Thierry Richoux Irancy 2015
The village of Irancy, one of the prettiest in all of Burgundy, is also famous for its black cherries. We’re not sure if it is subliminal, but this Irancy from Thierry Richoux always has a deep backdrop of black cherry. Floral and fine, it is a masterful wine from one of the great domains of Burgundy. Remember who told you that!
THIERRY RICHOUX IRANCY
On slopes above the Yonne river valley, 15 km from Chablis, a handful of winemakers are cultivating a reputation for red Burgundy at the northernmost limit of possibility. While Chablis, of course, is famous and white, Irancy has always been red and has always lived in the shadow of a bigger Burgundy. But Thierry Richoux, and his father Jean-Claude before him produce wines that will make you do a double take.
BURGUNDY 2015 VINTAGE
We have resisted writing the Elden Selections Burgundy 2015 harvest report until now (April 2017), mainly to let the hub-bub and hyperbole settle down, but more importantly to be sure that the claims we are about to make are justified. We’ve seen too many vintages vaunted as ‘the year of the century’, when really the wines simply showed well young. Burgundy 2015 is a truly extraordinary vintage. The reds are rich, ripe, balanced and powerful. And from all over the region they express chiseled, focused terroir. Despite their youthful seductive charm, these are wines to keep, with serious ripe tannins already melted into explosive fruit.
Comparisons have been drawn with the 2005 vintage, though there is more concentration in the 2015s than in the 2005s. Like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly, great vintages often go to sleep in the bottle. And 2005 is just reawakening from several ‘dumb’ years. It’s been worth the wait. The wines have metamorphosed. 2015 might be similar. And if the comparison is apt, investors in 2015 should appreciate the youthful beauty of this great vintage now, but be prepared to be patient.
That said, 2005 was no ‘year of the century’. But 2015 is also being compared to 1990, which arguably was. And I hear that Michel Lafarge, one of Burgundy’s respected elders, says he remembers drinking 1929s, and he draws parallels. The whites are a bit more uneven, and early reports claimed that the vintage lacks acidity. Certainly, these are wines which are riper and more luxuriant than the exquisite purity of 2014 white Burgundy. But there is no risk that well-made wines will be overly ample or flabby. The best wines will have benefited from the barrel. Comparisons are drawn to 1985, one of the great vintages in white.
The heterogeneity in 2015 white Burgundy is due to the tricky growing season, which was mostly hot and dry, but which cooled significantly in September. Was it better to pick early or late? And did the wine deserve more or less barrel aging? These are questions which will be answered producer-by-producer, bottle-by-bottle over the coming years. But what is clear is that they 2015s are concentrated, fresh and structured.
We believe that to understand a vintage, it is important to look at the weather. Because Burgundy is a single-grape wine, the only thing that changes from year to year in a producer’s vineyard is the weather. So we look for patterns and try to analyze what makes a good year, a bad year…and in this case, an excellent year.
The winter of 2014-2015 was uneventful. It was never really cold, but when it was, it was dry. Mostly it was mild, so we had more rain than snow. We would need the replenished water reserves in the long hot summer ahead.
April was warm and dry, and bud-burst took place early. Mornings in May were sunny, afternoons cloudy, and overall cool and dry. The vines began to flower in the last week of the month, so we knew we were looking at a harvest in early to mid-September.
In early July, the mood started to mount towards hopeful. The weather had been steady, dry and cool. But slowly during the month, temperatures began to rise, and in the last week of July hit 30C. The flowering had been successful, so there was a good crop on the vines.
Day after day of warm dry conditions brought drought considerations into play. But no hail for once! August continued in this way. Hot and dry. A little welcome rain later in the month, but just enough to keep the stress levels down. But no storms or hail. And extremely healthy fruit on the vine. No rot, no mildew, no odium. The mood was optimistic, even euphoric.
Harvest ostensibly started the first Monday of September. And days later the weather broke, and a cool period set in for ideal harvest conditions, stabilizing acidity levels. It stayed this way until September 12th when the first serious rain in two months fell in the southern part of the region. Harvest was disrupted for a few days, but the 19th, it was pretty much all over.
Irancy, in the Grand Auxerrois district of the department of Yonne, stands on the right bank of the Yonne some fifteen kilometers south of Auxerre and south-west of Chablis. It is typical of the wine-growing villages of the district, though one of the few to specialize in red wine only.. It was raised to the status of a village appellation, which it shares with the neighboring villages of Cravant and Vincelottes, in 1999.
On the label, the appellation Irancy may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat (named plot) from which the wine comes may appear immediately beneath the word Irancy in letters no larger than half the size.
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard known as a lieu-dit:
Côte du Moutier
Irancy is a red wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. But winemakers may choose to include in its composition up to 10% of César, a traditional grape of this district. Rich in tannins, lively in color, César gives the wine more color and tannic structure than Pinot Noir alone. Cesar alone is dark crimson, whereas pure-Pinot Irancy tends to be a more delicate ruby. It is uncanny how this wine has aromas of the same cherry variety that is grown in the hills in and among the vines. Sometimes floral or peppery, Irancy at its best is marked by well-defined structure and good acid balance For all their finesse, these can be wines slow to open, as tannins melt into a velvety roundness.
The hill-slopes form a bowl surrounding the beginnings of a plateau below where the river Yonne cuts through. The slopes are for the most part composed of Kimmeridgian marls with an mixture of brown limestone soils. Here Pinot Noir flourishes at altitudes of 130-150 metres. Exposures vary, mostly southerly or south-westerly. Some climats have long been recognized as being of particularly interesting.
Reds only - Pinot Noir and César
The César grape, of which there are some 5 hectares in the Irancy appellation, is said to have been brought here by the Roman. It is a vigorous variety which produces largish bunches of black grapes. On its own it makes a deep colored wine with red-fruit aromas and fairly rustic tannins.
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Irancy can be either solid or lacy (pretty much depending on the presence or absence of the Cesar grape), so matching them with food is a case-by-case decision. More tannic young Irancy would match grilled, even barbecued meats. While the more delicate versions are excellent with charcuterie: pâtés, terrines and saucisson. The cheese board could include almost any of the regional cheeses: Coulommiers, Brie de Meaux, Chaource, Langres, Époisses, Soumaintrain.