Rod Smith Master of Wine Presents: 2020 En Primeur

Rod Smith of Riviera Wine Academy introduces 2020 En Primeur – The story so far

I am now about 50 wines into my tastings for the Bordeaux 2020 En Primeur campaign. These are samples that were sent to me by properties which will not – for social distancing reasons – be receiving guests during the Primeurs Week itself (now more than a week!). The good news is that this is promising to be a great vintage, apparently he best since 2016, and with a freshness that recent years have lacked, especially for Merlot, making these wines more likely to live for the long term, and therefore very good investments.

I travel to Bordeaux on Sunday and begin tasting at the properties and in earnest on Wednesday, and I will report regularly as my tastings progress.

The less good news is that I will be travelling to a region, as all of France (and most of Europe) that was badly hit by a devastating frost last week, and with the threat of another to come. This happened after two weeks of atypically warm weather which had provoked the vines into their life-cycle and the frost therefore had more, and more advanced, growth to kill. And so it did. Losses across the region, with very few places untouched, and some as much as 80-100% gone. The exact level of the damage is not yet completely assessable. Unfortunately, even though the plants will try to shoot again, the new shoots are almost always sterile (no flowers and hence no fruit). Even if they regrow successfully the fruit will take longer to ripen leading to unevenness.

This will not be a matter of quality – it is still obviously far too early to assess even the potential. In fact, some of the greatest vintages in history have been badly frost-hit (1961 for example), and perversely by lowering yields it may even increase quality. But the certainty is that it will have a dramatic impact on quantity. With this in mind, and given the seemingly stellar quality of the 2020 wines, it seems like a good idea for the investor and wine-lover to plan to stock up on the wines as they are released this year. You may, quite literally, not have the chance this time next year!

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