2020 Vintage Report

2020's weather conditions followed a similar pattern to 2016, 2018 and 2019 with a mild winter, a warm but wet spring followed by a dry, hot summer, finished by a warm harvest that started dry.  

But the picture is more complicated than that.  This was not an easy year but one marked by a stop-start growing season with myriad challenges in the vineyard:  frost, wet weather, high temperatures, then drought.  

After a mild winter, the season started two to three weeks earlier than usual.  April was warm and vine growth was rapid with mainly warm weather, combined with plenty of rain, leading to early flowering.  Early June was cooler and duller but then summer weather took over.  July was exceptionally dry followed a mini-heatwave in mid-August with very high temperatures, triggering localised thunderstorms and welcome rain.  Early September was dry and very hot, with a record-breaking 36 degrees on 14th September, though importantly, nights were cool. 

By this time, the result of the heat and drought was small, deeply coloured berries but not much juice in the grapes.  The harvest started early and Merlot was picked in ideal conditions.  From 20th September the temperature dropped and the Cabernet Sauvignon was picked in cooler weather.  All but a few parcels of later Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc were already picked by early October rains.  Generally, Cabernets were good but as a later-ripening variety were more variable, so some plots may not have made the cut for the final blend this year. In addition, the quality of the Merlot was exceptional, so good that many estates have included more Merlot than in the previous few years. 

What is sure is that yields for 2020 are overall much smaller than in 2018 and 2019, overall by around 10%, but reduced by as much as 30% at some properties.  There are three reasons for this:

  1. Wet weather in early summer brought the threat of mildew.  Individual estates will manage this differently but it will have been difficult for certified-organic properties. 

  2. Drought conditions in summer.   Over two months, there was barely any rain, so this will be a year when terroirs with good water reserves and water-retaining, limestone and clay-based soils managed best.  Older vines with deep root systems will also have had the advantage over younger vines which by August had shut down.

  3. Evaporation in September heat.

Berries were very small, but with high levels of sugar, acidity, deep-colour (anthocyanins) and tannins, thanks to the high skin to juice ratio in the berries. A gentle approach to extraction was therefore necessary to avoid hard tannins.  

Dry White Wines
The dry white grapes were picked relatively early in mid-late August, and the wines retain good acidity and show intense aromatics, though they are softer and less exuberant than 2019.  

Sweet White wines
A nailbiting vintage for producers where noble rot took time to develop and then concentrate, with finally a “short but miraculous” harvesting window.  The best wines show focus, aroma and balance with very small yields again.

More information to follow.