Nearly every day for the past several weeks, my inbox has been flooded with offers for 2015 Burgundy. Just as many emails come in from friends asking me about whether this or that wine is worth its high price tag. Yes, prices for 2015 Burgundy have gone up considerably for the top domains, given its quality and increasing global demand.
After nearly two weeks in Burgundy tasting over 600 wines from the 2015 vintage in December 2016, it was clear to me that this vintage offers some of the most attractive, luscious and generous red wines since 2009. The whites are less impressive, very uneven, with some wines being wiry and lean, picked very early, while others are flabby and broad and some just forthright and delicious. Overall a good but not great vintage for whites to enjoy young but it is not for long-term aging.
The best red Burgundies are at a different level. They are sensual, seductive and ripe – a true hedonist’s wine. The nose is intoxicating, with its exuberance and exotic sweet spices and ripe berry flavors; but it is the intensity, concentration and the lingering finish that suggests they will age and evolve beautifully over the coming decade or two. Jacques Devauges of Clos de Tart, says, “To make bad wine in 2015, one must wake up and say to yourself, ‘I will make bad wine’.”
2015 was certainly not an easy vintage and at times growers were tearing their hair out given the various climatic challenges mother nature hurled at them. In late April, frost affected parts of Burgundy, including some of the top vineyards in Cote de Beaune – especially in grand cru vineyards Montrachet and Chevalier-Montrachet. This gave way to wet and cool temperatures in May until the weathering shifted abruptly to balmy weather starting mid-June to late July.
Powdery mildew pressure was high for some growers in late spring but it never got out of hand. The berries remained small and under water stress until August arrived, with its off and on downpours, and ‘saved the vintage’. The high heat and drought conditions meant berries remained small and ripening was hastened with the high temperatures. According to Eric Remy at Domaine Leflaive, “Between June to August, we had 35 days when the temperature was above 30 degrees Celsius and 15 days when the temperature was above 35 degrees Celsius.”
Harvest window was narrow because potential alcohol levels were creeping up while acidity was dropping. White wine producers harvested end of August and nearly all the red wine producers harvested in the first week of September. Many red Burgundy producers were very excited about the vintage. Cecile Tremblay says, “2015 had the best ripeness at harvest since I started winemaking. There was big quantity of polyphenols and too much of everything – I kept thinking of what to do with it. The big question was: Who am I making this wine for and what is the wine’s drinking window?”
There were many decisions in terms of style that a grower could make with this vintage because there was so much material to work with. Red wines can be elegant and ethereal, and purposefully made so, with light maceration and gentle handling or it could have been made into a dense, chewy full bodied red reminiscent of wine from warmer climates – all from the same bunch of grapes. Ultimately, I found that most domaines stayed true to their own styles while retaining the vintage characteristics of sweetness, intensity and generosity.
Many growers compared the 2015 to 2003 and 2009 but with better balance. I felt the vintage was not as hot as 2003 and slightly more tannic and denser than the 2009. Overall, the red Burgundies in this vintage are so lush, delicious and generous that one doesn’t need to go to grand crus vineyards to find wines with depth, intensity and wonderful balance. I suggest buying the village level and premier cru wines from your favorite growers; the quality difference is not as great in this fantastic year but the price difference will be huge.
Image Credit: Thierry Brouin, the steward of the Lambrays Estate/ JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/ AFP/ Getty Images