A week ago, I elbowed my way through crowded New York tastings of 2015 Burgundies, touted as the best in decades.
The city is a hotbed of Burgundy lovers who swoon over the world’s most famous pinot noirs, so sommeliers, retailers and journalists were sipping, spitting, and, I have to admit, shoving, to sample as many as possible. The goal: to decide whether or not the hyperbole was just hype.
Trust me, it’s not.
The reputation of this vintage is deserved, especially for the reds. Rich, ripe, hedonistic, succulent, and mouth filling, they have cashmere-like texture and that juicy acidity that makes you want to take another sip, and then another. You’re really going to want them. Most are so good they even make you forget current politics, at least while you’re drinking.
As Anne Parent of Domaine Parent said with a big smile while splashing one of her spicy, earthy, plush Pommards into my glass, “It’s a yum-yum vintage.”
Sadly, there’s one big problem for all us Burgundy aficionados: constantly rising prices. Star reds, such as Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze and Comte Louis-Michel Liger-Belair La Romanée now cost (weep!) $1,500 to $3,000 a bottle and up. So I was on the prowl for seriously seductive but far more reasonably priced whites and reds at the tastings.
Budding collectors take note: This is a good time to start stocking up; even though most reds won’t be available till later this year, you can lock in a supply by buying futures.
Most famous producers have a volume problem. It’s the sad wine story of limited supply and insatiable demand, and wineries are putting up their 2015 prices to compensate for the disastrous vintage of 2016, in which many lost 50 percent of the crop.
What made the wines so good in 2015 was an unusually dry, warm, low-stress growing season with rain at mostly the right times. It’s what growers call a "solar" vintage because of the number of hours of sunshine. At a tasting at the Modern restaurant, Frederic Barnier, winemaker at Maison Louis Jadot, told me, “ There was no reason for anyone to make bad reds. The challenge was picking at the right time.”
Yes, a couple of spots got hit by hail, but the most amazing thing about 2015, many vignerons said, was that the grapes were so perfect. Parent sorted out only .05 percent.
Overall, reds are better than whites, which shone in 2014. The whites from 2015 are sunnier, with smooth opulent textures, and will be ready to drink much faster than those from 2014, with more acidity, structure, and mineral tang.
“You’ll be able to keep the reds 20 years or more,” said soft-spoken Frederic Mugnier of Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier, widely known as "the master of Chambolle-Musigny."
Because the vintage is consistently successful, even basic Bourgogne rouge and village-level wines are delicious, especially those labeled vieilles vignes (old vines). In Burgundy’s pyramid of quality, regional Bourgogne is the lowest level, wines from dozens of village appellations are the next step up, wines from premiers crus vineyards above them, and grands crus at the top. In 2015, values lurk in village level wines from top producers, such low-buzz appellations as Auxey Duresses and Marsannay, and, for whites, in undervalued Chablis.
Top 2015 Burgundy Buys Under $100Whites
Samuel Billaud Chablis Les Vaillons Vieilles Vignes ($37): This pure, crystalline white has aromas of white flowers and precise, minerally flavors. Billaud, whose family owned Domaine Billaud-Simon, went out on his own in 2014.
Patrick Piuze Chablis Les Forêts ($55): Long, intense, and rich, this premier cru is savory and salty. Piuze, a native of Canada, now has a well-deserved cult reputation. (Look also for his less expensive Terroir series.)
Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey Bourgogne Le Chapitre ($30): With bright red fruit flavors, this lush wine from a vineyard in Chenove, in the northern Côte de Nuits, is positively gulpable.
Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Rouge ($33): This village-level wine from a negociant over-performs for the price. It has surprising structure, typical Burgundy earth and mineral aromas, and a bright cherry deliciousness.
Domaine Lamarche Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits ($37): Real pinot character, vibrant earth and cherry flavors, and a silky texture mark this modestly priced wine from an estate in Vosne-Romanée.
Domaine Parent Bourgogne Pinot Noir Selection Pomone ($37): This domaine in Pommard made superb premier cru reds in 2015. This less expensive special Bourgogne rouge cuvée is generous and vivid, with concentrated red berry fruit flavors.
Domaine Lignier-Michelot Morey St. Denis Vieille Vignes ($67): Concentrated and fleshy, this intriguing village wine from old vines has aromas of rose petals and combines freshness and depth. It’s spicy and concentrated, with a lush seductive quality.
Domaine du Comte Armand Auxey Duresses Rouge 1er cru ($68): Noted for its sophisticated Pommard from its Clos des Epeneaux vineyard, this domaine also produces other reds. This one is silky and smoky, with sensual aromas and black cherry flavours.
Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Selectionées ($78): This organic and biodynamic domaine is the epitome of Volnay, and this village wine is a stunner, built to age. It’s pure and complex, with aromas of cherries and rose petals, lots of chalky minerality, and a generous taste of red plums.
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