2015: A Vintage Overview
A legend in the making, not least for the little guys
2015 saw a hot summer in Burgundy, with roasting temperatures through July and August. However, rain seems to have arrived at opportune moments, refreshing the vines and ensuring the plants did not shut down. Crucially, the producers we work with picked at the right time, preserving acidity in the grapes and studiously avoiding the cooked, jammy flavours that were seen in 2003, for example.
Comparing vintages can be a challenge. We asked every grower about this particular year, and the most striking response was at Domaine Lafarge, where legendary pater familias Michel likened 2015 to the great 1929 - a vintage to which, sadly, few of us have access.
In other comparisons, to which more of us can relate, the vintages 2010 and 2005 were mentioned in the same breath, but with hesitation. Far more common was the response that 2015 is entirely unique.
And we wholeheartedly agree. In 2015, several factors combine in harmony we’ve never seen: the benefits of a superb growing season, fruit that many consider the cleanest they’ve ever seen and a new crop of winemakers paving their own way in Burgundy. In seeking out elegance, refinement and purity of Pinot Noir, it is their sensitivity to the methods of the past without dogmatism that makes the results so evident of a unique vintage. Perhaps never before have such skill and conditions combined.
2015 White Burgundy
The whites are open and generous. Perhaps lacking the verve and vivacity of the best 2014s, they’re supple and complex. While I flew out to Burgundy fearful of fat, heavy wines, my fears were swiftly allayed: there’s more than enough acidity to balance their concentration of flavour. They’ll be delicious from day one.
2015 Red Burgundy
The reds are most keenly anticipated this vintage, and justifiably so. They’re ripe and concentrated, with juicy, mouth-filling tannins. Despite their ripeness, they’re still clearly Pinot Noir, showing off the individualities of each village, each vineyard and each plot beautifully. In other words, they have everything to make you fall in love with red Burgundy. The top names from great domaines have performed as you’d expect: these are wines that we’ll no doubt consider legends in several decades’ time. However, where 2015 really stands out is in lesser appellations. Here, wines lower down the hierarchy have narrowed the gap between top and bottom, and offer outstanding value, especially when compared to the biggest hitters. These are the wines with which to restock your cellars. It’s certainly what we
intend to do.
To buy or not to buy
As always, much will be written and discussed about the prices of Burgundy’s brilliant 2015s. Some may even dismiss it as unaffordable. So let’s start with the facts.
Burgundy has seen consistent short crops, while demand from across the globe has ballooned. And, the quality of this historic vintage is perhaps unprecedented, at least in our lifetime. So prices have risen. This is not to justify increases, or to ignore the UK’s less favourable exchange rate. But we should challenge the idea that Burgundy is the preserve of a very few.
True, the money that would have bought a Premier Cru a few years ago will now buy a village wine, or that case of village Vosne may now be a case of village Nuits. But quality has never been higher. There are more talented (and often young) winemakers making great wines than ever before. And given these extreme conditions, changes have been modest for the most part.
So there’s never been a better time to look beyond the most famous domaines in the most sought-after villages, to seek out the best value, and to discover
the unsung winemakers making gorgeous Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
2015 is a brilliant vintage, and one for the little guy. It’s time to seek them out.