The pandemic disrupted our travel plans again this year, although we have tried a few barrel bottlings and listened to experts on the ground. Our initial impressions of vintage 2020 are:-
- A very fine vintage but the wines are not as consistent in quality as the richly opulent 2018s or the refined, classical 2019s. The 2020s display elegant floral, herb and spice aromatics. They seem less full bodied, showing more terroir transparency with subtle ripe, vibrant berry fruits.
The fleshy, early ripening merlot based wines have excelled most, especially those on the limestone plateau of St Emilion or the moist clays of Pomerol and the Lalande. Other higher percentage merlot plots, like those in Pessac and Margaux, made ripe, elegant styles not too dissimilar to their 2015s at best.
- Good viticultural practises were essential to achieving fruit and tannin ripeness, particularly in the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Médoc. The most successful performers added some fleshy merlot to fill the mid palates of their Cabernets. There are some serious harmonious reds that are fresh, precise with delineated fruit, minerality, textured tannins, long in flavour and well balanced.
- The weather was challenging to the growers, who had to protect their vines from long spells of summer drought, Autumn rains and diseases such as mildew.
- The dry white wines are fresh and fruity with moderate acid balance for earlier drinking. Less desirable rots drastically depleted crops in Sauternes and Barsac. Resulting quality there is good amongst the leading chateaux.
- In the cellar, winemakers are even more selective with their fruit nowadays, producing fine second and occasional third labels. There is more emphasis on gentle extraction, controlled ferments, subtle use of new oak, silky tannins, moderate alcohols and acid balance.
The red production is generally down 10-20%, most noticeably on the left bank. Some Châteaux have factured this into their 2020 release prices.