The 2020 harvest has begun, and while the development of the crop was good for a long period, the recent combination of heat and drought is causing problems for many vignerons.
The harvest is a bit earlier than first anticipated. Many will start around August 22, but others, especially in the Cote de Beaune, will have started before then (see photo below from Jean-Michel Chartron, harvesting his rare red Puligny on August 14).
Currently, the sun is really taking a toll, and the drought is perhaps even a worse problem: some grapes are sun-burning on one side of the vine while at the same time the grapes on the other side are drying out from water stress. There is no real rain expected, and waiting will just increase the alcohol and reduce acidity levels.
Phenolic ripeness will be the key
The main issue is not reaching sugar maturity, but rather obtaining phenolic ripeness. That process has clearly shut down in some areas due to lack of water in combination with the heat.
The variation in ripeness is wide in some areas, with fruit development occasionally blocked even before veraison (color change). This Aug 14 photo from the Cote de Nuits illustrates this phenomenon, and demonstrates the two or even three weeks of differential between ripeness levels in the same row.
Higher yields will increase these problems, but variation in phenolic ripeness could indeed be a serious problem for many growers.
The symptoms of poor phenolic ripeness are unripe tannins and, as a consequence, a lack of depth and energy in the mid-palate fruit, which is a key element of the generous, hedonistic charm of a true vin d’émotion.
We are hoping for some rain…