Criticism is easy (especially in 2022)
- Jacques Dupont, Le Point
- La Revue du Vin de France
- Jean-Marc Quarin (quarin.com)
- Antonio Galloni (vinous.com)
- Neal Martin (vinous.com)
Antonio Galloni's favourites
It is a great pleasure for us to present this new 2022 vintage which will be a highlight in the series of exceptional vintages. The conclusions of the Bordeaux Faculty of Oenology's report on the 2022 vintage are unequivocal: "Good dry white wines, remarkably deep sweet wines and outstanding red wines on both shores, concentrated but surprisingly harmonious".
However, 2022 will have given a lot of sweat, both literally for the winegrowers in the overheated vineyards during the summer and figuratively for the cellar masters in charge of the vinifications in the autumn. To sum up, 2022 is an unhoped-for vintage, born under extreme weather conditions and producing extremely good wines in the end.
First, we describe the genesis of the 2022 vintage and give you our first general considerations after 6 months of ageing.
Bordeaux 2022: the weather in Gironde
The main feature of 2022 is a recurrent drought, which has been increasing throughout the year. Taking the first 10 months of the year (January to October) as the reference period:
• 2022 is the driest year since 2011,
• all the months are deficient in precipitation with the exception of June, the only month with a surplus (which, at the beginning of the summer, was a chance),
• over the 10 months, it rained 433 mm in Bordeaux, which is 40% less than the 30-year average (728 mm).
This drought was accompanied by historically warm weather throughout the summer, well above the thirty-year average:
May = +4.3°C, June = +3.0°C, July = +4.1°C, August =+4.7°C, September = +1.8°C.
The summer of 2022 (June+July+August) is the hottest ever observed in Bordeaux with an average of 30.1°C, ahead of 2003 (29.5°C), 2018 (28.3°C), 2015 (28.1°C), 2019 (28.0°C) and 2017 (27.2°C).
Fortunately, instead of being concentrated in a short period, the heat was fairly well distributed over the 4 months of the summer. In 2022, there were 20 days of heatwave (daytime temperature above 35°C): 4 days in June, 8 days in July, 7 days in August, 1 day in September.
Apart from the summer drought and heat, the other major meteorological phenomenon was the hailstorm of 20 June, which was unusually violent and unprecedented in its extent, affecting more than 10,000 hectares of vines:
- the north Médoc in Saint-Estèphe (Calon-Ségur, Phélan-Ségur, Meyney...) and Saint-Seurin de Cadourne (Sociando-Mallet...),
- the southern Médoc near Bordeaux (La Lagune, Agassac...),
- the Côtes de Blaye, the Côtes de Bourg and the Fronsac area in places.
Bordeaux 2022 dry whites: tasty and expressive
The ideal conditions for quality dry white wines being a relatively cool summer with moderate sunshine, the winegrowers were very early aware of the risk of producing soft and heavy whites in 2022.
In order to preserve the acidity of the juices, limit the concentration of sugars and preserve crisp skins, the harvest of the whites was historically early: from 9 August (in the south of Gironde) for the Sauvignons and from 13 August for the Semillons.
The coolest and wettest terroirs (lower slopes, marl or clay subsoils), traditionally planted with white grape varieties, produced dry whites of unexpected quality, and in volumes that were finally acceptable, even if they were down (-10%) compared to last year.
The Sauvignons are more fruity (citrus, pineapple) than floral, with no varietal character (the famous cat pee nose) betraying under-ripeness. The Semillons are as always fat, full and intense, with apricot and white peach aromas.
The dry whites of 2022 are endowed with a high aromatic potential, very fruity, concentrated, fat, powerful and richly textured. They will not be long-keeping whites, but they will certainly be seductive, tasty and highly expressive during their first 8-10 years.
Bordeaux 2022 sweet white wines: either adequate or exceptional
At the end of August, the grapes for the sweet white wines were perfectly healthy and ripe, ready to be botrytised, which was not possible due to the beautiful warm and sunny days of September. It was not until September 26th that the first rains appeared, followed by others intermittently until mid-October.
The regular humidity was favourable to the appearance and spread of botrytis, but prevented the concentration of the berries. Fearing that they would lose their entire crop if they waited too long (the economic difficulties of the Sauternes region are well known), a number of châteaux harvested grapes at the end of September that were simply raisined or at the beginning of October that were imperfectly botrytised, producing wines of moderate aromatic intensity with a semi-sweet body.
Those who took the risk of letting the rainy period of the first two weeks of October pass were rewarded from 20 to 29 October with 10 days without rain, warm (between 22°C and 27°C) and windy (eastern sector). This was the ideal window of opportunity, completing the botrytisation process and simultaneously ensuring a lightning concentration of sugars and aromas.
As an aside, it is no coincidence that it is the greatest growths, those backed by large groups (Yquem to LVMH, Rieussec to Lafite-Rothschild, Suduiraut to the insurer AXA, Lafaurie-Peyraguey to Lalique, Clos Haut-Peyraguey to Magrez, etc., etc.) where immediate economic profitability is less vital, that were able to take this gamble, which in the end was more than a success.
The teams of these properties hastened to carry out successive selections to harvest magnificent grapes, not very acidic but of exceptional purity and density. As for the yield, the 2022 harvest, from 7 hl/ha to 15 hl/ha depending on the growth, is considered relatively satisfactory, as the last vintages were not very productive.
On tasting, 2022 reminds us of the great vintages of the last century (1989, 1975, 1967...), with wines of incredible richness balanced by a formidably intense aromatic quality. One thing is certain, they will defy time and, if the cork lends itself to it, will survive this century. On the other hand, if you appreciate the more airy and delicate sweet wines, finely botrytised, we recommend that you turn to the previous vintages, such as 2020, 2016, 2014...
Bordeaux 2022 reds: exceptional due to the weather...
With a summer marked by historic heat, the ripening of the grapes, including skins and seeds, was never a source of concern. Similarly, the historic drought ensured that the vines were always in perfect health.
As a result, each estate was able to choose the optimal harvest dates at its best convenience: from 5 to 16 September for the Merlots, and from 19 September to 7 October for the Cabernets, and to harvest grapes that were remarkable in every way, without stress.
While the châteaux feared a very low harvest due to the drought, the volumes produced were practically in line with a normal year on the right bank and down by around 30% on the left bank. With the exception of the châteaux affected by the hailstorm of 20 June (see above), which harvested barely half a crop (or even a tenth of a crop).
Many châteaux have, due to the great quality of the vintage, postponed their decrease in volume on the second wine in order to produce a usual quantity of great wine. Like Cheval Blanc, which has decided not to produce Petit Cheval in 2022, as the entire harvest is deemed suitable for the grand vin.
Bordeaux 2022 reds: ... and glorious because of the humans.
Given the special weather conditions of 2022, winemakers expected to find the characteristics known from recent hot and dry vintages (2020, 2019, 2018...) but with a few surprises:
• expected: the berries are small, comparable to those of 2010 for the Merlot and 2020 for the Cabernet Sauvignon,
• unexpected: the ripening cycle of the berries was not accelerated by the high temperatures, the desired 120 days between mid-flowering (23 May) and the harvest was respected in 2022.
• expected: acidities are the lowest of the decade, for both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
• unexpected: sugar levels are very high but not record-breaking. The 2022 Merlots are slightly less rich than in 2019, the 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon as rich as in 2020, 2019 or 2018.
As early as August, the technical teams knew that they were dealing with an unprecedented vintage, capable of the best and the worst. With the experience gained from the succession of hot and dry vintages since 2003, they knew the two main pitfalls to avoid:
• for vineyard managers: determine the right harvest date in order to pick grapes with fresh fruit aromas and, above all, avoid over-ripening, which is synonymous with wilted grapes and cooked aromas (prune, dried fig, mocha, gingerbread, etc.).
• for the cellar masters: as the grapes are exceptionally concentrated in anthocyanins, tannins and dry extract, practice gentle vinification (little punching down and pumping over), more infusion than extraction, so as not to harden the wines with massive and robust tannin loads.
Grands crus or 'small' châteaux, the tasting of the 2022 Bordeaux reds in the process of maturing is incredible. These wines have everything in abundance: colour, aromatic power, tannic density, length in the mouth. However, all these constituents come together magnificently in a suave and voluptuous harmony, which nothing comes in the way of despite the peak concentrations.
All the critics, French and foreign, who came to discover the 2022 in Bordeaux this April are as enthusiastic as we are and we are sure that the praise and the 100/100 will rain down on this future legendary vintage. Among the comments already published, we noted the one of April 7 by the french critic Mr. Quarin (quarin.com): "It's factual and unique: 80% of the wines [Bordeaux 2022] that I taste are the best ever made".
Bordeaux 2022 reds: which vintage to compare them to?
Throughout our tastings, we had the impression that the 2022s gave us the same sensations as the 1982 vintage. It seems to us that no other vintage has succeeded so well in this magical combination of power and smoothness, concentration and softness.
The very low acidity of these two vintages is one of the reasons for this resemblance, even if the knowledge, know-how and equipment have nothing in common 40 years later. However, the density and the (over-)power of the 2022s allow us to be confident about their longevity. In concrete terms, as with the 1982s, the 2022 Bordeaux will always be good: young, old and even older.
Bordeaux 2022 reds: what are the best wines?
Left or right bank?
The climatic circumstances being homogeneous throughout the Gironde, the two banks are on an equal footing, which is reflected in the results of our tastings. More than the appellation, it was the terroir and its capacity to regulate the water supply that made the difference. Thus, it was preferable to have the vines on a limestone, clayey-limestone or clayey-gravelly subsoil than on a sandy and draining one, as in the peripheral ring of Pomerol or in some places in the north and south of the Médoc.
Merlot or Cabernet?
All the grape varieties were equally successful, whether it was the Cabernet Sauvignon of the Médoc and Graves or the Merlot and Cabernet Franc of the Libourne region. On the other hand, the age of the vines had a strong influence on the quality of the grapes: in 2022, it was essential to have old vines, at least 20 years old, well rooted and able to draw water from deep underground (in Gironde, the water table is never far away). These vines benefited from the vintage while the young vines, with poorly developed root systems, suffered.
Small châteaux or grands crus?
In 2022, there were many successes at all levels. The profile of the 2022 vintage has narrowed the quality gap between terroirs and crus, with vineyards that are usually low quality because they are cooler or wetter having produced surprising wines. So, small chateaux or grands crus, choose this year at your best convenience, this advice also being valid for the second wines of the greatest crus.
2021 versus 2022?
Never have two consecutive vintages been as diametrically opposed as 2021 and 2022:
- 2021 synonymous with freshness, vivacity and elegance,
- 2022 synonymous with maturity, sweetness and opulence.
As these two vintages are simultaneously offered en primeur until the end of July, you can arbitrate your choices between 2021 and 2022 of such different styles (and prices?).
Bordeaux 2021 reds: prices
As the marketing of the 2022s has not yet started, the price of the wines has not yet been determined. Only the trend is known, and it will be upwards for many reasons:
• notes and comments as feverish as ever, placing 2022 above previous vintages,
• moderate quantities produced on the right bank (40 hl/ha) and even low quantities on the left bank (30 hl/ha),
• ambient inflationary pressures (labour, energy, dry materials, etc.).
The extent of the price increases, certainly disparate from one vintage to another and proportional to international demand, should place 2022 a notch above 2018 and 2020. The next few weeks will tell us how high the notch is...