With almost 30 tastings out of the way, the wine trade can breathe a sigh of relief that Burgundy Week has been completed successfully. And what a vintage 2015 is! The reds are unquestionably first class while the jury’s out on how long the whites will last. Justin Keay attends some of the key tastings and finds great quality… but at a price.
Tastings at Justerini & Brooks, Lea & Sandeman, Jeroboams, Goedhuis and Liberty showed much top quality Burgundy, especially with the reds.
“Let’s not tarry too long at this table…we’ve got a lot to get through.”
The firm instruction of the immaculately dressed City-working Burgundophile to his daughter at the Goedhuis tasting somehow captured the mood of a week in which the wine trade laid out its Burgundy stall big time.
By my reckoning, London saw over 30 en primeur events, a record; at one point on Monday, there were at least three major tastings taking place on Pall Mall alone, as punters tasted what most agree is a very successful vintage and the trade fell over itself to find superlatives to reinforce that message.
“2015 is an exceptional vintage in Burgundy, one of the greats of the last 25 years,” declared Giles Burke-Gaffney, buying director at Justerini & Brooks on the front of their tasting booklet, whilst Catherine Petrie of Goedhuis told me the wines generally have “wonderful ripeness, with good freshness also coming through.”
The hype seems justified.
Although the jury still seems to be out on the whites – some seem almost too forward and fruit-driven, with the lack of acidity posing questions about their longevity – the reds clearly benefited from 2015’s warm weather.
The result is generous well-structured wines, with generally low yields helping ensure complexity and maturation over the long term.
Yet there is good news for those who can’t wait: after some tricky, lean and over-tannic recent vintages, 2015 gives immediate satisfaction, especially at the more modest, non-cru village level, where the price/quality ratio is as good as it’s ever been.
Sommeliers – wary about recent vintages – also seem impressed.
“Every decade there is one, maybe two very good vintages and this is one of them, for some but not all producers. Some of the wines remind me of 1985, with depth and complexity but also wonderful fragrance,” says Gino Nardella, master sommelier at The Stafford in London.
So what were the stand-out producers from the tastings I attended?
Liberty Wines’ stand outs
Liberty Wines is always reliable and so it proved during London’s Burgundy week.
Unusually, it shows more whites than reds but of these last the real stand-outs were the beautifully made wines from Jane Eyre. Not the character from the famous Charlotte Bronte novel, of course, but Jane Eyre-Reynard, an Australian born winemaker whose career involved spells working for Felton Road, Ata Rangi and Cullen in Margaret River and still makes wine in her native land – but whose main focus is making fabulous wines at Bligny-Les-Beaune.
Jane grabbed everyone’s attention back in 2013 with her Corton-Renardes Grand Cru, which was made on a vineyard (now sold), although her other wines can still be enjoyed, the best of which for me is Les Corbeaux, a Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru.
This knocked the socks off many wines I tasted and which is already showing a beautiful fragrant nose and wonderful depth on the palate. Bravo Jane!
In the calming surrounds of an upmarket picture-gallery, Goedhuis had more excellent wines than almost seemed decent, particularly reds (though the whites, which I didn’t taste, were also described by colleagues as very good, notably Patrick Javillier and Etienne Sauzet).
Domaine Serafin Pere & Fils were showing very well, notably their Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru (£395 for 3); Domaine Louis Boillot’s Gevrey Chambertin (£295 for 12) is wonderfully fruity but also well-structured, with lots of red berry fruit on the palate; Domaine Jean Grivot’s Nuits St Georges Les Lavieres (£528 for 12) is very open and forward, with good balance to the fruit; from Domaine D’Arlot, the Nuits St Georges Premier Cru Cuvee Mont des Oiseaux (£475 for 12) had lots of rich red fruit on the palate, and wonderful fragrance, whilst everything from Nicolas Potel’s Maison Roche de Bellene was outstanding, with special mention for the Corton Grand Cru (£260 for six).
Lea & Sandeman covers all bases
With a daunting 130 plus wines filling out the basement of 67 Pall Mall, Lea & Sandeman also showed a very good hand, at all price points.
Stand-out producers offering good value include Domaine Francois Lumpp (notably the very expressive, fruit-forward Givry Premier Cru Clos Jus, £240 for 12), Domaine Fernand & Laurent Pillot’s Pommard Tavannes (£275 for 12) and the more serious, almost foreboding Pommard Premier Cru Charmots (£490 for 12).
Lea & Sandeman showed a good range of well-structured, full-tasting Pommard, Beaune, Volnay and Savigny Les Beaune from Nicolas Rossignol, whilst a noteworthy stand-out was the good value, surprisingly complex Morey St Denis from Domaine des Lambrays (£220 for six), currently tasting much better than their more serious, highly regarded Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru (£895 for six).
Jeroboams and Laytons team up
Judging from the racket being made by Jeroboams/Laytons customers when I entered the Institute of Directors’ impressive and historic first floor space, their 2015 Burgundy offering was going down a treat.
And so it proved.
Lots of lovely wine – 104 in fact – but three clear stand-outs for me. Amongst whites, the Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru from Domaine Bouchard et Fils (£600 for six) is tasting really good already, with well-integrated oak balancing the full and forward fruit; amongst the reds the Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru from Domaine Bertheau (£320 for six) and rather more expensive, but worth the leap, is Domaine Faiveley’s Corton Grand Cru Clos de Cortons (at £595 for six rather cheaper than many other merchants are selling this wine).
Justerini & Brooks
And so last to Justerini & Brooks, in the impressive premises of 1 Great George Street, just off Parliament Square.
Cotes de Nuits was the stand-out here, with Robert Chevillon (sadly, quite limited availability, especially for the three Premier Cru, £250 each for six), Domaine Mugnier (Nuits St-Georges, Clos de la Marechale) and Francois Lamarche (famous for the mega-pricy La Grande Rue Grand Cru, which checks in a £2150 for six bottles, but whose more modest Vosne-Romanee Les Chaumes Premier Cru, at £345 for six, is outstanding, very forward with lots of fruit but wonderful balance and well-integrated tanins).
So tastings done, teeth darkened and tastings booklets marked up, what is my verdict?
Jump in and buy before prices spiral out of control and wines become unavailable. The reasons: growing demand from China and thirsty Burgundy lovers, mindful that the 2016 vintage won’t bring much in the way of quantity.
But some growers and others I spoke to urged caution, especially with whites and Gevrey-Chambertin, where volume was higher than elsewhere in the region, and therefore quality might be more variable. And, of course, there is that little issue of price.
One sommelier I spoke to was forthright. “Frankly, although many of these wines are great, so too are the prices being asked. I will stand back and wait to see what happens. As far as I’m concerned, if the price isn’t right, just move on. There’s some fabulous Pinot being made now in other regions– notably Central Ottago and Mornington Peninsular – where you can find Burgundy quality, if not always Burgundy style, at a fraction of the price.”