The First Tasting of the 2015 Vintage from Verget
Thursday, 22 September 2016 by Stephen Browett
Ever since I first visited Jean-Marie Guffens and Jean Rijckaert, over 20 years ago, I have been a huge fans of Verget’s wines. Farr Vintners has imported every vintage that they have made since 1992 and we are now one of the world’s biggest buyers of these great value, high quality White Burgundies. From their base in the rolling hills of Macon, Verget sources grapes from small independent growers from all over the Burgundy region which are harvested by their own team of pickers at optimum ripeness and then vinified in their state of the art winery in Sologny. Here they have a range of stainless steel tanks, concrete vats, foudres and oak barrels of varying sizes and ages. Jean-Marie Guffens and Julien Desplans make wine like a great chef prepares food, using the winery to full effect as they tweak the “elevage” to suit the character of each individual wine. No two wines are made to exactly the same recipe but all share in common the Verget house style of ripeness, acidity and minerality in perfect balance. Verget’s wines are always bright and vibrant with subtle use of oak and their richness is always balanced by structure and acidity.
Maison Verget produced a fantastic range of wines in 2014 and, despite having purchased over 3000 cases of them, we are already virtually sold out. We were therefore very keen to purchase as much as possible from their 2015 production, bearing in mind that this is regarded as being one of the all-time great vintages in Burgundy. We were very impressed with barrel samples that we tried back in February and were consequently looking forward to tasting the finished wines. We did this today at our London office and we were certainly not disappointed. Derek Smedley MW and Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate joined the Farr Vintners sales and purchasing team for this tasting.
These 2015’s were bottled between May and July 2016 and they have recently arrived in our storage at Octavian Vaults. All the bottles are closed with Stelvin screwcaps and this year we also have some magnums and even a few jeroboams (both closed with corks) to offer our loyal customers who follow these wines every vintage.
We started our tasting in the South of Burgundy with two classic Macons that are modestly priced but which are very serious wines in their own right, and then worked our way North through the Côte d’Or before arriving in Chablis.
Macon-Bussieres “Vignes de Montbrison” 2015 (£95)
These vines are located near to the village of Vergisson in the region of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation with an Eastern exposure. The soil is clay-limestone with many stones. The vines are on average 40 years old. The yield in 2015 was low (close to 35 hl/ha). This parcel was one of the last to be harvested due to the perfect health of the fruit and the exceptional concentration. Free run juices were all vinified in barrel with 20% in new oak. Fermentation was completed in late December. Elevage then followed in barrel for the next 5 months without batonnage. Verget believe that the acidity and the concentration of this wine are both among the highest of the range for 2015. The nose is quite exotic with aromas of lychee, peaches and pears. The palate has stone fruit flavours and the minerality builds – leading to a crisp finish. Great balance here between power and minerality. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better White Burgundy than this for the price. 16
Mâcon-Vergisson “La Roche” 2015 (£110)
This parcel of vines is located at the top of the rock of Vergisson surrounded by plots of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation. An eastern exposure with a very chalky soil. The fruit was picked very ripe but with good acidity. Free run juices were all vinified in barrels with 15% of new oak. The fermentation took place until late January. Elevage lasted a further 6 months in barrel without batonnage. This has a slightly more golden colour than the Bussieres and has a rich, opulent nose with a hint of toast and brioche. There is honey and cream on the palate and impressive viscosity for such a moderately priced wine. There is also great mineral intensity but, overall, it’s a little plumper and riper. 16.5
Saint-Véran “Vignes de Saint-Claude” 2015 (£120)
This vineyard is located in the commune of Prissé but it is very close to the vineyards of Pouilly-Fuissé from Vergisson. The vines here are about 50 years old, the soil is clay-limestone and very stony. This cuvée was made with only free run juice fermented in barrels with 20% new oak. The fermentation ended in mid-February and the then ageing in barrels continued for another 4 months. The grapes here did not suffer from extreme heat so Verget report that ripeness came slower than in many plots allowing the fruit to be picked late at the very end of the harvest. The acidity is high, which in this vintage is a great asset. There is a bright gold colour and a touch of creamy oak on the nose along with hints of bitter lemon. The palate is lovely and rich with fine balancing acidity. A delicious Saint Veran. 16.5
Saint-Véran “Lieu (inter)dit” 2015 (£140)
As in previous years, this cuvée comes from the “Côte Rôtie" vineyard in the village of Davayé. However, following legal action from producers in the Northern Rhône, the vineyard name may no longer appear on the label ! There is also some fruit from plots of old vines in “Les Chataigniers” and “Terres Noires”, which are among the finest terroirs in Davayé and Prissé. This blend was made to balance the wine as the Côte Rôtie vineyard, with its Southern exposure, achieved exceptional ripeness. Only free run juice was used and it was all vinified in barrels with 25% new oak. The alcoholic fermentation lasted until the end of November followed by a further 7 months in barrel without batonnage.. There is a huge, soaring nose of peaches, apples and touch of cinnamon spice and toast. The palate is broad and powerful with impressive viscosity but there is a seam of lemony acidity running through it. This is a wine that is both intensely mineral and opulently rich. Once again, this “Lieu Interdit” is an exceptional wine that would rival any Pouilly Fuissé or indeed a Meursault. 17+
Pouilly-Fuissé “Terroirs de Vergisson” 2015 (£135)
The name of the village – Vergisson - can no longer appear on the main label so this is now called “Terroirs de V.” with an explanation on the back label. This year, this wine is a blend of two plots of the village of Vergisson : les Crays and les Vignes Dessus. Les Vignes Dessus brings the power and richness while Les Crays gives the crucial minerality and freshness. In 2015, this cuvée was vinified in barrels (25% new oak). The fermentation ended during December and the wine had 9 months further barrel ageing without batonnage. This is fresh and mineral for a Pouilly Fuissé but there is good depth of stone fruit flavours and a nice touch of oak. 16
Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Combes Vieilles Vignes” 2015 (£165, magnums £175)
Thanks to a North and a South exposure, this cuvée in 2015 is very well-balanced. To maintain freshness in the very ripe 2015 vintage, a higher proportion of grapes with a northern exposure was used compared to other years. The vines here are more than 70 years old on average. Bunches were small and the yield low. It was produced with free run juices vinified in barrels with 25% of new oak. Fermentations finished in late December, followed by elevage in barrel for a further 7 months. Light gold in colour with a fresh nose with pears and lemons. This is impressively mineral for a Pouilly Fuissé with good zip and great length. However there is an impressive richness of fruit that defies the acidity. Powerful in the middle yet fresh and lively on the finish. A very finely balanced wine. 16.5
Pouilly-Fuissé “La Roche” 2015 (£165, magnums £175, jeroboams £75ea)
This vineyard in Vergisson has a South-Eastern exposure with a shallow soil rich in limestone. It is certainly one of the most beautiful of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation. The terroir allows Verget to produce what they describe as the most mineral but also the most precise and rich wine that they produce. It was fully vinified in barrels with 25% new oak. The fermentation ended in late December. Elevage was then 7 months in oak then a few months in concrete tank on the lees. This has a huge nose of honey, peaches, pears and a hint of Viognier-like apricot. The palate is impressively viscous with a fabulous oily intensity. This really does have incredible density and it is thick and long yet balanced by good sharpness and minerality. Fabulous. 17+
Meursault "Les Clous" 2015 (£300, magnums £310, jeroboams £120 ea)
This parcel of vines is located at the top of the village of Meursault. The soil is very stony and shallow and well drained. All of this vat of free run juice was vinified in oak with 1/3 of new barrels. The fermentation ended late November. Maturation continued in barrel for a further 8 months with a few batonnages. This classic Meursault has a nose of peaches and vanilla with some toasty, smoky oak. The palate is spicy and unctuous with some brioche flavours. Good depth and fatness with fine balancing acidity. Impressive intensity for a “village” appellation. 17
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Sous le Puits” 2015 (£360, magnums £370, jeroboams £140)
This Premier Cru vineyard is located at the top of the village of Puligny, near the village of Blagny and is the highest 1er cru of the appellation. Free run juices were all vinified in barrel with 25% new oak. The fermentation ended late November. The elevage in barrels lasted for a further 7 months with regular batonnages each week. This classic White Burgundy has a golden colour and a smoky, toasty nose. Fat on the palate but with zesty acidity. Broad and dense with the oak not yet fully integrated. Serious and needs a bit of time to knit together. 17+
Chablis "Cuvée de la Butte" 2015: (£120, magnums £130)
The fruit for this cuvée is sourced in the village of Chablis, very close to the Premier Cru Les Butteaux. It is exposed South-east, has a very chalky soil and has a very steep slope. The yield was low for village Chablis at 40 hl/ha. The free run juice was vinified in a horizontal stainless steel tank. The fermentation ended mid-December. Maturation continued in tank on the Lees without batonnage. This is a fresh as a daisy with a bright, mineral nose. Very Chablis and flinty with intense minerality. Real zip and lift here. A perfect accompaniment to smoked salmon or oysters. Exactly what you want from a modestly priced Chablis. 16.5
Chablis 1er Cru "Mont de Milieu" 2015 (£165)
This Premier Cru vineyard is located in the village of Fleys. With a Southerly exposure and low yields, the harvest took place early to preserve the freshness that is indispensable to wines of Chablis. Free run juices were all vinified in barrel but none was new. The fermentation was completed by mid-December. Ageing thereafter was in a concrete vat on the lees. This Chablis has a bright colour and is lean and mineral at first – but there is impressive weight on the mid palate. There is a waxy thickness which contrasts with the green apple acidity. Plump yet crisp. No oak flavours. Proper, serious Premier Cru Chablis. Balanced and intensely mineral. 17
Chablis 1er cru "Vaillons" Vieilles Vignes des Minots” 2015 (£180)
This is made from grapes grown in a small vineyard within the 1er Cru "Vaillons" appellation located on the hillside. The vines are more than 50 years. Yield in 2015 was, like in 2014 a very low 25 hl/ha. Vinification was in barrels, but none was new. Fermentation continued to late December and then the wine was transferred to concrete vats where it remained on lees for a further 7 months. A golden colour with an expressive nose of white truffle, apples, smoke and spice. There is serious depth and density here and old vine intensity. Full bodied yet mineral and bright. Really top class Chablis. 17+
This was a great range of wines from Verget in what is clearly a very good vintage. They are modestly priced for the excellent quality and from a wide range of appellations. They all have fine balance despite the richness of the vintage. We are very proud to be the UK importer of these exceptional White Burgundies.