The 2022 vintage may only just have made it into the winery, but it’s already one for the record books. “Unique”, “historic”, “completely new”, “extreme” – the growing season brought never-before-seen conditions to Bordeaux. And producers are clearly excited about the potential of the year.
Pierre-Olivier Clouet (Technical Director at Ch. Cheval Blanc) explained how the region had experienced dry periods before – pointing to 1976 as an example –but never before had they seen practically no rain from budbreak to harvest. This drought, combined with the heat (with four heatwaves bringing temperatures of up to 40˚C), was remarkable and made for unprecedented circumstances. He believes that the consistent dryness was key, with the vines having to self-ration from the start of the season to survive. Indeed, the winter was relatively dry, with 200 rather than the normal 400mm.
At Ch. Margaux, Bascaules noted that younger vines (those under 10 or 15 years old) suffered most – not having the deep roots of more mature plantings. At Cheval Blanc, they noted that it was especially those younger vines on less water-retentive gravel and sandy soils that struggled. With the high temperatures, some producers reported vines shutting down, while others said it wasn’t an issue.
With the hot, dry conditions the crop was small – with tiny, thick-skinned berries. Pouthier at Carmes highlighted just how small they were – with Merlot around 1g versus 1.3-1.4 normally, while Cabernet came in at 0.-0.9g versus the normal 1.2. Carmes’s yields were down about 20%, at around 35hl/ha on average. At Cheval Blanc, they managed 30hl/ha – the same level as 2021, while at Ch. Margaux it was one of the smallest crops for a long time, with a measly 25hl/ha on average (less than 2021, 2020, 2019 or 2018). Yields tended to be more generous on plots with clay subsoils, although Durantou Reilhac found that their vines in Pomerol and Lalande-de-Pomerol suffered more than those in Saint-Emilion and Castillon, with their volumes reduced by at least a third.
Spoke to Fabien from SHL whilst at Cathiard a few weeks ago. He told me best vintage of SHL in 10+ years. I will wait for @William_Kelley before buying , remember the best vintage is the vintage they are currently selling
I tasted a few wines informally before and just after assemblage (my formal EP tastings don’t start until mid-April, I hasten to add) and there are certainly going to be some very exciting wines. I’m also a little afraid about pricing. Looking at the pricing of 2009 1st growths EP vs today (they are all cheaper) was sobering in that regard.
So long as the negociants are “forced” to buy at whatever price the château releases, or lose allocations, pricing will stay incredibly high. There is no real incentive for the top estates to price at realistic levels, because they know the trade is stuck with the wines, and the chateaux have their money.
This will change now as interest rates rise, and holding wines for years becomes a far more significant expense.
Odd to hear that record drought and heat can produce a super high quality vintage. I guess many people did and still do love 2003. This vintage, on its face, sounds worse. Same heat but no rain. The 2003 vintage did get rain in September. And even still, Pomerol was wasted and really only Northern Medoc was worth a peek. Southern Rhone was horrid.
I remember the blind tasting of Bordeaux vintage 2003 with the GJE. This was a rollercoaster. Everything could be found. From superb wines such as Chateau Ausone (amongst the wines of the vintage IMO) to those with very unripe and bitter tannins. After some of these wines I needed tons of water and bread to resolve the bitter tannins from my tongue. This was the main problem and not overripeness or too much alcohol.
Perhaps, but color me skeptical. Anytime I see words like “extreme” and the other superlatives tossed around, I think these are exactly the vintages that I never like. :-). And the beauty is at this point in my life I have no need to buy futures, I can try everything in the bottle.
We tasted around 30 2003s blind last week and I was positively surprised by the quality. While my average rating is lower than with previous horizontals (2000, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), I expected to taste more too ripe or hot wines. There were many decent wines on the left bank. We tasted only a few right banks and no one showed really good. As Jurgen points out above, the unripe, bitter tannins were (to my surprise) the bigger problem than too much ripeness (I guess some wineries were afraid of cooked fruit and harvested too early).
I tasted a few lots of 2022 late last year, and WOW! That being said, this is probably not a vintage for you. But I Fking loved what I tasted. I am counting down the days until I get going. With 112 visits lined up, I am amped and ready to get started.
FWIW, 2022 has nothing in common with 2003, nor does any other vintage.
I like you think that there is a massive difference between vintages like 2003 vs. what is happening now. I think there is even a huge difference between what happens in a year like 2021 vs. vintages like 2013. I think vintages are less about quality (since everyone seems to be pushing that envelope, no matter what Mother Nature decides) and more about what character the vintage imparts into the bottle. The vintage has more of a story to tell than whether or not the year was good.