First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 11th February, 2017
Burgundy has given me more pleasure (and at times heartache) than any other wine. But now supply, always a problem, is diminishing and growing ever more expensive. Now along comes the 2015 vintage, heralded by some as the greatest since 1929.
Prices are moving steadily upwards and quantities are even more limited than usual, 20-30 per cent less than in 2014. Three importers are offering en primeur access to 2015 Burgundy, with another to follow later this year. This means buying wine that is still in the cask that will be delivered later this year or in early 2018.
There is no doubt that 2015 was an excellent year for red wines; leaving aside the hype (and there is no shortage of that) most are laden with perfectly ripe, succulent fruit, excellent concentration and good acidic balance. In a generally warm and dry growing season, the biggest danger seems to be low acidity, and an oversupply of sugar leading to high alcohol levels – in a region that traditionally struggles to ripen grapes.
Liam Cabot of Cabot and Co says “2015 is an outstanding vintage – it’s a vintage of real pleasure and enjoyment – the wines will drink well from release, yet have the structure to age. Many are comparing it to 2005, but those of a slightly older generation also point as far back as 1949 and 1929. Although prices are rising, it is possible to find classic wines that will deliver real pleasure at very reasonable prices.”
Charles Derain of Nomad Wines will wait until June to make his offer. He is equally positive. “The grapes”, he says, “were absolutely healthy, beautiful to eat. Everything I have tried so far has been outstanding, reminding me of 2005. The wines have incredible balance and structure. I have tried some super Bourgogne Hautes de Beaune and Nuits 2015 that will give great value.”
Conor Richardson of Burgundy Direct, making his 25th Burgundy offer, agrees. “2015 is excellent, possibly outstanding . . . Burgundy lovers in particular can only be hugely impressed by this very, very fine vintage”. Donal Morris of Greenacres reports “the reds are superb and certainly the best since 2005, even surpassing it. They have a lovely purity of fruit, a luscious concentration and are very fragrant. And this is right across the region.”
No matter how good the vintage, poor winemakers make average wine. Buy from producers (and importers) you can trust. If your budget doesn’t stretch to buying wine by the caseload, keep an eye out for the underrated 2014 Burgundies. I would also set aside a few euro for 2015 (and 2016) from the Northern Rhône, as well as Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) and Riesling from Germany. Burgundy 2015, including some of the finest estates, is being offered by Cabot and Co, Burgundy Direct, Greenacres and Searsons.
Lovely meaty succulent dark fruits, with a savoury edge.
Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey; Cabot & Co, Westport.
Bright fresh dark cherry fruits with a lovely succulent quality. Rounded and dense.
Stockists: Greenacres, Wexford.
Richly concentrated, with firm dark fruits and excellent structure. Drink or keep a year or two.
Stockists: La Touche, Greystones; Burgundy Direct; 64wine.
Light refreshing cherries and raspberries with a leafy touch.
Stockists: La Touche, Greystones; Jus de Vine; Grapevine; McHugh’s; Donnybrook Fair.