by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-02-07
The broad-based WO 150 Index was flat for the month, as were nearly all the indices. The only real note of interest was the Burgundy Index, dropping by 0.7%. As you can see from the graph below it has been the stellar performer amongst the great wine producing regions of the world. It’s far too early to start calling a general cooling off period but as I have been arguing here it feels right to top slice some of the better performing names and start looking for some laggards.
The numbers in the box below are performance numbers over a five-year period, so all very respectable but nothing comes close to Burgundy. The consistency and lack of volatility must surely be a thing of beauty to the investor and connoisseur alike?
January is a busy month in the wine world when the latest Burgundy vintage is sold ‘en primeur’. 2017 was a decent vintage (See WO Blog) and has sold through pretty well given another year of testing prices.
The ‘Southwold group’ met in January to review the now in bottle Bordeaux 2015 vintage and there are two excellent reports on the three day session to be found on Vinolent.net and FarrVintners.com. In brief summary, ’15 is maybe not quite the excellent vintage that was first pronounced, certainly when judged by ‘English’ palates but still pretty damn good with some show stoppers therein. At the end of the Farr report there is an interesting table of recent vintages in order of perceived quality.
Here at Wine Owners we are betting more heavily on the ’16 vintage (not yet included in the Farr report) which we believe will move very close to the top of the leader board. Messrs Martin and Galloni of Vinous Media have recently reviewed the 16s in bottle and are waxing lyrical. Our very own meteorology and Bordeaux expert called the ’16 vintage some time back - pre the en primeur tastings even! All subsequent tastings and encounters of the vintage have confirmed our views and we are confident enough to shout BUY. What and when is a much more interesting question - so please get in touch to hear our thoughts.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-02-04
As a couple of recent posts have alluded to, we think some of the really top end Burgundy has reached heights that might not be sustainable in the short to medium term. Over the last decade or so the Burgundy market has been the star performer:
But in the last year it has gone into interstellar overdrive:
Obviously Burgundy, and particularly the greatest names, are in short supply and the desire to have a slice of the action has had a dramatic impact on prices. But can this continue - THAT is the question!? This commentator has already sold some of the spectacularly performing big names and is reallocating the assets lower down the ladder, especially where prices are yet to move.
Last week we compared values of Clos de Beze 2010 from the Domaines of Rousseau, (Bruno) Clair and Drouhin-Laroze, all very closely rated, to find their respective price ratios to be 1 Rousseau for 13 Clair for 28 Drouhin-Laroze. This highlights the incredible disparity between certain growers and of course there will always be premia for certain names. However, the gaps have widened and some of the differentials are unjustified - opportunities abound, inter Burgundy and elsewhere. This quick comparison of a few random names suggests the currently less fashionable 1st Growth Bordeaux and even serious Rhone could be worth a look:
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the Burgundian Conundrium and see if we can make sense of it!?
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-01-31
Domaine Bruno Clair, Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010
WO Score: 94
Price: £3,120 per 12
Note from Burghound (93-96 points):
A spicy, pure and admirably refined nose offers up notes of cool, layered and an impressively broad mix of wild red berries, stone and underbrush hints. The textured and almost painfully intense broad-shouldered flavors possess deep reserves of tannin-buffering dry extract as well as the same extraordinary finishing depth that the nose hints at. A knock-out but this is expressly built to age and the flavors and tannic spine are so tightly wound that it's pointless to buy this if you do not intend to age it for at least 10 to 12 years first.
Domaine Drouhin-Laroze, Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010
WO Score 96
Price: £1,410 per 12
Note from Burghound (93-95):
A spicy, ripe, elegant and admirably pure nose offers up notes of anise, sandalwood and clove that add breadth to the floral, earth and stone-suffused aromas. There is the same superb breadth to the rich, intense and tension-filled full-bodied flavors that possess excellent power and drive on the seductively textured, muscular and classy finish.
Both the Drouhin-Laroze and the Bruno Clair expressions of Clos de Beze from the blockbuster 2010 look attractive at current levels with the less fashionable Drouhin-Laroze really standing out - there are a few cases in the market too. Both get great scores across the board from the critics and have not kept pace with the sizzling Burgundy index (Drouhin-Laroze in light blue) over the last three years:
Whilst seeking high quality wines that have lagged the Burgundy market, these two have popped up as good candidates. More and more market watchers will be searching for this type of opportunity, so some catch up is expected. Neither have hit their drinking stride yet but when the scarcity kicks in, will it be possible to source them when they do? I doubt it.
Although it is not comparing like with like, Rousseau’s take on this famous piece of dirt, (rated at 94-97) at £40,000 per 12, is probably fully valued and I for one would be making a switch! Putting it another way you can buy 28.5 bottles of the Drouhin-Laroze product for one of dear Monsieur Rousseau’s! The Clair to Rousseau ratio a more modest 1:13, but still!?
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-06-28
Whilst expensive Burgundies make the headlines, there's another revolution taking place that is transforming the qualitative level of winemaking more generally in Burgundy.
It's a revolution that's very different to the one caused by an influx of corporate cash snapping up top domaines that produce some of the region’s most sought-after wines.
Daughters and sons who are graduating from l’école viticole, and who spend their stages at new world wineries or with progressive in-region vignerons, are taking best practises in the vines and chais back to familial domaines and transforming quality of those wines. Other offspring are going it alone, relying on their social network to buy grapes from friends and friends of family. And still others are coming back to their roots, turning their back on a career in Paris for the siren call of the Côte d’Or.
In a way there’s a relationship between the two; the big money coming in is offering the promise of a wealthier future to the next generation.
Within this dynamic atmosphere there are lots of value buying opportunities. One doesn’t have to be a millionaire to own and to drink Burgundy. But you need to be quicker to claim an early allocation than previously. Prices of new discoveries rise fast. Whereas in the past it would have taken many vintages of successes before a domaine became established enough to justify rapid price hikes, these days positive press and ensuing price escalation can happen quickly.
How do I discover new producers?
Follow your favourite merchants – they’ll organise events or dinners at which the wines they represent can be tasted, allowing you to figure out which of the wines they are offering you think are the real deal.
Follow the critics – Neal Martin is now at Vinous, William Kelley has assumed the mantle at robertparker.com and Steen Öhman is busy discovering new talent at Winehog.
The blog format of Winehog is well suited to reading about new discoveries, where he’s picked up on Thibaud (Y) Clerget, Nicolas Faure, his fiancée Amelie Berthaut at Berthaut-Gerbet, Maxime Cheurlin at Georges Nöellat, Duroché, Jean-Marc Bouley, Arnaud Tessier, and Jean-Marc Vincent to highlight a range of notable domaines.
Charmes Dessus 2012, Domaine Tessier © Nick Martin
His latest discovery is Marthe Henri Boillot in Mersault, a true ‘start up’ having returned to pick up the remnants of her grandfather’s estate and has cut sourcing deals with friends.
It’s a familiar story. Down the road in Santenay Jean-Marc and Anne-Marie Vincent picked up the reins of his grandfather’s lapsed estate back in the late 1990s, and have transformed it into by far the best domaine of Santenay, making wines of great succulence, nerve and aromatic complexity. In fact, his reputation as one of the best true vignerons on the whole Côte is widely recognised by many other top producers all the way up into the Côte de Nuits.
They say birds of a feather flock together. Just look at Jean-Marc’s vigneron network, and you discover producers who share the same qualitative ethic and who are in search of constant improvements; producers such as Olivier Lamy, Jean-Marc Bouley and the passionately intense, super-fit Bruno Lorenzon in Mercurey.
Jean-Marc Vincent © Nick Martin
High density planting, low plant yields, vine training to minimise stress on the vine’s foot, braiding à la Leroy, soil microbial activity/ fertility, low sulphur addition late on in the winemaking process, rigorous triages of natural corks - are typical leitmotifs of these, and a growing number of young, ambitious producers.
In Vosne-Romanée, the brilliant and young family winemaker at Arnoux-Lachaux, Charles, has employed the braided training technique of his heroine Lalou-Bize Leroy to magical effect in his Aux Reignot vineyard, adding definition, an extraordinary energy and drive to this profound wine that is Grand Cru in everything but name. Arnoux Lachaux’s prices have skyrocketed so in that sense that particular ship has sailed; plenty are yet to leave port.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-06-06
Hosted by Flint, tutored by Alec Seysses, this was an unforgettable dinner. The wines are hedonistic, show great intensity of flavour and grand dimension. But they are not heavy or dense. They are wines of intensity and breadth rather than weight.
2011 Bonnes Mares
Alec said that they extracted a little more than they might normally have done. The colour is a darker shade of purple, whilst at first the nose is dense and rather closed. There is a boatload of liquorice evident at entry and on the mid palate, with iodine, orange and thyme.
With air the nose opens up to reveal lavender and plum skins, a sweetly perfumed mid palate and a velvety texture. Great length. Complete.
1998 Clos de la Roche
At first a tight nose, with a sweet undercurrent. With time in the glass, classic tertiary pinot aromas mingle with lemon verbena. A fresh attack is followed by citrus fruit, and a sappy, mouth-watering mid palate. There’s great persistence to the finish with a classic pinot character. Showing plenty of life and suggesting a great mid term future over the next 5 years.
Expansive nose of angelica, sandalwood and iodine. Quite broad, very tertiary, leafy and resolved with a medium-long finish.
2007 Clos St. Denis
Sherbetty nose, broad pinot nose, herbal and saline. Delightful fruity mid palate, redcurrent and cream, a touch of liquorice, sweet fruit but lifted by a gently freshness. Hedonistic.
2002 Clos St. Denis
Perfumed, deep nose, a hint of game with a consommé-like infusion, saline. That gamey complexity shows up again on the front palate before broad orange-infused flavours channel the wine into the mid palate. Terrific focus. Moderate weight but great intensity, very complex with an unami and saline character building out into the long finish. Very 2002 in its precision and energy.
1999 Clos St. Denis
Oranges and other citrus fruit on the nose, with lemon verbena adding a herbal character. Gorgeous velvety texture, a really visceral wine. Liquorice, orange pith, great intensity and a really solid core. Compact and immensely deep. Orange rind on the finish. Very young and tight as yet.
A pinot ‘qui pinotte’ – that classic nose exhibiting tertiary pinot character of strawberries ‘on the turn’ mixed with damp undergrowth. Just classic. Gentle resolved wine. Some resonance on the finish. Deceptively mid-weight with alluring intensity.
1999 Clos de la Roche
Great complexity and depth. Orange infused nose, saline with perfume of wild broom. Cloved, liquorice attack, and a hedonistic and visceral mid palate. Great resonance. Orange peel, sherbettty sweet fruit. Amazing freshness and length. Goes on and on. A legend.
1999 Bonnes Mares
Expressive aromatic nose, really quite open and sweet. Ready to go, right in the middle of the red to black fruit spectrum. Fruity jujubes and as you might expect a sweet mid palate. Calmed down with 30 minutes of aeration in the glass to reveal a fresh finish that lengthens correspondingly.
Caroline Brangé ©Nick Martin
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-05-24
With the 2015 Burgundies arriving in the market these days and with more to come over the next period the market is showing mixed signals - some of continued excessive demand and some spell disaster for lesser producers trying to claim high prices.
The prices of the 2015 vintage
The price development for the 2015s shows a rather mixed picture at the primary level - some producers have showed great restraint and have in some cases kept the prices at 2014 level, whereas moderate increases have been seen even amongst the top producers in very high demand.
A lot of Burgundy producers are aware of the dangers of high prices even on village level, as these wines are now becoming very expensive in restaurants. If they want to maintain a good representation in restaurants the prices for a village level wine are near the limit - aside from the producers in extremely high demand.
Other producers seem not very aware of these dangers and have increased the 2015 prices by more than 20% - and while this may be viable in the very short run - I have talked to several wine bars and restaurants that have cut allocations already, and many will do so after the 2015 vintage. This will perhaps not have a huge effect on the 2016 vintage as the quantities are very small in some cases .. but in the long run some producers have priced themselves out of the market so to speak.
The 2016 vintage - what to expect
I have tasted some 2016s already and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, as quality looks very fine indeed. The wines are cooler than the 2015s, and in that way more classic. It's still too early to be very firm on the quality - but potentially a quite outstanding vintage - very well balanced and enjoyable for both the reds and the whites.
The quantities are very low due to the April frost, but also very uneven across the producers and appellations. My expectation would be that the low quantity will ensure a continued upward pressure on prices for the wines in demand, but the tendency could be trouble ahead for increases in prices for the wines with no real demand in the secondary market.
Francois Millet, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé - Picture: http://winehog.org/
The long-term effect of prices
In my view, we will see continued increases in prices on the wines in very high demand - i.e. wines getting high prices in the secondary market thus ensuring a margin for those who buy the wines in the primary market.
These wines will still be in demand, as many people will keep allocations as it's a good investment, but larger share will eventually end up in the secondary market. Some of these wines are now priced beyond the limits of the average quite well off consumer, and will be traded accordingly. Restaurants will do the same, and as it becomes more difficult to sell the wines at the tables - they will also cash-in offering wines on the secondary market.
The wines not in demand in the secondary market will eventually have problems, as consumers will cut allocations and move on to other products.
This is where Bordeaux was 15 - 20 years ago, and while the top Bordeaux wines have managed to increase prices the lesser wines from Bordeaux are struggling with low demand and low prices even though quality and the value of these wines often can be tremendous these days.
Take a look at the wine lists of today and note how limited the Bordeaux offerings often are these days - compared to 20 years ago.
Burgundy will prevail but demand will be more volatile
With the small quantities produced in Burgundy the risk of a full meltdown is not imminent even with the latest increases in prices. Some producers will struggle as they will be caught between the need or urge to increase prices and the restrain shown by some of the top estates regarding the prices on the low-level wines.
A good negociant will be facing the fact that their Vosne village will cost the same as the wines from a top end producer in the primary market. That is not sustainable in the long run - and these producers could well see a collapsing demand within a few years.
As prices go up I expect demand to be more volatile, as the focus on the great vintages will increase. This has happened in Bordeaux and with the globalisation and available price information around the clock this will also be the case with Burgundy.
So, I expect increasing and more volatile prices for the wines in demand, and a sluggish market for the producers with high prices without a good demand from the secondary market.
The calculative consumer
As the prices increase the consumers will be more calculative and look at the historic prices and the development in the prices and availability of back vintages. Is it the right time to buy, can the same wine in an equally good back-vintage be found on the market at a lower cost.
The conscious consumer will check these things, and will search for information, to ensure a good price and ensure a good investment, even though the wine is bought for pure pleasure. Importantly consistency in the prices seen in relation to back vintages will be needed at least for wines produced in relatively large quantities.
This will increase the focus on services that offer historic data on prices and the possibility to validate and research the “true” market price.
The rising stars will emerge and shine brightly
Furthermore, we will see new talented producers pop up - and become in fashion within a very short time - and achieve high demand for these wines in the secondary market very rapidly as the producers get the acclaim from the wine press. So, exciting times where buyers and investors must be on their toes to follow the trends in Burgundy.
As a wine writer, it's exciting times in Burgundy as new talents emerge all the time, and old somewhat lacklustre estates are transformed to a new star within a few years with the arrival of a new generation.
So, stay on your toes, stay tuned in and informed on winehog.org - a yearly subscription is only 29€ - sign up here
Chief Tasting Officer
The team at Wine Owners love Steen’s Burgundy reviews. Just like us, he was an impassioned collector, until he decided to pack in his day job and apply his palate to Burgundy for the good of mankind (and perhaps to gain a little personal enlightenment along the way).
An annual subscription with https://Winehog.org is a bit of a bargain; plus the reviews are accessible, and when we taste the wines that Steen’s tasted, we ‘get it’. Furthermore he’s a real discoverer, so if you're the sort of collector who loves the idea of buying into the next young Burgundy buck before the rest of the world catches on and spoils the price, you really should subscribe!
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-05-17
Latour’s conversion to organically produced vines began almost 20 years ago when they stopped using chemical herbicides. Since then, they started experimenting with new techniques, and in 2015, 100% of L’Enclos was organic and 50% of it was biodynamic.
Producing according to biodynamic techniques is not new. This method applies ancestral practices of using only ingredients from the farm and maximising their impact. For example, fertilizing is from the manure from the cows and horses living on the estate, mixed in with different flowers of certain specific properties. This main idea is to create a sustainable and circular ecosystem aimed at protecting the earth and make it more fertile by freeing nature to multiply the microbial activity in the soil.
Pontet Canet can be considered as one of the pioneers. They did their first biodynamic trial in 2004 and the results turned out to be very positive: the vines were brighter and tighter. Alfred extended the test parcel and the vineyard became fully converted in 2006; a first for a Médoc Classified Growth. Ten year’s on, and their most recent vintages show an aromatic complexity that is quite clearly much more evident when compared to their wines from the mid 200s.
Now more and more vineyards use biodynamic practises to grow their vines and in the winemaking. After decades of intensive farming many of the top vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux, including Domaine Leroy and Domaine Leflaive, began looking for new options since their soils were being exhausted and couldn’t sustain healthy vines with good grapes.
The biodynamic label, Demeter, has recently gained popularity in the Bordeaux region. Chateau Durfort-Vivens has this year been fully certified by Demeter, with the designation proudly added to their bottling in the form of a strip label. In a variable year the Margaux appellation, Durfort-Vivens 2016 showed out of cask as a wine of character, with a lovely aromatic profile,crunch fruit and a chewy, black cherry infused finish.
But it’s far from a one-way argument. As weather patterns become more extreme, protecting the plant and its fruit from the element under a strict biodynamic regime can be risky.
A wave of quality obsessed Burgundy producers increasingly use biodynamic treatments in a mixed approach to vineyard husbandry where the focus is on the soil’s microbial strength. But with repeated hailstorms, and the risk of rot in a warm humid environment, it takes a brave man or woman to forgo other practical fall-back options.
It’s a rich man’s game. Small Burgundy producers cannot afford repeated losses to disease when conditions get really rough and biodynamics might not be sufficient without heavy and repeated doses of copper sulphate,something which producers adopting biodynamic viticulture are reluctant to do with concerns about creating copper residues in the soil.
Château Palmer is a leading proponent of biodynamics and has been undertaking a great deal of research on test barrels of recent vintages, both in the vineyard and in the cellar and reducing use of sulphur as a stabilising agent. In 2016 they misjudged with one too-few copper sulphate treatments resulting in an attack of mildew, reducing their overall production volumes to just 28hl/ha, a miserly figure for Bordeaux in a generous year where most quality producers cropped at 45-50 hl/ha.
Yet biodynamics is ‘back’ here to stay, even if those who apply for Demeter certification are likely to be outnumbered by those who simply practise biodynamic principles and use many of the treatments.
Further north in Saumur, the legendary Loire estate Clos Rougeard has been practising biodynamics for ever. In the 1960s and 1970s when their neighbours embraced synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, they were mocked for holding true to their ancestral principles practised since the time of their great grandfather.
The last word goes to Nadi Fourcault, the remaining brother of Clos Rougeard (only recently bought by the Bouygues family who also own Chateau Montrose). “The only thing that’s revolutionary about us is that we’ve never changed.”
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-02-06
Let me first put my hand up and say I’m a fan of 2014 as a Burgundy vintage. It seems to me to be a year of rather lovely balance across the board. No doubt with exceptions, it’s a vintage to buy as high up the qualitative tree as you can afford, quite unlike 2015 where the hot summer provided a metaphorical leg up to wines on cooler, less exposed sites and colder soils.
Adam Brett-Smith, Managing Director of Corney & Barrow the UK exclusive agent for DRC, describes 2014 as the ‘happy vintage’ but warns that it’s easily underestimated. I do agree. The wines may be ‘on the fruit’ and correspondingly expressive, but there’s sufficient fine-grained structure, dry extract and acidity to see the wines develop over the medium to longer term.
The ability of Burgundies to age from classic or un-showy vintages seems consistently under-called by wine critics, especially where there’s a degree of natural concentration through moderate or normal yields, which seems to make a big difference to the finickety nature of Pinot Noir. 2014 should age effortlessly for 15-20 years.
Warm, red fruited nose. An expressive, spiced attack with nice energy and a twist of licorice. A degree of firmness merely hints at the character of the archetypal Corton appellation (although there is huge variation between the various Corton soils) and leads into a giving, fruity finish.
An inviting yeasty nose, in turn earthy and creamy. Once again, a degree of firmness that’s overridden by open, expressive, croquant fruit. It’s a wine that pinotents – delivering the essence of Pinot Noir, into a finish that’s framed with an orange citrus cut.
A fresher nose, vinous and earthy. There’s greater complexity, finely balanced with a bit more structure, more defined and an elemental, vinous character. On its reserve for now, with a freshness and depth that tempts a prediction of a great GE.
Sweet pastille fruit on entry, less evident grip, more expressive with greater mid palate volume. Super upfront fruit with a fine grained back palate. Freshness kicks in on the finish with good persistence.
Liquory aromas rise from the glass. Power comes through on the nose but paradoxically there’s a balancing restraint to it. Greater intensity than preceding wines, much less up-front fruit but with a bit more torque - progressive, earthy and very complex. Flashes of fruit push through, towards a grainy back palate with building intensity. Real grip and substance with old vine character.
Another step up, right now it presents as a more chiselled form of the Richebourg, a rather elegant and cushioned expression of La Tâche at this early stage. There’s lots of latent power and a sense of reserve on the back palate with a long and persistent finale.
Expressive nose of fruit, earth, and a greater sense of minerality. Powerful yet very refined. Darker character, with a brightly illuminated outline to the dark fruit. A controlled finish with fine-grained grip and a sense of penetrating depth.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-01-30
This report is written on the back of 3 days of tasting cask samples and back vintages chez producers in Burgundy, hot on the heels of the London tastings.
We visited 13 small producers and tasted well over 100 wines in cellars, tasting rooms and producers’ homes, evenly split between the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.
The London en primeur tastings showed open wines with plenty of fruit. Those that were bursting with energy stood out, with some showing somewhat mute: a little flat or lacking in definition. Such are the challenges of transporting samples directly from barrel and expecting them to perform. Sometimes they do, often they don’t.
Barrel tastings in situ are a much better opportunity to judge wines individually and form a view on the vintage overall. Unsurprisingly the wines showed much more consistently than they had done in London.
If you can taste alongside prior vintages, as we did on a few occasions, that’s all the better as it provides useful context.
Comparisons have been drawn with previous vintages by commentators, notably 2005 and 2009 (presumably due to the hot summers they all have in common).
The producers don’t agree. 2009s show in a bigger, atypical mould. 2005s are considerably more tannic, built for the very long term, and most will need a good while yet. A few producers see 2005 as the greatest vintage of their generation, but many more look to 1999 as their benchmark.
2015 has the fruit and accessibility of 2012, with more volume and structure, and seemingly similar PHs. It’s an alluring vintage without the generally slacker character of 2009. Most of the successes were picked early, before the rains on 10th September. But some held off and still produced lovely wine. Others who harvested after the 10th have wines that seem to me to be too sweet, perceptibly lower in acidity and have less fine tannins. For the majority that were successful, the watchword was very little or no punching down, almost everyone opting for gentle extractions.
Some producers went for a high proportion of whole bunch fermentation. Those practising the inclusion of whole bunches do so to add an extra sense of freshness and complexity. It’s worth pointing out that stems actually slightly increase the PH, so lowering acidity in the finished wine. But they also contribute different, plant-derived flavours such as eucalyptus and mint, and it’s possibly this that gives the impression of making the wine feel light-footed. Perhaps the marginal lowering of acidity also contributes to a silkier mouth feel. Theoretically whole bunches also add a bit of structure, but I’d guess it depends on what percentage is used and often you don’t sense it.
Having tasted plenty of wines with and without whole bunches, it does seem that a common aspect of the vintage character is the silkiness of the tannins that are present irrespective of these types of winemaking decisions.
Another facet of 2015 is its lovely concentration. Pinot Noir excels in vintages that aren’t bountiful. Yields in 2015 were generally lower than in 2014, 1990 or 1999. This was especially true of the Cote de Beaune because the vines hadn’t fully recovered from the stressing effects of hail in the preceding years.
2015s are fruity, rich, with good density and show definition. On balance I personally preferred cooler sites – due to location, aspect or being in a windy spot. But others will favour out-and-out richness and a broad-shouldered character from the warmer sites. We all have our palate preferences and that’s as it should be. In any case there are no universal rules to successful buying in 2015 since the different vineyard characters shine through.
The greatest relative successes are the lesser appellations. There are some truly superb Bourgogne rouge and village level wines. You’d be seriously missing out if you just focus on trophy wines.
Village wines in 2015 are priced similarly to the levels of Premier Crus from just 2 vintages ago. Grand Crus are up by a third in many cases. If you go long on 2015 now and choose to rationalise in a few years’ time, there are no guarantees that you’ll get your money back.
If you ask which were my favourite communes in 2015 that especially shone, I’d plump for Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-St-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin.
Nevertheless, I was delighted by lovely wines from Auxey-Duresses, Santenay and Volnay. I thought Nuits-St-Georges and Vosne-Romanée were stunning successes in 2014, and it was no surprise that they showed at least as superbly in 2015.
By now you’ll have formed the impression that 2015 is a great vintage across-the board. Indeed it is. Yet not everyone is happy.
A proportion of long-term collectors are refusing their allocations this year for the first time, which may tell us something about the sustainability of these levels. Some of those ‘given up’ allocations are going to overseas buyers who spend vast annual sums with the big London merchants. But Burgundy producers are well aware of the grey market of en primeur releases originating out of the UK. For now, they are tolerant of it, but for how much longer?
Many merchants are concentrating allocations in the hands of their wealthiest buyers who spend by far the most throughout the rest of the year. And when I say spend, I mean spend. Their dependence on wine investors or wine accumulators makes it harder for them to allocate widely, and correspondingly difficult for Burgundy lovers to gain access to many Grand Crus and Premier Crus. In that fundamental sense the market has changed out of all proportion.
Overall takings at the 2016 annual Hospices auction were down 25% on the previous year (although it’s worth remembering the historic 2015 auction record was in aid of the Paris victims of the IS-inspired atrocities). There is less of 2016 to go around due to the catastrophic late April frosts from the tip to almost the toe of the Cote D’Or, but the quality of what was made is very good and it’s another warm vintage.
If you’re UK based, one other thing to consider is that the Sterling Euro exchange rate will be volatile over the next couple of years, and many will be betting against the Euro during this timeframe. Presidential election results in France in 2017 could have a major impact on the Euro’s relative strength or weakness.
With this in mind, and given the extremely high release prices in the UK for 2015 Burgundy, it’s worth revisiting 2014 for all those who held back.
With a few months or more in bottle, the red wines are showing superbly, with dark, ripe fruit, excellent minerality and sufficient structure to assure medium to longer term drinking.
2014 is a good vintage. It’s a more classic red Burgundy vintage than 2015, majoring on its lovely balance. Based on these tastings, I am delighted to have bought so much of it.
2014 white wines have wonderful intensity, and though enjoyable for their terrific concentration already, are going to age beautifully. I’ll be laying down my best bottles for 15 or more years, but will surely be tempted to dip in regularly along the way.
2013 was plagued by miserable weather. Producers needed to battle the elements, along with mildew and rot. They had to work assiduously all the way through. Perhaps because of this the best producers are proud of their achievements. Reds 'pinottent', that is to say they show fine, overt varietal expression in a really fresh, lifted mid-weight style, with one proviso: just so long as vineyard husbandry was top notch the wines were able to draw energy from the life of the soil and yields were managed to concentrate the berries.
2013 reds may be mid-weight, but the best have a lovely ethereal intensity, and village wines are starting to drink already; they have none of the hardness and excoriating acidity of 1996, or the sharpness of 2006. Tasted 2 years ago as barrel samples 2013s were particularly taciturn, rather dry and mute, as you might imagine the product of such filthy weather. Today they are transformed.
However much the 2015 white wines are being talked up as being fresher than one could have imagined given the heat of the year (and they are), they are simply not in the same class as 2014. They lack the same degree of definition, intensity and breeding with which that vintage is blessed.
With prices increasing for whites too, there’s really very little reason to go long on them this year, and it’s noticeable that recent merchant emails contain a lot more white wines still on offer compared with the mostly sold-out reds. I’ve only bought a few affordable cases for nearer term drinking, and thought the best vineyard sites of Mercurey in the Cote Challonaise showed particularly well. But I’ll be drinking them well before my 2014s.
As a parting footnote, don't overlook Moulin-a-vent in the Beaujolais. From the red granite soils of the appellation’s best terroirs and in the able hands of top Cote D’Or producers, Gamay shows what it can create: truly a noble grape.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-01-06
With the highly touted 2015 Burgundy campaign upon us, we can be sure of two things: it is a superb vintage, and prices will rise.
Let’s be honest, Burgundy is for wine lovers. Although we may have more Bordeaux in our cellars - steady, consistent, blended excellence - it is fickle, flirtatious Burgundy which steals our hearts. And the whole world is now falling in love with Burgundy, courting the tiny quantities and ready to take our place in the queue.
The pure, ripe fruit of the 2015s will tempt early drinking, but if we want to experience the extraordinary range of flavours, textures and sensations that fine burgundy can produce, we must be prepared to wait. Or to seek out mature wines from great producers in other vintages. Remember, in Burgundy more than anywhere, it is the producer who matters more than the vineyard or the year.
So rather than bet the whole house on the latest vintage, now might be the time to review the Burgundies that your fellow collectors have offered for sale on the fine wine exchange.
There is a dazzling range of beautiful wines available, from the most humble appellations to the greatest of Grand Crus. Some are for drinking now, others for keeping for the future, whatever that may bring. Some are in bond and some are duty paid, but DP prices are never more than their In Bond case equivalents and there is no VAT for exchange buyers. All were bought when the pound was much stronger and prices were lower. Prices of Burgundy’s back vintages may never be this low again.
So where would you start?
Chardonnay is arguably easier to enjoy across the board in youth than Pinot Noir. 2014 whites have greater precision and zest than their 2015 counterparts and it is probably the best vintage since 2001. 2014s are only just starting to appear as offers for sale on the secondary market and they are unquestionably worth having in any cellar.
As long as yields of this naturally exuberant varietal are constrained, there is plenty to pick from: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2007 were all very good, whilst there are some terrific 2006s with nerve and energy, in contrast to lush and giving 2008s. Very late malolactic fermentations in 2001 lent plenty of substance to the best wines; they had longer to feed off their nourishing lees. When looking at 2005 and earlier fears of premature oxidation (premox) have really hurt the market. But there are still old bones that are simply thrilling.
Looking to red Burgundy, consider 2005 - considered one of the great vintages and should make fine old bones, but there's tannins aplenty, some more puckering than others depending on extraction, that suggests another 10-20 years will be required. Indeed they may be drinking in the same window as 2015 or later!
Consider 2010, a vintage with the nerve and intensity of 2008 married to the flesh of a vintage like 1995.
If you want to buy into a vintage that was overlooked when released but that has evolved into one of the most exciting we’ve tasted look to 2002, a lesson if ever there was one in how pinot noir loves luminosity more than heat. These are wines with fine intensity and great purity.
Talking of which, if you’re a classicist and enjoy form over flattery, 2001 is starting to climb the upward slope of maturity with wines that are sappy and crystalline but may have yet to reach their peaks.
The truly great 1999s are lusciously fleshy, sweetly spiced and dense, but at the same time so coiled, that most Grand Crus will surely need another 5-10 years. Many premier crus and village wine are gorgeous now.
2012 is a successful recent vintage that had really low yields (a very good thing for Pinot Noir) but will be cheaper than 2015. Producers love 2012 thanks to their fabulous balance and flattering ripe fruit, which nonetheless blankets an underlying structure for mid term appreciation.
The top tips for 2015s (whatever we say, we know you’ll want to buy some!) are that the lesser appellations, cooler climates and colder soils will excel. You don't need to stretch to the top of the tree to find great Pinot Noir in 2015 to drink over the next 15 years, which is great news for Burgundy lovers and something to be thankful for in a very expensive vintage.
Buying back vintages vs new releases
Other than exceptionally hard to find Grand Crus and Holy Grail producers’ best wines – that you’re either allocated or you’re not – it’s worth looking to premier crus from producers with good reputations for quality and value-hunting.
Take Beaune Grèves L’Enfant Jésus from Bouchard Père et Fils. Whilst back vintages were much cheaper at release than they are today, there isn’t much between the release price of 2015 or any number of superb back vintages.
As the chart below shows, the superb 1999 vintage is still cheaper today than the release price of 2015, the equally acclaimed 2010 is the same price, but you can drink it in 10 years instead of having to wait until the 2030s for the 2015; and only the 2005 and 2002 are a little more expensive – but not hideously so.