Red Burgundy 2005
- Thursday 8 February 2007
On the surface, red Burgundy in 2005 seems an easy vintage to define – rich, full and smoothly textural, while retaining freshness and elegance. But the vintage is more subtle than this. 2005 has an unusually harmonious and complex balance of fine elements which collude to create something finer still.
Frédéric Mugnier comments on the ‘combination of richness and freshness that make it really special’. This counterpoint makes 2005 aesthetically very appealing and satisfying… even at this early stage. My tasting notes are scattered with adjectives to describe the purity of fruit – lucidity in Gevrey, translucency in Chambolle and purity in Vosne. The intense fruit coupled with the 2005 tannins and acidity ensure there is no lack of structure – Vosne wines, for example, may be veiled in velvet, but the extract and definition ensure the wines age.
Despite the Pinot fruit being tangibly seductive, it is the perfume which lifts the wine to another level, to become a more cerebral experience. This fragrance, coupled with energy and terroir definition, defines the vintage and gives it the potential of greatness. The Chambolles shimmy, the Gevreys are athletes, the Vosnes are vigorous.
The red 2005s have a distinct sense of place. Whereas ripeness can partially mask the terroir in the whites, particularly in Chablis, I have no such reservations for the reds. The vintage both reveals the terroir and enhances the varietal characters.
The weather in 2005 on the Côte de Nuits was perfect. ‘A vintner’s dream,’ says Christophe Roumier. Summer came early, with warm weather in June. August was cool and it was notably dry. A little rain in September was just sufficient to give a last boost to the maturation, but not to dilute the grapes.
The weather was fine for harvesting, allowing growers the luxury of picking the optimum date without the usual pressure of rain forecast. Drouhin comments on low volume across the Côte, on average 25% down, attributable to rain shortage, but particularly to hail. This was site specific throughout the Côte. Frédérick Mugnier lost 60% of his village Chambolle to hail on 1 May. Early hail affects quantity not quality. In fact the vintage was remarkably healthy.
The evolution of the sugar and acidity was excellent. The long, warm summer encouraged slow maturation, yielding good sugar levels and ripe tannins, while retaining the acidity. This generosity of both sugar and acidity is unusual. Adjustments were unnecessary, and conditions produced a natural degree of 12.5–13.5?. Where the degree is higher, Pinot’s fragile fragrance and finesse remains unblemished. It seems the mild sunshine left the aromatics and fruit to develop normally.
The grapes were polyphenolically ripe. The tannin quantity was high, but they are notably supple, enrobed and luscious, not dry, as in 1988, for example. The more assertively tannic villages of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Pommard have really benefited as the tannins here are unusually embedded into the wine.
It was a ‘hands-off’ vintage that required little intervention. Few people in the Côte de Nuits had need of their sorting tables. Given the high level of phenols, most were judicious in their use of extraction, and softer extraction is important in preserving the quality and balance of this vintage.
Skin to juice ratio in 2005 was high due to the dry conditions. This was exacerbated where the yields were low due to hail. The stems were very ripe and more growers seemed to be using whole bunches, albeit often just 5-15%. As François Millet of Domaine Comte Georges De Vogüé comments: ‘I was afraid of having a vintage with body and attitude but no elegance, so I was careful, not at all aggressive, with this vintage.’
Michel Gros in Vosne, who has produced a pure and lucid set of wines, remarks that the winemaking, not the grape, is at fault if a wine from the Côte de Nuits falls below par in 2005. The tannins provide the sensual texture of this vintage – be it silk, satin or velvet, airy and flowing or rippling and muscular, this texture is an essential part of fine red Burgundy.
The marks of a perfect year
A top-quality vintage should have excellent fruit, perfect balance and marked terroir expression. The 2005 reds have it all. It is undoubtedly a great vintage for reds on the Côte de Nuits. Eric Rousseau says: ‘It is the best vintage for 20 years, better than 2002. The 2005 is richer with more acidity and tannins.’
It is a top-quality vintage throughout the Côte d’Or, but it would be a minor miracle if Burgundy were totally harmonious across the Côte. Beware of dry tannins in places. And hail damage, which in the Côte de Beaune in Chassagne required attention to detail in removing the unwanted berries. Despite this, 2005 is remarkably consistent, which makes it more difficult than usual to select villages and crus of greater virtue than others.
The standard is very good at generic level. The Bourgogne from Christian Sérafin is an example of the spicy richness available even at entry level. In the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and Côte De Nuits the fruit reached optimum ripeness at domaines including Henri Naudin-Ferrand and Michel Gros. Don’t overlook some delicious Fixin and Marsannay, notably the truly scrumptious Marsannay from Geantet-Pansiot.
Village Gevrey, which covers a large area for Burgundy, was more reliable than usual, with the top growers making exceptional village wine. Among these are Pierre Damoy (Clos de Tamisot) and Domaine Fourrier. Moving up to grand cru, Les Ruchottes stood out for its energy and mineral counterpoint to the ripe fruit, and Clos de Bèze for its enticing perfume. Morey, perhaps not as good at village level, is consistent at premier and grand cru. The young grower, Alain Jeanniard, is also worth seeking out.
Chambolle is a delight, fragrant with rose petals, but well structured. There are plenty of examples of gorgeous village wines, soft but fresh. In premier cru, look out for racy Les Cras; Ghislaine Barthod’s is excellent. Les Amoureuses is sensational and among my favourite crus of the vintage, truly performing at grand cru level. Downhill, Clos de Vougeot is more consistent than usual, with the flesh cloaking the monolithic structure of the biggest wines. Some are very distinguished. Village Vosnes were very seductive. Of the premiers crus, Les Brûlées stood out for generosity coupled with vivacity and perfume. Among the grands crus, the lithe energy of Romanée-Saint-Vivant was in great harmony with the opulent ripeness and Richebourg was splendidly stately.
In Nuits-St-Georges you can expect more generous wines than usual on the southern side, where the austerity is softened and there are characters of dark chocolate and smooth slate. The northern side has produced plummy, suede-soft examples. Boudots is ample. The lesser premiers crus and village wines are less rustic than is often the case, but as ever the grower is so important. Some may have extracted too much tannin.
On the Côte de Beaune, Pommard was similarly impressive for its tamed tannins. The fruit is particularly pure and fresh in Savigny and Chorey, which are good hunting grounds this year. In Volnay, Caillerets stood out.
Is 2005 comparable with another vintage? Recent contenders in the mix are 1999, 2000 and 2002. The 1999 is similar, but the 2005 has the edge with sweeter tannins. It shares similar ripeness, roundness and structure with 1990, but the tannins are more immediately integrated in 2005 and the wine is not as full-bodied. In 2005 luscious fruit is combined with 2002-like freshness, verve and purity.
Perhaps a blend of 1990 and 2002, or 1999 and 2002, but arguably it has the edge on these vintages in its smaller yield and fractionally greater intensity.
It is possible that generic and village 2005s will be accessible sooner than the 2004s. However, as 2005 has a lot of tannin, it could take more time than expected for top village and premiers crus. Don’t be seduced into drinking the top premiers and grands crus too young. The great wines have the structure to be long timers and it would be a shame to open them before 10 years.
When you Drink 2005 red BurgundyGeneric: From 2008
Village: From 2008/9
Top village: From 2010/11
Premier cru: 2010/12 but will need 10 years to develop complexity
Grand cru: 2013/15. But this is a vintage which you could follow over 20, 30 or even 40 years.
Steven Spurrier's Top 10 Red Burgundies of 2005In minor vintages, wines low down the pecking order are likely to be disappointing. But in major vintages such as this, due more to the weather than the winemaker, the best value for money is in minor wines.
Domaine François Lumpp, Givrey 1er Cru, Clos Jus
Although Lumpp’s 1er cru Crausot is more seductive, this has more finesse and grip, more vineyard expression; a triumph for the Côte Chalonnaise.
Nicolas Potel, Volnay Vieilles Vignes
Deep colour, with supple, seductive fruit, fine oak and very good length, this is a serious wine, equal to many domaines’ 1ers crus. 2009–15.
Albert Bichot, Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne
Bichot has produced over 200,000 bottles of this old vine selection. Lots of ripe fruit, a fine modern red Burgundy. 2007–9.
Champy, Signature, Bourgogne Pinot Noir
From its own vines, Champy has created an ambitious entry-level wine with bright, classy fruit and some finesse. 2007–9.
Domaine Chandon de Briailles, Savigny-Les-Beaune, 1er Cru Aux Fourneaux
Claude de Nicolay’s first biodynamic vintage shows floral red fruits, ripe, lush flavours and balanced acidity. 2008–13.
Domaine de Montille, Bourgogne Rouge
An exceptional wine from just outside Volnay, full and spicy.
Domaine Jean-Jacques Girard, Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbantons
One of Girard’s best 1er cru Savignys, rich, ripe, fleshy fruit and spicily seductive. 2008–15.
Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet
A rare good inexpensive red Chassagne. Ripe and smooth, with great purity of fruit. 2008–12.
Domaine Simon Bize, Les Perrières, Bourgogne
A wine of real beauty and class from a stony vineyard, Patrick Bize’s light touch allows the fruit to sing through. 2008–12.
Joseph Drouhin, Côte de Beaune
Grapes from young Clos des Mouches vines and from the Montagne de Beaune make up this lovely, fresh wine. 2008–14.