2015 red Burgundy from Clark Foyster

If the Clark Foyster 2015 red Burgundy tasting provided a snapshot of the 2015 vintage in the Cotes de Nuits – what a beautiful, exciting, lustrous snapshot that was! The samples I tasted had all the unbridled pleasure of the 2014s, but with a firmer structure and stronger definition of the origins of the wines. The wines burn with effulgent intensity and are not short on lubricity either. A stunning vintage!

Now, I have been tasting pre-bottling, unfinished samples since 1994… oooohhh I am old, so old… and the more I taste these unfinished samples the more I question its usefulness. I think one can get a pretty good idea of the vintage character, and if one is being bold, one might take a stab at whether certain wines might be worth one’s lucre.

Isabelle Clark concentrating on tastingOne has to be very bold and extremely self-confident to do this, as not only are the wines unfinished, but also they are selected from the barrels that at showing best at that stage in their development. All the other barrels could be full of piss as far as you or I know. I think it would have to be piss micturated in the correct vineyards, but I will have to check the appellation rules later as far as selling piss goes.

However, I have known Lance Foyster MW for twenty-three years and, whilst wine merchants are obliged to be everyone’s friend, Lance has never failed to be remarkably direct, honest and true to his taste preferences as to the wines he sells. Lance does not sell stuff he does not like and he does not sell piss nor, indeed, anything even an angstrom unit away from wine on the wine-piss spectrum.

The samples Lance will show will unfailingly be as close as it is possible to be to the final article. Lance and Isabelle Clark will never try to pull a fast one on their customers. I would go as far as saying they are both psychologically incapable of trying to make someone buy a wine that they do not like themselves and is not a superior example of a particular origin.

Consequently, when The Editor and I breezed into their tasting and greeted Lance and Isabelle, and immediately asked if we should be prepared for pleasure, the glint of happiness in their eyes and the extremely winning smiles that developed on their faces told us we were up for laughs, giggles, chortles and some bloody marvellous wines.

When it comes to reporting the samples from this vintage you’ll be pleased to know that both The Editor and I are frequently charged with boldness and our self-confidence can stun small creatures at a distance up to 100 metres. This is doubly so when we are indulging in fine wine.

Consequently, I’ll give you a few more details we noticed about the vintage, suggest a few recommendations for wines that we consider must buys for anyone who has any cash left now the pound has collapsed and then I want to make a few quick remarks about two producers who, for totally opposite reasons, that my super-ego will harass me about if I do not comment on them.

The pound has indeed collapsed, thank you so much those who voted ‘leave’, and clearly this will influence prices. Moreover, there are the shockingly bad vintage conditions of 2016 to consider. My chums in the Cote de Nuits tell me that in some vineyards up to 50% of the crop was destroyed by hail and it is only reasonable for the vignerons to make hay while the sun shines.

Finally, my, did the sun shine in 2015! The hype surrounding the vintage has been fulsomely, resplendently, effulgently positive. More enthusiastic commentators seemed to be claiming 2015 Burgundy would have to be immediately hidden out of reach in one’s cellar lest it perform lewd acts incessantly and not stop until you had been milked painfully dry. And that, they seemed to suggest, was a really good thing.

Thankfully, 2015 was a vintage of reasonable size so demand can be largely satisfied (ha!). This left price rises to be not quite as stratospherically high as I, at least, had feared. The Confuron-Gindre Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru les Brulees (a favourite vineyard of mine, made with panache at this address) went up from 2014s £40 a bottle in bond to £44 for the 2015 – an increase made easier to swallow by the enhanced glister-countenance of latter. Generally speaking, a 10% increase in smoke smouldering from your credit card is the financial damage 2015 will inflict upon you. Tant pis!

As I stated, 2015 Cote de Nuits red Burgundies are stunning. Choose unwisely and you may get one of the few wines that are a touch booze-heavy, but some people seem to like that. My initial impression is that they are as lascivious as the 2014s but more coherently satisfying.

The most important difference between the two vintages is that 2015s speak with glorious clarity about their origins: Chambolles are Chambolles and Vosnes are Vosnes, it does not matter who made them where, terroir is in the vineyard not the winery. The better the wines were, the more they had vineyard character. This was utterly delightful.

2015 red Burgundies also have a far more satisfying structure than the 2014s – there is a good backbone of solid but suave tannin, with some nice acidity levels too, in all the wines you want to buy; which is, frankly, most of them. There were apparently a lot of tiny berries in the Cotes de Nuits vineyards and their high skin to pulp ratio allowed the wines to be properly structured even in this warm vintage.

I am sure that, by now, you have realised the 2015 red Burgundies have terribly tasty, succulent fruit of mouth-watering lusciousness. Oh they were good! They were gorgeousness and beauty in liquid form.

So what about ageing them? Who cares? I mean, these wines will be lovely from the moment they land on your doorstep. You will certainly be able to keep them, some for an extended period, but if I get any of the particular Premier Cru I am rabidly keen to own, I would not see any point at all in keeping it for longer than 7-10 years. And that was a jolly good Premier Cru too!

Given that (almost) all the were as delicious and desirable as the above makes abundantly clear, you can buy practically anything and be sure it will perform a lewd ac… No, no, no, not that and they will not anyway – they will only perform lewd acts on your palate and in your mind. I assure you with 2015 you are almost invariably on safe ground, safe meaning hilariously lovely and stylish. If you are unsure of where to drop your sponds, Clark Foyster Wines are one of the vanishingly small number of wine merchants whom it is safe to call up and probe for recommendations.

However, there were a few wines that I would like to pick out as worth a special effort to acquire. I do not want to overwhelm you, my muse is being poked with a snooker cue in her temple by the demon of back ache, and I have already written 1211 words, so I will try my hardest to bless you with brevity. The prices I give are per bottle in bond. Let us go!

Domaine Fourrier

I have been a touch vexed by Fourrier in recent vintages as they have been leaning (a bit too far, in my view) toward the international (inky dark, bold tannins from vigorous extraction, fruit as ripe as they can get it, etc.) style of Gevrey. However, this is perhaps the predominant style of Gevrey one encounters these days so I don’t remember whining about it on too many occasions.

This style makes awful wine in leaner vintage but, by arse, there is nothing lean about 2015 and the three wines we tasted were pretty god-damned good. Go for the Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru les Goulots 2015 (£66). It is structured but those tannins are as silky as the fruit is ripe and luxurious. Really voluptuous and attractive, but not at all overblown despite its clearly confident personality. This not really the style of wine that is my first choice, but I thought this was tits good and probably well worth every penny. It will age, certainly, but I rather like these big, bold, boisterous wines when they are young and will give you a good dose of palate wrestling. I recognise I am unusual in this regard.

Madame Heresztyn-MazziniDomaine Heresztyn-Mazzini

The on-going transformation to biodynamic via organic viticulture seems to be paying off and the deeply charming couple who run this Domaine have produced an embarrassment of riches in 2015. These are not international Gevreys a la Fourrier, but subtle, beautiful, delicate expressions of the vineyards where they are grown. I bet if you paid for a slap in the face from this Domaine it would charm you and you would wish you had paid for a case…. er….

Anyway, I haven’t had a wine that I have not liked from this Domaine in years, and in 2015 they have moderated the power of the vintage so they are as lovely as ever just with a bit more polish on the fruit side and a shade more structure. There are three top bunny Heresztyn-Mazzini wines worth taking your children out of private education for (not, I hasten to add, that I think Heresztyn-Mazzini wines are anything other than screaming bargains).

Heresztyn-Mazzini Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles VignesFirst up is a wine that never fails to make me happy at a Clark Foyster Wines tasting, Heresztyn-Mazzini Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes (£29.50). This is as far as you can get from the international style of, say, Fourrier and yet still be recognisably Gevrey-Chambertin. It has wonderful purity of expression, whilst still possessing a deep, complex fruitiness from the old vines. This is on the list of my favourite village-level in Burgundy, it is so god-damned enjoyable!

I love the Gevrey Premier Cru wines from Heresztyn-Mazzini. They are based there so they should be good at making them. However, my favourite at this level is the Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru les Millandes (£51). It is a svelte, sleek Morey with the lovely hint of flowers I always seem to detect on quality Morey. The tannins (with the merest suggestion of Morey bristliness) and acidity are in perfect harmony with the delicious fruit to create a very energetic, vivacious wine charged with élan. I would oh so very much like to own three bottles of this, but mad person income rules that out for me. Curses! Any generous philanthropists out there? No? I thought not…

Finally, we come to one of the only two wines in the tasting I would recommend more committed cellar time for, the Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru (£100). It is currently a coruscating star of involute fruit, flowers and minerality all bound together by a pretty serious tannic structure. When I tasted this I was gobsmacked, I could feel the class, style and beauty. Alas, I could smell, taste and feel that they were 10-15 years away from being resolved into passionate entity of irresistible charm, desirability and love! Love!! LOVE!!! I am firmly of the opinion that Clos-Saint-Denis is my favourite Grand Cru in Burgundy – I think it demonstrates this adequately well now, but after cellar time no one could disagree! Deeply, deeply wonderful!

Domaine Henri Jouan

Their Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru Clos Sorbe (£49) definitively demonstrates my view that the best wines communicate their place of origin through the medium of loveliness. It was tremendously lovely and at the screaming climax of Morey character. I’ve had lots of examples of this wine and it invariably boggles my mind with its quality but this spanks the arses of every single other one. I think this should be a Grand Cru, will someone arrange this, please?

Jouan’s Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru (£85) is scrummy, yummy on my tongue-y, but to be honest I’d save thirty-six quid and get the shitting-fuck brilliant Clos Sorbe.

Domaine Confuron-Gindre

Confuron-Gindre Vosne-Romanee 2015Confuron-Gindre’s Vosne-Romanee villages (£26) was the best examples of that appellation I have had in years. I know Mugneret-Gibourg is usually the benchmark, and I freely admit that I have not tried the 2015, but the Confuron-Genderbender delivered all the class and distinction one would expect from this great village, but it added layer upon layer of delicious class that you just had to relish and revel in. What a bargain for such a superior, confident experience of a Vosne villages!

Confuron-Gindre make three deliciously winsome Vosne Premier Crus (everyone £44), but I suggest you get fewer bottles of the best wine they make, that is also my second ‘must age’ wine: Echezeaux Grand Cru (£70). I think Echezeaux is vastly underrated as a Grand Cru. It may be large and have some winemaking-challenged producers, but DRC make the stuff and they just do not grow crap grapes from crap sites to make crap wine (unless you got your DRC via Rudy Kurniawan). This is an extremely fine example at a knockout bargain price. It cries out to spend 12+ years in a cellar in order to reach a fully developed peak. Treat it like that and you will be unable to stop rubbing your nipples with rampant pleasure as you are enveloped by its enchanting, exquisite, ethereal excellence.

Confuron-Gindre Echezeaux 2015

Now I have given you some red-hot buying recommendations, I feel that two producers need a special mention.

Francois Bertheau

Francois is a lovely chap, and he makes wine with minimal intervention in a style he feels is sympathetic to his Chambolle vineyards. Alas, for years I have found his wines to be insultingly over-priced, inconsistent and all too often unappealing.

At en primeur tastings his samples have been easy and soft to the point of being flabby. When I have tried older vintages (at Clark Foyster tastings, provided by friends or, to my immense annoyance, when I have shelled out huge chunks of my loony income to buy them myself) they have all fallen apart and been frankly awful within a few years. I have found myself thinking they only need a passing assessment when given the opportunity to taste them.

Francois Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 2015This year The Editor and I thought we would just try the Chambolle-Musigny (£38). I sniffed it, tasted it then thought “Shitting-fuck! That is beezer!”. I looked up to The Editor’s face, that had a huge grin slapped across it. He said, slightly more articulately than my thoughts, “If you spend forty quid on a bottle of Chambolle-Musigny, you could not possibly ask for more than this wine delivers”. Basically, we agreed it was an extremely good wine.

We then tasted through the range and they were all of a quality that one might expect from the appellations at the prices charged. I was stunned. There were also Chambolle-Musignys from 2014 and 2013. They were lively, fresh and totally delicious!

Francois finally hits the bull’s eye! Chapeau!

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils

My first serious exposure to Sylvain Cathiard’s wines was when an idiotic wine merchant decided to sell us half a case each of 2000 and 2001 Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Malconsorts for practically no money. We had heard much about Cathiard, so we snapped them up (before the wine merchant sobered up, I would guess). They were glorious! The 2000 was more accessible and buxom, the 2001 fabulously classy and stylish. For most of the next decade we had many other delightful Cathiard experiences when funds or generousity allowed.

Then in 2011 Sylvain retired and left his son Sebastien in charge and unsupervised. The change has been disastrous and I feel his wines defile the fantastic reputation of the estate that his father (quite clearly) gave his all to build up by making wondrous wines.

Sylvain’s wines were all about attractive, exquisite, refined charm. Such wines can be, as they usually were at this address, drunk with huge enjoyment without requiring indefinite ageing. I have never spoken to Sebastien, I have glared intense stares of distaste at him, but never spoken to the man, so I cannot confirm my hypothesis. It seems to me that Sebastien has decided that he needs to make proper fine wine that can age, and he has not the sophistication to realise that the cellaring potential requires more than a lot of tannin.

All his wines I have tried, no matter what the vintage conditions or the style of the vintage as determined by the quality of the fruit, the wines have been punishingly extracted. They are so full of hard, tough tannins that the wines are a real chore to taste and they leave my fragile stomach wincing in tortured pain.

Cathiard Junior seems to be labouring under the mistaken ideas that, all you need to make a wine cellar worthy is a huge whack of unbalanced tannin and that lots of hard, stringent tannin will make a wine ‘internationally-styled’, therefore more popular and capable of demanding higher prices.

Maybe I can get Lance to probe Junior about why the fuck he is doing these horrible things to wines that were amongst the greatest in Burgundy. Maybe Lance can be persuaded to suggest Junior tries a bit more sophisticated, grown-up thinking – re-taste some of his dad’s wines and see why they were so widely adored; that would be a very good start. Until then I cannot recommend buying any of his wines. And the prices he charges? Shame upon you, Junior, living off your father’s well deserved acclaim!

Francois Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 2015

Huge thanks to Lance Foyster and Isabelle Clark for allowing us to attend this tasting

  • Thomas Blach

    A most enjoyable account , David, though I have come to agree that such events are more for fun than serious buying information. I tend to go with the idea that good people make good wine and that if it doesn’t seem good today it probably will next time. On the other hand much is so expensive now that a dull bottle is quite a serious disappointment. I used to taste Fourrier every year and indeed drunk many when they were young, and it sounds as though nothing whatever has changed; my experience has been that they do evolve into very classic Gevreys after their rather sluttish youths.

    • Well, what can I say?

      I agree entirely! But I should make it clear that it was an awful lot of fun!