The 2020 Bordeaux harvest, much like 2020 itself, was subject to a bit of chaos. The harvest itself arrived earlier than expected and weathered everything from March frosts and thunderstorms to heat spells and long droughts. Vintners adapted on the fly to integrate COVID-19 precautions and testing procedures into their everyday operations.
And yet, at the end of the day, the 2020 Bordeaux harvest report is a hopeful one. The wines are expected to be high quality, if somewhat variable—a happy surprise for winemakers and wine collectors alike.
Factors That Affected the Bordeaux Harvest in 2020
Prior to vinification, a wide variety of factors can affect the quality of the wines produced in any given year. In 2020, the most significant of these factors were:
Let’s take a closer look at the role each of these played in this year’s harvest.
Crops flowered early in May, which led to an early harvest in September. This turned out to be an unexpected stroke of luck; the grapes were picked just before a bout of heavy precipitation in October.
Despite frosts in late March, 2020 was a warm year, with winter and spring temperatures two to three degrees above average and dry heat waves in the summer and fall. Somewhat cooler nights at the end of August and early September proved helpful in harvesting both dry white varieties and maturing reds, but the hot spell that followed resulted in many less juicy grapes.
High temperatures were punctuated in May, June, and August with heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. The precipitation was welcome in most vineyards, though an unlucky few were subject to hail. Despite not one but two significant droughts, the 2020 harvest saw the highest volume of rainfall from March to September recorded in the past 10 years.
Of course, the combination of warm weather and high humidity threatened crops with downy mildew. Those vineyards that treated their grapes in early spring tended to fare well, but many others lost significant percentages of their crops to mildew.
Growing season began almost simultaneously with lockdown procedures, posing unprecedented challenges to winemakers across the region. Masks and face shields became compulsory; social distancing was mandatory as well. Constantly pausing to disinfect hands and various tools slowed certain processes considerably.
And yet, most vintners found ways to persevere through the pandemic. Some even learned to thrive.
2020 Bordeaux Vintages: First Impressions
Fluctuations in environmental conditions, combined with losses due to downy mildew, hail, and various production challenges posed by the pandemic, all resulted in lower than usual output. In fact, the 2020 harvest was one of the lowest-yielding vintages of the past 10 years.
And yet, despite the chaos and the losses, the 2020 vintage is expected to do well, with wines likely to be highly concentrated and age-worthy. Wines from the Pessac-Léognan and Saint Julien, where precipitation wasn’t quite so heavy, are projected to perform best of all. Pomerol wines also seem particularly promising, with several scoring spots on Saturnalia’s list of top 2020 vintages:
|Château Mission Haut Brion||Pessac-Léognan||97.7|
|Château Vieux Château Certan||Pomerol||97.3|
|Château Eglise Clinet||Pomerol||96.9|
In addition to Château Haut Brion, which is included in the list above, other First Growth classics from Château Margaux, Château Lafite Rothschild, and Château Mouton Rothschild are likely to perform well too, even if they are not among Saturnalia’s projected favorites. (Château Latour will be more difficult to predict, as they no longer release en primeur wines.)
The 2020 and 2019 harvests saw some similarities through their growing periods, including mild, wet springs and hot, dry summers and harvest seasons. However, the harvest was earlier this year, and the yield is about 10 percent lower. As for the quality, the châteaux are hopeful this vintage will at least match, if not exceed, that of 2019.
What the 2020 Bordeaux Harvest Report Means for Investors
While it’s too early to tell exactly how well these wines will perform in the long run, this initial 2020 Bordeaux harvest report looks promising for investors. The heady combination of high (projected) quality and low yield means that the best 2020 wines are likely to appreciate nicely as they mature and become more difficult to procure.
As such, buying en primeur wines directly from established châteaux may present an ideal strategy for those wines you are most interested in adding to your portfolio. Wines from Pessac-Léognan, Saint Julien, and Pomerol may be a good place to start, as these regions saw less negative impact from the year’s many challenges. Be sure to also look at terroir before purchasing any wines from a given region. As we mentioned earlier, terroir played a crucial role in determining the quality of 2020 vintages.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.