INTRODUCING BURGUNDY 2020
We were seriously impressed with the quality. With such a dry and warm year in this ‘lockdown vintage’, ripeness and concentration of fruit was never going to be a problem. The excitement has been the overall balance of the wines. The brightness and energy of the high-quality acidity is breath-taking in both red and white wines, the perfect counterpoint to their richness and intensity.
The whites are sensationally appealing: they have the richness of 2019 with a line of zip and freshness reminiscent of 2017. The reds have rich fruit and pitch perfect natural acidity. The quality of the tannins is remarkable and will allow excellent ageing. Sadly, Pinot yields are again well below average. There will inevitably be some disappointment – so this is a perfect moment to look further afield, whether to new domaines, new appellations or new cuvees.
THE GROWING SEASON & HARVEST
Bruno Colin in Chassagne Montrachet commented on the richness of fruit, similar to 2019, but with greater brightness and freshness, which Benoît Droin likened to the 2017 vintage. It is this superb level of acidity that provides backbone and intensity in the wines. Jean-Philippe Fichet explained that this is characteristic of a dry year, with concentrated berries contributing an enduring acidity that persists in the final wine.
They have a delicious intensity and, whilst ripe, the fruit flavours tend to be more white fruits and floral notes, and less exotic. Although the yields were healthy, there is excellent concentration, and the vitality and freshness provide both balance and excitement. It really is difficult to find fault in these lovely wines.
As with the whites the harvest was early, but it varied so much domaine by domaine. Many growers picked in August, such as Domaines Barthod and Boillot, where they like to pick early to keep freshness and purity in their wines and lower alcohol levels closer to 13%. Other equally impressive estates such as Domaine Grivot preferred to wait and didn’t start until 3rd September (still an early year!).
Tasting the reds, it is obvious the fruit came into the wineries in wonderful condition. The common theme from all our red wine growers was to practice slower cooler fermentations in 2020: minimal maceration, infusion rather than extraction, and sparing use of pigeage. The grapes already had a great density of colour, natural tannin levels were high, sugars and potential alcohol were spot on. As with the whites, they have superb acidity levels refreshing the palate. By following these practices and handling their fruit carefully, our producers have made stunning, high-quality wines.
The style of the vintage is relatively rich; the fruit flavours are deeper fruits of the forest characters than in cooler years. The best domaines have still achieved appellational personality and individuality. The red wines are intense, with a tannic core which will enable longevity. They also have a charm and brightness which will appeal to those Burgundy lovers who like to drink Pinot Noir young.
The consequences are twofold. Many growers are holding back more stock than usual from 2020, ensuring they have some wine to sell next year. The other is on price. Each estate has had to account for the loss of production in 2021. Some estates are staggering increases over a two-year period, whilst others have taken immediate action, increasing prices this year with the intention to maintain them next year. Without wishing to be the bearer of bad tidings, the 2021s will not be cheaper and there will be less wine to sell. Considering this and the fine quality of the 2020 vintage, these excellent wines are not to be missed.