed with a retreat from the post-war rush to chemical farming throughout Burgundy. Charles Ballot in Meursault described the huge amount of work he had done to reactivate the soil in the vineyards, which now has much more organic matter in it; more beneficial bacterial life and so the vines are healthier and he gets more mineral character and tension in the wines.
But regardless of all the plans and strategies of our grower friends, their increased care for their land or their practice of gentle extraction in the cellar, there are still decisions to be made on the ground and on the spot. These can't always be planned and the best decision-making depends on experience and learnt lessons - and sometimes on sheer gut instinct as much as on analysis. The picking date as mentioned above was chief among these in 2015. For the whites, early was essential to retain freshness. Only one domaine disappointed us in this respect, but everyone else showed us poised wines with nerve and richness. First among equals was Alex at Domaine Bernard Moreau whose wines have richness and complexity and additionally only 13% alcohol. He also notes that the whites are - like 2003 - incredibly stable, with a glass of each wine capable of lasting over a week without any deterioration. And one of Alex's other winemaking decisions is to leave the wines a little longer in barrel this year, so only the Bourgogne Blanc was already bottled.
Our visit last November was a wonderful four days of privileged tasting and information gathering. Demand for these wines will be rightfully high and with many crop losses in 2015 and surrounding vintages prices are unlikely to drop. But a consolation is that the village wines are superb if the premier crus are a bit rich. We tasted amazing Bourgogne wines of both colours too though I do believe the Bourgogne Rouges to be a special category and not a substitute for anything else. But if you like them, this is their vintage. I also think that even the elderly, such as myself, can buy across the board and have hope of enjoying them. /CW