2020 Burgundy En Primeur Red Wines

Where 2019 had charm, 2018 had expanse, 2020 is a very serious animal. It is best described as a year of structure and concentration as the warm weather bought the inevitable tannic structure, but slightly perversely a generally lower acidity. Combined with the sheer intensity of the fruit (dry extract is high, owing to the low moisture levels and yields), it's easy to see why these are wines for the cellar.

It's difficult at first to understand how this vintage, which some initially believed would be comparable to 2003, has produced wine which is so far from the style of the 2003s. It does, however, become a lot clearer when you consider a few crucial factors.

First is the length of the growing season. You will probably have heard, read or seen that many producers picked historically early, a great deal in mid or late August. However, what isn't quite so well documented is that the season itself also began very early - a warm April bringing the vines into their stride. This means that the actual development time was not far out of the average.

Rain also played its role. Precipitation in April and May were not far shy of the average, with June actually producing more rainfall than usual, filling the reserves for the vines to draw upon across the warmer months. Although August did have temperature spikes (nearly hitting 40 degrees), June and July were 2 degrees cooler than 2019.

Grapes, due to the warm weather, were generally very healthy and rot free, although yields were dramatically reduced by the lack of moisture (Christophe Perrot-Minot said it took nearly 50kg more fruit to fill a barrel) and the need to remove by sorting grapes any which had succumbed to the heat and shrivelled. Generally vignerons were given more time to do this as Covid allowed a reprieve from visiting tourists and being hassled by their importers.

For the most part alcohol levels are very moderate, with many in the mid 13s and the wines can be best described as athletic. Powerful, sculpted and carrying little excess fat. We expect they will delight in years to come. There are exceptions, where phenolic ripeness has been prized above fears of the outcome in terms of potential alcohol, and there are some very big and bold wines that were harvested in September. These wines have a different character, often aromatically more Rhône-like than their peers, but they still have the freshness of the vintage which comes from the tannic structure more than from acidity.


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