Last week, some of the MWH Wine team attended the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in London.  As one of the UK's leading Bordeaux wine merchants, we feel it's essential to see what the soon-to-be-released vintage holds and to gain some insight into what the latest vintage, 2022, holds. 

This year's tasting proved fruitful on both counts, and in this latest blog from MWH Wine, the home of affordable fine wine, we'll reflect on the joys of 2020, look ahead to what the 'unique' 2022s may offer, and how Bordeaux's wines are changing.

Bordeaux 2020: A Class Act?

We knew in advance that the 2020 Bordeaux was good.  Following the en-primeur tastings in April 2021, critics and wine merchants were united in their praise for another successful year.   The growing season was one of extremes, with plenty of warm weather, drought, heat stress, and thunderstorms meant that while some areas saw more precipitation than in the sodden 2013, others saw grapes wither on the vine.

This rollercoaster ride had the effect of reducing yields significantly.  Yields were down 10% on 2019, and in gravel-rich areas such as the southern Medoc and Graves, they were down as much as 25%.  As is so often the case with wine, lower yields often mean higher quality, and as our tasting overview shows, there was no shortage of quality on show.

What Do The 2020 Bordeaux Wines Taste Like?

It's obviously hard to generalise when talking about wines from across many appellations in what was at times a testing vintage.  That said, from the 70 or so wines we tasted we've concluded that:

  • Red Bordeaux 2020 – the wines are deeply coloured, and well-structured, with good extract and fruit. The wines of Pomerol, St. Emilion, and the richer soiled communes of the left bank – Saint Estephe in particular – performed best.  The wines are noticeably less refined than the 2019s, less fresh, but at this stage, more seductive.
  • Dry white Bordeaux 2020 – these varied wildly in style. Some were so closed they were barely discernible as wines – getting the Pape Clement Blanc to anything took about 5 minutes of swirling – while others exploded from the glass in a waxy, jubilant fashion.  The wines are good, some will be very good indeed, but producer selection will be key.
  • Sweet white Bordeaux– the weather played havoc with the region – especially the rain. Coutet told us they needed sixty-nine tries (picking attempts) to get the harvest in.  The quantities were small, and the wines were unusually luscious, intense, and often very sweet.  De Fargues reminded us of the decadent 2007.  These will give much pleasure in the short-medium term, but we do wonder if they have the acidity to make great old bones.

Overall, we enjoyed the wines immensely, and the stars for us were:

  • Lynch Bages – the consistency of this growth never fails to astound. The 2020 is within an ace of being as good as the profound 2019 
  • Valandraud – exploded from the glass with a gorgeous mix of fragrance, black fruits, and spices. Will be extraordinary 
  • Leoville Poyferre –celebrating its centenary of ownership, the one-off label (picture above) is enough to make you want to buy this wine, but the contents were extraordinary. Rich, powerful, and wonderfully concentrated, this is one of the all-time great Poyferre's
  • Talbot –we love this property, but recent showings have been a little hit-and-miss. This was brilliant.  A Talbot that demonstrates the generosity, suppleness, and easy-going charm that makes this such an appealing wine
  • Clinet– another wine demonstrating how well the right bank performed in 2020. Generous quantities of black fruits, chocolate, cherries, oriental spices, and smoke overlay a fine structure
  • Domaine de Chevalier (Blanc) – lovely rich peach, apricot, and marzipan tones, fine acidity, and a greater generosity than the 2019 at this stage, this will make for lovely drinking in 3-5 years
  • Pape Clement (both)– it's always a privilege to taste Pape Clement. The blanc took real effort to tease the bouquet out, the wine being resiliently dumb and closed.  Eventually it offered up pears, apricots, citrus, vanilla, and lanolin.  The palate was both creamy and fresh and offered plenty of mineral-infused white-skinned berries.  The red was more supple than the 2019, and offered crème de cassis, chocolate, plums, herbs, and woodsmoke

2020 Bordeaux: 2001 Part 2?

While stylistically, the 2020s aren't similar to the 2001s – if we were pressed, we'd say the 2020s are closer to the 2008s – they may well supper the fate of the 2001s in being overshadowed and overlooked.  The vintage is small; the wines will be released at what promises to be a gloomy time for the world economy and sandwiched between vintages with higher profiles.  

The buzz at the 2019 tasting last year was quite something.  The room was packed, and rave (slightly hysterical, in my opinion) reviews heralded the 'best vintage since 1982'.  Wednesday's tasting was moderately well-attended – the threat of train disruption didn't help – and there was an air of satisfaction rather than excitement about the wines.  Personally, I found them quite lovely, and the prices look (relatively) good.  What will probably decide their fate is the 2022s.

2022 Bordeaux: 'A Unique Challenge.  A Unique Opportunity'

As is customary at these events, I asked various châteaux for their thoughts on the latest vintage.  MWH Wines' founder, Mike Hall, was in Bordeaux in the late summer and came back full of enthusiasm for the prospects of 2022.  These were certainly echoed by the people we spoke to who spoke of a 'unique' vintage that was characterised by consistently high temperatures but with the ferocity of 2003.  The berries were small, the phenolic concentration levels off the charts, and the musts heavy but with good acidity.  

When asked which year it resembled, they were in unison in declaring it like 2022.  They have not seen anything like this before.  The winemaking challenge was high, and doubtless, some won't be up to the task, but for those that are, 2022 could produce something extraordinary.

The question for us is, is this the shape of things to come?  We know that climate change is affecting the wines of Bordeaux, and that new varieties that need less water have been authorised in response to it.  Pichon Comtesse said of the 2022s, that the vines survived by drawing on reserves from the water table, reserves that are now seriously depleted.  A dry winter and a hot 2023 could leave the region facing reduced yields, Californian-style wines, and even a loss of vineyards.

Pichon Comtesse 2020

What will happen?  Only time will tell, but things are changing.  At the moment, the effects are largely benign, at least regarding the quality of the vintages.  But, as Taittinger told us when we visited then in September, the rise in temperatures is fine so long as it stops now.  That could be somewhat of a more significant challenge.

Bordeaux 2020: Another Class Act?

The 2020 Bordeaux wines are very good, with some exceptional examples on show.  Small in quantity, and classic in style, it's probably a drinkers' rather than investors' vintage; these are wines that we shall look forward to drinking over the coming years.   As for climate change's effects on the region's wines, who can say what will happen?  All we know is that it might be wise to stock up on classic red Bordeaux while you can...

Like Some Fine Wine Help?

We hope you've found this blog to be of interest.  If you would like some wine advice, then please do get in touch by calling Mike on 0118 984 4654 or by emailing MWH Wines here.  A recognised authority on wine, he'll be happy to advise you on which wine is right for you.