Ghislaine Barthod’s 2015s: The Vintage of a Lifetime

Posted on Posted in Articles, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod, RWM Contributor

The release of a new vintage from Ghislaine Barthod is always an eagerly anticipated and joyous occasion. There is perhaps no grower with a wider range of great vineyard holdings in Chambolle-Musigny, and Barthod’s lofty status in the current pantheon of top Burgundy estates is firmly established and beyond well-deserved. As the old adage goes, “If you know the woman, you know the wine”—and in Ghislaine’s case, it holds perfectly true. She radiates a certain warmth, intelligence, and joyousness of spirit that comes through clearly in her Burgundies, which always combine exuberantly pure fruit with finely chiseled minerality, classical structure, and a breathtaking clarity of expression. Each cellar tasting chez Barthod deepens our understanding of the intricacies of Chambolle-Musigny, and there are never any missteps—only differences wrought by vintage and terroir.

2015 is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon vintages in which Mother Nature made life relatively easy for the Burgundian winegrower, and Ghislaine certainly harnessed the full potential of this exceptional growing season. A consistently sunny, warm summer gave rise to fully and consistently ripened fruit, and the only real hurdle was hydric stress due to the notably dry conditions—stress which, on a positive note, actually reduced the threat of vineyard diseases. Ghislaine began harvesting during the first week of September, marveling at the spotless perfection of her fruit. The intense drought led to particularly thick-skinned grapes, and while those conditions can lead eager or less-diligent growers to produce overly tannic wines, Ghislaine proved her masterful touch with extraction here, capturing the innate power of the vintage but without sacrificing finesse in the slightest. Her 2015s are ripe and authoritative, yet ethereal, with perfectly judged structure married to fruit both sappy and vivacious.

Given that winegrowers have only one chance per year to prove themselves, it stands to reason that mastery takes significant time, and that older vignerons bring a layer of experience to their work that simply cannot be faked—it must accumulate through raw experience. What a rare treat it is, then, for a master such as Ghislaine Barthod to enjoy a vintage such as 2015 at the peak of her formidable powers, and indeed these may be the wines of her lengthy career. Those lucky enough to obtain a few bottles will be opening them decades down the road with ceremonial reverence.

2015 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Bons Batons”
Always one of the most complex and refined examples of its appellation, Ghislaine’s Bourgogne Rouge is a Chambolle in all but name. “Les Bons Batons” lies at the border of Chambolle-Musigny and Gilly-les-Citeaux, just across the main road from Chambolle proper, and it offers an earlier-drinking expression of Chambolle’s unmistakably sensual, finely mineral essence.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny
Produced from eleven miniscule parcels scattered throughout the appellation, Ghislaine’s villages-level Chambolle-Musigny boasts the impeccable balance, concentration of fruit, and infectious energy that characterize her bold and lovable style.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Aux Combottes”
Barthod owns an ultra-tiny slice of this premier cru which lies in the center of the appellation—in fact, it accounts for the smallest volume of wine among all of her holdings. While “Aux Combottes” may lack the intense, penetrating minerality or the breathtaking poise of the greatest crus in the village, it offers a prettiness and a lusciousness that is very Chambolle Pinot Noir.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Chatelots”
“Les Chatelots” sits just above Aux Combottes on the slope, directly below the village of Chambolle itself, and sandwiched between the great premier crus “Les Feusselottes” and “Les Gruenchers” (see below). Barthod owns a mere quarter of a hectare of 25-year-old vines here, and the wine she renders from “Les Chatelots” emphasizes grace and finesse over raw power.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Aux Beaux-Bruns”
“Aux Beaux Bruns” tends to be one of Ghislaine’s more robust, broad-shouldered wines. Produced from a 0.75-hectare parcel of 50-year-old vines, it offers more succulent, fuller fruit than “Les Chatelots” above, with plenty of structure underpinning a broad, spice-drenched palate. There is less pungent minerality, but more fresh-turned earth—less finesse, but more richness.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”
“Les Baudes” sits near the northern limit of Chambolle, immediately south of premier cru “Les Sentiers,” and just underneath the venerable grand cru Bonnes-Mares on the slope. Ghislaine owns just shy of a quarter-hectare of 45-year-old vines here, and it is always a wine of boldness, concentration, and power—mouth-coating and built to last.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Gruenchers”
Ghislaine only recently acquired a parcel—all of 0.19 hectares (!)—in this wonderfully situated cru which shares a corner with Bonnes-Mares and sits just below the great “Les Fuees” (see below) on the slope. If “Les Gruenchers” lacks a bit of the power and intensity of “Les Baudes” or “Aux Beaux Bruns,” it more than compensates with its dazzling, sexy, wildly spicy nose, and its palate of dense fruit and beguiling silkiness.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Charmes”
“Les Charmes” lies toward the south of Chambolle, near the border of Vougeot, and Barthod owns a quarter of a hectare here. This vineyard tends to produce wines of grace, delicacy, and floral exuberance—ample in fruit but not overly powerful, and lacking some of the turbo-charged minerality of her Bonnes-Mares-flanking crus.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Fuees”
The poor, nearly nonexistent topsoil of “Les Fuees” yields one of the highlights in Barthod’s range. Fully bordering Bonnes-Mares to the south and situated at the same point on the slope, it offers a similar full-spectrum complexity: aromas that reach both cool-toned, spicy heights and warm, soil-drenched depths; fruit simultaneously sappy and laser-focused; and a palate both seductively Chambolle in character yet with fine, firm, authoritative tannins. The grizzled 70+-year-old vines in Ghislaine’s 0.26-hectare parcel provide a certain consistency here from vintage to vintage.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Veroilles”
“Les Veroilles” sits immediately above Bonnes-Mares on the slope, and while a large portion of the vineyard is classified as villages-level, a 0.37-hectare sliver flanking Bonnes-Mares’s southwest corner—fully owned by Barthod, in fact—was upgraded to premier cru status in 1987. Compared to the exuberant beauty of “Les Fuees,” “Les Veroilles” is deeper-pitched, sterner, more brooding, and stricter in its mineral essence. At the same time, a deeply sappy, highly concentrated core of fruit provides counterpoint to this cru’s innate firmness, resulting in a wine of beautiful tension.

2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Cras”
“Les Cras” is, unfailingly, the Mt. Everest of the Barthod offerings: imposing, elemental, and profound; requiring great patience but providing perhaps the ultimate reward. The family owns an important portion (0.86 hectares) of this premier cru which abuts “Les Fuees” to the south, on the same filet of the slope as Bonnes-Mares. Always profoundly mineral, ruggedly structured, and impressively powerful, “Les Cras” still manages to exemplify the graceful essence of Chambolle, offering both large-scale impact and ultra-fine detail.

These wines will reach our shores around May 28

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