Catch ‘22 !
Having just returned from three separate weeks of en primeur tastings in Bordeaux, we can confirm that the 2022 Bordeaux vintage is a truly excellent one. The best since 2016 (although warmer and richer than that) and equal, if not superior, to the stellar pair of 2009 and 2010.
It was a very hot year indeed, as it was across Europe, and yet the wines display remarkable freshness.
According to all the winemakers we interviewed this was due to a number of factors, or a different combination of them.
Firstly the heat arrived early and gradually – it was a warm spring, unlike in other hot years like 2015 and 2018. The vines seemed better prepared. A warm Spring can cause more leaf growth, better for shade, but with smaller pores, which slows down photosynthesis and causes an even and slower ripening of the fruit. Despite the warm early spring, there was very little damage caused by frost, which can often be a disaster in April following an early budding.
It was a dry growing season and summer but a wet June. Water is essential of course, but if it falls at the wrong time, it can make little difference, or even cause problems of mildew and so on. If it falls at the right times for the vines to store reserves in their roots and in the subsoil, then even low average rainfall can be more than enough. Plenty of rain in late June could not be more to plan if the producers had been able to request it. Additionally, some lesser rain fell at the end of August, ideal for the whites and the early-ripening Merlot, and in mid-September which refreshed the later ripening Cabernet crops. Again, this was perfect timing.
Although the days were very hot (not as hot as the peaks of 2019 however), the nights were cool. Sometimes as much as 20°C cooler than the heat of the day. This allowed the vines to rest and slow down overnight, and is not a normal feature of ‘heatwave’ years like the well-remembered 2003.
The soils of Bordeaux are well suited to hot conditions. Clay, which retains cool water, is very beneficial to vine roots. This was of special importance for the Merlots in appellations like St Emilion and Pomerol in Bordeaux’s ‘Right Bank’. Limestone, the other major soil type of Bordeaux, is particularly good at preserving acidity in the grapes that grow on it. This helped give the Cabernet wines of the Médoc and Graves appellations, on the ‘Left Bank’, a degree of freshness that the summer heat suggested was unlikely. Influential critic Jancis Robinson MW explains in more detail.
In recent years, Bordeaux has turned increasingly to sustainable, organic and even biodynamic grape-growing. This involves ‘cover crops’. Alternative plants (cereals, legumes, and flowers) put back into the soil what the vine takes out. However, they root shallowly, so they do not compete for the water. Rather, by providing shade and protection, they keep the ground cooler than it would otherwise be. Although perhaps not their original purpose, this side-effect has helped control the heat in 2022.
Lastly, the winemakers are better equipped, in terms of resources and experience, to deal with today’s conditions and the fruit they produce. From simply picking earlier, to fermenting cooler and pressing (called extraction) less to limit bitterness from tannin, the professionalism in the winery this year has helped the winemakers create the best possible wines from their concentrated and perfectly healthy grapes.
These factors, in combination, have resulted in some truly fabulous wines with huge potential for investment and drinking reward. You can read the advanced reviews and scores of top critics here, and here.
As the En Primeur campaign gathers pace with the release of prices from Châteaux at all levels – Bordeaux to Cru Classé to Grand Cru Classé – on a daily basis from now on, we at Vindome are best placed to make the initial selections for you. We will negotiate the best prices with the producers and brokers. We will offer our expert guidance on what will be the best wines for your portfolio, at all price levels, or for short or long term holding. Watch this space, and stay in touch for the best offers as they are released. This will be a vintage that will surely go down in history, make sure that you do not miss out!