News - RareWine Academy - 1. October 2020

Harvest Report: What To Expect From The 2020 Vintage Wines

For most of the greatest and most reputable wineries, this year's harvest is done.
How has the harvest gone and what to expect from the wines from 2020? Get the answer here.

What To Expect From Vintage 2020?

Crucial decisions must be taken by the winemaker during the harvest. Decisions that contribute to determining the quality of the final wine. It is a time of anxiety but also happiness. Watching the grapes arrive at the winery brings joy and excitement. Below you can have a sneak-peek at the 2020 harvest so far in some of the primary wine areas in the northern hemisphere.

In most places, the harvest is over, but few are still working hard to get the last grapes in. As an outsider, it is still too early to comment on the quality, but the winemakers now have an idea. As a rule of thumb, they will always stay positive for as long as possible, and with good reason. In the southern hemisphere, the harvest ended about 6 months ago and most wineries report on a good harvest, here among Australia.

Champagne: Quality Instead Of Quantity

In the Champagne-region they have chosen to cut back on their yields this season, but the grapes are reported to be of high quality. It will be interesting to follow how the reduced volume affects prices. The heat during the growing season also played a huge part here, yet it is too early to predict the quality. The only thing that is clear at this time is the fact that especially Pinot Noir looks particularly interesting this season. This might be a vintage where the Pinot Noir dominated wines will stand strong.

The beginning of the spring provided optimal conditions and the flowering benefitted from high temperatures. The harvest started at the end of August, and in many places, there were only 85 days from flowering to harvest, which is a decrease of the growing season compared to the good old days when the rule of thumb said 100 days. The hot summer with mild rain provided really beautiful grapes in most villages.

Burgundy: Problems And Potential Go Hand In Hand

In Burgundy, the harvest is over for most farmers. It has been a year with a lot of heat both in July and August. A huge problem this year has been leaf-thinning and canopy management. Those who have not paid enough attention to the leaf-thinning experienced problems with sunburned grapes.

In Cote d’Or, it is especially the heat that has been tricky this season. First and foremost, some grapes have been burned by the sun resulting in raisins that the critical winegrower will not want in the cellar. Secondly, too much sun for a longer period caused stress among the vines and thus shut down the ripening. The result is grapes that look ripe but are still not ripe in taste. On the other hand, the most critical winegrowers report of really good grapes in the winery. Producers up north in Chablis are also reporting a satisfactory harvest.

Bordeaux: Warmest Summer Since 1959

In Bordeaux, the heat resulted in early flowering. Also, this led to an early harvest after a very hot summer. As a starting point, there is great maturity in the grapes, and one can expect a more opulent vintage than in the last few years.

The summer this year has been the warmest since 1959, yet the rain has fallen at the right times during the growing season. The harvest took place two weeks before the norm and will yield grapes with high potential alcohol and the lowest acidity since the 2003 vintage. As they say in Bordeaux: "It has been a good and extreme growing season which hopefully also produces great wines".

Piedmont: Promising Harvest

Piedmont reports of healthy Barbera grapes and other of the early ripening varieties. Nebbiolo still hangs on the vines and collects concentration as well as sugar to mature. One of the absolute last places to harvest is Barolo. Judging by how the season has been, it may indicate another excellent vintage for Barolo and Barbaresco.

If the temperature continues to stay warm, and the winegrowers are spared rain in larger quantities, then we can look forward to a really good vintage for especially the Nebbiolo grapes.

Tuscany: Ripe Grapes And Patience

Tuscany, especially Brunello di Montalcino, has also registered beautiful ripe grapes. The harvest took place at the end of September, so there has been good ripeness and flavor intensity in the grapes. As always, we must arm ourselves with five years of patience before the wines come on the market, and the truth about this year's vintage sees the light of day. In the Chianti Classico and Bolgheri, we hear the same; good ripe grapes and a promising vintage.

Napa Valley: Harvest Overshadowed By Wild Fires

The autumn of 2020 is these days unfortunately overshadowed by the disaster in Napa Valley, where wildfires are ravaging large areas. The fires we have seen in Northern California in recent years have this year come even closer to the best wine regions in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. The first producers with vineyards where all the fruit has been lost have already been announced.

Others experience problems from smoke that has settled on the grapes and cause smoky aromas in the wine. There may be an opportunity for some producers who have harvested before the first smoke flags appeared. They may, with a little luck, end up sending good wine to the market.

Germany: No More Eiswein?

In Germany, the first levels of Riesling grapes have been harvested. Grapes for Kabinett and Spätlese looks good. Even the first Beerenauslese-grapes has been harvested in Mosel and looks good and clean.

On the other hand, Eiswein was something that once happened, and you can wonder how many winemakers dare to leave their grapes hanging until December or January waiting for minus 7 degrees? For the red wines, Spätburgunder looks particularly good, especially in Ahr and Pfalz.

Portugal: Potential For A Vintage Port?

Port wine is produced in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, where temperatures are always warm, and the real question is whether the grapes go to a Vintage Port or a barrel-aged Tawny version? This year has seen plenty of heat and sunshine, which adds to high levels of tannin.

At the same time, more water would have been desirable as some vines have been stressed and maturation stopped. The grapes have been picked at a high maturity level and most producers are very happy with what they have in the cellar.

All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

It is said that good wine is made in the vineyard, so now that the grapes have arrived in the cellar, it is up to the winemakers to take care of the noble ingredients. Overall, 2020 has been a difficult vintage for winemakers, with Covid-19 restrictions all over the world. In addition, most of the northern hemisphere has had an early flowering, followed by a hot summer. Most have harvested relatively early and already talk of good concentration and high alcohol.

2020 seems to follow nicely in the heels of other 0-vintages, 1990, 2000, 2010, which also offered really enjoyable wines with good concentration. As wine lovers, we can only sit back and wait for how the wines will present themselves when we see them in a few years.

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