While 2019 is mentioned as the best year in history by some, the word on 2020 is not yet so unambiguous. Yet while it is early, views and preferences are starting to be formed.
As an old man – 55 – I have seen a lot, and announcing a vintage as the best ever is not going to turn my head. I know, there are strong arguments for the 2019 candidacy – the vivid freshness, tremendous complexity, delicacy, and energy that are close to unrivalled.
That said, the alcohol level is on the high side in many wines, sometimes helping balance their weight. But when push comes to shove, 2019 is nevertheless one of the very greatest vintages I have experienced if – and there is an if – one is willing to accept and enjoy the hedonistic, sweet, and charming decadence of the ’19 wines. Are you ready to be seduced? To be decadent? Or are you stuck in the classical Burgundy rut?
Are the 2019s classic Burgundies? Not really. But am I sometimes seduced beyond belief? Yes; without a shadow of a doubt.
Enjoy and feast like there is no tomorrow!
That was a long introduction, but I think we need to be able appoach 2019 and 2020 side by side – not on the table necessarily, but in our minds at least.
Setting the scene for 2020
During my weeks in Burgundy, I have tasted quite a few 2020s. It is still early days to take the temperature of the vintage, so to speak, but it allowed me to get the nature of the vintage and its main structural components in place.
I have sampled most of the range with Thibault Morey (Domaine Morey-Coffinet), P-O Garcia (Domaine Moron-Garcia), and several wines at Domaine Comte Liger-Belair with Louis-Michel Liger-Belair.
And of course quite a few other wines along the route, just to feel the juice so to speak and the vibe in the cellar.
The 2020 reds are – in my view – a cooler and more classic breed than the ’19s, although to call it cool or classic in the historical scheme of things is doubtful. But in the context of global warming scheme it is a cooler vintage, despite the summer drought and heat almost sending the vintage up in flames. The yields are in some places dramatically low – approaching 10 to 15 hl/ha – so expect to fight for the precious bottles.
Cool? The wines feel cooler and more classically structured than the 2019s – the acidity is presumably higher – and the low yields give the wines a more substantial feel. Perhaps a bit more serious? Perhaps a little more regal than the summery display of sensuality shown by the 2019s? Perhaps.
Many vignerons are seeing reminders of the 2010 vintage, one of my all-time favourites. But in the reality 2020 is a hotter vintage – a hot 2010 – not I’m not really sure I can conceptualize this comparison. It’s possible some 2010 elements – a fruity generosity – can come from the hotter conditions.
It’s presumably more succulent in the fruit, with some growers suggesting a hint of 2012 – but let’s wait and see.
Bottom line: the 2020 wines have quite effortless, cooler feel, with a strongly founded impression of fruit, structure, and complexity creating some contrast to the sensual and temperamental 2019s with all their charming vivacity and slightly elusive acetates.
A new vintage of the century?
To me this is not the question, just as a 95-point rating does not necessarily make me want to drink a glass of wine if the expression of the 89-pointer is the perfect match for my supposedly biased palate.
The question is: Do you like the wines with a cooler expression? Or do you prefer the hedonistic and sensual 2019s.
I like both, but several growers seem to prefer the 2020s just now, hence underlining the assertion that this is a very good vintage.
Tasting wines at Comte Liger-Belair, P-O Garcia and Thibault Morey made me somehow and sometimes doubt my preference. But that is always good thing.
The somewhat sturdier wines of 2020 are most certainly very exciting in their apparent coolness. Will this remain during elevage and bottling? Time will tell.
At this early point, my nod goes to the 2019 reds – and the 2020 whites presumably. But it is very, very early.
Feisty brunette or cool blonde? As always, The Winehog will settle for a lighter lunch!