Buying Burgundy 2015: reds

Are these the best bottlings for a decade?

The Clos des Lambrays vineyard in Burgundy, part of Domaine des Lambrays
The Clos des Lambrays vineyard in Burgundy, part of Domaine des Lambrays

En primeur offers are a bit like Christmas decorations and Easter eggs: they seem to start appearing earlier each year. Unlike with baubles and bunnies however, Burgundy’s 2015 vintage arrival is very welcome news, as it’s an absolute knockout.

A warm, dry April encouraged early bud burst, while the weather was near perfect from May onwards, with a slight cooling just before theSeptember harvest, preserving acidity and freshness. The lack of rain meant there were fewer problems with rot and hail than in previous years, and while Chablis took a battering in early September from a severe storm, most growers began the harvest immediately afterwards to prevent rot.

A bottle of Clos des Lambrays Grand Gru
A bottle of Clos des Lambrays Grand Gru

Grape yields were below average, by 30 per cent or more in some cases, with bunches of generally small,thick-skinned berries giving a high skin-to-juice ratio. Such was the quality that little sorting was required.

“The 2015 reds are in my view an extraordinary vintage,” says Steen Öhman of WineHog. “Some truly legendary wines were produced that I believe will stand as some of the best made in my time.”

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With greater concentration than 2009 and a riper fruit profile than 2010, 2015 reds have been compared to the undisputed five-star 2005 by growers and commentators. But the 2015s have greater charm, with more supple, sophisticated tannins. And while they are still rich and ample, there is also better balancing in terms of acidity than other hot years such as 2003 or 2009.

“I suspect the 2015s will evolve more gracefully than the 2005s,” says Stephen Tanzer of Vinous, with whom I tasted through the impressive range at Domaine de Montille, while winemaker Mark Haisma says 2015 reds have greater precision and elegance. Thierry Brouin, the long-standing regisseur at Domaine des Lambrays, suggests 2015 was a combination of 2005,2010 and 2012.

The expansive Clos des Lambrays estate
The expansive Clos des Lambrays estate

Most growers harvested between September 3 and 9, with the earliest pickers such as Jean Tardy (September4) maintaining maximum freshness, and others like Domain Taupenot-Merme (September8) achieving riper, plusher tannins. Both destem 100 per cent of their grapes,but 2015 was also a year where partial and whole bunch fermentations were much in evidence. Philippe Pacalet champions the latter approach, saying it preserves grapes’ integrity, and while Haisma is less dogmatic, he too used up to 75 percent whole bunches in his monolithic Morey Saint Denis Premier Cru Les Chaffots.

Unlike in previous years there was a refreshing homogeneity in quality across the region, with 2015 one of the best years fo rCôte de Beaune in memory – producing some refreshingly great Volnay, Pommard and Corton – and all Côte de Nuits appellations having something impressive to show. Yet it was also a wonderful year for individual terroir definition and climat expression: Lieux-dits and different crus in Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny,Nuits-Saint-George and Vosne-Romanée from growers such as Dugat-Py, Duroché,Roumier, Henri Gouges, Michel Gros and Clos Frantin all offer nuanced and differentiated pleasures.

Down in the Domaine des Lambrays cellar
Down in the Domaine des Lambrays cellar

While these wines promise longevity, many remain surprisingly accessible now, and some may not close up at all, although it’s clear the more tightly coiled Grand Crus need plenty of time to unfurl their plumage. The major challenge will be narrowing down the options, and ensuring there is enough in the cellar for the next 20 or so years.  

Read the guide to 2015 Burgundy whites here

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Tom Harrow is a fine wine commentator, consultant and presenter. His Grand Crew Classé is the ultimate invitation-only club for fine wine enthusiasts, with exclusive access to rare bottles and events around the world. twitter.com/winechapuk. To read more of his columns, click here.

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