Enthusiasm for the 2015 vintage has been growing steadily, ever since the perfect, healthy grapes were brought in at the very beginning of September. There is no question that this is a great vintage for red wines and we are now discovering superb quality in the white wines as well. Both colours display a luxurious concentration of fruit while retaining a sense of vibrant energy.
Prices have gone up for three clear reasons: the quality of the vintage, the scarcity of 2016 after the catastrophic frost and other weather problems, and the significant decline in the value of sterling. We have worked hard to negotiate the best prices possible, while noting that if ever a vintage deserved to be sold at a premium it is 2015.
The 2015 vintage provided a relatively carefree growing season. It was an exceptionally dry and often hot summer, though happily the water table had been well replenished through the winter. Both a naturally small bunch-set and the dry conditions have limited the size of the crop, though welcome rainfall in August partially offset the drought. However, one feature of the summer, which may well have had a positive effect on the wines, is the extraordinary luminosity: clear, bright skies consistently, rather than heavy, lowering heat.
The first pickers could be seen on Wednesday 26th August in fine weather, becoming very hot over the weekend. Le Grand Départ for the Côte de Beaune whites began on Monday 31st, again a very hot day though expected to become stormy overnight. In the end the evening rain was relatively gentle (except in Chablis), continuing a little the following day which saw a change of wind to the north, and therefore a significant drop in temperature.
The Côte de Beaune pretty much finished picking in good weather over the following week, and the Côte de Nuits got underway the week after, most completing the harvest before the wet weekend of 12th/13th September – though the unsettled weather which followed was not bad enough to have damaged the remaining crop still to be picked.
My first thoughts were that this would be a red wine vintage – which it certainly is – but the whites are turning out to be far superior to what might have been, given the long, hot summer. Whereas in 2009 there were hot summer some great wines from a small proportion of producers who picked early enough, in 2015 the great majority made the right call and there are not many"clumsy"wines. They are full of fruit and flesh, yet with adequate acidity, and most have a fine, fresh feel to them. Chablis was complicated by the hail storm over the night of 31st/1st August which damaged the yield for many, though the rain which fell outside the hailed area was in fact a blessing.
The red wines
What can we say about the reds? They are fabulous wines! In many ways they marry the concentration of 2005 with the juicy charm of 2010, a combination which works very nicely mathematically. Michel Lafarge cites 1929 as the comparison. The interest lies in the detail: did producers pull back on extraction because the grapes exuded all that was needed? Or were they happy to extract as normal to go with the flow of the vintage? Did they use more whole bunches in vinification so as to make a counterpoint to the richness of the fruit? The introduction to each producer and the notes on the wines should provide the answers that will enable you to search out the wines that suit your palate.
• Another vintage smaller in size than what used to be the norm
• Fine, ripe white wines, with good balancing acidity
• Exceptional reds, a truly great year: 2005 + 2010 = 2015?
• Not cheap, but definitely not a vintage to miss out on