Rhône 2020 En Primeur

16 November 2021

Giles Burke-Gaffney

2020 is an unmissable vintage in our view, for the charm, balance and youthful beauty of its wines. It was a sunny year characterised by drought and a good sized crop (for the majority of producers), with less extreme heat and higher yields than its predecessor, 2019. As a result the wines feel less powerful, but more immediate and even-keeled. Make no mistake, though, these have enough depth and the right balance to ensure excellent ageing potential. These are sun-kissed but juicy, harmonious wines with less alcohol than the 2019s, a difference in some cases of up to half a degree. Producers extol its virtues across the length and breadth of the Rhone with Clusel Roch describing 2020 as like a balance of 2018 and 2016 but better than either; or Jolivet who considers it “juicy and elegant”; whilst in the south Barroche compare it to the great 2012 “similarly round but fresher”; whereas Beaucastel go the whole hog and call it “one of the all-time classics,” referencing the great 1990 and 2010 vintages as comparisons.

The weather conditions were good throughout the season. Despite being sunny, dry and hot, there weren’t the same extremes of temperature as seen in 2019; nights in the summer were mercifully cool and humid, with a consistent wind blowing and drying the vines. Harvest was an early one; starting with whites in the last week of August; the northern Syrah vintage was wrapped up within the first half of September; whilst in the South picking continued throughout September with the Grenaches and culminated in the most northerly Mourvèdres at Beaucastel, which were completed by the end of the month. The crop was extremely healthy and for the most part was bigger than the 2019s, lending the wines a tell-tale openness, juiciness and a certain energy.

These open characteristics, the fruitiness of the wines and the high-quality ripe tannins have allowed the wines to show well young, though they clearly have the depth and energy to suggest great ageing potential.

Giles Burke-Gaffney

Justerini & Brooks, November 2021