Featuring wines from 2020 and late release 2019s
One of the things I most enjoy about tasting a new vintage is the way it gives one perspective on previous vintages. The last of three good but different years, arguably the best of them, 2020 seems to me to be somewhere between the muscular 2018s and the more classical 2019s. It’s a ripe vintage which nevertheless has produced balanced wines with freshness and typicity. There is a lot to like.
The winter of 2019/2020 was warmer than normal and quite wet, which would prove to be important as the season progressed. Come March, just as the world was shutting down, the sun began to shine. It didn’t really stop. Bud burst was early, by late March. This can be dangerous, as it leaves the vines vulnerable to frost. Luckily, in 2020 nature spared us. Flowering was mostly successful, and advanced, about 3 weeks ahead of the average according to Alexandra Pascal. The fine weather continued through June and July and growers told us of their excitement at the potential quality of the crop. Etienne Chaix of Domaine Voillot said the vines looked magnificent in early August, and they hoped for a great year. Conditions began to change in late July with a mini heatwave. This was followed by a week of intense heat in early August that saw temperatures climb to 38o – Etienne told us they could see the clusters shrink as the grapes dried out, he thinks they lost a third of their volume in just three days. In the hot and dry conditions the vines slowed down, ripening came almost to a standstill. Several growers told us they felt this preserved freshness in the wines. 2020 was one of the driest vintages on record, around 40% below the average. This is where the wet winter was vital, it meant there was water to be found and vines, with their long roots, can cope in such conditions. However, young vines and those in very well drained soils did suffer drought, and even the old vines began to lose some of their colour in their upper leaves. Positively though, the conditions meant the near total absence of disease, and the grapes looked in wonderful condition as harvest approached.
When it came it was under clear skies and very early, the earliest ever at most domaines, a few days ahead of 2003, the previous title holder. I gather that at Bouchard Père & Fils, who have long records, it was the earliest harvest in 300 years! The grapes were beautifully healthy, with thick skins, but little juice. Clémentine Dubreuil said they need to press a third more grapes in 2020 to get a similar amount of juice compared to 2019. Yields seem to be down 20-30% for the reds, with the whites fairing better and returning better volumes.
Those thick skins seem to me to be a hallmark of the vintage, responsible for much of its character, in terms of aroma, as well as structure. The reds in 2020 are beautifully coloured. Yes, they are darker than some vintages, but the colours are bright and vibrant and seem to glow in the glass. They are some of the most perfumed young Burgundy I can remember tasting, with dark fruit aromas, great purity and, in the best wines, an amazing array of flavours for such young wines. The finishes too can be remarkable, with floral and spice notes rising in the mouth and flooding the senses. There’s more than one successful style of 2020. Some have extracted very gently, and made transparent, silky wines which feel fresh and exuberant, while retaining that inner concentration that only really Pinot gives us. Others extracted a little more and made denser wines with firmer tannins. These wines may be less attractive in their youth, but the concentration, purity and balance in the best wines suggest they will age for many years. It’s clearly a very good vintage for the whites, the best since 2017 and perhaps 2014. Again, there is richness, but this is coupled with tension and minerality, with ripe citrus flavours and a crispness and cut which balances the ripe fruit. In both colours one can see the vineyards character, terroir, the essence of Burgundy, shine through.
Unfortunately, the low yields have translated into reduced quantities, especially for the reds. This means it will be difficult to allocate as we did last year. However, we will always do our best, so please let us know what you would like and we will try to fulfil as much as possible.