The 2005 red Burgundies are extraordinary. The vintage will stand alongside other great ones in Burgundy for reds, such as 1959, 1961, 1964, 1978, 1985 and 1990. The whites are not far behind. I gave my preliminary assessment of the vintage based mostly on tastings barrel samples in Burgundy about six months ago. Now that the wines are arriving on retailers' shelves, it's time to take a closer look at this remarkable vintage and recommend specific wines.
The 2005 vintage in Burgundy is superb because the weather throughout the growing season was perfect. It was warm and sunny throughout Burgundy when it was supposed to be and it rained only at the correct times. The grapes ripened slowly and evenly. There was no rush to harvest because the weather was sunny and rain-free. As a result, the grapes were in perfect condition.
Alex Gambal, one of Burgundy's up-and-coming young négociants, told me that in 2005 he had only two workers performing triage at the winery (examining and removing diseased grapes before they head into the fermentation vat) - and they mostly watched the perfect grapes go by - compared to more than a dozen workers scrutinizing the harvest in 2006.
The grapes were so healthy that maceration could proceed leisurely, extracting the maximum from the grapes, without risk of including 'off' flavors, according to Jacques Lardière, Maison Louis Jadot's masterful winemaker.
Tasting the wines in bottle confirm my initial impressions of the reds and whites. While there is uniform agreement about the superb quality of the red wines, I, along with some growers and producers, often preferred the more structured 2004 whites to the richer - and at this stage - more forward 2005 whites. That said, there were some absolutely fabulous white wines made in 2005.
This pair of vintages for whites echoes previous pairs, such as 1985 and 1986, 1989 and 1990 and 1995 and 1996, in which one is tighter and one more opulent in their youth. It will be fascinating to watch how these two very different vintages develop over the next several decades.
Great vintages, such as 2005, produce wonderful wines at all levels, from the simplest Bourgogne Rouge and lesser-known village wines, such as Marsannay or Santenay, to the grand cru. And with the rising prices of the 2005s coupled with the plummeting value of the dollar, it's time to look at village wines in general. Village wines, those that are usually a blend of wine from various non-premier or grand cru vineyards within a single village, such as Meursault, may lack cachet, but can offer great value when made by talented producers, such as Jadot or Latour, especially in 2005.
The 20 recommended wines below all have a suggested retail price of less than $50, which is a lot of money for a bottle of wine, but well priced for 2005 Burgundy.
Faiveley, Mercurey (Burgundy, France) Clos Rochette 2005 ($32, Wilson Daniels): Although Mercurey is a village known for red wines, the whites can be excellent and well priced, especially from a producer such as Faiveley, who owns considerable vineyard area, including Clos Rochette. I don't know if the name, Rochette, which means little rocks, prejudices my description, but it does have a lovely stoniness followed by freshness in the finish. Not the opulent style of California Chardonnay, but one that goes well throughout an entire meal. 89
Alex Gambal, Meursault (Burgundy, France) Clos du Cromin 2005 ($50, Ruby Wines): Always one of Gambal's best wines - his 2004 was glorious - his 2005 Clos du Cromin continues that streak. It has a wonderful balance of ripe fruit draped with a hint of earthiness supported by excellent acidity. Tight at this stage, it's no gamble for cellaring. 91
Maison Louis Jadot, Puligny-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($47, Kobrand): Jadot drew on about a dozen growers for this wine and produced about 55,000 bottles, so it should be widely available. Perhaps slightly riper and less mineraly than usual, Jadot's 2005 Puligny-Montrachet is particularly attractive because of forward, creamy fruit buttressed by firm acidity. Unlike most of Jadot's upper level wines, which take several years of bottle age to express themselves, this one is ready to go now. 90
Maison Louis Jadot, Chassagne-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($43, Kobrand): Jadot's Chassagne-Montrachet is always a great deal because Lardière opts to declassify a significant amount of 1er Cru wine and blend it back into the village wine. The result is a more sophisticated wine that you'd expect. The upfront earthy richness of Chassagne is apparent, but is balanced by bright acid and finesse, especially in the finish. 91
Maison Louis Jadot, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Clos des Guettes 2005 ($36, Kobrand): The vineyard is located at about 1,000 feet of elevation -- and therefore cooler, which may explain the cutting acid finish to this wine. Sharply focused, it delivers citric flavors in addition to hint of attractive earthiness. 89
Maison Louis Latour, Meursault (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($35, Louis Latour USA, Inc): Latour was very successful with its whites in 2005. The village wines - Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet - all reflect their origins. A side-by-side comparison will convince anyone that the origin of the grapes trumps any 'house style.' Latour's Meursault delivers the alluring rich, slightly earthy character of wines from that village. Forward at this stage, good acidity supports its ripeness. An excellent village wine. 89
Maison Louis Latour, Puligny-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($40, Louis Latour USA, Inc): The pure minerality of Puligny-Montrachet clearly shines in this wine. Less earthy than Latour's Meursault, the steely slate-like elements persist into the long finish. Also more tightly wound than the Meursault, it would benefit from another year or so of bottle age. A beautifully balanced wine, it demonstrates why this village has such a great reputation. 90
Morey-Blanc, St. Aubin (Burgundy, France) Les Pucelles, 2005 ($48, Wilson Daniels): Pierre Morey, one of Burgundy's best winemakers, started Morey-Blanc, a négociant firm, to complement his high-quality, but small, domaine. (His wife's family name is Blanc). Although not a 1er Cru, this substantive village wine packs plenty of enjoyment with a healthy dose of minerality and a good backbone of acidity. 90
Morey-Blanc, St. Aubin 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($54, Wilson Daniels): Although above my arbitrary $50 a bottle cut-off, this marvelous premier cru is a step above Morey's village St. Aubin, and well worth considering. It has just a little more going on, with additional richness and greater length. 91
Domaine Roulot, Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($30, Michael Skurnik Wines): Thirty bucks may be a lot to ask for Bourgogne Blanc, but this wine could pass for Meursault, which is not a surprise since Roulot is one of the great producers in that village. Smokey nuances mix with creamy minerality and give it a glossy texture. 90
Maison Faiveley, Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy, France) Joseph Faiveley 2005 ($20, Wilson Daniels): The splendor of this vintage shows in wines at the bottom of the prestige ladder, such as Faiveley's Bourgogne Rouge. It has the attractive combination of fresh red fruit and a hint of leafiness that is the hallmark of Pinot Noir grown in this region. 88
Maison Louis Jadot, Moulin à Vent (Burgundy, France) Château des Jacques Clos du Grand Carquelin 2005 ($42, Kobrand): Pierre-Henri Gagey, the President of Maison Louis Jadot, believes 2005 was the greatest vintage for Beaujolais since at least 1985, when he became involved in the wine business. Jadot purchased the Château des Jacques in 1996 and make wine from the five individual vineyards that comprise it as well as one blended wine from the entire property, labeled simply, Chateau des Jacques. The 2005 from the Clos du Grand Carquelin vineyard has already lost the youthful fruity taste of the Gamay grape and instead grabs you with a perfumed nose followed by an alluring briary earthiness balanced by fine tannins. This is definitely not your father's Beaujolais. It is real wine that deserves several years in the cellar. 92
Maison Louis Jadot, Santenay (Burgundy, France) Clos de Malte 2005 ($28, Kobrand): As the prices of wines from the more prestigious areas of the Cote d'Or rise, less well-known villages, such as Santenay, are an important place to look for bargains. Jadot has purchased Clos de Malte (not a classified vineyard) there, but is making wines equal to many producers' premier crus. An attractive rustic note mixed with strawberry-like fruit and spice makes this wine an excellent introduction to the 2005 red Burgundies. And it's lovely to drink now. 88
Maison Louis Jadot, Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Clos de la Croix de Pierre 2005 ($36, Kobrand): Clos de la Croix de Pierre, an 8-acre plot, lies within the 1er Cru vineyard, En Caradeux, and is owned entirely by Maison Louis Jadot. Fragrant and forward, this wine exudes the quintessential charm of red Burgundy. A very pretty wine, it's hard to resist now. 90
Maison Louis Jadot, Beaune 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Theurons 2005 ($42, Kobrand): Despite its location in the middle of the vineyards of Beaune, Jadot's 2005 Therons has a Pommard-like ripeness and lushness. Polished and fleshy, its exquisite balance of fruit and spice is remarkable. Although I hate to think of a $42 wine as a bargain, it is one of the great values in this extraordinary vintage. 93
Maison Louis Latour, Marsannay (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($17, Louis Latour USA, Inc): Marsannay, the first village south of Dijon in the Côte de Nuits, is become an increasing important source of good red Burgundy. Its reputation for light innocuous red wine is hard to shed, but tasting 2005s from this village shows its potential. Latour's has good concentration and spice. A charming wine with surprising length, what it lacks in complexity it makes up for with its price. 88
Maison Louis Latour, Volnay 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) En Chevret 2005 ($45, Louis Latour USA, Inc): Latour has hit the jackpot with this Volnay in 2005. They have been buying grapes from a grower who owns a piece of the En Chevret vineyard only since the late 1990s and have been making better and better wine every year. As good as its 2002 was, the 2005 is even better. Unusually intense for Volnay, it has a gorgeous silkiness. Concentrated fruit flavors give way to alluring leafy earthiness as it sits in the glass. Lovely to drink now for its accessible fruit quality; the evolution in the glass indicates this is also a wine to cellar. 93
Maison Nicolas Potel, Pommard (Burgundy, France) Les Vignots 2005 ($50, Frederick Wildman): Although not from a 1er Cru vineyard, Potel's Pommard Les Vignots has the complexity and length of a 1er Cru wine. Ripe succulent dark fruit flavors capture your attention and its extraordinary length holds it. 92
Maison Nicolas Potel, Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy, France) Cuvée Gérard Potel 2005 ($20, Frederick Wildman): Named in honor of his father, Potel's Bourgogne Rouge is delicate, lacey and sophisticated for this lowly appellation. It's an excellent introduction to the unique character of Pinot Noir when grown in Burgundy. 88
Domaine Trapet, Marsannay (Burgundy, France) 2005 ($30, Classic Wine Imports): Ripe and rich, it is 'big' for Marsannay, but not heavy. It conveys an attractive earthy rustic edge that makes it very satisfying. 89