In praise of 2015 Burgundy: mainly the reds
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
22 November 2015
The 155th Hospices de Beaune auction began movingly with both a minute of silence and a somber rendition of the French national anthem La Marseillaise, as you can see in the video that friend and fellow wine writer Michael Apstein of Wine Review Online took – see end of this article.
One day before we assessed the wines from cask that went under the hammer last week, and we found ourselves full of glowing adjectives for the reds, although the malolactic fermentation had not begun.
“There is clearly impressive density and concentration to these,” remarked Berry Bros. & Rudd Burgundy buyer Jasper Morris.
Apstein praised the ripeness of fruit, the finesse of the tannins and lift from the acidity. As did fellow taster and friend Amanda Regan, who contributed to this article on the auction.
Indeed, most had bright red fruit, depth, intensity of flavor and long finishes. The only concern? Retaining acidity.
“I just hope that after malolactic fermentation, these wines will still retain this impression of freshness,” remarked both Apstein and Regan.
In her first year directing winemaking for the Hospices wines, Ludivine Griveau reassured us.
She explained that because the reds have very low malolactic acidity – between 1 and 1.6 grams per liter, as compared to the 4 grams on average – “the wines will not taste much different from how they taste now, after they undergo malolactic fermentation,” she said.
Some of my favorites included a fresh and elegant Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Les Duresses from Boillot, a rich and savory Beaune 1er Cru Dames Hospitaliers, an intense and powerful Pommard Raymond Cyrot, a lovely rich and balanced Pommard 1er Cru Dames de la Charité, a spherical yet powerful Corton Grand Cru Clos du Roi Baron du Bay and a gorgeously opulent Clos de la Roche Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron, which also set et a record for the most expensive barrel ever sold, for €117,700.
Less impressive was the rather austere and reticent Echezeaux Grand Cru Jean-Luc Bissey, an awkward Volnay 1er Cru Les Santenots by Gauvain and a flat Beaune 1er Cru by Hugues and Louis Betault.
Still, overall, I came away with a very positive impression of the reds, as did buyers, as the auction recorded a nearly 40% increase over last year’s record sale. And this despite the somber mood, as the auction took place in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. You can read more about that, in this news article I wrote for decanter.com.
Indeed, officials had considered canceling the auction but at a 10 am Saturday morning meeting in Beaune, they determined that “there was no major risk of terrorism” although they increased security checkpoints, explained BIVB representative Cecile Mathiaud.
“We are determined to not let terrorism stop our lives,” remarked Griveau at the pre-auction tasting.
Some tasters were already comparing the 2015s barrel samples to 2005, but we should not be so quick to think in those terms, others said. At a master class held by Bouchard Pere & Fils, also the day before the auction, estate director Philippe Prost said that 2005 had more acidity than 2015, because 2015 was a warmer vintage. “2015 seems to be more a cross between 2003 and 2005,” he said.
As for whites, “the window to harvest to preserve freshness was far more challenging,” explained French taster Bernard Burtschy. As a result, some of the whites sampled ahead of the auction seemed flat and lacking verve to many tasters.
They did so to Apstein, to Regan and to me.
Words that came to mind when tasting the whites included soupy, over-ripe, heavy and lacking precision and lift.
Burtschy thinks that too many whites were picked too early, that vintners should have waited for better maturity.
Whatever the case may be, the whites may be best for earlier consumption, Apstein remarked.
Morris and some others compared the whites to the 2009 vintage.
But that did not stop auction bidders from breaking records. As Regan reminded us: “This is for charity.” Indeed, and this year was sadly unique, in that some of the proceeds are going to help victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
A somber rendition of the French national anthem La Marseillaise before the auction opened. Quiet determination indeed in the face of such horrid attacks in Paris.