Harvest Report 2020 - Part 2: Bordeaux, Italy and Spain

After hearing the good news from Burgundy, Germany, Champagne and the UK about a successful 2020 harvest in Part One, despite soaring temperatures, today we caught up with some of our favourite growers from Bordeaux, Italy and Spain to see how they fared this year.

Bordeaux 2020

For a few years now our good friend and 100-point Saint-Emilion winemaker Jonathan Maltus has been our eyes and ears in Bordeaux and he's delighted to report that the early signs are very promising.

Jonathan Maltus talks to Honest Grapes
Jonathan Maltus is very pleased with the 2020 harvest

"Pre-harvest analysis warned of relatively high sugars early on in some areas, but subsequent weather conditions meant that they did not reach extreme values. The grapes, when picked, had thick skins due to the hot summer, were full of flavour and expressed good fruit.  The young wines have good colour, are well- balanced and fruit-driven with crunchy tannins."

We then caught up with the illustrious Nicholas Audebert, head winemaker at Chateau Rauzan Segla in Margaux and Canon & Berliquet in Saint-Emilion, who told us that "westerly winds and abundant spring rains favoured the development of downy mildew but provided the limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion with a water reserve that proved essential for the vines during the heatwaves of July and August."

Merlot harvest began first, followed by the Cabernet Franc, and "analysis of both grape varieties shows particularly good balance, with relatively low potential alcohol levels. Our decision to start the harvest early has provided a certain acidity, allowing taut, precise and fresh wines to be produced."   

For both Canon and Berliquet on the right bank, overall the "2020 vintage will express the tautness of the limestone and the power of the clay." In Margaux, Rauzan Segla's harvest also began with the Merlot on 8 September, with the Cabernet Sauvignon coming last. The wine "will be of great finesse, delicacy and precision", Nicolas concludes, so clearly much to look forward to, from Rauzan Segla and the rest of the region.

Italy 2020

Trentino might not be in France, but when you taste the Grand Vin from San Leonardo you might be forgiven for thinking you were in Bordeaux! The charming Marchesi Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga is also reports that "the harvest went well and was very calm", and whilst "it is way to early to judge the wines", the "colpirà make us think very positively." Overall for San Leonardo, Anselmo thinks "we will have a very elegant and delicate vintage which will be perfectly ripe on the tannins".

San Leonardo
Tenuta San Leonardo

Heading south into Tuscany we caught up with the wonderful Filippo Chia of Castello di Romitorio, who was delighted with both the estate's vineyards in Maremma and Montalcino. In relation to Montalcino, "Romitorio's old vines produced a balanced quantity of fruit which allowed the vines to fair well in the 2020 heat", with the grapes reaching optimum ripeness. "Cold nights and hot days" during harvest "gave way to beautiful Sangiovese grapes with perfect skins. The work in the cellar was easy and the resulting wines have a beautiful color and are well structured. "

In Maremma Filippo with his characteristic intelligence notes the differences in terroir and how "each area of Tuscany has its distinct particularities of soil, climate and temperature". The resultant wines here are also very exciting, with plenty of promise!

The amazing team at Castello di Romitorio
The amazing team at Castello di Romitorio

Staying in Tuscany we also spoke to Tua Rita and Poggio Argentiera, who finished their harvest on 30th September, the same date as 1997, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2013 and 2015, all stunning vintages so a good sign for the future. In spite of a difficult year, "this strategically important moment was serene. With the help of the climate that produced no surprises, the grape achieved very good ripening."

That 2020 has been an "awful year" is a sentiment shared by our good friend Jacopo Maniaci down in Etna at Tenuta di Fessina, but in spite of the pandemic at least the wines are shaping up very well. 2020 was "the best harvest since 2015", Jacopo told us, with all their various vineyard sites in the north-east of Sicily showing "great balance in aromas" with tremendous concentration and complexity, even at this very early stage.

Spain

Spain has also largely enjoyed a great harvest and we spoke with two of our favourite growers who are relatively nearby each other in Catalonia and Priorat.

Ester Nin of Familia Nin-Ortiz in Priorat is one of the most fascinating winemakers out there and her wonderful summary of the 2020's trials and tribulations deserves quotation in full:

"2020 is a year different and atypical, for many reasons. In Priorat's' viticulture, 600mm of rain, between January and June say it all. This took us from our comfort zone and broke all our schemes of the pandemic. It forced us to work like ever in the vines, without possible confinement, not being able to stop, with all our hope in the long run. We have sailed through the cursed storm that makes strong the sailor. Now, after the harvest, we've arrived at a good port. Every single liter of wine that we have in the winery is a miracle, and its final quality is exellent. We dream of the day in which you will be able to taste it. It's intriguing to know if our wines will be able to reflect everything that we've done to them. No doubt that this year we've given it all."

Thanks Ester, we are definitely looking forward to trying the 2020s soon (but not too soon, Priorat needs time!).

Ester Nin and husband Carles
Ester Nin and husband Carles

To end on a high note, it's always a pleasure to catch up with Andy and Ali McLeod who are doing wonderful things in Catalonia with Celler Alimara, especially so this year as they have just converted to organics as of 2020. After a worryingly wet spring where mildew was a problem in the region the team had to rally together to ensure "no significant losses" and fortunately "the build up to harvest was characterised by good, dry ripening weather". Harvest began on 28th August with everything happening faster than usual, with "all the varieties ripening within 4 weeks, rather than the usual 6".

Andy's first impressions are very positive. "The whites are very good this year, and we have elected to make our first release of a“Brisat” - a local orange wine style". The reds "needed more work in the winery" but are likely to be drinking very well straight out the gates - "good news as our entry level reds seem to sell out early!", Andy says with characterisic enthusiasm!

That just about wraps up our Harvest Report for 2020 and despite a challenging year, global pandemics notwithstanding, all signs point towards a great vintage for many of our key growers, with some lovely wines surely on the way in the future. That being said, the issue of climate change is clearly becoming more pressing with hot, solar vintages potentially a new and unsustainable normal in regions like Burgundy. In any case we're delighted to hear that the wines are shaping up so well and we will continue to direct our efforts in support of a green, sustainable future.