Burgundy 2020 Vintage Report

 

It is with great pleasure that we bring you the 2020 vintage from Burgundy. Our Master Sommelier, Nicolas Clerc, has been on the ground, visiting our celebrated domaines for the first time since last year’s lockdown. It was a poignant trip and a pleasure to be welcomed, in person, by so many friendly and familiar faces.

Twenty-twenty was a solar vintage characterised by drought and hot weather. For some, it was the earliest harvest on record, but thankfully one which yielded superb quality fruit with concentrated acids and sugars. The best wines are a joy to taste, offering the perfect balance between phenolic ripeness and crisp, refreshing acidity.

The whites are wonderfully precise, tense yet generous, and quality is very consistent across the board. The reds are deep in colour, with concentrated sugars, firm tannins and excellent structure, whilst also offering surprising freshness and tension. Tiny berries, a result of dehydration, affected yields more than the whites, however, and quantities are limited.

Over the coming weeks we will offer the fruits of the vintage, but in the meantime, we invite you to read our vintage report and register interest via our producer wishlist. With less volume of the reds and the immensely challenging 2021 harvest expected to increase demand and pricing, we encourage you to let us know your requests as soon as possible.

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Finally, save the date! We are delighted to inform you that we will be resuming our En Primeur Burgundy Tasting, which will be held on 12th January 2022. Further details will be shared over the coming days.

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To see the 2020 vintage in context, we might return to 2019, which experienced mild autumn and winter months. Notably, only seven days fell below freezing. This mild weather, the effect of climate change, continued into 2020. Flowering began at the end of April, which was unusually warm, and summer ushered in a warm ripening season. It became very hot towards the end of June, followed by torrid weather throughout July and August.

Drought brings its own challenges and, perhaps surprisingly, opportunities. In particularly hot conditions, there is the risk that vines shut down completely. In 2020, however, dehydration had the welcome effect of concentrating both sugars and acidity – specifically, tartaric acid – a defining and unexpected character of the vintage, in which both ripe fruit and refreshing acidity are at play.

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This was particularly the case with the white wines. They stood out for their precision, tension and balance. As Sabine Mollard at Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet told us: "It was a beautiful vintage, surprisingly fresh for a solar year. There is structure and tension. We feel that the vineyards have adapted to climate change.” Several vignerons likened the character of the whites to 2017 and 2014, but with a touch more richness.

At Domaine de Montille, the balance of phenolic ripeness and tartaric acid was paramount to producing top quality wines. As Chef de Cave Brian Sieve explains: "Harvest started on 21st August, with the wish to retain strong fruit character, concentrated acidity, and brightness and chalkiness - that fine line of phenolic ripeness. Dry conditions prevailed, which with the warm weather generated more tartaric acid… The whites are simply miraculous, superb!"

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Domaine Bart in Marsannay and Jean-Luc and Eric Burguet in Gevrey-Chambertin noted the tiny size of the Pinot Noir berries. Sunshine also thickens the skins, reducing the ratio of pulp to skin. For reds, the resulting wines are rich, concentrated, deep in colour, and show a firm tannic structure. Yields were low, although perhaps not as low as initially expected. By August some terroirs saw sugars rising quickly, and for some domaines Pinot Noir was harvested before Chardonnay. Adapting to the conditions was essential, and the challenge was to harvest before the sugar levels were too high but ensuring skins and pips had ripened fully – all whilst retaining that all-important acidity.

Christophe Roumier pointed out the high diurnal range – the difference in temperature between warm days and cool nights, which helps retain acidity: "We are happy and surprised at the high level of quality. It was a solar vintage, with high temperatures. It was a little crop, 30% down. The diurnal range helped a lot. It was the same approach for us as in 2012.”

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Twenty-twenty has yielded many superb wines. For the time being, the vintage defines itself as a stunning white vintage, with tension and precision balanced by generosity. Many will be delicious in their youth, especially across the Bourgogne and Village appellations.

For the delicious, beautifully-balanced reds, with their concentrated sugars, deep colour and firm tannins, time will tell how they develop in the bottle. We look forward to revisiting them. Tiny berries – a consequence of dehydration – mean that volumes will be down. We suspect pricing will also be a cause for discussion, especially given that the incredibly low volume across the board for 2021 is at the forefront of our producers’ minds.

The great domaines will always be highly sought-after, which is why we are always on the look-out for young, artisanal talent. This year we are delighted to welcome Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair and Jean-Baptiste Jessiaume to our offering. We also welcome the much-anticipated return of Domaine Darviot-Perrin. The wines are, quite simply, stunning, and amongst the finest whites we tasted.

It is rewarding to follow the ever-increasing quality of wines from Domaine Bart in Marsannay, Domaine Thomas Collardot in Puligny-Montrachet, Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet in Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Michel Mallard in Ladoix, and Domaine Rebourgeon-Mure in Pommard. Amongst these producers you will find some of the best value wines for your money in all of Burgundy, and we strongly encourage you to discover their quality for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
We look forward to sharing our rich and diverse offering over the coming weeks. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your account manager. We look forward to sharing this unique vintage with you.

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