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It's the middle of summer, just after the 4th - the perfect time to stock up on Burgundy as the 2014s and 2015s from these three estates are simply delicious and offer outstanding value, both for current drinking and for cellaring for fifteen to twenty years.
From Jean and Gilles Lafouge in Auxey-Duresses, we have received their wonderful 2015s including whites from Auxey-Duresses and Meursault, premier cru and village reds from Auxey-Duresses and just a few cases of their rare old vine Pommard 1er Cru Chanlins. There is excellent vineyard work here, in the process to becoming organic, with very short pruning and no green harvest. Hand-harvesting and wild-yeast fermentations of course, about 25% new oak, minimal batonnage for the whites and natural clarifications. Our tasting with Gilles Lafouge last January was fantastic, with the wines showing beautiful balance, even in this ripe vintage - as they did in 2009, due to the cooler vineyards in the "combe" of Auxey-Duresses. A particular standout and superb value is the "village" Auxey-Duresses - it shows pretty aromatics with lovely ripeness and balance on the palate - it's delicious now and will drink nicely over the next eight to ten years. The tiny productions of Meursault "les Casses Têtes" and Pommard 1er Cru "les Chanlins" are not to be missed and we always enjoy the Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru "la Chapelle" which drinks beautifully as a young wine and ages nicely as well.
Jean-Claude Rateau in Beaune is an unsung hero of Burgundy, being the first to convert to biodynamics, with two hectares in 1979, learning from Yves Herody and working with Claude Bourguignon to analyze his soils. Rateau has always believed that the soils must be alive to ensure the healthy transfer of nutrients to the vines, especially important being the mycorrhizal funghi which assimilate phosphorous and micro-nutrients and live in symbiosis with the vines' roots. Jean-Claude's techniques in the cellar also enable the production of real wines of terroir. Fermentations are solely with wild yeasts and stems are included in proportion depending on the vintage. There are manual cap-punchings, but no attempt to over-extract. Aging is uniquely in used barrels, three to ten years old, and minimal SO2 is used. M. Rateau does not seek or receive a great deal of media attention but his wines speak for themselves, with a purity and mineral character seldom seem in "modern" Burgundy. The 2015s are beautiful here, with Jean-Claude's great farming and natural winemaking producing bold but balanced wines that will give great pleasure, especially the superb "Bressandes" and "Reversées."
Jean-Yves Vantey’s Domaine des Rouges-Queues produces lovely wines which start with old vines and great farming. The Vanteys have worked the vines without chemicals since 1998 and made the transition to biodynamics from 2008. The vines date from 1960 and 1973 in the premier cru La Fussière and average 60 years old in the village Maranges. Their cellar work is non-interventionist; the fermentation is spontaneous in stainless and open-top wooden fermenters. The aging is in neutral oak and sulfur is used sparingly. The 2015s display a beautiful balance between the ripeness of the vintage and terroir definition. The wines show succulent fruit, great freshness, and have detailed minerality and should cellar beautifully.
Generous black cherry, boysenberry, notes of cherry pit and anise on nose. Ripe mid-weight palate, ripe black fruits, hints of iodine and iron and other soil beneath supple structure. Succulent acidity and savory mineral notes offset the ripeness and lend energy and drive on a rich, palate-coating finish. This has good punch, even if it's more generous than I associate with very young Rateau. The purity of fruit and earth notes are finely balanced and this is an excellent Burgundy for the mid-term. A fine pairing with braised chicken thighs with mustard, tarragon, and shallots. A great value from the pioneer of biodynamic Burgundy! John McIlwain
"Les Boutonniers" is contiguous with Meursault "Meix Chavaux" on shallow soils of clay, high in iron, over the limestone bedrock, usually giving a somewhat lean and very "mineral" white Burgundy. The 2015 shows very floral aromas with pear, citrus and stone. The palate is crystalline and dense with subtle white fruits leading to a long finish with citrus peel, spice and mineral flavors. This is a lovely, very refreshing Burgundy to enjoy with grilled fish, roast chicken and goat cheeses. It's delicious now and will cellar nicely for eight to ten years. DL
From eighty year-old vines, in mid-slope on thin well-drained clay/limestone soils, the 2015 Meix Chavaux shows elegant pear, lemon, lime and floral aromas. The palate is rich and ripe with white fruits and exotic citrus covering the chalky core, with firm acidity and mineral flavors in the finish. Serve with full-flavored fish dishes, poultry and white meats, mild cheeses. This is a beautiful young Meursault that is delicious now and over the next ten years.
The Meursault lieu-dit Les Casses Têtes is located on the hillside above the premier cru Les Gouttes d'Or and next to Le Tesson. The soils are thin and rocky producing wines of great energy and lift. The 2015 Lafouge is a very pale gold color with aromas of wet stone, pear, fresh herbs and lemon peel with hints of oak - showing a bit more richness and fruit aroma than usual in this ripe vintage. The palate is crystalline and vibrant with stony acidity and flavors of marcona almonds, bitter lemon, dried pear, anise and saline minerals. This is a beautifully structured Meursault to drink now in its rather intense youth with crab, broiled sole, flounder and cod, or cellar for ten to fifteen years or more. Highly recommended. David Lillie
Jean and Gilles Lafouge have produced a delicious "village" Auxey-Duresses in 2015 - those looking for value in red Burgundy should stock-up on this lovely wine! Tasted before bottling in January 2017 the wine showed a lovely bright garnet color with very pretty aromas of tart cherry and wild strawberry with violet and citrus. There is lovely ripeness on the palate with ripe cherry and red currant with nice concentration and balance, and a long finish with lingering red fruits and firm acidity. This will drink beautifully as a young wine, and over the next five to eight years. Given the reasonable price, this is highly recommended! DL
Les Duresses, according to Jasper Morris, is the best placed vineyard in Auxey-Duresses, on a steep south-east facing slope that continues into Monthelie. This wine is always well-structured, a bit less forward than Lafouge's La Chapelle and it ages beautifully. The 2015 has bright ruby robe, high-toned ripe raspberry, and red currant aromas with hints of violet on the nose. Cool (especially for the vintage) red fruit on midweight palate. Pure fruit, good acidity, just the right back notes of beet root and chalk. This has great lift, energy, and persistence on the finish. Just lovely. David Lillie
La Chapelle is a "climat" within Les Breterins and Reugne, on the steep slope of la Montagne de Bourdon, facing south/southeast. The vines are well-placed in mid-slope and are mostly sixty years-old, giving the most "generous" of the three Lafouge premier crus. The soils here are partially "marnes blanches"which seems to contribute to the more supple and elegant style of wines from this site. The 2015 is well-endowed with sweet black cherry and chalky raspberry fruit but shows nice freshness and lift even in this warm vintage. A 2005 opened last week (February 2018) was absolutely singing, with gorgeous fruit, quite focused and elegant with nice earth and sous-bois notes of maturity. David Lillie ....Tasted in January, the 2015 Chapelle impressed me with immediate pretty red fruit on the nose, then dried fruit and cassis on the palate, with a lovely long finish. This should age nicely. Eben Lillie
Black and blue fruits, game, mustard seed, violets on nose. Black tea, plum skin, and a whack of ferrous earth on the dense, verging on brooding palate. Medium tannins and ripe, persistent finish. This is not lightweight, but a firm, strapping Chanlins and quite the wine for lamb, game, or daube. Though rich, this is by no means coarse and shows plenty of class. Good with a decant, better still with 7-10 years in the cellar. John McIlwain
Jean-Claude Rateau makes lovely wines in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune in his east-facing vineyard of clay/limestone and marne soils. Quite racy and bright even in 2015, the wine shows subtle aromas of lemon,almond, stone, pear and apple. Intense, very mineral palate with pear, citrus and stone flavors and terrific length. Decant or open in advance if drinking now, serve with oysters, grilled seafoods, roast chicken and mild cheeses or cellar for 5 to 8 years. This is a real Chardonnay of terroir and a great value!
Beaune 1er Cru "Les Coucherias" is high on the slope on the site of an old quarry and much of the sub-soil is limestone tailings, permitting root penetration and drainage, with a topsoil of mixed clay and limestone "marnes blanches." In biodynamic agriculture since 1979, the vineyard is a south-facing semi-circle—a very warm spot giving a full, ripe wine. Light gold/brass color. Lovely aromas of pear, quince, lime-flower and ripe citrus with a bit of oak. The palate is elegant and supple, with white fruits, almond, citrus and caramel framed in firm acidity and mineral flavors, showing good ripeness but finishing with firm stony acidity. Lovely wine. Delicious now, this should age gracefully till 2030 and beyond. DL
Jean-Claude Rateau's domaine has been Biodynamic since 1979 and produces lovely light-bodied, old fashioned Burgundies. The 2014 Beaune Les Prévoles (a lieu-dit below 1er Cru Chouacheux and les Tuvilains) shows beautiful aromas of cherry and berry fruits with rose, blood orange and brown spice. The palate is chalky, ripe and sapid while remaining light and fresh with berry fruits and tart citrusy acids. This develops nicely with aeration, becoming more supple and round, and finishes with stone, mineral and ripe fruits. Serve this delicious wine a bit cool with any mild chicken or white meat dish and goat cheeses, morbier, tomme de savoie. This should age nicely, best perhaps 2020 - 2026.
Jean-Claude Rateau has a large parcel in the 1er Cru Les Bressandes on a steep slope facing east with pebbly clay/limestone soils, conducted in biodynamic farming since 1979. The soil is warm and well-drained giving ripe, structured wines. There is a 21-day cuvaison with manual cap-punching followed by 18 months in old barrels.Even with the minimal extraction practiced at the estate, the 2015 Bressandes shows a dense red/black color and aromas of black cherry and ripe strawberry, quite deep with sous-bois, violet, graphite and citrus. The palate is dense and chalky with blackberry, earth, cocoa and minerals with terrific length of red currant, earth and juicy acidity. Given the weight and ripeness of the vintage, the wine still seems balanced and frames the copious fruit in ample acidity and tannin. This is a beautiful wine that will give great pleasure in its youth and should be a superb mature wine as well, perhaps until 2032 and beyond. DL
From vines grown in the calcareous clay soils of Les Reversées premier cru toward the bottom of the hill in the center of the slope by Les Teurons. The 2008 shows the cool-toned precision of the vintage. The nose displays dusty black cherry and hedge fruit aromas with notes of herbs and wood smoke. The palate is overtly mineral and savory, with complex soil notes and crushed herbs giving way to more cherry fruit, red currant, orange peel, iron and spice on a mid-weight and persistent finish. This still has a bit of structure to resolve, but it is intriguingly sapid, and satisfyingly earthy. Best now with a decant, better still in 3-5 years. This would pair beautifully with hanger steak and shallots, pasta with wild mushrooms, or roasted guinea hen. John McIlwain
From Domaine des Rouges-Queues' original hectare of 85-year-old vines. The soils are comprised of heavier clays giving the wines a broader, richer character. The 2014 Maranges Vieilles Vignes is dark-fruited on the nose with aromas of bing cherry and black raspberry, with top notes of game and spices. The medium-bodied palate displays flavors of plum skin, cassis, and soil with firm, but ripe tannins and a long, lingering finish. The interplay between fruit and earth is compelling and begs for heartier fare such as wild mushrooms, grilled meats, and ripe cheeses. Decant now or cellar for 5-7 years to allow the elements to knit. John McIlwain
Bright and high-toned, red-fruited on the nose. Lovely red cherry, ripe raspberry, and wild strawberry flavors on a velvety, lissome palate with a rising, energetic finish. This is a pretty, rather than powerful expression of La Fussière and a delicious natural Burgundy. Tasty now, should make for immensely pleasurable drinking with a few years in the cellar. John McIlwain
From 3 parcels of old vines in clay and limestone soils of the Les Saunières lieu-dit beneath Clos Rousseau. The 2015 Santenay has a medium-dark robe and is densely aromatic, with scents of violets, black fruits, and game. The rich palate is deep and layered offering flavors of blackberry, plum, five-spice, with an underlying mineral character featuring notes of iron and salt on a expressive, lingering finish. This is a sensational Santenay and will pair beautifully with veal scallops and morels, coq au vin, or steak off the grill. If drinking now decant of hold for 7-10 years. John McIlwain