Burgundy 2011 293

EN PRIMEUR: 2015 Burgundy En Primeur

One grower described the 2015 growing season as a dream – and while it didn’t bring some of the challenges seen in 2014 and 2016, it wasn’t quite as straightforward as it might have been.  A mild winter, with just a few days of frost in February, was followed by a very warm spring.  This seemed to set the pattern for the rest of the season – 2015 for most growers produced a small crop because of higher than average temperatures, particularly during flowering and fruit set, and very low rainfall (20% below average overall and, at its most extreme in June, 90% below average).  This caused coulure and millerandage – thus fewer berries, smaller berries, and thick skins.  The above average temperatures accelerated ripening – at Fontaine for example, the usual 100 day rule from flowering to picking would have meant a harvest date of 12th September, whereas they in fact began picking on 1st September.  And the picking date is perhaps the most crucial factor in the final quality of wine produced: with early and rapidly ripening fruit, it was essential to hold one’s nerve and not pick too early, before full phenolic ripeness, but equally to pick immediately full ripeness was achieved, and quickly, in order to avoid over-ripeness.  Those who succeeded in this difficult balancing act retained the all-important freshness in their wines which contributes to making this such a fabulous vintage.  But look out for wines produced by those who picked too late – they may be seductive in their richness, but they lack the essential vivacity which is so much a hallmark of great Burgundy.  2015s from good growers will have a long drinking window – with such excellent balance they are approachable young, whilst also having the concentration and tannins necessary for long ageing potential.  Lastly, the question of price cannot be ignored.  Most growers, because of the catastrophically small 2016 vintage following on the heels of a below average 2015 crop have felt obliged to increase their prices, though mostly modestly.  Unfortunately for us in the UK, the sharp drop in the value of the pound against the euro since this time last year has turned a modest euro increase into a significant sterling increase.  It is a reality with which we have to cope, at least for the time being.