2015 – Chablis

Update 13.3.2017(2.3.2017)billn

Straight to the point:

  • 2015 is a delicious vintage in Chablis.
  • Given the warm ‘sunshine’ year, it is no surprise that the wines have an aromatic and flavour palette that is a little larger and riper than you might describe as ‘classic’ – but no more than a handful of wines tasted (from well over 500) were a little richer than I would prefer.
  • My notes are full of ‘delicious,’ ‘citrus,’ ‘mineral,’ and ‘mouth-watering.’ Despite the riper aromas and flavours, from the mid-palate and into the finish, these wines could only come from this small corner of Burgundy. In this respect, they are pure Chablis.
  • The Petit Chablis wines are the most ‘accessible’ that I have ever seen. For that reason, I didn’t make a separate blind tasting of these for the 2015 vintage.
  • I’m no fan of overt oak in my Chablis, but for those wines where this oak shows, the extra ripeness of the vintage renders these wines (still) delicious – even to my palate.
  • Similar to all the regions of Burgundy in 2015, the grape maturity has endowed the wines with brilliant length.

Of-course it was a warm vintage, so…

  • Aromatically, there is (today) none of the seashore in these wines.
  • Although some producers come close, the wines are not a match for the über-classic linearity of the 2014s
  • But given their precocious gourmandise, I wouldn’t have a problem drinking, many, many of these before the 2014s.

So the ‘cognoscenti’ will clearly prefer 2014s to these wines, but for the general wine-buying public this is a much more commercial vintage for both them and the producers. I think it a perfect vintage for those who wish to learn about the region and its wines, without the associated ‘austerity’ of a classic vintage such as 2014.

Of-course the relative position of respective domaines in their elevage has an effect on how brilliantly – or not – their wines show, but in 2015 my favourite ‘lucky-7’ producers, in alphabetical order (only) are:

Jean-Paul et Benoit Drion
Drouhin Vaudon
Gilbert Picq
Samuel Billaud
Vincent Dauvissat
Willaim Fevre

A little 2015 Background

Unlike the multiple trials and tribulations suffered during the 2016 vintage, in 2015 it was a hot but very simple vintage for the producers – except for one thing – the hail that arrived 5-10 days before they had planned to harvest.

It was a big storm, with over 100 mm of rain, and only about 10 minutes of that brought hail – but it hailed at about 2am when many could miss it. There were crevasses that were opened up by the rush of water between the vines, the rain washing soil and solid material down the hill – “There was at least 20cm of soil at the bottom of the hillside which we had to slowly carry back up!” – Fabien Moreau

The Chablisiens were lucky that the previous warm temperatures dropped from 25 to 15 degrees – post-storm – meaning less possibility of rot – they had the opportunity to gather their thoughts without directly needing to intervene. And it was a narrow band of hail – just 200 metres wide in some places – but in percentage terms it was mainly the 1er and Grand Crus that were effected – for the latter, it was principally Blanchots and the lower and middle parts of Les Clos that were lost. Whilst I didn’t specifically note problems with wines from Les Clos (though for Willaim Fevre there was an issue), I do note that I selected fewer Les Clos as outstanding in this vintage. We shouldn’t forget, however, that while the vignerons say that their grapes were anyway ripe, they had still not planned to harvest for another week – and there must be a reason for that, and possibly some quality loss that comes from the earlier harvest.

Yet, the wines reflect the vintage, not its denouement. It was a warm and dry vintage – a solar vintage – there is a wider palette of aromas and fruit flavours than you might expect in a ‘classic’ Chablis, but the mid-palate into the finish, these are wines that could only come from this tiny corner of the world – you cannot find their like elsewhere – there is a richness of flavour yet there is good acidity and there is that special Chablis minerality – equally important there is balance. If there is one thing that is lacking, it is the aroma of the seashore, at least mainly, though it may slowly become more evident – previous experience suggests that the base minerality of white burgundy generally seems to grow with time in the cellar.

Essentially these wines are delicious, even those that show their oak elevage do so to very tasty effect – even for this oak-averse palate/nose. The Chablisiens are unanimous, it is a significantly less ‘classic’ vintage than 2014, but to the 98% of consumers, the non-purists, it is a much more commercial vintage.

Of course, 2016 is the elephant in the room with regard to the prices of the 2015s. More than half the 2016 harvest was lost to a mix of frost, hail and mildew, and because of this scarcity of wine, the bulk pricing for 2016s has sky-rocketed – Petit Chablis and Chablis that is – the premier and grand crus lost proportionately much, much less. But this lack of wine to sell next year will see some producers trying to reduce demand for 2015s by increasing their prices – so far it hasn’t worked – as I type, there are producers who are already sold-out of 2015s and having to bottle some 2016 cuvées earlier than they would wish.

The bulk price of 2016s is at such a level that most producers will make more money by selling in bulk, than commercialising their wine in bottle. For most larger producers, buying a little bulk wine is like having a little insurance and essentially they end up with a portfolio price. In this case the bulk price alone doesn’t determine their final price – but for pure négociants, this is going to be a severe test.

Some producers are not tempted to sell more in bulk “In 2008/9 the bulk price fell through the floor, but not the bottle prices, so we’re not going to play with the bulk market any more. It’s better to stay with a consistent customer base.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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