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Our MW David Roberts has returned from yet another intense week of tasting and discussion in Bordeaux with renewed excitement for the 2022 vintage.

Click here to view all our Bordeaux 2022 En Primeur coverage.

the key to success in 2022

the key to success in 2022

The easiest synopsis of Bordeaux 2022 is simply to say it is the year of three Vs: vineyard, viticulture, and vinification. Blessed with a great location, adhering to assiduous vineyard husbandry and sympathetic fruit handling in the winery, you could make stupendous wines.

The best Bordeaux 2022s are as exciting as it gets, but it is a year where advice is more important than ever. This is not a year to buy blind on name or classification alone. Excitement can be found across the board: less recognised but well positioned estates had the potential to perform as well as the more recognised and grander names. If you got it right, the 2022s are superlative but a misplaced move and you risked missing the mark…

the wines

The focus will always be on the red wines; this is what makes Bordeaux tick. In some ways 2022 is the year which confounds the logic of great wine. The combination of drought conditions and extreme warmth can potentially stress a vine and impact detrimentally on both style and quality. Not so in 2022.

We lost count of how many times a winemaker concurred with Saskia de Rothschild’s views that, following the dryish winter, the vines acclimatised, naturally adjusted, and prepared themselves for the warmer summer conditions. In short, the vines never shut down in the hot summer months, the leaves remained alive, and the berries and bunches, whilst small, progressed as in a normal year.

The result is that finest 2022 red wines have a magical fluidity and are joyous in style. Fruit flavours range between dark berries and, unusually for a warm year, invigorating red fruit. Pierre-Olivier Clouet of Cheval Blanc attributes these fresh bright red fruit notes to the grapes’ thick skins, which protected the juice from the sun. The tannins in our favourite reds are silky in style and powdery in nature. The wines have power but also subtlety and nuance. Alcohol levels in all but a few have been well-managed, and the result is wines of poise, balance, and harmony.

The white wines reflect the warmer conditions of the summer. The Sémillon has a generosity of fruit giving appealing exotic characters. The best wines have been skilfully tempered by the incorporation of Sauvignon Blanc (and Gris) in their blends, giving lift, energy, and vitality. They are not necessarily white wines for the long term but offer early drinking appeal. If you are looking for a refreshing change from Chardonnay, the 2022 whites are worthy alternatives!

Both Barsac and Sauternes benefitted from ideal conditions for the onset of noble rot and the sucrosity of the berries. Botrytis cinerea set in quickly in two stages in the middle and end of October. Yields as always are very small (10 hl/ha). The 2022 sweet wines exude hedonistic opulence and sweetness, with a medley of exotic fruits and honeyed silkiness. They represent a new wave of sweet wines: ready to drink young immediately after bottling, but with plenty of depth and potential to age.


A New Perspective

Superlatives at En Primeur time are always dangerous: vintage of the century, the best ever, iconic. The 2022 vintage requires a change of mindset.

Of course, we shouldn’t be complacent about the impact of meteorological challenges; we only have to cast our minds back to the vicissitudes of the first few vintages of the last decade. However, as we feel the influence of climate change, we are much more likely to see a greater number of high quality vintages in a given decade than poor ones.

What is exciting is that today, whilst the overall quality has risen, Bordeaux vintages are increasingly different stylistically and distinct in character vintage to vintage. Glancing at 2018, 2019 and 2020, it would be unfair to say that any one is much better than another. Personal preferences naturally come into play, but they are all outstanding quality in their own way.

Such is the case with the 2022 vintage. We have been careful not to let the excitement of the new vintage and its undoubted quality influence our judgement, but superlatives are not out of place. The very best wines have the potential for greatness. I can only concur with William Kelley of The Wine Advocate when he says: “Bordeaux has produced some monumental wines in 2022.”

2022 in the vineyard

2022 in the vineyard

  • A mild and dry winter.
  • A mild spring and both early budburst and flowering.
  • A dry summer, but crucial rainfall at key times protected the vines from excess drought and hydric stress
  • A very hot summer, with continuous warmth rather than extremes of a heatwave and, crucially, fresh cold nights maintained the vines’ vigour and balanced berry development.
  • Ideal harvest conditions from the end of August through to early October, depending on location and grape variety.

    Bordeaux has a long history of selling its wines en primeur, with records dating back to the 18th century. It became common practice after the Second World War, relieving the financial burden borne by the châteaux of covering storage and maturation costs of their wines. Merchants had the opportunity to buy wines immediately after a vintage at an advantageous price to help the châteaux with their capital costs. These benefits were then in turn passed on to consumers, who bought the wines ahead of bottling with the potential for capital growth.

    Today, the en primeur system is considerably more sophisticated, with many reasons for considering purchasing at this early stage.

    • Quality | This has to be top of the list. The wines must have individuality and overall quality to justify cellaring.

    • Rarity | Either due to vineyard size or limited production. The en primeur process offers the opportunity to purchase wines that may be hard to find at a later stage or when they are at a peak of maturity.

    • Price | En primeur prices generally offer advantages to buyers of the sought after wines.

    • Provenance | The greatest Bordeaux wines need 15 – 20 years of age before they reach optimum maturity. Buying en primeur guarantees the wine has come direct from the châteaux cellars and, if stored reputably, avoids the pitfalls of poor storage conditions.

    • Availability | The leading châteaux are increasingly releasing a smaller proportion of the latest vintage en primeur, keeping as much as 40% in their own cellars for later release at a matured ex- château premium.


    The Vintage in a Nutshell

    • Suave, polished, intense red wines with a refined power, joyous energy and complexity.

    • A new era for the region’s red wines, marrying youthful accessibility with great potential for long-term cellaring.

    • Dry whites and sweet wines have charm and appeal, with a focus on youthful pleasure.

    • A small crop: yields are down approximately 30% due to the drier summer conditions.

    • A hot and early vintage but one which bears no comparison to the excesses of 2003. The 2022s have a balance and fine fruit profile with no indication of heat stress.

    • A vintage to seek out wines at all price points. Quality is about location and careful management decisions. Petits châteaux have excelled within their classification, just as the great classed growths have in theirs.

    • A vintage for all varieties and all appellations. In the Right Bank, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are exceptional. The Cabernet drive and vigour in the Left Bank has the ability to achieve greatness.

    • Balanced, exciting and enormously pleasurable.