The red harvest in 2015 was a little lower volume than the 5-year average of the vintages 2011-2015 – just 1% lower – but with so many low-yielding vintages included in those 5 years, this actually remains a very modest volume vintage:
Many producers were surprised by the low volumes of wine – some in prestigious appellations made half to two-thirds of what they had estimated after counting up their bunches in August – and for most it wasn’t a lack of bunches that was the problem, rather the difficulty of extracting juice from grapes with such thick skins.
For an in-depth overview of the 2015 growing season, I refer you to the report that I made last year.
A little like the whites, after having the 2015 grapes in my hands at harvest, my thoughts were definitely with comparisons to 2005, such was the similar stickiness of the triage table during harvest. Tasting each month in 2016 I was not just struck, I was astounded, by the freshness and linear lines of delivery that many reds displayed, but the aromas were all over the place – often massive and completely ungainly.
Elevage worked its magic, and with every month that passed, the aromas became ever-more classic – it was brilliant to follow the change as these wines developed – and also the reason I don’t post my thoughts on the new vintages early in elevage!
As noted for the whites, nobody should forget that the last 2-3 weeks of ripening were normal summer temperatures – it was really only pre-veraison that the thermometers registered days of 40°C (104°F) and above. Of-course the heat had its effect, in terms of early harvesting, thick skins, and some wines with 14° or more(!) but the freshness that is intrinsic to the vintage was a surprise.
Unlike the Mâconnais and Beaujolais, the Côte d’Or was blessed with sufficient rain at the end of June, July and August and in a manner that you could almost liken to watering your garden – switching on the water just when it was needed! There was a little stress but very few vines lost leaves – even in Beaune’s Clos du Roi, which had almost no leaves in 2003, all was green.
So, let’s get to the point shall we?
- 2015 is less consistent than 2005 – but not in quality terms, rather in stylistic terms. Do you want, long mouth-watering and linear? Do you want dark, ripe but muscled and yet balanced wines – or do you want something with a little more grip and a little more extraction? – All styles are easy to see and buy.
The reason for such a disparity of styles is easy to see – given the quality of the raw materials, it was very easy to just keep extracting – the siren call of the dark side – and those wines are still special in their own vernacular, but personally, my peak wines, are those wines that were more infusions than extractions.
But these style differences matter to most people, so you must taste or read before you buy…
- Only one producer told me they thought the vintage was like 2009. At one extreme Aubert de Villaine suggested it was similar to 2005 with the extra maturity of 2003(!) whereas most others suggested a hypothetical blend of 2009/2010 or 2005/2010. Some wines are ripe like 09, yet with more freshness and elegance. In the end, 2015 is, of-course, its own thing…
- There are certain traits that the 2015s offer, almost irrespective of the level of extraction and picking dates:
– They are very floral
– They also show plenty of salinity
– They show great textural qualities
– The persistence of their finishes is exceptional
– The best wines improve even on what was delivered in 2005
– 2005 is a hard act to follow, but 2015 has bourgognes that are at least as good as in 2005
But what to buy?
- The qualities are so good, that if you’re happy to encompass a range of styles in your purchases, then be happy, and buy whatever you like, but let me offer you the following:
- Buy 2015 regional wines (Bourgogne Pinot Noir) and villages wines – and the reasons are simple: a) they are great and b) there will be hardly any of these to buy in the 2016 vintage (frost in the flats where most of these vines are located…). Many, many wines which will wear ‘Bourgogne’ labels are the equivalent of villages wines in other vintages – they are also much longer finishing than you have any right to expect.
- You want dark, muscled, yet brilliantly elegant wines? You could buy Arnoux-Lachaux, Fourrier or Vougeraie, but you could also buy lesser-known names such as des Croix, Galeyrand and Poisot.
- You want more linear wines, wines of elegance, brilliant line and freshness? (My personal favourites) You should be looking at d’Angerville, Arlaud and Patrice Rion – the latter domaine, having dialed back the oak, are at the highest level in 2015. Less well-known? How about the fabulous range of Anne-Marie & Jean-Marc Vincent?
- Because all our circumstances and viewpoints are different, I leave the ‘value question‘ in the eye of the beholder, but with respect to pricing, about one-third the domaines told me that they will try to keep their prices the same as in 2014, whilst most of the rest suggested increases between 3 and 20% – the latter number mainly those with significant deficits in 2016 volumes.
And, of-course for individual recommendations, consult the individual reports and 600 wines tasted in this month’s Burgundy Report – ENJOY!