RHONE 2020 VINTAGE REPORT

2020 in the Rhône is a vintage to get excited about. It welcomes a return to the classic profile that this region is so famous for and offers up beautiful, balanced wines. North and South, white and red, the wines are notable across the board for their silky fruit and gleaming freshness. Unified in their openness, 2020 will give so much love even in its first decade. 

 

While Covid continued to impact our plans to travel abroad, our winemaker friends in the Rhône were kept incredibly busy by the complicated 2021 vintage. So, once more, we tasted the 2020 from barrel samples kindly sent to us by the growers. We look forward to visiting in the New Year and catching up with friendly faces but, in the meantime, we are delighted to bring you our first thoughts on the fabulous 2020 vintage. 

"If I had to describe 2020 in three words I would say, 'balanced, finessed and elegant'”. Marie Perret, Domaine Perret

Cote Rotie Rostaing

THE WINES

“Well-balanced and elegant… 2020 was a perfect vintage to follow our usual biodynamic and organic techniques”. Lionel Fraisse, Domaine Alain Voge

The intrinsic freshness of the 2020s caught us by surprise when we tasted as it belies the warm, dry conditions we remember from this year. While the growing season echoed other millésimes solaires, such as 2003 and 2019, the wines have a cooler and more classic personality. This is thanks to some small but vital differences in 2020’s climatic conditions which we will detail in our report below.

The authority on the Northern Rhône is critic John Livingstone-Learmonth who calls 2020 “a more classic, less solar vintage…It is full of silken pleasure”. The reds are sublime, possessing a pervading freshness, seamless tannins and smooth, seductive fruit. The whites of Condrieu and St Joseph are also a triumph and are marked with a distinctly floral element.

The Southern Rhône has also gifted us with a number of exceptional wines in 2020. Much like in the Northern Rhône, the reds have a stand-out seam of freshness and crystal-clear fruit, while the whites are silky and radiant. As leading Rhône critic Jeb Dunnuck sums up, “the 2020s appear to be pure, elegant…wines that excel on their balance and freshness while still showing beautiful depth of fruit”.

THE GROWING SEASON

“2022 gave us a nice winter with good amounts of rain, a frost-free spring, a hot summer but with no consequences on fruit ripeness and perfect weather conditions during harvest”. Jean-Michel Vache, Domaine Clos des Cazaux

Vineyards, both in the North and the South, benefitted from a good amount of rain in the late autumn and early winter of 2019. These rain showers early in the vine cycle proved to be crucial in 2020 and provided all-important water stores that would help the vines stay hydrated later in the year. The mild, dry winter that ensued meant that flowering and bud break took place early.

A dry, hot summer resulted in a long ripening season and the vines drew water from their winter reserves to prevent hydric stress. While some vines did shut down during the summer from the heat, this in fact proved a blessing and helped preserve acidity. It has prevented the wines from inching to the higher alcohol degrees that we saw in 2019.

What’s more, in 2020, there were no severe heat spikes like we witnessed in 2019 and night-time temperatures overall were much cooler. Both factors allowed for gentle, gradual ripening and are key reasons for the smooth, seamless tannins and fresh, delicious fruit that defines the 2020s. The Southern Rhône further benefitted from cool winds which refreshed the vines during the summer heat. Harvest dates were early, nearly some of the earliest on record, but conditions were splendid, and the pristine grapes were picked in warm, dry conditions.

Growers are understandably delighted with the 2020 vintage, particularly in the context of the challenging 2021 growing season which has seen frost, mildew, and heavy rain. They recall 2020 with great fondness: the reds show dazzling energy, suave tannins, and gourmand fruit, while the whites are bright, balanced, and floral. There will be very little 2021 to go around and prices will no doubt see an increase because of this. We thoroughly recommend enjoying the spoils of the fabulous 2021 vintage.