Hello friends. Back in January, we had our first “Vintage of the Century (of the Month)” offer, highlighting the crazy hype for the 2015 vintage across Europe. In that offer, we featured Bila-Haut’s 2015 Cotes du Roussillon Rouge, which subsequently became one of our biggest January hits ever and a huge reorder target since. The success of that offer, especially in a typically sleepy month like January, underscored for me that we should expend some effort this year seeking out more excellent Euro-wines from the ’15 vintage.
So that’s what we have today: two new ‘15s, as well as a reoffer of the Bila-Haut that kicked this program off. Before we dig into those, I’ll reprint what I wrote in January:
Hype. Short for hyperbole. It runs rampant in the wine trade. I vowed when starting Full Pull to try not to overdo it. Because, I mean really, if today I’m offering the GREATEST WINE I’VE EVER TASTED, what the hell am I supposed to say about tomorrow’s wine? The truth is: I love all my babies. Maybe not equally. But plenty of love. And yeah, I know I don’t always get it right, and sometimes enthusiasm crosses the line into hyperbole, but one thing I can promise you at least: it’s always on my mind to keep the hype in check and to offer you a clear-eyed look at the wines we’re offering.
One of the places where wine hype is at its worst is with vintages. We’re seventeen years into this century, and I shudder to think of the number of vintages I’ve heard described as the “potential vintage of the century.” In Washington alone, I’ve heard folks toss out that phrase for 2003, 2005, 2007, 2012, and 2014. When 30% of vintages are the “vintage of the century,” we are squarely into hype territory.
All of this is preamble to talk about the 2015 vintage in Europe. Hype heaven. It began as early as harvest time (see Decanter’s article: Europe’s 2015 wine harvest: On the verge of greatness?). And it has continued as even-handed folks like Jancis Robinson have begun compiling vintage reports. Some example quotes. Burgundy: Quality is looking extremely fine, with some people whispering comparisons with the outstanding 2005 vintage. Loire Valley: Very promising across the region, with the same warm, dry summer that many other French regions enjoyed. Languedoc-Rousillon: The hot weather produced plentiful ripeness, and potential quality is considered to be very promising at the top end. Northern Rhone: Universally viewed as a vintage with top quality potential. Bordeaux: Optimists are already calling it the best vintage since 2010 with early reports favouring the right bank.
Those of us who enjoy Jancis for her restraint can pretty easily translate phrases like “very promising” into “what the [bleep] are you waiting for? buy buy buy!!!!” But still, I’m not going to go anywhere near calling it Europe’s VOTC™. For one thing, it’s waaaaaay too early. Most of the best wines are years away from release. And anyway, doesn’t it suffice to just call it an extremely promising vintage and then go out and taste the wines?
Again, I’ll tap the brakes and say: it’s still awfully early. But the data pointing towards an outstanding pan-European vintage are growing. Including the three data points below.
2015 Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage
Jancis Northern Rhone ’15 reminder: Universally viewed as a vintage with top quality potential.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 90pts.”
Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 90-92pts.”
As you can see on the map, Crozes-Hermitage is an area in the crook of the neck made by the confluence of the Rhone and Isere rivers. While up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne are allowed in red Crozes, this version from Delas is 100% Syrah, from vines grown in “granite sub-soils in the North” and “fluvialglacial alluviums and terraces of rolled river bed stones mixed with loess in the South.” It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and pours inky black-purple into the glass, a pretty rare color and saturation for the northern Rhone, but that’s 2015 for you. The nose immediately gets after it with a big hit of sanguine minerality to complement notes of huckleberry fruit and briny olives. The palate is a super-intense mix of bright fruit and smoked meats that turns minerally on the finish, a finish that also contains no shortage of medium-grained tannins. This augurs well for a beautiful evolution in bottle. Jeb’s drinking window of 2016-2024 seems just right to me.
To order this wine, click here
2015 Regnard Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Jancis Burgundy ’15 reminder: Quality is looking extremely fine, with some people whispering comparisons with the outstanding 2005 vintage.
Regnard is mostly known as a Chablis house, but they make this Bourgogne Rouge that is lovely in average vintages, and represents outstanding value in a fine vintage like ’15. It comes from vineyards scattered across the Cote de Beaune, saw no new wood, and clocks in at a brisk 12.5%. The nose is very expressive, offering notes of cherry fruit, mineral, and lovely rose petal topnotes. In the mouth, this is soulful Burg, with real succulence and richness on such a moderate-alcohol frame. There’s a bit of rustic chew on the finish, some structure to remind you that you’re in the old-world despite all that delicious fruit. Complex, structured, minerally; this offers plenty of character for a twenty dollar tag.
To order this wine, click here
2015 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Cotes du Roussillon Villages Rouge
Originally offered January 18, 2016. Excerpts from the original: This wine is a ridiculous value in mediocre vintages. In a fine vintage like 2015, it’s a sub-$15 wine that can help lay the foundation for a cellar. Jeb Dunnuck tasted it out of barrel last year, and he was, erm, a little excited.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91-93pts.”
We tasted this wine in late December, and even at the end of a long year of tasting, this wine easily cut through the clutter. One of those wines where Pat and I simultaneously taste the wine and look up at each other like: are you tasting what I’m tasting?!? The nose is a glorious, expressive mix of black fruit and black pepper, violets and braising beef. The palate (14.5% listed alc) is perhaps most impressive texturally, with noteworthy intensity and real palate-staining character. The complexity and length, the crushed-rock minerality, the quality of pleasure this brings to the table: all simply dazzle at a sub-$15 price point. If this is the vanguard of 2015 in Europe, I might be ready to clamber aboard the hype train.
First come first served up to 72 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.