Burgundy 2015 may not be the vintage of the century but critics are delighted by its freshness and charm. Many are saying it's perfect for the restaurant market.
Some twenty merchants – including Berry Bros, Corney & Barrow, Liberty Wines, Armit, Flint, Jeroboams and others – have shown their 2015 offerings in London this week.
And it's clear to sommeliers, buyers and merchants that in terms of affordability, freshness and ease of drinking, 2015 is every bit as good as it's been hyped.
'It's very, very approachable,' Giles James, consultant buyer for the three-outlet chain Noble Inns told Imbibe. 'These are realistic wines you can put on the list at decent prices. Burgundy's always struggled with making decent wine at lower levels, but they’ve managed it this year.'
Entry level wines, both red and white, can be excellent. 'In Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc the wines have great fruit and acidity,' Matthew Tipping of London merchant Jeroboams said. 'They’ll drink well early and they go well with food. They’re great on-trade wines.'
'I'm interested in the lower level wines like the basic Bourgognes,' Dan Keeling of London wine bar Noble Rot told Imbibe. 'You have to wait 15 years for a Premier Cru to come round, but there are great producers at the lower end, and they're drinking beautifully now.'
Sommelier-turned-importer Gearoid Devaney of Flint Wines told Imbibe, 'The rule of thumb is, look to the lesser appellations – Mercurey, Rully, St Aubin. That's where you’ll find the best quality-price ratio. If you like Puligny, try Mercurey, which often be tough but 2015 really suits it because it’s such a generous vintage.'
Summer 2015 was generally hot and arid. As July gave way to August vintners worried about acidity levels dropping in both whites and reds. Most harvested early, starting on the whites at the end of August, and the reds soon after. 'We saw the acidity going down,' Lydie Alzigre of Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot said. 'We started two weeks early, on 2 September.'
This is undoubtedly a great vintage for Pinot Noir. Yields are low, the grapes had thick skins and intense colour, and those that were picked in good time retained acidity. The result is wines that are fresh and concentrated with fine, soft tannins. 'There's a sense of absolute purity,' BBR chief Dan Jago said. 'They are rich, rounded, soft – and they're great across the board.'
The whites may not be as consistently successful as the reds – a common complaint this week is that they lack a mid-palate and decent length – but at their best they show fresh acidity, along with and the luscious fruit that’s to be expected from a warm vintage.
'The Chablis has citrus and green apple, but if you like more body, the Meursault is fuller, more opulent,' Gino Nardella, master sommelier at high-end London hotel the Stafford said.
As to prices, merchants warned there would be increases (Armit's head of buying James Snoxall said prices had gone up by an average 35%). But in a vintage where a Chorey Les Beaune at £150 a case is as beguiling in its way as a premier cru at five times the price, buyers can pick and choose. As Devaney said, 'You can shop with confidence.'