2020 Burgundy En Primeur
A Vibrant Vintage
Our buying team was in Burgundy in October 2021 to taste and assess the 2020 vintage as it matured in the growers’ cellars. In these pages, we are delighted to present the vintage and our selections.
The 2020 Growing Season and Harvest
The weather was clement leading up to the all-important flowering period, which started early, in mid-May. It went through speedily and in favourable weather, which is always a key herald of fine quality. A successful flowering allows all the grapes in a given bunch to come to full ripeness together. It also enables growers to forecast when the grapes will change colour, come to maturity and need harvesting. So from late-May, it was evident that 2020 would be an early harvest. Plans could be laid for early holidaying, and for pickers to be booked for a mid- to late-August start to the vintage.
Temperatures, rain and sunshine fluctuated during June but summer was about to arrive. July was very dry and hot, with several heatwave moments, and some bunches were grilled by the sun. Early August remained dry and hot, and it became apparent that, without rain to swell the grapes, this would be a highly concentrated, low-yield vintage – as proved to be the case.
It was the driest season since 1945, according to the Dijon weather station, with rainfall 50% down on recent levels, and 20% more sunshine than normal. Growers were concerned that the year might resemble 2003, when an August heat-wave caused leaves to wilt and grapes to shrivel. Fortunately, in 2020 the reserves of water in the soil allowed vines to withstand high temperatures with fortitude, to maximise their natural sugars and to ripen tannins and grape-skins. The dry weather allowed natural acidities to be concentrated, which was a crucial factor, giving superb balance in the resulting wines. On sorting tables, those grapes which had been sunburnt needed to be removed, but otherwise the bunches were immaculately healthy.
The 2020 Reds
Given the heat and dryness of the summer, we were concerned that some of reds would have become over-ripe, with alcohol levels which would dominate their fruit intensity, and that they might lack freshness. It has been a wonderful surprise to taste wines of such vivaciousness, where the terroir origins show forth brilliantly – in many cases, more clearly than in the two previous, powerful, sun-rich vintages, 2019 and 2018. 2020 red Burgundies have superb potential for ageing, and look destined to be hailed as one of Burgundy’s most exciting, recent years. There are great examples at First Growth and Grand Cru levels, and we will also be highlighting many village level and regional wines, which show beautiful quality and lovely value.
The 2020 Whites
In both 2019 and 2018, plentiful summer sunshine resulted in plump, rich wines, which are round and soft – in many cases, already making luscious drinking. The 2020 whites have intense fruitiness, with balancing, crisp, long aftertastes. Individual origins are more clearly delineated than in the two previous vintages. This is a real classic, which may be enjoyed while youthful, but where the best wines have superb concentration, and will age magnificently.
We know that frost damage in April 2021 will mean reduced availabilities of the 2021 vintage, which will be offered next year. Now is a good moment to stock up with 2020s, in both reds and whites, across the quality ranges.
Late Release Domaines
This offer features the 2020 wines from the majority of the Burgundy Domaines we work with. However, a small number will release their offer to us later in the year, at which stage we will communicate the details and our notes. For the first time, Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley joins this list.
The Late Release Domaines are:
- Domaine Raveneau, Chablis
- Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry
- Domaine Roulot, Meursault
- Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley, Volnay
- Domaine Georges Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny
- Domaine J-F Mugnier, Chambolle-Musigny (for the Domaine’s wines from Chambolle)
- Domaine des Lambrays, Morey-Saint-Denis
- Domaine Dugat-Py, Gevrey-Chambertin