Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

TASTING OF 2015 BURGUNDIES FROM TOP DOMAINES

April 2018. I recently attended a major tasting of 2015 Burgundies, hosted in Paris by the Domaines Familiaux de Bourgogne, a grouping of some 26 family-owned domaines of high repute. The venue: Le Pavillon Ledoyen, a three-star restaurant located beside Le Petit Palais just off the Champs Elysées.


I already knew that 2015 was a great vintage in Burgundy. This memorable tasting confirmed it.

 


* * *

DOMAINE RAVENEAU


All three samples from this fabled property have a fine green-gold hue that reminds me, in their luminescence, of the glorious spring sunshine I’d been bathed in on my way to the tasting.


2015 CHABLIS 1ER CRU MONTÉE DE TONNERRE
How can a wine, in thrilling way, be soft and hard at once? That’s the case here. The colour has a distinct green tinge, the nose exhibiting pure Chardonnay fruit (apple, greengage, honey) that’s both succulent and full of rigour, the aftertaste long and mineral.


2015 CHABLIS 1ER CRU FORÊTS
Forêts is just that little bit fuller and longer: a dense, green Forêts that fills the mouth with luscious Chardonnay fruit with hints of poire William and chlorophyll. The finish is extremely long. Though the preceding wine seems to offer all one might want from a Chablis, this is just a little bit fuller and more complex.


What to drink them with? The former with grilled river fish, perhaps; the latter with fish in sauce or white meat.


2015 CHABLIS GRAND CRU VALMUR
Grand Cru Valmur should be – and is – fuller, deeper, longer, and mineral. It exhibits a wonderful precision combined with a mouth-watering freshness, with just the right degree of concentration of old-vine Chardonnay fruit. A meld of physalis, chlorophyll, and pear (and much else). It’s full but not heavy, viscous, and steely but not hard. A beautifully crafted wine to match Bresse chicken, sweetbreads, turbot, or even lobster – preferably in 8-18 years’ time.

 

DOMAINE LEFLAIVE


2015 PULIGNY MONTRACHET
This lustrous green- gold “Village” Puligny has a full, blossomy nose, honeyed and inviting. This is matched by a trim and elegant Chardonnay flavour mostly reminiscent of white peach. It’s subtle, mineral, and precise – in fact very Domaine Leflaive, source of some of the most refined of all white Burgundies (see my forthcoming article on the great Vincent Leflaive).


2015 PULIGNY 1ER CRU CLAVOILLON
The colour is more nuanced and greener, the nose fuller and more defined: white peach fused with apricot. The harmonious flavour possesses great tensile strength while the long aftertaste is noticeably mineral. Great potential.


This growth used to be the most problematic in the Leflaive range, showing less finesse than its siblings. The late Anne-Claude Leflaive took it in hand, in parallel with the Domaine’s shift to biodynamics, and nursed it towards greater subtlety and grace. That’s what we find here.


2015 PULIGNY 1ER CRU PUCELLES
The most refined of the three, and the most complete, Pucelles possesses an intense green-gold tinge and the most intense scent – the quintessence of Puligny – full of subtlety and finesse. Smooth and delicately honeyed, it smells like greengage, yellow rose, and tangerine. The flavour is as aerial as silk billowing in the breeze, yet possesses all the volume one could wish for. Tangerine brings a fresh nuance to the prolonged aftertaste. A wine to make your hair stand on end!

 

DOMAINE LAFON


2015 MEURSAULT 1ER CRU CLOS DE LA BARRE
This lustrous wine has a wonderful scent of white peach and hazelnut (the latter from light-toast oak). The lush flavour conveys hints of apricot, orange, and honey, the finish long and tangy, almost quivering in the mouth. Excellent – drinkable in 3-4 years, when the oak will be fully integrated. It will last, and improve, for at least another decade.


2025 MEURSAULT 1ER CRU CHARMES
Still greener, this exhales a lovely complex scent of apple and greengage (on the fruit side) and elderflower and lily (on the flowery). The hint of light-toast oak is well-integrated and will vanish in time. There’s a reprise of hazel on the succulent aftertaste, which holds the promise of thrilling sensorial disclosures in the years to come.

 


RED WINES


DOMAINE MARQUIS D’ANGERVILLE

 

2015 VOLNAY 1ER CRU CLOS DES DUCS

This dark wine gives off a fine, typically Volnay aroma of black cherry, blackcurrant, and peony, promising ample body and classic restraint, with a sappiness only found in the ripest and purest of fruit. The flavour fills the mouth with Pinot Noir savours, and the whole is underpinned by ripe tannins and the sort of acidity found in ripe black cherries. A wine of great poise and intensity, to hold back as long as possible (18-20 years).

 

(I still have a vivid visual memory of standing, in the sunshine beside the late Jacques d’Angerville (one of the most profoundly sympathetic persons I’ve ever met), at harvest time 29 years ago, watching the ripe bunches of 1989 grapes being brought into the winery. You could see they were perfectly ripe). He was looked very pleased! You knew the wine had to be superb. …the ’89 Clos des Ducs is splendid today – I kept back a couple bottles)

 

DOMAINE SIMON BIZE

 

2015 SAVIGNY LES BEAUNE LES BOURGEOTS

The aroma is full of lush Pinot Noir fruit (red cherry and plum) with characteristic Savigny charm. The flavour is full, with depth, and enticingly round. A seductive wine.

 

2015 SAVIGNY LES BEAUNE 1ER CRU LES FOURNEAUX

A further step up in quality, this exhales a seamless blend of cherry and raspberry scents, soon joined by pomegranate. It’s the more closed-up of the two, being more structured and possesses as much concentration as any Savigny needs (too dense, and it would become something different – a sonata turned into a symphony). Ripe tannins provide enough structure to ensure at least 15 years positive evolution.

 

DOMAINE CHANDON DE BRIAILLES

 

2015 CORTON BRESSANDES

Darker than many, this has a fine, restrained nose of damson and blackcurrant, leading into an intense flavour of black cherry and liquorice and a faint hint of truffle. It’s much more closed up on the palate, with firm tannins bringing a touch of austerity to the smoky finish. Probably needs a decade to open up.

 

DOMAINE ARMAND ROUSSEAU

 

2015 GEVREY CHAMBERTIN

Closed up but clearly in perfect balance, this Gevrey Village has a harmonious scent of red cherry and a long, structured flavour with the kind of discreet density that will ensure a dozen years’ steady improvement.

 

2015 CHARMES CHAMBERTIN

The lightness of colour belies the wine’s ample concentration of pure, intense Pinot Noir fruit. Black and purple cherry scents intermingle with graphite on the complex nose. Fine acidity and ripe tannins dovetail to give the wine a firm finish that will guarantee a good 20 years’ steady development. Excellent.

 

2015 CHAMBERTIN CLOS DE BÈZE

Light in colour, yes; but the nose shows the kind of pronounced character – volume, density, and complexity – that only a Grand Cru can achieve. You can still smell the oak but that will fuse with the fruit within a year or two. Few can match Rousseau at this level: though closed-up, the wine is very concentrated, but in the most discreet way. Though positively aerial – Clos de Bèze is one of the most refined of all Burgundies – it will fill out over the decades and astonish in 25-30 + years.

 

(A 1990 Clos de Bèze opened by me just days ago was pure magic).

 

DOMAINE CHÂTEAU DE LA TOUR

 

2015 BEAUNE 1ER CRU COUCHERIAS

The appealing, notably creamy scent leads into a gently succulent flavour that’s long and nuanced. Raspberry and plum flavours mingle on a finish to which ripe tannins impart just the right degree of rigour.

 

2015 CLOS DE VOUGEOT VIEILLES VIGNES

One of the darkest in this tasting, this splendid example has a concentrated aroma of black cherry and sweet blackberry. The oak, still noticeable, will recede in time. It’s a nose that signals structure, volume, profundity. Though it has decades of improvement ahead, it somehow contrives to be expressive even at this early stage – that’s because of its ample old-vine fruit that endows it with seemingly effortless harmony. The splendid flavour shows muscle tautened by tannic sinew. The finish, which turns damsony, is long.

 

Further proof for me that Clos de Vougeot is quite claret-like in structure – while remaining unmistakeably Burgundy.

 

DOMAINE JOSEPH DROUHIN

 

2015 BEAUNE 1ER CRU CLOS DES MOUCHES

One of the tasting’s darker samples, this has a fine, if oaky aroma full of Pinot Noir fruit, showing characteristic Beaune smoothness and elegance. The flavour is weighty, being broad and vinous and with suggestions of blackberry and damson. The assertive aftertaste possesses appreciable length. A solid wine for long keeping.

 

2015 MUSIGNY

A vivid crimson- purple, this gives off a noble, velvety perfume that promises ample Musigny finesse and Côte de Nuits structure. The flavour, still oaky, (of a kind that will self-destruct for the wine’s sake) conveys a sense of volume and power fused with the finesse that‘s one of Musigny’s chief traits. The tannins, while assertive, are of the ripe kind – the kind that, like a magic carpet, cloud-borne, will roll away into the distant future, falling back to earth as maturity approaches.

 

DOMAINE DUJAC

 

2015 MOREY SAINT DENIS

Typical flowery nose, with hints of raspberry and cherry. Light in structure, but harmonious and with delicious ripe fruit and an ideal balance between tannin and acidity. There’s also a subtle hint of oriental spices. Can be enjoyed over the coming decade at least.

 

2015 VOSNE ROMANÉE 1ER CRU AUX MALCONSORTS

A copybook example from what many see as the greatest of all red Burgundy communes. Showing customary Vosne finesse, it smells and tastes like a magical fusion raspberry and nectarine, with a sprinkling of black fruits for good measure. Long silky aftertaste. Lovely wine.

 

2015 CLOS DE LA ROCHE

This focused, precise wine has an intensely aromatic nose of raspberry and purple rose that almost takes your breath away. There’s ample body, with firm underlying structure, and the fruit is of optimum concentration. The long aftertaste is, quite simply, delectable, with that special ripe-grape sweetness that only the Pinot Noir can deliver. A great Clos de la Roche. Probably lovely to drink at many stages of its life, but peaking round about 2030-40.

 

DOMAINE BRUNO CLAIR

 

2015 MARSANNAY LES LONGEROIES

With its appealing nose of red fruits, this undervalued growth delivers satisfyingly sappy Pinot Noir fruit with just the right degree of body and structure to ensure a decade’s enjoyable drinking. Good terroir character.

 

2015 GEVREY 1ER CRU CAZETIERS

Autre commune, autre goût: The precise, facetted aroma conjures up red rose, sweet plum, and wild cherry (griotte) and leads into a refined, delicate flavour with a reprise of cherry and plum and the addition of cinnamon. In years to come its underlying structure will grow increasingly apparent. No hurry to drink up.

 

2015 GEVREY 1ER CRU CLOS SAINT JACQUES

Pale in colour, loitering in terms of aftertaste, this excellent wine smells chiefly like ripe cherry, with deftly handled oak inserting hints of exotic spices, like saffron and cinnamon. On the palate, optimum concentration of noble Pinot Noir fruit that, while closed up, signals the presence of pent -up power and depth. The long aftertaste, not yet fully defined, is subtle and nuanced, with suggestions of ginger on the smoky finish.

 

2015 BONNES MARES

This Grand Cru is similarly pale; but the full, emphatic nose, redolent of plum and pomegranate, has all the Bonnes Mares weight one could wish for. The intense, complex flavour shows great spread and possesses all manner of sapid undercurrents in tandem with terroir character. The aftertaste rolls on like a drumroll, with multiple tendrils of delicate sub-flavours promising a true peacock’s tail finish in a decade or two.

 

DOMAINE DES COMTES LAFON (II)

 

2015 VOLNAY 1ER CRU SANTENOTS DU MILIEU

The velvety aroma (almost a bouquet at this early stage!) is full of magical Pinot Noir fruit reminiscent of a Vosne Romanée. Wild strawberry and exotic spices come to mind. But there’s rigour, too, not just opulence: the mouth-feel is somehow both gritty and smooth, with a very firm tannic carapace enclosing the ample fruit. A very harmonious wine with lots of matière. For the long haul.

 

A decade ago a bottle of the 1990 vintage was sent over to my table at Taillevent, Paris, by the late owner Jean-Claude Vrinat. It was one of the greatest Burgundies I’ve ever drunk.

 

DOMAINE G. ROUMIER

 

2015 MOREY SAINT DENIS 1ER CRU CLOS DE LA BUSSIERE

I suppress a gasp as I sniff a gorgeous aroma, both aerial and full of finesse, of wild strawberry, raspberry, and mint. The delectable flavour is packed with fruit of the noblest breed, with all manner of nuances on the long, precise, finish. The wine’s opulence does not, however, wholly mask a fine structure that will ensure decades of fascinating evolution.

 

2015 BONNES MARES

Intensely coloured, this gives off a velvety perfume of blackcurrant and raspberry. It’s still faintly oaky, with a hint of graphite. The flavour, perfectly shaped, is as facetted as cut-glass, and the aftertaste – or rather aftertastes – go off in all directions, like multiple shooting stars. A truly great wine.

 

DOMAINE TOLLOT BEAUT

 

2015 CORTON BRESSANDES

One of the tasting’s darker wines, this Grand Cru must be one of Tollot’s most concentrated in recent times. The nose is big and powerful (I find myself thinking of Bonnes Mares), the flavour mouth-filling and assertive. There’s lots of matière on the long finish but the wine remains resolutely closed-up. It seems destined for greatness.

 

(Nathalie Tollot tells me that the imminent 2016 vintage, while small, produced excellent wines, while 2017 has yielded the first large harvest for several years and that the quality is of a very high order.)

 

DOMAINE TRAPET PÈRE & FILS

 

2015 GEVREY CHAMBERTIN OSTREA

Always a solid and reliable Gevrey, this has a poised, satisfyingly fruity aroma and flavour and shows real persistence. Very good. Will improve over a decade.

 

2015 GEVREY 1ER CRU (a blend of several lieux-dits)

The expressive, harmonious aroma exhales a meld of cherry, cinnamon, and peony. There’s so much substance it’s positively gritty on the palate, with hints of saffron on the sustained, noticeably ferrous aftertaste that shows lots of noble Gevrey terroir character.

 

2015 CHAMBERTIN

The nose is broad and vinous, conjuring up peony, damson, and liquorice. It’s a masterful aroma, dense and complex, showing both precision and persistence. On the palate, a cascade of black fruits in several layers, with great minerality and subtle suggestions of liquorice and underbrush. With its combination of classic restraint and Grand Cru power, this is a great Chambertin, able to improve for 35-40 years.

 

DOMAINE JEAN GRIVOT

 

2015 CLOS DE VOUGEOT

A lustrous blue-purple, this lovely wine emits a noble scent of ripe cherries, with an opulence reminiscent of Vosne Romanée. It’s a whole congregation of aromas, both buoyant and dense, and as full of detail as the façade of a gothic cathedral. It and somehow manages to be both homogeneous and multi-facetted. A wine of great poise.

 

DOMAINE MICHEL LAFARGE

 

2015 VOLNAY 1ER CRU CLOS DES CHENES

The nose, notably soft yet with plenty of stuffing, gives off delicate scents of red rose and a range of red fruits. It’s firmer on the palate, quite chewy but perhaps a bit rustic. No doubt the sinew will meld with the flesh in the course of time, achieving fusion in a decade or so.

 

DOMAINE MEO CAMUZET

 

2015 VOSNE ROMANÉE LES CHAUMES

Well-coloured, this has an aroma that’s both smooth and round, of black cherry and blackcurrant, the former in the ascendant. It’s a nose with real presence and a promise of depth. Black cherry remains dominant on the palate and both flavour and finish are long and nuanced. Nonetheless, the wine shows more rigour (if less sumptuousness) than many other Vosnes, perhaps because this vineyard is close to the next-door commune of Nuits Saint Georges.

 

2015 CLOS DE VOUGEOT

Another firm wine, this time from the east side of Vosne; and Vougeot is also noted for rigour. The nose, crammed with black fruits, is both forthright and focused, promising lots of substance and structure. Not surprisingly (because of Vougeot’s muscular build) it delivers more force than the Vosne. The mouth filling flavour, slightly gritty, shows optimal concentration and rolls on for quite some time, wave after wave. A classic “serious” wine that shows yet again that Vougeot can give wines of great rectitude.

 

DOMAINE J. F. MUGNIER

 

2015 CHAMBOLLE MUSIGNY

Light in colour, aerial on the nose, redolent of cherry and plum, this represents the quintessence of Chambolle – the commune that produces Burgundy’s most delicate wines. The flavour is full of refinement and as smooth as silk. It takes a few minutes to register the underlying structure. Lovely.

 

2015 CHAMBOLLE 1ER CRU LES FUEES

Chambolle again – only more so. The superb aroma turns thoughts to pomegranate and red fruits and promises great depth and something I can only call “reach”. The flavour, a cornucopia of delicate red fruits, is both buoyant and expansive, with a fugitive touch of saffron and ginger on the persistent finish. Wonderful.

 

2015 NUITS SAINT GEORGES 1ER CRU CLOS DE LA MARECHALE

Nuits is Nuits and Chambolle is Chambolle, and ne’er the twain shall meet – even when from the same domaine. The nose promises and delivers Nuits vinosity and grip, and exhales scents of cherry, pomegranate, and blackcurrant. But while it has true Nuits firmness you can also register the underlying subtlety – a subtlety that will come into its own in 12-15 years.

 

While this is the most southerly of all Nuits premiers Crus I could easily take it, tasted blind, for one from the northern end, close to Vosne, because of its underlying elegance.

 

DOMAINE DE VILLAINE

 

2015 SANTENAY 1ER CRU PASSETEMPS

A good colour, and plenty of Pinot Noir fruit. It’s firmly structured but a bit closed on the day. Sure to mature well over the coming 10-15 years.
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© Frank Ward 2018