Burgundy 2020 En Primeur
2020 will be remembered for the clemency of its growing conditions. The weather throughout was wonderfully conducive to the production of beautifully ripe fruit. There was no undue amount of rainfall nor humidity. Disease pressure was pretty much non-existent with mercifully no significant incidence of frost.
The summer proved to be both very dry and very warm, yet any impact of hydric stress was kept to a minimum thanks to plentiful water reserves accumulated during the rainy winter months. Some parcels of young vines on free draining soils, however, did struggle with the dry conditions. The main focus of work in the vineyards, therefore, was to protect the ripening bunches of grapes from the abundance of sunshine and the enduring drought conditions. Canopy management was key, with the provision of shade paramount in growers’ minds. Vineyard techniques at the best domaines have been adjusted over recent years in order to better adapt to warm dry summers, resulting in fruit and wines with better balance and retained ‘typicité’.
A range of factors, as so often, would determine the resulting quality and style of wine produced. The complete ‘terroir’ thumbprint, so much a part of top Burgundy, bears ultimate responsibility for the character of the wine in the glass. Soils, aspect, altitude, exposure and slope will all play their part. In 2020 this is so true. The mosaic of vineyards has once again produced a fascinating variety of styles, each entirely reflective of their often very precise origins. There is no ‘taste of the vintage’ masking the terroir expressions just an exuberance of ripe fruit counterbalanced by a telling freshness. The best wines do not really taste like wines produced in a sunny, warm vintage thanks to their lively vibrancy. The cool nights too played their part to great effect.
The harvest started very early in mid-late August under beautiful blue skies. For many growers the end of the harvest was earlier than the start date of the majority of vintages from previous eras.
So, how do the wines taste?
The best red wines capture the enchanting appeal of fine Burgundy offering a panoply of multi-nuanced flavours. Ripeness of fruit allied to an appetising seam of acidity is the over-riding impression of the vintage. Volumes, sadly, are low, as skins were thick with very little juice in smaller berries due to dehydration. Within each grape, both the fruit richness and the acidity were concentrated in tandem. As a result, the fruit is very concentrated but is not overpowering or heavy-handed – at least at those domaines where sensitive handling of the vinification is the norm. There is vitality and purity much in evidence. The best wines will be able to be enjoyed in their exuberant youth or will equally well reward a longer sojourn in the cellar thanks to their impressive tannic structure and balancing acidity.
The quality of the white wines is perhaps even more consistent than that of the reds. Whether the wines are from Chablis of the Côte d’Or the results are excellent. ‘Typicité’ abounds. Chablis tastes like Chablis and Meursault tastes like Meursault. Almost without exception the results were truly eye-catching. The very best marry a richness and concentration of ripe fruit with a riveting acidity and in many cases minerality. There was no sense of over-maturity or over-ripeness. The wines do not taste particularly of the warm vintage of their birth, there appear to be more orchard fruit and white floral expressions rather than more exotic fruit characters on show. There is tension as well as breadth. The lasting impression is one of a telling vibrant core wrapped around by textural, often creamy, fruit. Chardonnay’s more resilient character allows the vines to support a higher ‘rendement’ than Pinot Noir can successfully sustain and without detriment to the fruit quality, in fact the slightly more generous yield on the whites helped retain freshness and elegance. They were a joy to taste in growers’ cellars and will provide wonderful drinking over the next few years.
Neil Sommerfelt MW, Consultant