Back IN REVIEW: 1995 Burgundy Grand Crus Dinner

Published on 4 June, 2024

For those of you born or married, etc in 1995, don’t wait until 2025 to buy those 30th anniversary wines. It’s always best to do that the year before.

During The Fine Wine Experience Burghound Symposium, Allen Meadows gave us a masterclass on 1995 Burgundy as we tasted through a range of white and red grand cru examples at the Shanghai Bulgari Hotel’s Il Ristorante Niko Romito. 

1995 had a solid if not exciting reputation. Allen went into some detail on what gave the wines their particular vintage fingerprint, which as usual included a lot of challenges. On the basis of what he explained to us I would have held lower expectations than I did, but on the whole the 13 wines we tasted were mostly superb today, 29 years later. Admitedly, these focused on top domaines and vineyards, so in the quality triangle (soil, year, maker) we had two bases firmly on our side already.

Below you will find my tasting notes and scores for the wines we drank with dinner, as well as our current 1995 Burgundy inventory here in Hong Kong.

But first allow me to summarise what Allen Meadows had to say about the vintage, and about the cultural context of 29 years ago in time, an important factor in how the wines turned out. As Allen reminded us, “29 doesn’t seem distant, but the sense in 1995 was different to now.” Economically the region was not riding high in the way it is today. The transition from the Burgundians small holder farmers who sold to negocients, through to the domaine practices of today (farming, winemaking, bottling and distributing) was underway but far from complete. Global warming was only beginning to show its impact (Allen cites 1989 and 1990 as the first real products of this). Domaines were concerned about rains and rot toward harvest than they were about heat and drought. And so 1995 turned out to be typical of these concerns, as there was a lot of rot. A relatively warm winter had meant an early start to growth, but cold weather followed including snow in May. Flowering was troubled and lead to shatter – bunches with a lot of shot (seedless small) berries (it would turn out to be the second smallest vintage of the decade for reds, better for whites). This meant at a starting point, a high potential for concentration in the 1995 red through a low ratio between skins and juice.

But the problem was rot, and the potential for more rot, even as the berries ripened on the vine. Allen described 1995 as “a vintage of the rich”, meaning, those who could afford to wait for riper fruit, and risk losing around 5% per day of their crop to rot risking that chance, could make good wines potentially. Those who couldn’t picked soon after the ban de vendange, permitting them to do so. And this was declared on 21st September of the Côtes de Beaune, 25th September for the Côtes de Nuit, and 29th September in Chablis. Sorting tables were rare back then. As Allen described it, the usual practice back then was simply a little snip off the affected part of any bunches that showed rot, while picking, if at all. 

So, if we look at the natural vintage style for the reds, as a whole, we can imagine a vintage with a mix of ripe and underripe fruit, some rot taint perhaps, but the concentration of colours, and extraction from skins with lower amounts of juice in the vat. But if we focus on the best domaines – those who waited for better ripeness, who picked or sorted with good hygiene, that high intensity vintage could translate into quite classic and long-lived wines. The issue was in the winery too in 1995, where it could be easy to over-extract and make overly tannic wines. I do feel a certain tannic grip is one of the signatures of the vintage. Their backbone has preserved them well, but it is not an elegant vintage. 

For the whites, the problem was possibly a harvest that began a little too late, and with some botrytis, some exoticism in the wines. At the time, Allen said, the 1995 white were better received than the reds, because they were rich and relatively soft. 1995 whites have density.

For all that, as I mentioned, we picked out some of the very best vineyards for this dinner – all grand crus – and star domaines. So, this was not a true ‘vintage survey’, but rather a look at some of the best that could be pulled from it. And on the whole I thought the results were very positive. Read on…

All notes below, Linden Wilkie, 12th April 2024, Shanghai

1995 Chablis Grand Cru Valmur, Domaine François Raveneau
Bright old gold; a mineral-rich thick nose, creamy, earthy and showing an intense terroir signature, almost smoky now with age; creamy and intense on the palate, rounded, with juicy-fine acidity underpinning it, fully mature now, though lively and expressive, and without fatigue. With more air in the glass a little spice element emerged. This is a really beautiful wine today. A super wine.

1995 Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Domaine Leflaive
Bright yellow gold; fine low key but intense ripe aroma, smoky, there is a sexy appealing tone to this – clear grand cru top domaine level on the nose; ripe, sumptuous on the palate showing ripe fruit, a touch of almost apricot-level ripeness, but the overall impression is fairly classic, and the acidity and minerality pin the wine into shape impressively. Impressive too is the clarity, freshness and energy in the wine. It’s not the stratosphere of depth and complexity this wine is capable of, but there is nice balance, and good length and the wine shows as it should.

1995 Echezeaux Grand Cru, Domaine Emmanuel Rouget
A ruddy garnet, bricked, with some sediment in my glass; an earthy sweet nose, spicy, open and mature, though also a little dank; chewy-textured on the palate, with good acidity, some fatigue in the fruit, and not fully clean, but the spiciness appeals.

1995 La Romanée Grand Cru, Bouchard Père et Fils (magnum)
Bright clear limpid garnet, a touch of sediment, but the wine is clear in the glass; a fine perfume, reserved and cool in expression, fresh and pure; red fruit on the palate, a dryness to the tannins however – they are a little raspy in texture, but the fine fruit and scent pushes through. This took a long time in the glass to get going, with some subtle Indian spices emerging, and other complex details in a fruit expression that feels transparent and admirably pure. The downside to this wine is what feels like a firm hand in the extraction of the tannins, which will always be a hallmark of this ’95 La Romanée. But the terroir is on clear display in any case.

1995 Romanée-St-Vivant Grand Cru, Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat
Bright clear and pale in colour – fire colour; sweet candied red fruits on the nose, spices, a complex nose, old, fragrant and attractive; supple, indeed silky on the palate, red fruit, spices, super elegance, nice ripe concentration and subtlety. There is a touch of rusticity in the tannins – that after one full hour in the glass began to see the wine dry out a bit – it declined. But during that hour this was a delight, a true Romanée-St-Vivant, with roses, delicate spices and a little meaty savouriness too.

1995 Richebourg Grand Cru, Domaine Méo-Camuzet
Fine hue in the glass, a pale garnet in colour, just a very slight haze, its not fully clear; a full, complex, spicy nose; good flesh and spice on the palate, there’s focus in the attack with great up front extract, before it tapers in shape, with a savoury-leathery note as the somewhat burly tannic frame kicks in. On the whole a lovely opulent wine, with good length and dark spicy tone. With air it manages to wrestle free of some of its cloak of tannin and oak, to open up beautifully. Complex, just every so very slightly rustic.

1995 La Tâche Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Ruddy bricked garnet, lots of fine sediment in suspension; a fine nose, low key, cool and mossy in tone; fine fruit on the palate, at first a fine pinch from the tannins and the oak is present. But out front is the lovely fruit, with notes of moss and bark intertwining the fruit and fine mineral acidity. Super equilibrium and complexity. This feels like it is only just entering its apogee with many years ahead. Lovely spiciness that lingers on the finish.

1995 Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Domaine Leroy
Bright, entirely clear wine in the glass, a mid-bricked garnet; an immediately lovely nose, mossy, spicy, very pure in expression, it soars from the glass, lots of clean sous bois character in the fruit; super silky and pure on the palate – here the tannins feels 100% supple and refined. Beautifully focused, super pure and fine, a deep sense of scent, and persistence, but also a lightness in the way it flows on the palate. With a lot more time in the glass, the first trace of just a little dryness on the finish emerged. Beautiful wine.

1995 Musigny Grand Cru Cuvée Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé
Fine garnet, some bricking in the tone, a touch of fine sediment in the glass; a mature nose, red and dark berry fruit, this behaved the opposite way to some this evening, actually needing an hour in the glass to really open up; the palate is sapid and pure, with lovely fruit, perfume and crystalline acidity, and a fine tannic frame, sticky extract depth, there is concentration in this brooding Musigny. A dark horse vintage.

1995 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, Domaine G. Roumier
Fine garnet, clear and fine in appearance; a pure and very fine nose, subtle and complex in its perfume; elegant, pure and silky on the palate, with fine fruit, a little fine grip the clue to the vintage perhaps. A touch of tea, spice, the flavour builds, imprinting another later onto the palate with each sip. Very good length. This is also a super fresh wine this evening, relatively youthful in the line up in expression. A little preserved Chinese red plum emerges, including a little salty-sour dynamic. Then a note of shiso leaf. This is sublime, and it leaves an impression that there may be even more to come. A profound wine.

1995 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Ponsot
Fine, mature, mid-garnet with some bricking; a spicy nose, some opulence, ripe plum, and small sweet dark cherries; fleshy, silky, spicy and opulent on the palate, fine acidity, this is grand in style but also focused and balanced. A lovely kaleidoscope, a heady amalgam of spices and fruit, very fresh and vibrant, essency yet racy too, lip smacking in fact, sweet, pure, like tiny dark cherries – there’s almost an overripe feel to the fruit, but it is so racy, intense, and long. There’s a real feeling of deep extract, yet the it stays velvety smooth, perfumed and transparent. 

1995 Chambertin Grand Cru, Domaine Armand Rousseau
Clear mature garnet; an open, mature aroma, complex and inviting; supple red fruit on the palate, mineral tension, a ripe tannic frame, some spice, lovely minerality, good depth. This is an elegant wine, now beginning to drink well. The evening ran out before this wine showed much change in the glass.

1995 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Denis Bachelet
Fine full clear garnet, some depth here to the colour; a dark, spicy brooding aroma, pure, some leather; fine on the palate, sherbety, sapid, good fruit, fine, with a touch of leather tone present in the tannins, this is old school – i.e. ‘modernist’, showing plenty of wood and extraction, but there is a deep reservoir of fine pure dark musky spicy fruit, and a long finish. Just a little touch of dryness in the tannins.