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2015 Red & White Burgundy En Primeur

2015 Red & White Burgundy En Primeur

2015 is an outstanding Burgundy vintage: a warm and dry year that has produced wines with very high levels of ripeness and power, but which remain beautifully balanced and fresh-tasting too. Read more

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2015 Red & White Burgundy En Primeur

The Wines

The quality of the grapes was as good as many growers had ever seen. Very small and uniformly ripe berries have ensured a high skin-to-pulp ratio, resulting in superb depth of flavour and supporting structure in both the reds and whites.

Reds: great, powerful and generous

What is especially remarkable about the 2015 reds is the high quantity, and superlative quality, of the tannins: sweet and saturated, they give the wines a rare density and concentration whilst maintaining a soft, velvety and gentle character. Furthermore, the wines appear fresh and not heavy, incomparable with previous warm vintages. The yield was down approximately 15–20% in the Côte de Nuits, and 20–30% in the Côte de Beaune. Alcohols are generally 13–13.5%, with only a handful higher than this.

The flavours of these ripe and seductive wines tend towards black cherries, mulberries perhaps, but the palate inevitably finishes with an attractive freshness. Many winemakers used a greater proportion of whole-bunch fermentation in 2015 which imbues the wines with greater vivacity. This technique allows for a naturally extended pre-fermentation maceration (as the berries are slowly crushed by the weight of grapes in the vat), permitting an intra-cellular fermentation in the grape berry which extracts increased colour. Although this method analytically reduces acidity, one perceives wines made in this way as tasting fresher. Many maintain it contributes a rose-like aroma after some development in bottle. The quality and quantity of tannin means these will keep very well.

In 2015 almost everything is good, geographically and hierarchically. The advantage of a warm year is that the lesser vineyards on cooler, damper, more clay-rich soils reach an unusually high and attractive level of ripeness. This means you can buy the Bourgognes and village wines with as much confidence as the premiers and grands crus.

Please note: quantities are generally very low in this sought-after vintage and a large number of wines will be oversubscribed several times over. We have taken measures to ensure the fairest possible distribution of the stock available, but we anticipate that some members will be disappointed.

Whites: a powerful, muscular style

The excellent quality of the whites in this warm year was a very pleasant surprise, although they are a little more variable than the reds. Whilst not quite as good as the superlative 2014s, these are very successful and interesting wines.

The Côte d’Or had the best weather. It was hotter and drier in the Mâconnais but our growers made wonderful wines there. In Chablis, a hail storm occurred during the night of 31st August, but its main effect was to precipitate the start of the harvest, with little or no effect on the quality.

The effect of the heat was mitigated by three factors. Firstly, an almost normal yield, 90–95%, compared to the reds, acted as a brake on maturity, so the white wines are ripe but not overripe, usually around 13–13.5%. Secondly, the timing of the hottest weather, peaking in June and July, was beneficial as it has a lesser effect than when the grapes are riper, nearer the harvest. Last but not least, the phenomenon of small berries contributing more structure from the skins (dry extract), due to the high skin-to-pulp ratio, helped to compensate for the lower acidity, giving the wines muscular firm palates.

In the Côte d’Or and Mâconnais fine weather at harvest gave growers a choice of when to pick, so there is a little variation in style according to the ripeness level. I have noted picking dates when known, but it is worth remembering that not everyone’s grapes are ripe at the same time depending on yield, rootstock, soil type and other influences.

Burgundians are now quite experienced with warmer vintages and are ready to harvest earlier. This is especially true of the Mâconnais where, increasingly, they are reducing the wines’ exposure to oxygen in the cellar by keeping them in barrel for slightly shorter periods, or in slightly larger barrels. Though useful in colder years, or decades, bâtonnage (stirring the lees) is practised less and less, as it contributes richness at the expense of a little freshness.

The weather and harvest

Apart from the hail in Chablis, 2015 was virtually problem free. The dry conditions made for a very healthy crop. Precipitation between January to September was 20% less than the average. Flowering occurred very early in June in good conditions. Overall this was a hot and dry year, although as mentioned earlier, it was June and July that were particularly hot, and July that was very dry. Some water stress occurred in July. The véraison (formation of colour in the grapes) began in mid July but was then put on hold until the beginning of August when a few drops of rain fell.

Despite the heat, luckily there was a rain shower just when it was most needed (especially in the Côte d’Or) to contribute just enough water. There was a very small amount of scorched grapes, a few young vines with shallow roots succumbed to the heat and a couple of vineyards suffered from some heat stress. But these were very limited in extent. I was there at the end of the August and was surprised how green and beautiful the foliage was. There were no fungal diseases. The bunches were in perfect health, the size of the grapes very small.

Perfect weather during the end of August and the first ten days of September meant that producers were able to pick when they wanted to. The first started the whites on 27th August. There was some rain in September but given how dry it had been it had little effect on the harvest.

A vintage overview is necessarily a generalisation, and I encourage you to read the comments on the individual domaines where I have described how well they performed.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer

This offer is open until 8pm, Tuesday 21st March, 2017.