Behind the Cellar Door: Burgundy 2015 vintage
In the freezing depths of a Burgundian winter, mists shroud the vines and small fires dot the landscape, stoked by pruned vine cuttings. December is not the time to be strolling through the vineyards of the Côte d’Or but to be in the cellar, tasting the 2015 Burgundies that are soon to be released.
Over three days, Cult tasted 140 wines from 12 appellations.
“3 days; 12 appellations; 140 wines = 1 great 2015 Burgundy selection”
2015: Burgundy’s growing season
Burgundy has wowed wine lovers with the quality of the past five vintages and 2015 looks set to impress again. A warm, dry season with warm days and cool nights in the crucial ripening period of August and September produced beautiful bunches of grapes. Burgundians are a rather modest lot yet they’ll tell you the harvest looked perfect and they had the luxury of picking when they wanted.
The white wines
Warm conditions produced voluptuous whites: dense and structured with bold flavours of ripe orchard fruit, citrus and a distinct mineral freshness. The wines remind me of the 2009 vintage yet the 2015 vintage seems even more refined.
The red wines
This is an excellent year for reds. In tasting and talking with the growers, it’s clear that the wines have high levels of concentration. They are riper than the 2010 and 2012 vintages yet they manage to balance this rich, full bodied structure with freshness. A few growers compared it to the 2005 vintage and others mentioned 1999. However, time has brought greater knowledge and improved methods, meaning the wines are better than ever.
On a bright, sunny morning, Cult’s first appointment was in the small town of Morey-Saint-Denis at Domaine Georges Lignier. The domaine’s winemaker Benoit Stehly, complete with wine-stained purple hands, always offers a warm welcome even on the coldest of days. He’s been in charge since 2008 and, Cult has seen the evolution of its wines since: it’s clear that they keep on getting better and better. Benoit might be modest but he is unequivocal when it comes to the 2015 vintage: this is the best he has ever made.
Flinty and fresh, biting red fruit with a hint of wet soil. Forward and aromatic, medium-long finish.
Pale bright ruby colour. Strawberry and red cherry flavours combine with freshly cooked mushrooms. Dry, dense and fragrant.
Fragrant and opulent, stewed cherry fruit mixed with minerals. Palate is round, yet proportioned.
Cherry and plums, infused with violets and wet rock. The palate is juicy and vibrant, with violet and smoky nuances. Great finish - beautifully spicy.
2015 Chambolle-Musigny, 1er Cru Clos des Ormes
Medium intense bright ruby, ripe red fruit with minerals and well-formed, refreshing mineral flavours. Intense and firm, the flavour is pure and lasting.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er Cru Aux Combottes
Cherry and red plums aromatics with black plums in the background. The clarity of fruit is great – infused with clay and cracked pepper, leading to a long- lasting savoury conclusion.
Medium intense ruby colour, incredibly aromatic. Red flower bouquet, red and dark cherry with all spice, violets and wet rock flavours. Shows great weight and density, especially in the mid palate.
Bright, deep ruby colour. Ripe cherry and raspberry aromas, which are very direct and precise. There is a great deal of rock-like mineral flavours intermingled with black and red pepper.
2015 Bonnes-Mares, Grand Cru
Ruby core that is persistent to the rim. Red cherry and raspberry infused with red pepper and violets. Soft, almost melting sensation in the mouth with a fresh, vibrant finish.
It was just 500 metres walk from Domaine Georges Lignier to our next appointment. Past the post office, Clos de Tart and the town hall of Morey-Saint- Denis lies the canary-coloured house of Domaine Taupenot-Marme. Romain Taupenot, who has been in charge since 2003, welcomed the Cult team through the iron gates into the paved courtyard. It’s clear his commitment to improving the wines during his tenure is paying off. The wines are like Romain himself: restrained and delicate and show their sense of place.
Medium intense ruby colour. Aromas of berry fruit with refreshing minerality.
Flinty and restrained, the fruit is bright and subtle built on red rather than black fruit.
Bright ruby colour, notes of red cherry stone with liquorice and restrained mineral flavour. Medium finish.
2015 Morey-Saint-Denis, 1er Cru La Riotte
Ripe and intense with black cherry, violet and spicy earth-like flavour. The mid palate is ripe and saturated, showing the richness, yet it is all in proportion.
2015 Gevrey Chambertin, 1er Cru Bel Air
Bright ruby core, persistent red cherry and black plums showing excellent tension and purity. There is great freshness on the palate with a woodsmoke-like finish.
2015 Corton Le Rognet, Grand Cru
Medium intense ruby colour. The wine shows liquorice notes with cherry liqueur and black plums. The palate is dense, displaying a juicy core with a refreshing mid-palate and lasting flavour.
2015 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
A deeper ruby hue than Robert’s previous wines, the nose evokes roast vegetables mixed with earth-like minerals supported by plump red berry fruit. The palate is juicy and long, and has great traction.
2015 Mazoyeres-Chambertin, Grand Cru
What clarity of colour! This is a is very expressive wine, having a core of spiciness with black pepper and all spice intermixed with turned black earth. Hugely characterful and flavoursome.
The last visit of the day took us south from Morey-Saint-Denis, past Chambolle, the Clos de Vougeot and Vosne-Romanee to see Thibault Liger- Belair in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Thibault is a real joy to talk to, I always find our conversations enlightening. Thibault took over in 2001 and runs his parcels biodynamically. His wines are unapologetically full bodied, sometimes showing notes of reduction in youth, which Thibault believes leads to greater substance and complexity in his wines over time.
Round and buttery with subtle toasty mineral. Fresh and lean on the palate.
2015 Moulin-a-Vent (Beaujolais)
A deep ruby core that is persistent to the rim. Aromatically rich with black plums, chocolate and dry earthy notes.
2015 Moulin-a-Vent Vieilles Vignes (Beaujolais)
Deep ruby core, shows black plum and cassis flavours with intense mineral notes matched by leafy/spicy flavours.
2015 Bourgogne Les Grand Chaillots
Bright ruby, expressive and pure with red plums, spicy cherry and a hint of earthy spiciness.
2015 Hautes Cotes de Nuits
Bright ruby colour, the nose shows clarity and freshness of red berry fruit with a mineral core running through the heart of this wine.
2015 Nuits–Saint-Georges, La Charmotte
Med intense ruby colour. Intense, forward aromas with black plums, dark cherries refreshed by rocky minerals that have excellent purity. Finish is long and lean.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin, La Croix des Champs
Clear bright ruby appearance. Flinty aromas of rock and damp earth are lifted by bright red and dark cherry fruit. Full of energy, length and density, this is one of my favourite Gevreys.
2015 Vosne-Romanee, Aux Reas
Clear and well defined aromas of black plums mix with red berry fruit. There is very detailed mineral richness. The palate has fantastic berry fruit that is both soft yet refreshing.
2015 Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru
Saturated ruby colour. Aromatic and rich nose filled with red roses, violets and ripe berry fruits. The palate is crisp and broad featuring a refreshing core of turned earth. Exceptional.
2015 Richebourg, Grand Cru
Dark ruby colour. Pure and intense with sour red cherry fruit and intense wet soil minerality. There are aromas of dried flowers and notes of liquorice. Palate is dry and firm with excellent traction and length.
The Cote de Nuits is Pinot Noir lovers’ paradise. From the amount of fine wine it produces and its word renown you’d think it was a vast area but – depending on the speed you’re driving – you can drive through it in 15 minutes. The RN74, affectionately called the Champs Elysee of wine, is the road that takes you past the wine villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanee on its way to our base in Beaune.
On the former Route Nationale sits the family estate of Domaine Clerget run by sixth generation vigneron and his wife Isabelle. Their wines proved to be a real discovery: since building a new cellar and adding a sorting table the wines are more sophisticated and refined.
Bright ruby colour. Expressive and forward aromas, mixing red and black fruit with delicate earthiness.
Red cherry and plum aromas combine with prunes and notes of chocolate. The palate is dense yet fresh.
2015 Vosne-Romanee, Les Violettes
Intense, bright ruby colour. Complex nose offering red cherry and cranberry fruit well layered with spices and earthy notes. A very fine wine.
2015 Vougeot 1er Cru, Les Petits Vougeots
Saturated ruby core, fading at the rim. At first, there’s spice, cloves, followed by smoky tones and black cherry. The palate is dry and firm. It has a beautiful, refreshing character, leading to a long finish.
2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Les Charmes
The bright ruby core is persistent to the rim. Pure and expressive nose, that’s red fruit-dominant with a black berry note in the background. The wine has depth, density and roundness.
2015 Echezeaux Grand Cru, En Orveaux
A symphony of aromas: sour red cherry fruit plays alongside plums and berries, with violets playing the high notes and black pepper taking the bass line. Harmionious and pure class.
2015 Morey-Saint-Denis, Les Crais
A rare white from this red winemaking village, offering dry citrus peel aromas with wet stone-like minerals and white flower note. Dry and rich yet refreshing.
Next up was Domaine de l’Arlot, two kilometres south of Nuits-Saint-Georges. The impressive building and walled property is one of the few domaines in Burgundy owned by a large corporation – AXA Millesimes – whose portfolio includes Pauillac’s Chateau Pichon-Baron and Port’s Quinta do Noval. The French insurance giant’s wine arm will celebrate 30 years of ownership in 2017 and its investment in the domaine has paid dividends. Domaine de l’Arlot and its winemaker Geraldine Godot are Burgundian through and through.
2014 Nuits-Saint- Georges 1er Cru, Les Petits Plets
Bright and welcoming red berry fruit aromas with well-integrated aromas of dry soil and spice.
2014 Nuits- Saint-Georges1er Cru, Clos des Forets Saint-Georges
This monopole is forward and fruity with red cherries, plums and hints of pepper spice. The palate is refreshing and linear leading to a finish that is both refreshing and long.
2010 Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru, Clos de l’Arlot (blanc) Monopole
Intense lemon-yellow colour gives away its age with golden tints. Sweet golden apple and grapefruit peel flavours combine with mineral and smoky notes. Round and full.
Olivier Guyot doesn’t speak English; I don’t speak French but his wines speak for themselves. Domaine Olivier Guyot is 14 hectares, which might seem small fry in the New World but it is sizeable in Burgundy terms and allows Olivier to produce an exciting range of wine from the Cote de Nuits. He’s not a household name in the UK, as his wines are hugely popular in France’s finest restaurants. We urge you to seek out why the French want to keep Olivier Guyot’s wines to themselves.
Light ruby, crunchy and forward with beautiful intensity.
A wild and intriguing wine with unadulterated red cherry fruit, spice and damp soil-like aromas.
2014 Chambolle-Musigny, Vieilles Vignes
Ripe strawberry aromas mingle with red cherry and black plum fruit. But this wine isn’t just fruit: there’s spices and mineral nuances bringing complexity to this dry and savoury Chambolle.
2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Les Fuees
A dry and firm, very persuasive wine, with an attractive fresh finish. Expect dry herbs infused with spice and red cherries.
2014 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Les Champeaux
A wine that offers a wide spectrum of enticing aromas: cherry, plums, violets and delicate, earthy spiciness. The palate is lively and forward. I bought several bottles on the spot and plan on opening them in three to give years.
2014 Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru
An intense ruby core showing spicy blackberry fruit on the nose, balsamic and roast herb-like characters. The plate actually is surprisingly rounded and soft. I wish it to have a longer finish.
Staying in Marsannay, Domaine du Vieux College lies just around the corner from Olivier Guyot. Eric Guyard has been in charge of the property since 2006, taking over the reins from this father. His wines are some of the best I have ever tried from Marsannay and Fixin, offering a full expression.
2014 Marsannay, Les Vignes Maries
This white Marsannay is ripe and expansive with pear and apple followed by wet flint stone and hints of toasted bread. Great intensity on the finish.
2014 Marsannay, Les Recilles
Firm and forward with beautifully focused red berry fruit expression. Delicate mineral notes define the palate. I love the harmonious palate and finish.
2014 Fixin, Les Champs des Charmes
Aroma of red flowers mix with red berries and savoury roast pepper characters. This is a very honest and precise wine with a long refreshing finish.
Refreshed and energised by the wines of Vieux du Domaine College, Gilles Duroche and his son Pierre of the eponymous Domaine Duroche were ready and waiting to show us barrel samples of the 2016 vintage, as the 2015s were already bottled and ready to go. This domaine has seen massive gains in quality in recent years by reducing yields and increasing the percentage of new oak. The result? More characterful wines.
2016 Bourgogne Rouge
Rich and aromatic with a combination of blackberries and a blackcurrant leaf note.
Deep ruby appearance. Full and intense with a depth of flavour reminiscent of black fruit and balsamic with mixed spice overtones.
2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Lavaut St Jacques
Savoury and detailed: lots of cracked pepper, fruits of the forest, and Christmas spices. Beautifully long, refined finish.
2016 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
A characterful wine that’s deep and firm. The palate is dry and powerful with lots of complexity: black fruit, balsamic, and ripe red berry fruit with hints of smoke and violets.
2016 Clos de Beze, Grand Cru
A very pretty wine that is delicate yet rich at the same time. Cassis-led nose with red berry fruit, violets and smoky mineral nuances. The palate doesn’t disappoint showing precise fruit, spicy notes and excellent balance.
2014 Charmes-Chambertin, Grand Cru
Fresh and balanced with interminable length. Red cherry aromas with plums and mixed aroma of red flowers. Fruit and charred meat-like oak notes perfectly integrated.
It was time to head back to Morey-Saint-Denis where the relaxed and genial Laurent Lignier of Domaine Hubert Lignier & Fils opened wines dating back to 2001. Stylistically Laurent’s wines are dense and concentrated, showing predominantly black fruit. They have a seamless softness that is incredibly appealing.
2015 Bourgogne, Grands Chaillots
Saturated, deep ruby with aromas of black plums and dry dark berry fruit. Shows freshness and intensity.
2015 Chambolle-Musigny, Les Bussieres
Aromatic and intense with black plums, violets and earth. The palate displays lovely roundness; rich but not excessive.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice
Saturated red colour. Ripe and intense with cherry compote, raspberry and balsamic-like flavour. Broad and intense.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Aux Combottes
Aromatic and savoury with red fruit infused with mineral nuances. Mellow palate with great spicy freshness and a fantastic savoury conclusion.
2015 Clos-de-la-Roche, Grand Cru
Saturated, dark ruby with broad aromatics that are led by black cherry and plums with notes of ripe red cherry. There are traces of damp earth and clove with a roast vegetable like aroma. Round and soft palate. I wish it to have more freshness.
Philippe Pacalet loves to talk – and laugh. In the first quarter of an hour of a visit to Domaine Pacalet, he talked about everything from the economy to politics. Eventually, he realises you’re primarily here to taste his wines and pulls out some of the most delicate and pure Burgundies I have ever tasted: they are precise, and a brightness of flavour shines through them. I believe they are quintessential wines and must be tasted to be believed.
2016 Moulin-A-Vent, Beaujolais
Light, bright ruby loaded with aromas and flavour of red cherry and cocoa powder. The palate is fresh and precise.
Juicy and refreshing. Focused flavours of sour red cherry and cranberries.
Delicious and fresh. It is forward and offers crushed red berry fruit and minerals.
Pure red berry fruit. While the aromas aren’t dissimilar to Philippe Pacalet’s Nuits-Saint-Georges, the palate is rather softer and rounder.
“Sex appeal” is how Philippe Pacalet describes his wine. And it is definitely sexy with bright, fresh fruit, a voluptuous structure yet incredibly focused. There’s fresh cherry fruit with herbal and spicy notes.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Bel-Air
Savoury and refreshing with a finish that delivers on fruit and length. Expect mixed berries, a note of pepper and spice.
2015 Charmes-Chambertin, Grand Cru
Fragrant and welcoming wine. It is perfectly ripe: red fruit dominates with black cherry playing a supporting role. The aromas follow through on the palate, which offers a dense, rich structure with a fine, linear finish.
2015 Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru
Youthful and as yet untamed, this is a dense and voluptuous wine with a long finish. The fruit is reminiscent of black cherry with a peppery lift.
2015 Echezeaux, Grand Cru
Spicy and fragrant with a dense, firm core. It is savoury and driven with long length. Berry fruit and attractive spice follow through on the fresh finish.
2015 Ruchottes-Chambertin, Grand Cru
The wine’s pale hue suggests this is going to be a light style of wine but it is far from it. There is incredible richness of red fruit, spice and minerals on the nose; the palate has the rare combination of richness and intensity while maintaining a delicacy of touch. Philippe Pacalet has delivered a class act here.
The grand estate and subterranean underground cellar of Remoissenet Pere et Fils is well worth the visit to the town of Beaune, the urban heart of the Cote d’Or. Bernard Repolt, the head of Remoissenet since 2004, is credited with its renaissance but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has a direct manner – if you want a question answering directly, he’s your man.
2015 Meursault 1er Cru, Charmes
Ripe orchard fruit with citrus peel are underpinned by spicy vanilla and wet stone-like minerals. Broad and rich, yet fresh and fine.
2015 Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru
Powerful and full with a streak of acidity providing backbone. Complex aromas of caramelised apple, ripe grapefruit and smoky spices. This is a truly exciting but it needs more time to reach its apogee.
2015 Montrachet, Grand Cru
A muscular wine that is beautifully crafted with freshness and oak spice woven into the wine’s powerful structure. It offers a wonderful combination of freshly baked orchard fruit and caramelised lemon peel. Wonderfully complex composition.
2015 Beaune 1er Cru, Les Marconnets
Bright ruby colour in the glass. Forward and ripe with density and definition. Juicy, refreshing finish.
Intense ruby with violet reflection. Ripe and full yet very precise wine. Fruit forward, offering red and dark berry fruit with a hint of leafy spice.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Les Cazetiers
Mineral-led nose wrapped around ripe cherry fruit and smoky nuances. The palate is dry and savoury, balanced by refreshing, red berry fruit.
2015 Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru
Saturated ruby colour with violets reflections. Spicy and forward, showing black plums, redcurrant fruit and roast vegetables. Well composed with a dense structure and lingering finish.
2015 Charmes-Chambertin, Grand Cru
Expressive and intense with layers of aromatics: violets, red flowers, ripe red and dark berry fruit. What’s more there’s a savoury edge that brings a extra complexity to this richly flavoured, intense wine.
2015 Burgundy vintage overview
In conclusion, the 2015 vintage is incredibly impressive across the board from the highest quality level – Grand Cru – to entry level Bourgogne Rouge. There will be high demand for the 2015s and with reduced supply, the wines will be priced higher than the 2013s and 2014s. However, I urge you to buy the 2015s now – while you still can. This is a must-have vintage for your cellar.