Winehog's Steen Öhman is fast becoming one of the world's leading and most respected Burgundy experts. FINE+RARE have interviewed him to bring you his views on 2015 Burgundy...
As the man behind Winehog, Steen Öhman's opinions, tasting notes, detailed maps and in depth knowledge of Burgundy's intricate terroir are invaluable tools to the serious Burgundy collector. That's why FINE+RARE asked him for his views and some top picks from 2015 Burgundy. As you will read below, his answers and selections form a detailed vintage report and a guide to exploring the forthcoming releases. He suggests that this is an "extraordinary" vintage for reds worthy of stockpiling. As the 2015 Burgundy campaign gets into full swing, we recommend visiting our Burgundy En Primeur page to find out more and start setting alerts for the wines you want, so that you will be one of the first to find out when they are released.
What are your early feelings on 2015 Burgundy?
The 2015 vintage is an extraordinary vintage quality wise for the reds - great wines have been made including some truly legendary wines that will stand as some of the best wines made in my time.
It's certainly one of the best vintages in recent decades in my view, although it is without doubt a somewhat hot and rich vintage. The whites are not quite up to same standard as the reds, but they do show better than expected and should not be overlooked, especially if one values the more generous and rich styled white Burgundy.
What are the positives?
The positive side is the rich and generous fruit in all the reds - yet the wines are still very transparent, fresh and juicy in most cases offering a lovely expression of Pinot Noir and the unique terroirs. They strike a beautiful balance and in some cases they offer an almost heavenly combination of energetic vibrancy and intensity.
The whites are also on the rich and sometimes even voluptuous side, but they too seem to strike a quite nice balance with freshness and minerality, despite the relatively low acidity and abundant fruit.
What are the negatives?
Some reds are on the cusp of being too rich and ripe with alcohol levels around 14% and even higher. This will eventually mask the terroir and the expression of the pure and cool Pinot Noir fruit. The most powerful terroirs can somehow cope with beyond 14% alcohol... although not ideal... but in my opinion some of the lesser terroirs can struggle. This is more or less the same with the whites, and the wines harvested earlier tend to have maintained a better freshness than the ones harvested late. However, some whites are too ripe and too rich - careful selection is needed when choosing the whites.
How was the growing season?
The growing season offered a mild winter and a very hot summer with very high temperatures in especially June and July. Luckily the rain came to avoid serious damage from the drought, but some vines were stressed in this period. The weather cooled down in August and the harvest of the reds was done in lovely weather for most parts without very high temperatures. So in fact the grapes were harvested in very fine conditions, with ripe and sound grapes. There was quite a lot of millerandage grapes (shot-berries) and this really has provided a vibrant freshness to the wines - and some wines are nothing short of spectacular with the juicy and vivid pomegranate sensation infused by these small grapes. Special note should be made to terroirs that have enjoyed a cool breeze from the valleys in the mountains above the vineyards, these have on occasion produced some truly spectacular wines.
Which vintage does it compare to?
The 2015 vintage is a special vintage, as it has a combination of generous intensity and a very fine energy and vibrant nerve. It's a more generous vintage than 2010, and has better transparency and energy than both 2009 and 2012. Some say that 2005 has some resemblance, but in my view the 2015s don't have the slightly austere tannic side of some 2005s - the 2015s are more playful and hedonistic in most cases. Actually one need to go very far back to identify a matching vintage... but in recent vintages a combination of the vintages 2009 and 2010 could perhaps come relatively close.
What are the winemakers saying?
The overall attitude is very positive, and most are enthusiastic and even also a bit surprised about the fine balance of the wines. Some are perhaps not completely satisfied with the high alcohol levels in some wines, but in general its a minor complaint that only few speak about. The producers of white Burgundies are not equally positive, but they are nevertheless pleasantly surprised by the balance and the perceived freshness of the wines. Some are not happy about the rich and exotic style of the wines, but again, the quality is also in the eyes of the beholder, and some consumers like these more rich and opulent white Burgundies. In any case the 2015s whites are a contrast to the pure and very delicate 2014s that some collectors values highly.
How did the weather impact the reds?
The hot summer laid the foundation for a rich and generous vintage, and the cooler weather in August and during harvest maintained the freshness In the wines. The water came at the right time, and the cool breeze from the valleys in the mountains above the vineyard have played a role in producing some extraordinary wines in the terroirs affected.
And the whites?
The hot weather during the summer has given some rich and very generous whites - the cooler weather in August somehow maintained the freshness. The acidity is not that high, but the good PH level in the wines is however adding to the perception of freshness and balance. But regardless, this is a rich and expressive vintage. In some cases the wines are overripe and dense offering a very exotic and a quite plump expression of white Burgundy.
Who are the big winners in 2015 Burgundy?
In my view the big winner is the Côte de Nuits and also the Corton appellation should be highlighted. The appellations in Côte de Beaune have also done well, but here the balance between ripeness and maintaining the freshness is more delicate. Some beautiful wines were made in the Beaune appellation, in Pommard and Volnay particularly, but the average level is perhaps a bit lower there. Looking at Côte de Nuits especially Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée with Flagey-Echezeaux stand out. That being said the quality level is very high in most areas - with Nuits-Saint-Georges south of the village and north of Premeaux being the area where the density of the wines is taking over a bit. If asked to point out one specific terroir then it would be Musigny as the wines there seem to have maintained a remarkable coolness... but all the great and powerful terroirs - Richebourg, Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bezé, La Romanée, Romanée-Saint-Vivant - seem to have done tremendously well and will no doubt produce some true unicorn wines in this vintage. Clos de Vougeot also seems to have done well... although the quality here must be expected to be mixed as always due to the variation amongst the producers.
It was a pretty easy year for the vignerons, and even the organic viticulture had a quite smooth journey in 2015. I do feel that the Vignerons applying organic or biodynamic viticulture have produced better wines in 2015, as they do tend to have more acidity, and thus did a better job in maintaining the balance and freshness in this rich year.
What should readers buy?
Burgundy buyers should really try to find some of the top wines of this vintage, as these offers outstanding generosity combined with a quite unique freshness and balance. These include the usual suspects from the big terroirs, but there are some hidden treasures under-the-radar, with many individual wines displaying tremendous qualities - look especially for wines that have enjoyed the benefits of a cool breeze from the valleys in the Côte.
What can be expected stylistically?
Expect hedonistic generosity with energy and richness perfectly combined in the best wines. These are not cool and classic wines like the great 2010 vintage, but generous and rich wines with a fine balance and plenty of charm.
Is this a vintage to lay down or drink?
It's still difficult to say how the wines will develop - if they will close down or remain relatively open and enjoyable in their youth - this is however also very much dependent on the the producer - but the big classified wines certainly deserve cellaring.
Stockpile or choose selectively?
I would certainly say stockpile, as the generous nature of the vintage means that even producers harvesting high yields have in fact produced quite rich wines - but as always... even in great years poor wines are made in Burgundy.
Small growers or négociants?
This is a difficult question as many of the négociants have improved tremendously in recent years. I would however say that in the Côte de Beaune wines from the small growers seem to be more spot on - than the ones produced by at least some large négociants/producers.
What are your recommendations from 2015 Burgundy?
This is a vintage that suits all levels - although the stars are the Grands Crus, where a big terroir really excels with the abundant and generous fruit of the 2015 vintage - these wines can and will no doubt be legends in my view. But also the AOC and village level reds will benefit from the generous richness of the vintage, and even smaller wines will have a significant mid-palate fruit and weight. So this is a vintage that offers great wine on all levels, even in the lower appellations. Some under-the-radar wines have stunned me with their vibrant qualities. As for the particular wines, I have made a list of individual picks below...
Top 10 - 2015 Burgundy Money No Object Picks
Domaine Faiveley, Chambertin Clos de Bezé Les Ouvrees Rodin 2015
Domaine Trapet, Chambertin 2015
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, Musigny 2015
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, Les Amoureuses 2015
Domaine J.-F. Mugnier Les Amoureuses 2015
Chateau de la Tour, Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes 2015
Domaine Jean Grivot, Richebourg 2015
Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, La Romanée 2015
Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Echezeaux 2015
Domaine Cathiard, Romanée Saint Vivant 2015
Top 10 - 2015 Burgundy Under-The-Radar Reds
Domaine Duroche, Chambertin Clos de Bezé 2015
Domaine Faiveley, Latricières-Chambertin 2015
Domaine Trapet, Latricières-Chambertin 2015
Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg, Ruchottes-Chambertin 2015
Domaine du Clos Frantin, Grands Echezeaux 2015
Domaine Georges Noëllat, Grands Echezeaux 2015
Domaine Jean Grivot, Echezeaux 2015
Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots 2015
Domaine des Croix, Corton Clos de la Vigne au Saint 2015
Maison Camille Giroud, Corton Clos du Roi 2015
Top 5 - 2015 Burgundy Under-The-Radar Whites
While the 2015 vintage is a big success for the reds, the whites are struggling more to cope with the effects of the hot weather in the summer. There are however very fine wines made, and many whites are attractive and enjoyable in their charming, somewhat generous and opulent way.
Domaine Tessier, Meursault Les Genevrières 2015
Domaine Heitz-Lochardet, Chevalier-Montrachet 2015
Domaine Dublère, Corton Charlemagne 2015
Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint-Aubin Derriere Chez Edouard Hautes Densité 2015
Domaine Tessier, Meursault Les Casse-Têtes 2015
Top 5 - 2015 Burgundy Insider Tips
Domaine Faiveley Musigny II - the second of two Faiveley Musignys made in 2015. Plot acquired from Dufouleur just around harvest in 2015. This is made alongside the "regular" Faiveley Musigny, made from the old Faiveley plot.
Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey Chambertin Combe Aux Moine 2015 - a lot of focus on Chambertin Clos St. Jacques and Griotte-Chambertin, and rightfully so - but the Combe Aux Moines is very interesting in 2015 - with a truly delightful vibrant freshness.
Domaine Duroche, Gevrey Chambertin Etelois 2015 - Duroche might have the smallest plot on Griotte-Chambertin, but they also own the area just below their plot in Griotte-Chambertin - from this plot they produce the most enchanting village wine. Strange that this area is village level - and not at least Premier Cru.
Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Grandes Vignes 2015 - The terroir in Premeaux - the only Premier Cru located below the route national D974. This terroir has produced a beautiful and vibrant wine in 2015 - cool and juicy and a match for many Premier Crus produced in Vosne-Romanée.
Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Musigny 2015 - Really this wine should be on the "money no object" list. Frédéric Mugnier has however decided that the Musigny will not be released with the other wines, but he will let this wine mature in the cellar before release. Expected release in 2 to 10 years depending on the development of the wine.
Top 7 - 2015 Burgundy Under-The-Radar Wineries
Domaine des Croix
Domaine Nicolas Faure
Domaine Arnaud Tessier
Top 5 - 2015 Burgundy Great Value Wineries
Domaine Jean-Marc Millot
Maison Camille Giroud
Domaine des Croix
Top 8 - 2015 Burgundy Village Reds
Domaine Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin Etelois 2015
Domaine Trapet, Gevrey-Chambertin Ostrea 2015
Domaine Marc Roy, Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée Alexandrine 2015
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, Chambolle-Musigny 2015
Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanée Clos du Chateau 2015
Domaine Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée 2015
Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée Bossiéres 2015
Domaine Georges Noëllat, Vosne-Romanée 2015
What are your early thoughts on the 2016 vintage?
The 2016 vintage seems to have offered excellent quality in some cases, despite the quantity being reduced significantly or even dramatically in some cases. The growers are optimistic regarding quality... but some would like to move on to 2017 quickly due to the depressing quantities. The 2016 vintage will certainly increase the demand for 2015 and even 2014, as especially the production of whites is below the current demand. Prices will expect to increase - but some producers are worried that the prices of the village wines are reaching a level where these become too expensive for restaurants and normal collectors. I do however see quite significant increases in prices in the 2015 vintage - and with the quality of the 2016 grapes this level could well be maintained in the 2016 vintage - depending on the quality and size of the 2017 harvest.
Visit Steen Öhman's website for more in depth insight at: www.winehog.org
Visit our 2015 Burgundy En Primeur page to see the latest releases and set alerts for the wines you want.