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The best of Burgundy

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I’ve just returned from a fabulous week in Burgundy tasting the 2015 vintage and hearing about the problems with frost and low yields in 2016.

The 2015 vintage was superb for red wines, one of the best vintages that growers can remember. The fruit was perfectly healthy, the summer had been warm and dry and the grapes were small, giving a high skin:juice ratio and consequently deep colours and a good backbone of tannin which will give the top wines great longevity. It was an early harvest, taking place at the beginning of September and for the white wines it was particularly important to pick the Chardonnay at the right time to retain freshness and acidity. The whites are warm, soft and round and will be really delicious for early drinking. The red Pinot Noirs have the richness of 2005 and 2009 but the fruit is cooler and fresher and more succulent.

Some wines have been bottled but many are still in barrel and so tasting can take a while as you try and find the barrels in the cellar and then have to dip them (see the photo below with Bernard Repolt from Remoissenet), taste and pour back what’s left in your glass, before moving on to the next wine. Every drop is precious and the barrels need to be kept topped up as much as possible.

2016 is also said to be good in quality but the late frosts wreaked havoc, burning the young shoots and buds, and the result is very low yields. In the photo below of a cellar in the Cote de Beaune, there should be three rows high of barrels yet there is hardly more than one. This comes on the back of small vintages in 2013 and 2014 and unfortunately this is bound to mean an increase in price for the 2015 wines, although some producers (such as Remoissenet) are holding prices to support the UK market as exchange rates are making imported wines more expensive.

Wines such as Rully, Givry and St Romain will be worth looking out for as wines such as Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin and Puligny-Montrachet become more expensive.

The whole of the Cote d’Or was a blaze of autumn colour. The leaves on the vines are gradually falling and while the vines take a rest over winter, attention switches to the wines in the cellar. The 2015s still in barrel will be bottled in January. Whatever the price these will be great additions to any wine list or cellar - it’s a real must-have vintage!

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