A version of this article is also published by the Financial Times. I took this picture of Beaune's famous Hôtel Dieu during a tour of it the evening after my Nuits tasting. I would rather have liked a lie down on one of the beds in the Hospices de Beaune (no longer used for nursing the sick; a modern hospital does the job instead) photographed below. See full tasting notes with maturity ratings in Burgundy 2005s revisited.
For obvious reasons, I am always very grateful to members of JancisRobinson.com. But never more so than when in late July I left the torrid atmosphere of the wine town Beaune behind for the air-conditioned pleasures of the tasting room of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, there to stick my nose into 64 reds from the glorious 2005 vintage.
The 2005 red burgundies are rightly revered, and were bought extensively by the sort of person who thinks it worth paying for a subscription to our Purple Pages. But in their youth they were chock full of life-preserving chewy tannins as well as of beguilingly ripe fruit. They were also rare and expensive – even if not as expensive as their replacements from the 2009 and 2010 vintages – so wine collectors are understandably wary of opening any bottles before their time.
Thus it was that I was charged, via our Members' forum, with becoming an expeditionary force in the Land of 2005 Burgundy. In preparation for a tasting kindly organised by the Bureau Interprofessionnel, I tasted a few of the 2005 red burgundies I have in my own cellar. Admittedly, I didn't open one of my few bottles of the grandest one, a Bonnes Mares from Domaine Georges Roumier, and have to confess I was thrilled when, in the face of my protestations, Christophe Roumier offered to send a bottle along to the Bureau's offices.
Since these wines demanded particularly close attention, because I wanted to monitor carefully their state of evolution as well as their flavour and structure, I decided to devote two days to the exercise. So on the Thursday I tasted just under 30 reds from the Côte de Beaune and on the next day 35 or so even more concentrated reds from the Côte de Nuits.
The Bureau's technical expert Hervé Bianchi arranged the tasting and ensured, via careful application of burgundy-coloured bottle-sheaths, that all I knew was the village each wine came from and whether it was a village wine, a premier cru or, in a few cases, a grand cru. I tasted in village groups heading vaguely south to north up the Côte d'Or, with one or two exceptions such as the northernmost villages Fixin and Marsannay, whose wines tend to be a little lighter than those made to the south of them – although the Clos de la Perrière from Fixin was quite exceptional, and this debut vintage from new owner Bénigne Joliet certainly demonstrates why he is so keen to see the official status of his family's walled vineyard upgraded from premier to grand cru.
When Hervé asked me why he didn't have to apply any of his white-wine sheaths I explained that most burgundy lovers of my acquaintance have drunk their 2005 white burgundies long ago, in fear of the dreaded premature oxidation problem that has affected so many of them. And anyway, 2005 was not so exceptional a vintage for whites as for reds in Burgundy.
Most of the 2005 reds I had tried early in their lives had been relatively surly and tough – so I was thrilled to find that, of the wines I tried recently, mainly those tasted in Beaune, most are now beginning to deliver pleasure. The tannins have receded and the fruit has knitted together to produce really interesting flavours with enough acidity to keep the wines appetising but with real concentration too.
In fact, of the Côte de Beaune wines, I would suggest waiting to open only three (other than the three Corton Grands Crus): the Volnay Santenots from the ambitious Bernard et Thierry Glantenay, and Volnay Caillerets from both Bitouzet-Prieur and, especially, that from Michel Lafarge, whose wines are famous for unfurling at a stately pace (his Volnay Clos des Chênes from the much lighter, more precocious 2002 vintage was drinking beautifully two days later).
Many burgundy lovers might expect the Pommards to be more backward than the Volnays but perhaps the producers sending samples had deliberately chosen Pommards they knew to have developed relatively early.
This also seems to have been true of the 2005 village wines and premiers crus I tasted from the Côte de Nuits. I had to wait until I ascended the dizzy heights of the nine grands crus (and the sole Clos St-Jacques, an honorary grand cru) that producers were kind enough to submit for tasting before encountering a wine I felt was best kept a little longer.
It is my practice to append to my tasting notes not only, somewhat reluctantly because of the dubious precision implied, a score (out of 20) but also a suggested drinking window. What was remarkable about the best wines was how long these extended. I suggest, for example, that the Roumier Bonnes Mares, while already tasting absolutely delicious, will continue to improve and then provide great mature drinking for at least another 20 years. (My suggested drinking window is 2015-2035; my score 19 out of 20 – unusually high for me.)
The colours of these wines were varied but still relatively deep, and youthful-looking, for wines based on Pinot Noir. Considering red burgundy's notorious reputation for unreliability and an infuriatingly low strike rate, this collection of 66 wines in all was remarkably successful. The only wines I scored less than 16 out of 20 were the only St-Aubin in the tasting, a disappointing bottle of Jadot's Beaune Clos des Ursules, Pierre Guillemot's somewhat rustic Savignys, Fougeray de Beauclair's somewhat hard Marsannay Les Dessus de Longeroies, and a very strange Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Clos des Porrets St-Georges from R Dubois that tasted like the sort of Algerian 'burgundy' that used to be sold in Britain in the 1960s. But a simple village Nuits from the same producer was perfectly fine – or at least the second bottle of it was. This was one of the two wines in the Beaune tasting that was badly affected by cork taint.
All in all, I am just as enthused about 2005 red burgundies as I am about 2005 red bordeaux – and am thrilled that my Rule of Five continues to hold.
See also my detailed tasting notes on all these wines.
TOP 2005 BURGUNDIES TASTED
All of these I scored at least 18.5 out of 20.
Dom Rossignol-Trapet, Grand Cru Le Chambertin
Camille Giroud, Grand Cru Latricières-Chambertin
Dom Armand Rousseau, Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin
Ch de la Tour, Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot
Dom Georges Roumier, Grand Cru Bonnes Mares
Dom Georges Roumier, Premier Cru Les Cras, Chambolle-Musigny