Regis Forey’s 2015s: A New Milestone

Posted on Posted in Articles, Domaine Forey Pere & Fils, RWM Contributor

For the vigneron, even great vintages carry with them potential pitfalls. The 2015 growing season in Burgundy was a relative breeze, with even ripening, ample sunshine, little disease pressure, and stellar conditions at harvest time. As with other “solar” vintages like 2005 and 2009, the temptation to really lean into such healthy, beautiful fruit in the cellar was undoubtedly powerful. However, as with those years, an exceedingly dry season rendered grapes with quite thick skins, and an extraction-happy grower easily may have produced overly structured wine—too brooding to be enjoyed in its youth, yet whose structure has the real potential to outlast its fruit as it ages in bottle.

Whereas the Regis Forey of twenty years ago may have put every ounce of muscle into such a vintage, the gentler, more trusting touch he has been developing over the past decade has reached its apex with his 2015s. Don’t get us wrong: Regis has always made impressive wines from his family’s envy-inducing holdings, and those ‘90s and early-‘00s vintages made under his brawny grip have generally evolved beautifully in bottle. But words like “ethereal,” “fine,” and “supple”—which make frequent appearances in our notes of the ‘15s—were not exactly the first descriptors that came to mind with the wines of Regis’s youth, especially during their early stages. Here, though, we have a man who has gradually softened his extraction regimen (once-per-day pigeage at most), reduced his reliance on new oak, increased the proportion of larger barrels in his cellar (favoring 600-liter demi-muids, especially for his villages-level wines), and begun including a percentage of whole clusters during fermentation (thereby de-emphasizing sheer fruit-power). Even Regis himself—an imposingly broad, verbally sparing man of NBA-forward height—seems to have relaxed over the past years, displaying a subtle warmth, humor, and lightness of spirit mirroring that of his more recent vintages. He likes to joke that his increasingly laissez-faire cellar management is attributable to his wanting to work less in his older age, yet his ongoing micro-experiments with various aging vessels (amphora, concrete egg, cuve tronconique) reveal a man of active curiosity who continues to strive for maximum expression and refinement in his wines.

Neal and Regis – early 80’s

In fact, Forey’s 2015s, which will reach our shores in mid-January, display a freshness and purity not seen since the delicate offerings of his father Jean, who retired in 1987 and with whom Rosenthal Wine Merchant began working in 1980. Those Jean Forey bottles we like to dredge up from the cellar from time to time are mesmerizing in their subtlety, effortlessly revealing the intricacies of those hallowed terroirs in which the family plies its trade—and we feel certain that Regis’s 2015s will offer similarly beautiful experiences in time.

2015 Bourgogne Rouge
The 40-to-60-year-old vines of Forey’s Bourgogne Rouge—produced from various parcels in Nuits and Vosne—typically yield a wine of impressive depth for its category, and this 2015 certainly punches above its weight class. Despite the power inherent in the ’15 vintage, however, there is a straightforward deliciousness here—a lip-smacking essence of pure Pinot Noir that promises early drinkability. Aged entirely in previously used, low-toast 600-liter demi-muids, it shows virtually no wood influence (and is all the more friendly for it).

2015 Morey-Saint-Denis
Forey’s villages-level Morey-Saint-Denis consists of two minuscule holdings of vines between 30 and 50 years of age (one in “Clos Solon” and one in “Les Crais.”) Aged in demi-muid like the Bourgogne above, the 2015 displays a similar purity of fruit, with more breed and finesse as befits its place of origin. Fresh tobacco, high-toned Morey spice, and a subtle and appetizing hint of stems frame a palate of round fruit, gentle earth, and slightly firm yet noble tannins.

2015 Nuits-Saint-Georges
A villages¬ wine of considerable depth, Forey’s Nuits-Saint-Georges comprises a hectare’s worth of 60-year-old vines in the lieux-dits of “Charbonnieres” and “Plantes Aux Barons.” The ripe, fleshy, cassis-tinged nose of the 2015 leads into a succulent, black-fruit palate of round sap and appealing rusticity. Despite its relative wildness and a glimmer of that classic Nuits-Saint-Georges rambunctiousness, it offers a similar easygoing freshness to the Morey above and displays terrific poise.

2015 Vosne-Romanee
As one would expect from the appellation, this 2015 Vosne-Romanee is notably more elegant and reticent than its villages¬-level brethren. Produced from fourteen small parcels planted between 1942 and 1974, mostly in the northern sector of the appellation, it is reared in a combination of demi-muid and smaller barrels. What it lacks in flesh, is more than made up by its mineral drive, and its tight-grained tannins counterbalance the fruit’s silkiness with a hint of austerity. A few years of patience should do this wine the necessary favors.

2015 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Perrieres”
Sometimes in great Burgundy vintages, particularly when the wines are young, there is a “leveling” of the hierarchy in which the usual qualitative differences among villages-level, premier cru, and grand cru are somewhat less pronounced—not so with Forey’s 2015s. Regis works a 0.42-hectare parcel of 75-to-80-year-old vines in this vaunted cru, and his ’15 is an immediate leap forward in intensity, depth, and complexity from the previous wines. All of the wine’s elements present with greater force: juicy fruit, firm yet more fully enrobed tannins, electric acidity, and a far more sauvage earth to mineral interplay. This is an impressive example of Forey’s current style at its finest—where the power comes from vintage and site rather than the will of the vigneron.

2015 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Saint-Georges”
Forey owns a 0.1-hectare sliver of 85-year-old vines in what many consider the great vineyard of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the 2015 is indeed epic. Great Nuits-Saint-Georges often distinguishes itself by its sheer mineral forcefulness—much more iron-inflected, relentless, and punchy than the iterations of limestone found in the more northerly parts of the Cote de Nuits. This version is unapologetic in that regard, yet Forey’s deft handling of the vintage stops the wine from becoming brutal or monolithic. In fact, freshness and even downright prettiness lurk beneath the thick fruit, profound tannins, and aggressive minerality. Still, this formidable wine demands some serious cellar time.

2015 Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Petits Monts”
The duo of Vosne-Romanee 1er Crus justifiably represent some of the most coveted red Burgundies in our entire portfolio. “Les Petits Monts” is situated just above grand cru Richebourg in the prime fillet of the appellation, adjacent to the legendary “Cros Parantoux,” and Regis exploits a mere fifth of a hectare here, planted in 1970. The 2015 is dazzling, with a scintillating cool, refined upper-slope character that typically distinguishes this cru. Less rich and full-bodied than either Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru above, its kinetic, spice-drenched palate drives through to a notably long and graceful finish. The suppleness that distinguishes Forey’s ‘15s is more controlled and taut here, and its ample structure reads more as density than as tannic heft.

2015 Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Gaudichots”
The most fabled wine of the Forey cellar, “Gaudichots” is the climat from which La Tache was born—the beating heart at the very center of the Vosne-Romanee appellation. In fact, it was Neal Rosenthal back in 1983 who first convinced Jean Forey to begin bottling it separately rather than blending it into his Vosne villages (!), and it has been one of our rarest and most sought-after jewels ever since. This 2015 is kaleidoscopic, offering deeper, darker fruits than “Petits Monts,” plus greater breadth and an extra dimension of complexity—that edge of pedigree lent by this most noble of terroirs. Though not backwards even at this youthful stage, it is nonetheless hugely concentrated, and plenty of time will be required for the palate’s plethora of layers to reveal themselves.

2015 Echezeaux
Forey owns 0.3 hectares in this exalted cru, in the climats of “Les Treux” and “Clos Saint-Denis,” flanked by Grands Echezeaux to the north and Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Suchots” to the south. All but a small recently replanted portion of the holdings are between 40 and 65 years old, and Forey always wrests a wine of refined power from these old vines. The 2015 is bursting with energy, live-wire acidity doing its best to corral the riot of broad, wildly spicy fruit—a grand cru of both muscle and speed, with the immense tension that defines the vintage on full display.

2015 Clos de Vougeot
Clos de Vougeot is the defensive lineman to the Echezeaux’s running back—massively scaled, more squarely built, and far more structured. Regis works a third of a hectare of 40-to-45-year-old vines here, and his 2015 is unquestionably the most backward, dense, and currently inscrutable wine of the lineup. It has already all but swallowed its 50% new oak, and the combination of succulent, rich, dark-red and black fruit, exotic spice, and somber earth is currently bound by massive tannins that nonetheless manage to avoid being hard. This is a wine that all but insists upon significant patience, but the rewards should prove immense.

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