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The Hasty Vintage Report - 2015 Burgundy

By Greg Rubin

February 06, 2017

By Greg Rubin

February 06, 2017

I recently attended a tasting of about 20 Burgundy houses here in NYC to see how their 2015s are turning out.  In true Trump fashion I will take my very small sample size and make sweeping generalizations about the entire vintage for the region.

Last week I rode the rails up to Columbus Circle to a gorgeous space overlooking Central Park South to sip some wine courtesy of Wildman & Sons and spend some time among my fellow Burgundy lovers.  For in this space we were getting a first look at how the 2015s are shaping up. Not a bad Wednesday.

As soon as I walked in I could tell there was a buzz unlike most any other trade tasting.  You see, 2015 is being hyped as the "vintage of the century" in Burgundy, especially for the reds.  As the illustrious Jancis Robinson said right after the harvest:

"Quality is looking extremely fine, with some people whispering comparisons with the outstanding 2005 vintage."

There's only 1 thing more dangerous than wine people whispering about vintages before they are racked off for the last time.  Bears.  Bears are more dangerous. But that's pretty much it.

Now, the Trump in me would just make wide-sweeping statements that overgeneralize and terrify you without any care for supporting information or empathy for humanity.  However this is wine, not geopolitical game theory.  So keep in mind, these tastings are crowded, frenetic, and brief.  You squeeze through a crowd towards a producer who has brought a few bottles for tasting (of which you get a 1 to 1.5 ounce pour).  You hold your glass in one hand and your notebook/cheat sheet in the other and try to figure out a way to make legible notes. I am in no way complaining - there are much worse ways to spend a Wednesday at work - I do want you to understand the inherent error bars that come along with any vintage tasting analysis.

Enough with the foreplay.  Let's get on to how these 2015s are tasting...

The 2015 Burgundy lineup

2015 Overall

Most producers are still aging their 2015s.  The wines we tasted out of bottle will be racked once more before the actual bottling occurs in the spring.  That said, I think the wines were pretty complete and integrated.  On the red side the wines were phenomenal across the board.  Every single wine offered deeply concentrated fruit and integrated skin tannins - even wines from some of the more austere appellations. Because of how rich these wines are shaping up to be I think most everything will need some time in bottle: 3-6 months for Bourgogne Rouge and at least 3 years for cru wines.  Alcohol seemed elevated on everything. The labels will say 13.0 to 13.5% abv but I'd lay odds that current abv's are around 13.8 to 14.5%.  The wines weren't tight by any means, nor did anything seem overoaked or resined, but the wines did seem to be so ripe and bold that I think they'll need some rest to really achieve the hype.

On the white side everything I tasted was beautiful.  I've heard people say that the 2015 whites vary widely from house to house and while that's probably true (as it always is) for great houses vs not-so-great houses, everything from Chablis to Macon hit the notes you want them to hit.  If I had to nitpick I would say that on the average the village-level stuff seemed a bit thin for what it should be and that Chablis may have fared better than the small sampling of Cote de Beaune I tasted but really that's just splitting hairs.

What follows are brief write-ups of some of the specific Domaines that were showing their wines... 

Meo-Camuzet

Look, nobody is going to knock a Meo-Camuzet wine.  They just don't make bad ones.  They are Bruce Springsteen of Burgundy - even their detractors will agree that they are masters of their craft and rarely, if ever, miss the mark.

We tasted the following:

  • Fixin Village
  • Fixin "Clos du Chapitre" 1er Cru
  • Nuits St. Georges Boudots 1er Cru
  • Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 
  • Echezeaux "Les Rouges du Bas" Grand Cru

Yes - the GC stuff was bangin'.  Aromas for days, depth, clean bright soil and terroir, mouthfeel, silky tannins.  Of course if you can get some of this nectar do so - the Echezaux will set you back about $500 / btl.  For those of you looking for the sleeper of the vintage it was far and away the Fixin wines.  Admittedly I am usually not crazy about Fixin from a price to quality standpoint (more so due to the numerator) but the Chapitre blew me away and the village level was a hanging chad away from a tie for 1st.  The Fixin will be around $55-$60 once available and the Chapitre $85-$90.  The NSG Boudots probably needs the most time in cellar - the tannins were a bit too jagged for my taste but the acid was right on so I think this wine will hold up well to up to 20 years in cellar.

Armand Rousseau

Here's a tasty nugget for your bowl: Armand Rousseau controls 8 hectare of Grand Cru vines, 3.45 of which is Clos de Beze, and they also own over 40% of the "Baby GC" 1er Cru vineyard of Clos St. Jacques.  That is the wine equivalent of this.  So when Rousseau busts out a couple bottles of unracked reds, you take heed.

We tasted the following:

  • Gevrey-Chambertin
  • Charmes-Chambertin
  • Clos de la Roche Grand Cru

Certainly not the whole lineup but I am NOT complaining.  The Clos de la Roche was, of course outstanding.  In fact, I was shocked to see that Wine Advocate gave the Charmes a 93-95 while the Clos de la Roche received a 92-94. Both great scores and very similar, but in comparison to each other I thought it wasn't even close.  The alcohol on the Charmes seemed up and a bit out of whack while the C.dl Roche was a barn burner - exquisite stuff.  Goes to show scores aren't very useful.  Pricing hasn't been announced on the Rousseau wines yet but as is the case every year, be ready to pay a hefty premium.

Christian Moreau Pere et Fils

The Domaine has an interesting history but we're shoulder deep in this post already so suffice to say Fabien Moreau is the 6th generation family winemaker and is making truly benchmark Chablis from about 12.5 hectares all told.

We tasted the following:

  • Chablis AC
  • Chablis Vaillons 1er Cru
  • Chablis Vaillons "Cuvee Guy Moreau" 1er Cru
  • Chablis Vaudesir 1er Cru
  • Chablis Valmur Grand Cru
  • Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru
  • Chablis "Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos" Grand Cru Monopole

Here is a perfect case study in the progression from village-level to Grand Cru wines in Chablis. The Chablis AC did nothing for me, especially at $32 - $35 retail.  At $22-$26, come talk to me maybe. However, the Cuvee Guy Moreau, Valmur, Les Clos, an the "Hospices" wines were black tar heroin for a white burgundy lover.  The Hospices wine is a small vineyard owned completely by the Domaine and was originally harvested and the wine donated to the hospital (as is still done in many places, including the Cote d'Or).  The winner for me was the Cuvee Guy Moreau.  It had depth, length, and complexity, all with very subtle oak treatment.  At $65 - $70 retail I think this was one of the best values of the day.  For raw power and beauty regardless of price I'd have to go with the Vaudesir.

The Holy Shit Award

Dirty little secret about industry tastings:  As you leave after a couple hours of aggressive tasting you realize a lot of what you tasted has slipped your deep, detailed memory. You remember the tables and the wonderful winemakers but much of the taste memory just isn't there.  Taking notes is crucial.

While many wines will fade into the background, inevitably at least 1 producer or 1 wine will blow you away.  It surprises you in its complexity, freshness, and/or value.  Because you're on your best behavior (at least at first) at these things, you use all of the niceties you can think of, but your brain is screaming "Holy shit that's good!!!"  So here we have the Holy Shit Award.

The 2015 Burgundy Tasting Holy Shit Award goes to: Domaine Dominique Gruhier.

Domaine Dominique Gruhier is located in the far northern corner of Burgundy, in a small commune outside of Chablis called Epineuil.  Epineuil is a rare AOC in that it is only allowed to produce red (Pinot Noir) and rosé despite being so close to Chablis.  Almost all of its vines are planted into Kimmeridgian limestone

Gruhier is a fascinating domaine.  It was started in 1990, or at least was attempted in 1990.  Essentially everything that could go wrong did - rotten barrels that destroyed a vintage once all the labor had already been paid for, lawsuits, frost, hail, and about a dozen other things that forced the family to try and sell it for 7 years only to decide to keep it labor of love.  And it's a good thing they did.  They poured 3 reds and a white from the Tonnerre AOC next door.  Everything is Certified Organic.

Keep your eyes out for Dominique Gruhier Epineuil Roug Cote de Grisey "Cuveé Juliette" and their Tonnerre Blanc.  The Tonnerre was like a great village Puligny on the nose and a benchmark Chablis 1er Cru on the palette.  At $30 - $35 and $20 - $24 respectively these wines are the kinds of wines you buy a case or two of and have as your house wine for a season or two.

All in All

Is 2015 worth the hype?  Probably.  Out of the gate these wines will be stunners.  But are you opening Grand Cru Burgs on release?  I sure as hell hope not.  So really the question is whether or not these wines will be dimes after a few years of bottle age.  With the 2015s it's a good bet we have some killer wine on our hands.  The depth and complexity of the fruit will be there for pretty much every wine.  What you need to pay attention to is the structure.  If the wine has integrated the alcohol, the tannins are soft but present, and there is energetic acidity that lifts everything, you'll be in for a home run 5-20 years from now.

If you have questions about the vintage or any of the producers tasted, or to inquire about pre-ordering the 2015 Burgundies, drop us a line at info@vanderbilt.wine 

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