For the vigneron, aging can be a beautiful thing. Youth frequently seeks to announce its place in the world with maximum volume; age, more comfortable in its accumulated prowess, understands that a softer voice can be just as powerful. Our long-time ally Regis Forey, who has just completed his thirtieth harvest at the helm of his family’s domaine in Vosne-Romanée, exemplifies just that sort of graceful evolution. His soon-to-arrive 2016s represent a new level of elegance and personal expression, while—in a full-circle poetical flourish—evoking the more delicately rendered Burgundies of his father Jean, which Neal imported with great relish during the 1980s.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Regis crafted muscular, dense wines from his family’s enviable holdings in the Côte de Nuits—impressive wines which have actually aged terrifically, and do bear traces of a youthful striving. In recent years, however, he has honed a style that emphasizes subtlety in numerous ways: a shift from traditional 228-liter Burgundy barrels to 500-liter demi-muids in order to reduce the influence of oak; less manipulation of the cap during fermentation (once-per-day punching down at most) to foster gentler extraction; an increasing incorporation of whole clusters (which reduces color and emphasizes higher aromatic tones); and a severely reduced sulfur regimen. In fact, at our visit in October 2017, not a single 2016 had been sulfured at any point—a full year after harvest.
Regis has lately taken to a bit of playful experimentation as well—not a common undertaking in a region whose astronomical land values and minuscule scale of production seem to demand a certain consistency and predictability. During our most recent visit, he blind-tasted us on three different cask samples of Vosne-Romanée, which displayed dramatic and thought-provoking differences; it turned out that one was from 500-liter barrel, another from a large pear-shaped cuve tronconique, and the third from a terra cotta amphora. Regis jokes that his newfound light touch is a function of not wanting to work as hard in his advancing age; however, it is clear that he is working tirelessly and thoughtfully to locate new expressive registers for his great terroirs.
The 2016 growing season at Forey was a nerve-wracking affair. The well-documented late-April black frost wreaked havoc among Regis’s holdings, and his ultimate average yields were a brutally low 16 hectoliters per hectare. To add insult to injury, an unrelenting attack of mildew through June had growers throughout the Côte struggling to keep up with its ravages. Mercifully, the weather pulled an about-face in July and remained favorable through harvest, which for Regis began at the tail-end of September under outstanding conditions. His 2016s, which will reach our shores in mid-January, are concentrated but supple, deeper in fruit register than the 2014s but less formidably structured than the 2015s. Despite the drastic reduction in quantities, these are vivacious, complete wines that reveal Regis’s ever-increasing mastery of his new methods, and those fortunate enough to get their hands on some will doubtless revel in their expressiveness and grace.
2016 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. Aged in 20% new 500-liter demi-muids, this 2016 shows virtually no wood influence; in fact, there is a straightforward deliciousness here—a lip-smacking essence of pure Pinot Noir that promises early drinkability.
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-muids like the Bourgogne above, and with 30% whole clusters, the 2016 displays a similar purity of fruit, but with more breed and finesse as befits its place of origin.
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.” Despite its relative wildness and a glimmer of that classic Nuits-Saint-Georges rambunctiousness, it offers a similarly alert freshness to the Morey above and displays terrific poise.
As one would expect from the appellation, this 2016 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-muids 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.
2016 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru
From small holdings in the premier crus “Clos Baulet” and “Les Blanchards,” Forey’s 2016 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru—made with 50% whole clusters—possesses a relatively gentle personality of pure red fruits, immaculately fine-grained tannins, and glowing vibrancy. The classic note of savory Morey earth is present but pretty, and the wine is quite accessible even at this youthful stage.
2016 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Perrieres”
Regis works a 0.42-hectare parcel of 75-to-80-year-old vines in this vaunted cru, and this 2016—50% destemmed and raised in 50% new barrels—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-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.
2016 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 the village. 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 Côte 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 serious wine demands cellaring.
2016 Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Petits Monts”
Forey’s 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 filet of the appellation, adjacent to the legendary “Cros Parantoux,” and Regis exploits a mere fifth of a hectare here, planted in 1970. Less sternly built than either Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru above, its kinetic, mineral-drenched palate drives through to a notably long and graceful finish.
2016 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 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 2016 is sexy, powerful, and almost unbelievably spicy, and the sheer tautness and length of its finishes points toward a long, bright future.
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. This 2016, thick but nervy, is a grand cru of both muscle and speed, and the gorgeous spices that characterize the Gaudichots above are on full display here as well.
2016 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 the 2016 is the most backward, dense, and currently inscrutable wine of the lineup, with a backbone of warm rock and brawny tannins. This is a wine that all but insists upon significant patience, but the rewards should prove immense.