There are wines of a profound intensity beyond anything I saw in 2018 and 2019…These are wines with immense ageing potential…Take a close look at the reds.There will be some utterly spectacular wines for the long term...’Jasper Morris, Inside Burgundy on 2020 reds
‘I am thrilled to report an almost universally successful vintage for the white wines …the wines taste like some of the most classical white Burgundy vintages of recent times: 2017 with a proportion of 2014 added in….2020 is a wonderful vintage for white wines.‘ Jasper Morris, Inside Burgundy on 2020 whites
‘One of the great attributes of the vintage…the best whites almost shimmer with mineralité…many 2020 reds share the floral perfumes of their 2019 counterparts, perhaps more pressed violet and iris…. the best 2020s have intensity rather than power… contain a surprising amount of acidity…this acidity lends the 2020s a sense of brightness, creating Pinot Noir that you might describe as vivid.’
Neal Martin, Vinous, December 2021
2020 was and ever will be, an extraordinary year. The year of Covid 19 could hardly be anything otherwise. However, the extraordinary events and challenges of the global pandemic were accompanied by a unique growing season in the Burgundy region that has produced, in the hands of dedicated growers a concomitant and quite sensational vintage. We have long argued that the grower is more important than mere weather conditions in this great region, and in 2020 those with the talent, experience and decision making prowess have produced a vintage for the ages in both red and white wines.
2020 will be remembered by the growers as the earliest ‘vendange’ they ever picked and while the growing season was not without its challenges it was year of no frost, no significant hail (Nuits St Georges excepted) whose early harvest mirrored its early start in fine spring conditions. It was a warm year without pressure from rot resulting in spotlessly clean fruit arriving at the winery. There were fewer heat spikes than preceding years and also cooler nights than in 2018 and 2019. The main issue was a lack of rainfall from July onwards, yet circumstances conspired to produce wines that surprised and thrilled us. The water table, already replenished by adequate winter rain was further aided by further significant cloud bursts in April, May and June. The drought months of July and part of August while stressing some vines (161/49C rootstock copes badly with hot dry conditions) combined with a cooler northerly wind that resulted in a level of evaporation. This concentrated both the juice in the grapes and the acidity in the juice. While malic acidity shrank in warm ripening conditions the early harvest scenario allowed tartaric acid to be maintained and a somewhat unexpected, as well as, tremendously welcome freshness characterises the wines of 2020.
While there may be lesser mortals who picked their reds too late – they are not as homogenous as the whites – or struggled to obtain experienced labour in the Covid-stricken circumstances, the range of growers we routinely offer are among the most fastidious and dedicated in the world. They are at the top of their game and their dedication along with experience gleaned in recent warm vintages 2018 and 2019 meant they acted decisively to capture the best possible fruit with tremendous results.
The 2020 Burgundies – as the attestations of Jasper Morris and Neal Martin signal – are intense yet lively wines with notably lower alcohol than 2018 and 2019. They will lift the spirits of the seasoned Burgundy aficionado as well as eliciting squeals of delight for those new to this incredible wine region. Although greater attention may be taken in selecting red wines it is the first vintage in a decade where it feels like a resounding success for wines of bothcolours. Playing the game of comparing with previous vintages is difficult as each growing season in Burgundy is absolutely unique – but the depth of sweet fruit, fine tannin and energetic acidity in the reds brought elements of 2009 and 2016 into combination, without mimicking either of them. The scintillating whites had a blend of the 2017 and 2014 perhaps with a little more ‘gras’ to match the inherent energy in the wines. They each exhibit aspects of a rare quality level in those approximate comparisons.
The style of the red wines is beautifully fragrant: violets, irises, blueberry notes with a core of finely delineated yet generous fruit. They will be popular and accessible when young but their acid and tannin structures will make for decidedly old bones. There appears to be more terroir transparency than 2015 and 2018 and the communes show their classic characteristics in abundance. Vosne shows its violets and red fruit, Chambolle its rose petals, Gevrey its black toned fruit. Further south Volnay appears suffused with ripe raspberry and Pommard continues its winning 4 year streak showing deep and often wild strawberry cores. The tannins are finer than the previous 2 vintages and alcohol levels palpably lower and all the more enticing. Growers exercising regimented picking according to the stopwatch, continued the trend for ‘infusions’ over pigeage and less reliance on oak. Lessons have been learned in this era of warming.
As with recent warm vintages wines from the lesser classifications and cooler terroirs did well. It is a good year for regional and village wines from normally less favoured spots as long as growers marshalled their pickers to best effect. The wines show the silkiest textures and even greater precision in the more favoured 1er and Grand Cru sites, showing their mettle and grandeur. The wines around Bonnes Mares and Clos St Denis felt particularly successful towards the north of the Cote de Nuits but there is no shortage of compelling – or as Jasper Morris points out – ‘utterly spectacular wines for the long term’.
The whites appear to be a staggering success. Less fickle than Pinot Noir and helped, not hindered, by higher yields and an earlier flowering, the wines were monitored and picked in mid-August a practice most growers could not have envisaged a decade ago. The wines marry excellent intensity and engaging freshness with the fruit profile decidedly citrus in style. They are also homogenously brilliant from Corton Charlemagne right through to Chassagne and St Aubin. It appears to be one of the great vintages so far this century for white wines along with 2002, 2014 and 2017. The 2020’s have depth and matière and will reward keeping. Excellent presence, scale and definition from Bourgogne through to the Grand Crus, their innate power makes them creatures to watch.
2020 Burgundy should provide the perfect antidote to the continuing dark days of Covid. They are not austere nor fat neither are they fruit bombs. They have the requisite flesh, sensational vibrancy and balance to produce a true sense of joie-de-vivre
We will be offering wines on a grower-by-grower basis, as we finalise allocations and prices. Some allocations will be down in 2019 as yields for some were around 30% lower than the norm. With the prospects of a frighteningly low yields in 2021 to come prices are not going to be cheap(er). Growers cited 65% to even 80% losses for the follow on vintage and they are likely to combine their quantities of 2020 and 2021 before formulating pricing across 2 years. However, given the smaller quantities and the immense quality produced at those growers we represent, we would suggest clients strike while the iron is hot for 2020. Great vintages in Burgundy do not happen all that often and the wines are barely, if ever, available for less later on.
Please let us know if you have any questions or want to discuss any of the growers and their wines in the coming few weeks.