I first visited Burgundy's Olivier Bernstein to taste his inaugural 2007 vintage in a small cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin. He has since moved to new digs in the center of Beaune, restoring a 15th-century barn into an office and cellar, where he now ages 80 barrels of premiers and grands crus. The vinifications are still done in Gevrey, close to where most of his vineyards are located.
Though Bernstein is a négociant, he operates more like a domaine, farming all the plots of vines with his team. In 2012, he was able to purchase the parcels in Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champeaux and Mazis-Chambertin, the latter his flagship wine that comes from the oldest vines (80 years old).
Bernstein's 2013s are terrific, ranging in score from 92 to 95 points; his '14s raise the bar even higher, beginning at 94 points and ending with the 97-point Mazis-Chambertin. As good as those are, his 2015s may be even better, with an extra dimension of fleshiness and energy, gorgeous Pinot Noir fruit flavors wrapped in spicy oak and the telltale stamp of each site.
"The magic of '15 is an extraordinary ripeness and wonderful balance," he told me as we tasted in his cellar in late January. "It seems impossible to imagine on one side this ripeness and on the other the acidity for balance. I think 2015 will give a lot of pleasure as young wines, much more than 2005."
In 2015, Bernstein fermented with 80 percent whole cluster. He also fine-tuned the percentage of oak from different forests over the past three vintages. In the past, he used 100 percent oak from Jupilles forest. For the 2013s, he experimented with 20 percent new oak from Fontainebleau, a forest near Paris. His 2014s spent their early life in a 50/50 mix of the two oaks, while in 2015 Bernstein decided to go with 80 percent Fontainebleau, the remainder Jupilles.
"Jupilles brings sweetness and Fontainebleau brings tension, so it's a perfect marriage with 2015," he explained.
The 2015s will spend 16 months in new oak, except the Gevrey-Chambertin, which sees 70 percent new wood.
The Olivier Bernstein Gevrey-Chambertin 2015 comes from two different parcels of 60-year-old vines. It's rich, vibrant, pure and long, offering smoky black cherry flavors. The Chambolle-Musigny Les Lavrottes draws from the youngest vines, at 20 years old (all the other wines are 45 to 80 years old). It starts with violet and black currant aromas, silky in texture, with smoke and spice notes.
The Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champeaux delivers cherry and blueberry fruit on a refined profile, while the Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers reveals more weight and density, with smoky tobacco and graphite aromas, black cherry and blueberry flavors and terrific length.
With its rich, round frame and velvety feel, the Charmes-Chambertin is the most approachable of the grands crus, very seductive yet long. The Clos de Vougeot is refined, with dark fruit details of black cherry and black currant allied to a silky texture.
Power and density are the hallmarks of the Clos de la Roche, with a pronounced mineral element, along with black cherry and licorice notes. It's contrasted nicely by Bonnes Mares, whose gorgeous nose exudes cherry, currant and flowers, with hints of licorice and spice in the mouth. A balance of power and grace.
We finished with a fine trio from Gevrey. The Mazis-Chambertin is brooding, dense and meaty, featuring black cherry, blackberry and iron flavors, all fresh, focused and superlong. Chambertin-Clos de Bèze expresses power, elegance and great energy, mingling cherry, blueberry, mineral and exotic spices like sandalwood and cardamom. The Chambertin is like a combination of the above two—it has the power and concentration of the Mazis and finesse and harmony of the Clos de Bèze, matched to flavors of black cherry, mineral and tobacco.