The growing season in Burgundy got off to an early start with a warm March and April. May saw a continuation of the warm weather, and flowering in the Côte de Beaune began in late-May/early-June. Potential yields appeared very good at this point. In mid-June a cooler week saw substantial rainfall, however this preceeded a sharp bump in temperatures, which continued to soar throughout July. At this point rainfall was minimal to nonexistent. August brought more variable weather, with light precipitation and a few short heat spikes.
This unusual and unexpected weather pattern, meant that white burgundies of 2015 are in general on the rich, alcoholic and opulent side, as compared to the more classic and acidity driven vintages- like 2014. The 2015s, by comparison, have relatively low acidity and it is instead the freshness that gives a sense of vibrant tension and energy, as well as adding to the backbone of the wines rather than the acidity. As opposed to the worst fears, I think you’ll find that the best 2015s can be quite magnificent.
Chassagne is one of the largest communes of the Côte d’Or, with nearly 370 hectares under vines. It comes third among the three great adjacent wine villages after Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. Despite producing both red and white wine, the white wines are without doubt the jewel of the commune, commanding impressive prices and a global reputation. Among the best known names this commune boasts are the Grand Crus ‘Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet’ (1.6 ha) and just under half of both ‘Le Montrachet’ (8 ha) and ‘Bâtard-Montrachet’ (12 ha).
The whites are in general full and firm, more akin to Puligny-Montrachet than to the softer, rounder wines of Meursault. From the top of the slope on the Saint-Aubin side, vineyards such as Les Chaumées produce light-ish, racy wines with a touch of peach or crabapple, while lower down, in Chenevottes for example, the produce is plumper and sometimes even solid. For the best of the more masculine versions of white Chassagne, you need to go to Morgeot; Cailleret and Les Grandes Ruchottes upslope are flowery, racy and feminine. Embazées and La Romanée are “all in finesse” and lighter still; while Les Champs-Gain, halfway up the slope, will present you with an elegant compromise: fullish, plump, succulent wines.
1) Domaine Hubert et Olivier Lamy Chassagne-Montrachet “Le Concis du Champs” 2015
- Burghound rating: AM89-91 (Outstanding top value) / Drink: 2021+
- Terroir: Le Concis du Cuamps; planted in 2005
- Harvest date: 26th August
- Aging: no new oak, large format barrels
Tasting note: A more elegant and again exuberantly fresh nose offers up notes of citrus zest, pear, green apple, resin and pretty floral elements. The racy, intense and slightly bigger medium weight flavours are rich yet highly energetic flavours that possess notably better depth and length on the relatively linear and dry finish. This is presently fairly tightly wound and will need a few years of bottle age first.
2) Domaine Paul Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet 2015
- Burghound rating: AM89 (Outstanding top value) / Drink: 2021+
- Terroir: Les Plantes Momières and Les Chaumes
- Harvest date: 28th August
- Aging: <20% new oak
Tasting note: Subtle notes of resin and petrol add breadth to the ripe and again quite fresh aromas of apple and lavender. The caressing and rich flavours also possess really lovely vibrancy while displaying both good detail and plenty of finishing punch. This is a very good Chassagne villages and like the Pitangerets, an atypical 2015
3) Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 2015
- Burghound rating: AM88 (Outstanding top value) / Drink: 2019+
- Terroir: from 8 separate lieux-dits just under 2 ha; planted in 1963 & 1993
- Harvest date: 2nd September
- Aging: 20-30% new oak
Tasting note: Here the expressive and slightly riper nose is compositionally similar to that of the Bourgogne but with the addition of a hint of matchstick character. There is impressive richness to the concentrated and relatively full-bodied flavours that possess a caressing mouth feel before culminating in a sappy and persistent finish. This isn’t classically styled but it is delicious and a wine that should also drink well early on.
For me, it’s a close call between Michel Niellon and Hubert et Olivier Lamy as the winner, both expressing completely different beautiful qualities… I may have to try one more time to confirm!
– Chris Cheng