Our first impressions of a thrilling vintage:
This is the third successive year where many brilliant red wines have been made in Bordeaux. It is a complicated picture, however. Weather disparities from one village to another and from château to château mean that there are many variations.
April, May and June all saw higher levels of rainfall, with less sunshine, compared to the average (1991-2010). Consequently, downy mildew was hard to control in many vineyards, causing crop reductions. Thanks to an early start to the season, and to hot weather during May, flowering of the vines went broadly well, and earlier than usual, during the last 10 days of the month. The weather was warm, calm and sunny. When this happens, it is a major quality factor, as it allows an even fruit set, and for grapes in the bunches to come to ripeness harmoniously. June was initially damp, cool and dull, however from around 20th, rains abated and temperatures climbed. Summer began in force from mid-July with dry, sometimes exceptionally hot weather, lasting for nearly two months, including torrid heat-spikes in early August.
Beneficial, heavy storms came around the 10th August, which allowed vegetation and ripening to spurt back into action, where these had been braked by the heat. Then the first half of September was dry and sunny. Nights were cool, all of this allowing the skins and tannins of the red grapes to mature, while sugars climbed and berries retained their freshness. Merlot grapes came to ripeness and could be picked in excellent conditions, during mid-September. Cabernets followed suit, however the temperature dropped suddenly on 20th September, and rains were frequent, with downpours from storm Alex, from 30th September. Some grapes had to be gathered before complete ripeness could be achieved.
It appears clear that Merlots came to full maturity in ideal conditions, where this was, in places, harder to achieve for the Cabernets. Nevertheless, in early-ripening sites, sugar levels, colouring matter and tannins were at perfect levels in the Cabernet grapes. Well-judged extractions have permitted deeply coloured, perfumed, richly structured wines to be made at many properties.
Bordeaux is a wide area, and rainfall is never even. More than twice as much fell on the northern Medoc in mid-August, compared to Saint-Emilion, for instance – bringing variable maturation speeds from property to property. Generally, 2020 looks like a very promising year for Bordeaux reds. We will be tasting carefully, reporting and offering the wines – if prices prove to be reasonable – as they come out, and summarizing our offers, and the situation, on a weekly basis.
Here we identify our selections from samples that were supplied to us from Bordeaux. They include wines from both the Right Bank, which is undoubtedly exceptional in 2020, and the Left, where we hope opening prices will be irresistible. This range will be updated as we continue to taste and as prices are released onto the market.