Frustrated at being priced out of the market for the 2005s? Forget Bordeaux, and try the equally spectacular White Burgundy 2005, says SARAH MARSH MW, as she picks out the top whites of a great vintage.
All this talk about the 2005 vintage is threatening to get out of hand, with the en primeur prices of Bordeaux further fuelling the frenzy. Across the country in Burgundy, as ever, a more circumspect mood prevails. Suffice to say, the growers are very – but quietly – pleased. You’d hardly know it, but here too, White Burgundy 2005 is a very good vintage.
The style of the White Burgundy 2005 is undoubtedly ripe, with plenty of extract and intensity. ‘Good balance and concentration, and we have both body and acidity,’ observes Gérard Boudot of Domaine Etienne Sauzet. The fruit character is intense lemon (almost crystallised) to orange, spilling into the exotic in some wines. Acidity is good, partly due to shrivelling, which concentrates both sugar and acidity. The acidity, of course, depends on picking date and ranges from firm downwards, but is universally marked with a ripe, juicy character, quite different from the dry, mineral acidity of the 2004s. The pHs are surprisingly low, reflecting the work put into the vineyards in the last decade.
In general, the White Burgundy 2005 seem more fruit- than terroir- driven, but where the terroir is strong, it should emerge in time. They have more gras (fat), concentration and gloss than the lively, terroir-translucent, but unpredictable 2004s. There are some similarities to 2002, but these have more acidity. Louis Carillon is typical in assessing them between 2002 and 2000. And they are perhaps a little like the 1985s in their balance of fruit and acidity. Boudot places them between 1985 and 1992 and Thierry Amiot between 1985 and 2002.
More certain is their charm. They are so wonderfully ‘come hither’, one could start drinking the village wines in a year or so, and the premiers crus by 2008/9 for their lovely primary fruit. Although opinion in Burgundy is divided on opening them before the 2004s, they may well be more accessible in the short term. One might speculate on a window of loveliness for two or three years, after which they may well close down and mooch back again over time. As a rough guide for more traditional ‘drinking from’ dates – 2010/12 for Côte d’Or premiers crus and 2012/15 for grands crus. However, the intensity, balance and low pH in the vintage bodes well for long maturation.
The White Burgundy 2005 season was classic, healthy and warm. Lack of rain caused some vine stress, although less so in Chablis. On the Côte d’Or the main concern was a hailstorm which struck Santenay, a southerly swath of Chassagne and a small part of Puligny. It devastated the vines, with 35–40% lost and sometimes much more, although those vineyards that retained a balance of fruit to foliage for photosynthesis made good wine.
White Burgundy 2005 yields were much smaller than 2004, due to stress and millerandage affecting flowering. ‘The grapes looked like 1995 and 1989,’ recalls Jean-Marc Roulot. ‘The danger was to produce too heavy and fat a wine, but happily the acidity is better than those two vintages.’
The fruit was concentrated, with plenty of extract. High sugar levels ranged from 13% potential alcohol up to 15% in some grands crus. The Ban de Vendange was on 12 September and most domaines chose to pick early to retain acidity, although some, including Drouhin and René Lamy-Pillot, waited a further two weeks to maximise flavour. In Chablis, timing was critical. A smidgen too late led to excess concentration, 14+% alcohol and a lack of freshness. High sugar levels throughout Burgundy led to unusually long fermentations, which threatened to stick, often with the malolactic happening concurrently and sometimes finishing first. Something to send a shiver down the spine of textbook winemakers, but of scant concern to a Burgundian. Some vignerons have held back on new wood and bâtonnage given the fullness of 2005 and are holding their wine on lees for as long as possible to tighten it up.
Overview of White Burgundy 2005
In Chablis the White Burgundy 2005 is richer than in a classic terroir vintage. The overt fruit can be gorgeous and the wines balanced if picking was timely and acidity sufficient. Bernard Raveneau considers the vintage to be like 2002, but richer.
On the Côte d’Or, with each of the three key villages enjoying fine weather throughout the summer (with the exception of the hail) and good conditions at harvest, none stands out as top performer. Perhaps the more mineral vineyards have the edge for freshness and elegance. Minerality emphasises acidity and acts as a foil to richness.
Blagny deserves a mention for some excellent wine (Michel Bouzereau, Thierry Matrot and Carillon to mention just a few), while St-Aubin was mixed. It feels as though the conditions were too warm in the more exposed premier cru vineyards with thin topsoils, notably En Remilly and Dents de Chien, which are very ripe and not as defined as expected. Chatenière is more successful, and the vineyards on the village side are perhaps better than normal including Pucelles (a village appellation of which Maison Morey Blanc has an attractive example) and premier cru Frionnes (Olivier Lamy’s is lovely).
In the Côte Chalonnaise there is some very good Montagny from Olivier Leflaive and Drouhin. Rully can be overtly ripe and less elegant than in 2004. Look out for vineyards with cooler aspects. In the Mâconnais the fruit was also very ripe, concentrated by some millerandage, hail in places and generally lower yields than in 2004. Lafon has made Mâcon vins de garde with a powerful Milly-Lamartine, Clos du Four and a decisive and composed Clos de Crochette.
The three key villages
Meursault 2005s are rich, but well balanced; concentrated, but less energetic than 2004. There are some lovely lieux-dits, notably Tillets, Tessons, Narvaux and Bouchère. The rich conditions in Goutte d’Or can make it a bit chunky. Perhaps Meursault Perrières is the most consistent of the big three premiers crus, while last year Genevrières struck a chord. Just after harvest, however, Jean-Marc Roulot thought his Charmes was his best wine.
In Puligny there are some excellent Folatières, the grip and minerality complementing the ripe fruit, (Sauzet, Leflaive and from Château de Puligny-Montrachet) and from the top of the slope some surprisingly delicious La Truffière and Clos de Garenne. Jadot and Drouhin both have good examples of the latter.
In the areas of Chassagne (and Puligny) badly struck by hail, there seems to be no hail taint, but it was vital to retain balance to avoid overblown wines, given the reduced yields and dry weather. This said there are some decent Morgeots, which was badly affected by hail. The conditions emphasised this appellation’s heavy character, producing some rich, brooding wine. Despite the hail, Caillerets stood out with sensational examples nearly everywhere I tasted.
To focus on grands crus for a moment, Bâtard-Montrachet and Bienvenue are big, broad monsters – pretty hefty with a couple of exceptions. This weight should evolve into monumental structure in some, but others may remain a bit butch. Montrachet is statuesque and controlled. Some are undoubtedly outstanding. The Chevaliers seem the most expressive, balanced and terroir-driven at this time, which, it must be said, is really too early to be assessing these wines.
The high quality of the 2005s is apparent from generic level upwards, making it a vintage for bargain hunters as Bourgogne Blanc and village wine outperform their ACs. It was difficult to make bad wine in 2005. It is much more consistently good than the high-yielding 2004. At the very top end in Meursault where yields were tightly controlled, it will be a close call for pole position. Overall, this is a very good vintage. Unlike Bordeaux though, we won’t label it ‘vintage of the century’ just yet.
The best of 2005
n Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Meursault Perrières HHHHH
Great balance of deep intense fruit and acidity. Excellent grip, tension and stony persistence. The most intellectually stimulating of Lafon’s wines. UK agents: DDi, FMV
n Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet HHHHH
Excellent tension and intensity. Massively compact and reserved, with a splendidly long finish. Outstanding. Arm, C&B
n Jean-Marc Roulot, Meursault Perrières HHHHH
Classic, ripe but austere, nervy, compact and pure. It races to a persistent, deep finish. Very fine indeed. Arm, DDi
n Ramonet, Le Montrachet HHHHH
Taut, strong, incredibly poised and complex with a tremendously long finish. Outstanding. C&B
n Raveneau, Chablis, Les Clos HHHHH
Monumental Chablis, tightly coiled. The seriously long finish shows its true potential. BBR
n Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Les Preuses HHHHH
Aristocratic and flamboyant with great depth and energy. It is slightly spicy combined with a cool, classic minerality and a long, refined finish. Gns
n Bruno Colin-Déléger, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffière HHHH
Piercing and intense; racy, vibrant and saline. Firm grip and a long, piano wire finish. Very stylish wines from this talented winemaker. Check out the straight Chassagne. BWC, L&W
n Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet Perrières HHHH
Ample and deep in the middle palate, but it really shows on the finish, which stretches out to a more familiar gravely persistence. Fine, maybe very fine. FMV
n Château de Maltroye, Chassagne-Montrachet, La Romanée HHHH
Elegant, keen, and linear to a racy, floral finish. Ripe intensity with delicacy. HoR, Loe
n D’Auvenay, Puligny-Montrachet Folatières HHHH
Smooth stone minerality, grip and finesse. A fine wine, which has the edge on D’Auvenay’s En la Richarde. J&B
n Darviot Perrin, Meursault Les Tessons HHHH
Taut, pure and crystalline wine with a fine combination of finesse, intensity and persistency. L&W, Lay, Loe, T&W
n Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet Pucelles HHHH
Notable definition here, rich but with floral and chalky characters. A long, controlled, mineral finish. Very pure and very fine. Arm, C&B
n Etienne Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffière HHHH
This is tight and assertive on the attack, intense, ripe, but with a long, focused
and mineral profile. A fine wine with good terroir expression.
n François Jobard, Meursault Porusot HHHH
Weight, substance; no shortage of depth and extract. Very fine Porusot. HHC, L&W, Rae
n Jean-Marc Roulot, Meursault Tillets HHHH
Pure fruit, vibrant and racy. Keen for a ripe vintage, finishes very long. From 2009. Arm, DDi
n Jean-Philippe Fichet, Puligny-Montrachet Referets HHHH
Pure, powerful, direct, energetic and long.
n Pierre Morey, Meursault Tessons HHHH
Top-notch Tessons with tension and complexity and firm mineral length. (Excellent Meursault Perrières too) BWC, J&B, L&W
n Réne Lamy Pilot, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets HHHH
A classic, pure, stylish and deliciously fruity Caillerets. ABy, Jer, Lay
n Robert Ampeau & Fils, Blagny, La Pièce sous la Bois HHHH
Ripe Alsatian character coupled with a certain austerity. Depth and powerful linear direction. Ageworthy as typical of this domaine. ChW
n A&P de Villaine, Bouzeron Aligoté HHH
Ripe, golden and intense with fresh acidity. C&B
n Domaine Arnauld Ente, Meursault Clos Des Ambres HHH
Pure and direct, compact with depth and dimension. More modern style. Over delivers. From 2008 (also a great Bourgogne and Aligoté from this domaine). BBR
n Joseph Drouhin, Montagny, 1er Cru HHH
Broad, low, rich and waxy, with depth, intensity and an edge of minerality. Perfectly well balanced. Very good Montagny 1er Cru. Ads, DrA, Loe
n Latour-Giraud, Meursault, Les Bouchères HHH
Firmly structured; ripeness offset by a stony fretwork character. Finishes assertively. ThH
n Laurent Tribut, Côte de Lechet HHH
This glides across the palate with richness and power underscored with crisp acidity and
flinty minerality. DDi
n Martelet de Cherisy, Puligny-Montrachet Hameau De Blagny HHH
Deeply fruity, almost crystallised, coupled with direct acidity. Intense, straight and energetic to the finish. RdW
n Michel Bouzereau, Bourgogne HHH
Sleek fruit, very juicy, rounded and attractive. (Bouzereau also has a delicious Aligoté; nicely rounded, sweet and succulent). CTW
n Michel Morey-Coffinet, Chassagne-Montrachet En Remilly HHH
No hail in En Remilly, but stressed vines and small berries have produced a deep, dense, reserved profile, full and concentrated with firm grip. Minerality carries it on the finish. L&W
n Morey Blanc, Auxey-Duresses HHH
Lovely ripe aroma, orange and spice.
Rounded, succulent, slightly exotic palate. Over delivers. Odd
n Olivier Leflaive, Rully, Rabourcé HHH
Rounded, yet energetic with a long, glossy finish. Particularly good. HHC
n Patrick Javillier, Meursault Tillets HHH
Tight, compact, chalky and saline. Linear and austere with really good length. Top flight Tillets. C&B, FMV, L&W, Loe
n Paul Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet Grand-Montagne HHH
Soaring aroma. Rich on the front with steely core, nicely concentrated. Delicious, long, stretched and focused. HBa
n Servin, Cuvée Massalle, Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2005 HHH
Wonderful intensity for a village wine; a full, ripe wine to reflect the year. Win
n Vincent Dancer, Chassagne-Montrachet Tête Du Clos HHH
Seductive aroma, new oak. Good depth, definition and pace, and a long, sherbet finish. J&B, RdW
Sarah Marsh MW is the author of newsletter The Burgundy Briefing,
Prices have yet to be released. The wines will be available from January 2007. For a full list of UK stockists, see p262.