Last month, our team spent a whistle-stop week in Burgundy sampling the 2020 vintage. Here we break down the vintage by producer, from north to south, with a summary of how each fared and our favourite wine from the tasting table
Domaine Charles Audoin (Marsannay)
Cyril Audoin was very happy when we visited him, the cellar busy with the hum of post-harvest activity. The 2020 vintage was “good – very good” but left him with lower yields than he’d like, at 25hl/ha (versus a normal 40-45hl/ha). That said, having only managed to get 15hl/ha in 2021, 2020 is looking better than it otherwise would. While he normally uses a portion of whole-bunch, he hasn’t in 2019, ’20 or ’21 – feeling that the stems weren’t ripe enough, especially in the short, hot 2020 season. For him, the key qualities of the 2020 vintage are its freshness and energy – something that shines through in a range of stunningly vibrant wines, with wonderful pristine fruit and perfume. He’s one of a group of producers proving that Marsannay is capable of producing very serious wines.
2020 Marsannay, Les Favières, Domaine Charles Audoin
Domaine Fourrier + Jean-Marie Fourrier (Gevrey-Chambertin)
Jean-Marie Fourrier considers 2020 as the child of 2016 and 2015. He slightly prefers 2019 as a vintage, but loves the straight acidity and density of 2020, which he thinks is “remarkable”. He suffered badly when it came to yields, with 50-60% less than normal across the domaine – entirely due to the dry conditions from June until harvest. The team only picked in the mornings to keep the fruit cool and preserve freshness, chilling any that came in later overnight. Given the high skin-to-juice ratio, they also decided to add 20% stems to the tanks this year, to absorb colour and tannin, and give a sense of freshness. The wines are ripe and rich expressions of the year, yet still with a backbone of acidity. The structure and concentration here foretells a long life in the cellar.
2020 Mazoyères-Chambertin, Vieille Vigne, Grand Cru, Jean-Marie Fourrier
Domaine Tortochot (Gevrey-Chambertin)
Domaine Tortochot produces very pretty, elegant, perfumed Pinot Noir and remains a good-value option in Gevrey-Chambertin. Yields were down 60% in 2020, with the Grands Crus worst affected by the summer drought, producing very small berries with little juice, but the crop was healthy with no frost or hail damage. There’s great consistency throughout the range this year, with lower alcohol levels compared to 2019. The wines carry the distinct personality of the domaine – moderate in body and concentration, with very elegant tannins. The 2020s, however, show a particularly long finish and lovely clarity of fruit – a step up from the 2019, 2018 or 2017s here. The wines typically sit in the red fruit spectrum, but in 2020 the range of flavours was broader, adding complexity. It’s an excellent set of wines from the domaine – and the best we have tasted from them.
2020 Mazis-Chambertin, Grand Cru, Domaine Tortochot
Domaine Duroché (Gevrey-Chambertin)
Since Pierre Duroché took over the estate in 2009, it has fast become one of the most consistent and impressive domaines in Gevrey-Chambertin. For Duroché, 2020 was “quite an easy vintage”. Yields were low, but they always are here due to the high percentage of old vines. Harvest began on 19th August. The berries were so small and concentrated that the wines have greater density on the palate than any other vintage he’s seen, but fortunately this was matched with good acidity levels. The resulting wines show exceptional balance and purity of fruit, with alcohol levels between 12.5 and 13.5%. The consistency is incredible. From the village Gevrey-Chambertin through to the Grands Crus, these are faultless examples of each terroir. The clarity of fruit, concentration, freshness, textural finesse and mineral salinity is of the highest quality. Every wine is distinct with great terroir transparency, while the top examples have great energy too.
2020 Gevrey-Chambertin, Premier Cru, Lavaut Saint-Jacques, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Duroché
Pierre Duroché in the cellar, talking through his 2020 wines
Domaine Henri & Philippe Jouan (Morey-Saint-Denis)
Sadly the wines at Jouan were still going through malolactic fermentation so we haven’t been able to taste them yet, however Philippe was as welcoming as ever. For him the vintage was “compliqué”, but produced balanced and fresh wines, even though the alcohols are perhaps a little higher than normal. He started picking on 5th September and yields are down around 30%. This drop he attributes to bad flowering, as well as water stress over the summer, however his old vines (averaging between 70 and 80 years in age) stood him in good stead. On paper, the vintage looks similar to 2008, however he feels that the style of the wines is closer to riper, warmer years such as 2003.
Domaine Gérard Raphet (Morey-Saint-Denis)
Raphet is an understated estate, blessed with a few exceptional parcels - most notably their old-vine Clos Vougeot and Clos de Bèze Grands Crus – that are fantastic value. Yields were 30-40% down in 2020 due to the summer drought, the Grands Crus mostly affected because of the poor soils. Winemaker Marion Raphet is very happy with the quality of the wines. They started picking on 28th August. Despite being a very sunny vintage, she feels the vines adapted well, making her job in the winery much easier than in 2019 or ’18. The alcohol levels are lower, and the 2020s are a definite step up from the 2018s, with a couple of really excellent wines. Look out for the Premier Cru Les Millandes (Morey-Saint-Denis), as well as the Clos Vougeot Vieilles Vignes and Clos de Bèze, which were particularly impressive.
2020 Clos de Vougeot, Vieilles Vignes, Grand Cru, Domaine Gérard Raphet
Domaine Georges Lignier (Morey-Saint-Denis)
Benoît Stehly is one of the region’s most erudite and thoughtful vignerons, completely engaged in getting the best from his vines. With his large holdings of Grand Cru Clos Saint-Denis (two separate plots) he makes one of the best-value Grands Crus in the Côte. The wines always have an emphasis on freshness, but the natural concentration of the vintage really suits them, adding more flesh, while remaining very acid-driven. Yields were badly affected at the domaine due to the summer drought, with the crop almost halved in the Grands Crus of Clos-Saint-Denis, Clos de la Roche and Bonnes-Mares due to sunburn. What did remain is excellent quality and, while Stehly believes 2019 to be the vintage of his career, 2020 is very close in quality. In 2020 Stehly introduced 25-30% whole-bunch to the fermentation as the stems were completely ripe and lignified, adding complexity to the palate.
2020 Clos-Saint-Denis, Grand Cru, Domaine Georges Lignier
The line-up at Domaine Georges Lignier in Morey-Saint-Denis
Domaine des Lambrays (Morey-Saint-Denis)
Domaine des Lambrays converted to biodynamic farming in 2020 and this, along with some coulure during flowering (producing only very small berries) saw production down to just 15hl/ha. Their goal is to be closer to 30. The quality in 2020, however, is exceptional. With three quarters of the vines dating back to 1898-1935, these pre-clonal vines have adapted very well to the warming climate. Also, quite unusually, Clos des Lambrays’ vines are planted across the slope, rather than running top to bottom. Initially a decision made in 1898 to prevent erosion, it is another advantage in a warming climate. The grapes are protected from sunburn by the neighbouring row between 12 noon and 3pm, when the grapes are at greatest risk from the midday glare. Winemaker Jacques Devauges believes the 2020 is denser and richer than 2019, but with greater balance and surprising freshness that is still very Burgundian. The wine always has a smooth, delicate, elegant character that has not been lost in the power of the vintage.
2020 Clos des Lambrays, Grand Cru, Domaine des Lambrays
Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat (Vosne-Romanée)
Charles van Canneyt always looks as smart as his cellar – both spotlessly clean and polished. His 2020s don’t disappoint – it feels very much like a vintage that is aligned with his elegant touch. The wines are fresh and concentrated, yet with the enchanting transparency that only the finest Pinot Noir is capable of. Van Canneyt is justifiably pleased with the quality, feeling it is more classic than 2018 or ’19. The challenge was to keep acidity and manage extraction gently – all done effortlessly here. Yields, unfortunately, are the issue – with a reduction of up to 40% across the range due to millerandage and coulure, as well as the water stress. He felt it was better to wait until after the late August rain for his reds, picking from 30th of the month. It was also the first year the domaine was fully organic.
2020 Chambolle-Musigny, Premier Cru, Les Charmes, Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat
Domaine Georges Noëllat (Vosne-Romanée)
Under the guidance of Maxime Cheurlin (Georges Noëllat’s grandson) since 2010, Domaine Georges Noëllat is now one of the top producers in Vosne-Romanée. Cheurlin produces beautifully elegant Pinot Noir from top sites throughout Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-Saint-Georges and beyond. According to Cheurlin, his 2020s are the greatest wines he has ever made. Slightly critical of 2019’s high levels of maturity and alcohol levels, he believes his 2020s have more freshness, vibration, seduction and finesse. “It is more Pinot Noir and is exactly the style I want to drink,” says Cheurlin, with a smile. He picked later than most (starting on 8th September). Cheurlin believes it was was key to wait, as the rain on 28th August really helped the grapes reach phenolic maturity. Yields were just below average (21-23hl/ha). Due to the natural concentration of the vintage he used the vinification to make the wines thinner, lowering fermentation temperatures and minimising any extraction of tannins. The results are outstanding – easily the best wines we have ever tasted at the domaine.
2020 Vosne-Romanée, Premier Cru, Les Beaux Monts, Domaine Georges Noëllat
Domaine Lamarche (Vosne-Romanée)
A visit to Nicole Lamarche is always a treat. Not only does she produce some of Burgundy’s finest, most elegant wines (year in, year out), but she does so in style. Despite the warmth of 2020, she loves the finesse and elegance of the vintage. She didn’t thin the canopy, giving the fruit as much shade as possible, and alcohols here average a modest 13.5%. She also waited for the rain (often her friend, she notes), picking from 7th September and bringing everything in in eight days. The yields are 25% lower than normal, but it doesn’t bother her – nor should it when the wines she did make are so beautiful. It’s hard to pick a favourite in a line-up with such effortless finesse. As of 2021 she’ll be branching out with a few négociant bottlings to add to the range – with a village Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Côte de Nuits white and red in the cellar.
2020 La Grande Rue, Grand Cru, Domaine Lamarche
Nicole Lamarche produced an exceptional range of wines in Vosne-Romanée
Gros Frère & Sœur (Vosne-Romanée)
There’s been a notable shift at this modish Vosne cellar in recent years. While once the address was known for generous use of new oak, this has been reined in – so much so that in 2020 there were just 10 new barrels in the entire cellar. Vincent Gros felt it was important to wait for the late August rain, which gave the concentrated grapes a “vitesse incroyable” (incredibly vitality) when they brought them in from 3rd September. The resulting wines are taut, crunchy, red-berried expressions of the vintage with barely-there oak. They’re also expanding the range at the lower end – having added an entry-level Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (both classified as Vin de France).
2020 Vosne-Romanée, Gros Frère & Sœur
Domaine Faiveley (Nuits-Saint-Georges)
“Twenty-twenty is an extraordinary vintage in both white and red,” says Erwan Faiveley – but it’s a surprise, particularly with the reds. “The weather we had is very close to 2003 but the wines are very different. You would think they would be big, dry and tannic, but you don’t see the dryness in the wines, they are extremely generous.” Mercurey was the worst affected by the drought, having very little water-retaining clay in its soils, and yields were halved. Alcohols remain reasonable in 2020 – 13.8-14.1% for the reds and 13.5-14% for the whites. Yields for the Chardonnay were healthy at 40-45hl/ha with yields averaging at 27hl/ha for the Pinot Noir. Faiveley believes the Pinot from the Côte de Nuits fared better than in Côte de Beaune. The northern villages benefitted from important rain showers in August, refreshing the vines and bringing added freshness. There was great consistency throughout the range, with each wine showcasing its terroir and the quality of the vintage. The wines are richer and riper than those of some producers, but retain excellent balance.
2020 Gevrey-Chambertin, Premier Cru, Clos des Issarts, Domaine Faiveley
Domaine David Duband (Chévannes)
This is certainly one of the most exciting younger domaines in the Côte d’Or. Based in the village of Chévannes in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, David Duband has an impressive array of vineyards throughout the Côte de Nuits. He is a big fan of whole-bunch fermentation, opting for 90% on his Grands Crus, 70% on his Premiers Crus and 60% on his village wines. Harvest began on 25th August with volumes reduced by around 30% due to the drought. While the Grands Crus were the most stressed in terms of water, it was only his young vines that really suffered. For him, the vintage was characterised by a surprising freshness, with a mineral and linear character to the Pinot Noir that he was not expecting. The 2020 defied the notion of a “hot” vintage, producing wines of amazing fruit clarity, vibration and freshness. There was so much personality and terroir distinction throughout the wines. With alcohols between 12.7 and 13.2% these are not full-bodied, but acid-driven, red-fruited, delicate Pinot Noir.
2020 Nuits-Saint-Georges, Domaine David Duband
Domaine Jean-Marc & Hugues Pavelot (Savigny-lès-Beaune)
Domaine Jean-Marc & Hugues Pavelot is one of the leading producers in Savigny-lès-Beaune with extensive holdings throughout the Premiers Crus, as well as additional holdings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Pernand-Vergelesses and Corton. A tasting at the domaine is a masterclass in the varied terroirs of Savigny, each wine with its distinct character. The vineyards are biodynamic, though not currently certified. Winemaker Hugues Pavelot was happy with the natural richness of his grapes in 2020. The key to a successful vintage, for him, was to retain the acidity, which he did by increasing the percentage of whole-bunch fermentation and opting for gentler pump-overs, rather than punch-downs during maceration. The range shows great consistency, with each wine speaking clearly of its site. The deep colour of the Pinot Noirs shows the extraordinary concentration found in the vintage, but the wines do not lack freshness, with lovely energy.
2020 Savigny-lès-Beaune, Premier Cru, Aux Guettes, Domaine Jean-Marc & Hugues Pavelot
Domaine Remoissenet Père & Fils (Beaune)
The team at Remoissenet harvested quite late in 2020 (as is usual). The style is always to have Pinot Noir on the fruity side, made to enjoy in its youth, and therefore typically they are among the last to pick. The 2020 vintage was another “classic” hot vintage according to General Manager Cécile Bégin, cooler than 2019. Bégin is another who feels the growing season was similar to 2003 – but produced completely different wines. “The plant and ourselves have evolved,” she says. They adapted to the vintage both in the vineyard and winery. There was however a lot of heterogeneity from one vineyard to the next. How each vineyard reacted to the drought was unpredictable – and highlighted how varied the terroir is throughout the Côte d’Or. The wines are very good in 2020, especially the village wines where you will find exceptional value (Puligny-Montrachet and Gevrey-Chambertin in particular). The reds are big and powerful, with some excellent individual examples across the Premiers Crus.
2020 Meursault, Premier Cru, Charmes, Remoissenet Père & Fils
Bouchard Père & Fils (Beaune)
The 2020 harvest was the earliest ever at this historic estate, starting on 17th August. While Pinot Noir suffered more from the drought in terms of yield (the north wind drying the berries), winemaker Frédéric Weber was happy to report no disease and perfect maturity for both the whites and reds. Thick skins meant a lot of tannin and deep colour in the Pinots, and he therefore reduced the maceration time to keep the balance. He was particularly pleased with the high levels of tartaric acid in the grapes (bringing great freshness) and the distinct differences between each terroir. “The Chardonnay is a great surprise,” Weber said with a huge grin on his face, explaining they reach a maximum 13.2% alcohol. “It is a very classical vintage and the same pH as 2014. The balance is perfect.” There was fantastic consistency in the wines we tasted, but the whites were particularly impressive with great balance and tension.
2020 Meursault, Premier Cru, Genevrières, Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils
Tasting at Bouchard with Frédéric Weber
Louis Jadot (Beaune)
Frédéric Barnier likes 2020 – it’s a classic vintage with no over-ripeness or sweetness, and great tension. The challenge – especially for Jadot, working across so many different sites – was to pick at the right time and capture each terroir. The water stress was tricky, but the shutting down of the vines in the summer heat helped them retain acidity and freshness. Yields were 25% lower than normal, but that’s a manageable loss. The wines are fresher than 2018 and 2019 and really impressive. The reds offer elegant, silky tannins with deep colour and refined acidity, while the whites – as with elsewhere in 2020 – really shine. Serious wines all round.
2020 Savigny-lès-Beaune, Premier Cru, Les Narbantons, Louis Jadot
Albert Bichot (Beaune)
Winemaker Alain Serveau noted how little juice there was in 2020, but otherwise there was little to report: it was a beautiful vintage that produced a healthy crop. The water stress helped retain acidity, he thinks – producing more elegant wines. Managing a harvest team during Covid-19, with a small picking window and vineyards the length and breadth of Burgundy was a challenge – but one they had to manage. For Serveau, it’s a particularly terroir transparent vintage – something that really came through in our tasting, with clear delineation between each terroir. Bichot might be one of the larger operations in the region, but it shouldn’t be shy – the quality of the 2020s is excellent, and the wines offer amazing value. Each year the quality here steps up.
2020 Griottes-Chambertin, Grand Cru, Albert Bichot
Domaine de Bellene + Maison Roche de Bellene (Beaune)
Nicolas Potel is puzzled by 2020. When you look at the numbers, the wines lack acidity – yet they don’t taste that way at all. He can’t explain it, but is pleased with the result – a vintage which he prefers to 2019. While some compare it to 1947, he tells us, he thinks the year is reminiscent of 1966, possibly with a little 2019 – big, but with great balance, and undoubtedly in the top five vintages he’s made. He likes the homogeneity of the vintage in particular, and thinks the wines are the sort that will be good at any moment in their long life. The reds have structure and concentration that deserves time, while we particularly loved the whites on show here – displaying an amazing combination of fruit ripeness, vibrancy and beautifully judged oak.
2020 Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, Maison Roche de Bellene
Henri Boillot (Meursault)
"C’est le top," said Guillaume Boillot of 2020. He’s delighted with the vintage – and as he should be given the quality on show here. The growing season was relatively uneventful and yields were close to normal, producing whites that are fresh with a gorgeous salinity and reds with brighter red berry fruit versus the darker tones of 2019. He attributes the vibrancy of the Chardonnay to the vines shutting down, although for some reason this didn’t happen with the Pinot. Boillot compares the vintage to 2014 when it comes to the whites, confident that even though the wines are pretty now they’ll keep well. Given the balance and concentration, we’ve got no doubts about this. The 2020 vintage is also the first with Guillaume at the helm, and they’ve also just bought more vineyards, with a plot of Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères and more Bourgogne Blanc.
2020 Meursault, Premier Cru, Clos Richemont, Domaine Henri Boillot
Domaine Paul Pernot (Puligny-Montrachet)
The Pernot brothers have worked together on the estate since 1978 and have carried on their father’s, Paul Pernot Sr’s, traditional techniques, making a quite forward style of Puligny-Montrachet that can be enjoyed after a couple of years in bottle. They have some of the finest plots in the village. The domaine had excellent volumes in 2020 – bringing in a full and healthy crop that made for a very straightforward vinification. “It was a pleasure to make,” says Michel Pernot. “The quality of the must was magnificent.” He compares the wines to the 2017s, but thinks they’ll last much longer. The wines were easily the best we have tasted from the domaine. The natural high acid and full fruit maturity work perfectly with Pernot’s richer style and the natural linearity of Puligny-Montrachet. Each terroir had distinct personality and the top examples are outstanding.
2020 Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru, Les Pucelles, Domaine Paul Pernot
Alvina Pernot (Puligny-Montrachet)
Our tasting at the "other” Pernot, was at their smart new winery, down the road from the family domaine. The space is still in construction, but the cuverie was finished enough for them to have made the 2021s there. Philippe Abadie and Alvina Pernot think that 2020 is the best vintage they’ve made so far – and we can’t help but agree. The line-up of pinpoint, taut and mineral Chardonnay is the best we’ve seen from this fledgeling operation, and aligned with 2020’s natural character. The couple are happy with the vintage – having both quality and good yields, making almost as much as they are legally permitted. The line-up expands each year as they gain access to new parcels – for 2020 including Chevalier-Montrachet, Meursault Les Charmes and Puligny-Montrachet Clos des Noyers Brets.
2020 Meursault, Premier Cru, Les Charmes, Alvina Pernot
Domaine Hubert Lamy (Saint-Aubin)
For Olivier Lamy, the 2020 vintage was as early as 2003 but not as dry or hot. The vines were ripening extraordinarily quickly, gaining 1% potential alcohol in just two days, so everything needed to be brought in quickly once ready. The yields are close to normal for the whites, and lower for the Pinot Noir which struggled more in the year. He used between 80 and 90% stems on the reds this year to improve balance and to help keep some juice (the stems contain some water, so inclusion can increase yields). All in all, the wines were a “good surprise” – with more freshness than anticipated. The wines here were mid racking and therefore in a slightly awkward place when we visited, however the quality is as good as ever chez Lamy – with the precision, concentration and balance this talented name is known for.
2020 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Les Chataigners, Domaine Hubert Lamy
Au Pied du Mont Chauve (Chassagne-Montrachet)
Francine Picard struggles to compare 2020 to another year, but loves its elegant style – clean and pure with wonderful fruit expression. The challenge was to retain acidity, but this was helped by the vines shutting down for around a week in high temperatures. The grapes were tiny and super concentrated – on the cusp of shrivelling on the vine. They started picking on 23rd August and had everything done in 10 days. We look forward to tasting the wines later in the year.
Producers not yet visited and tasted: Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini, Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Olivier Bernstein, Charles van Canneyt, Domaine Joblot, Domaine Joseph Colin
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