Amathus’ Head of Wine, Jeremy Lithgow MW, gives the following report on the 2022 Bordeaux vintage:

Having spent a week tasting several hundred of the 2022 Bordeaux from barrel, it is clear that this is both an individual and exceptional vintage. A year full of contradictions that has produced dozens of brilliant wines from all regions and at all levels.

Producers were struggling to draw comparisons with any other vintage of the last 50 years, describing the weather conditions throughout the growing season as unique, and potentially a harbinger of years to come. The vintage was the warmest on record, with periods of extreme heat during summer, with 38 days achieving temperatures in excess of 32°C , and the several days breaking the 40°C barrier. This was combined with some of the lowest rainfall seen for many years.

However high rainfall across the 2021/22 winter had left good reserves of water in the ground, which especially benefitted old, deep-rooted vineyards, while a well-timed period of stormy wet weather at the end of June brought a welcome respite from the extreme heat and refreshed the vineyards, as did a few showers in August. The red wine harvest began for many in the first week of September.

Photos from the vineyards in the mid-August heatwaves show astonishingly healthy vines, with verdant canopies of green leaves, while in the background, trees with browning foliage can be seen.

All the winemakers I spoke to credited the vines with extraordinary resilience and adaptability, built up over several years of increasingly warm, dry summers. There was a general feeling that the vineyards as a whole had benefitted from a greater understanding of canopy management, with more leaves left on the vine, less topping of the rows and a general move towards organics, with a reduction of external inputs encouraging the vines to find their own natural balance.

Also, while the daytime temperatures were significantly above average the nights were not, resulting in a large diurnal temperature swing which retained freshness and acidity in the grapes. The hot, dry conditions had the benefit of minimising disease pressure and allowing for ideal harvest conditions, which yielded clean, healthy grapes with small berries and thick skins.


The musts ran dark and naturally possessed high tannins, thus the challenge for winemakers was how to manage extraction with a light touch. Fermentations were generally kept cooler than the norm, with reduced levels of delestage, remontage and pigeage.

The wines display all the richness and power one might expect from a hot vintage, but with a surprising and welcome level of acidity across the board, giving the wines great balance and drinkability. A surprising number of ABVs remain under 14%. The tannins in the vast majority of cases are soft, ripe and satisfying. Many of the wines should drink well early, but undoubtedly have the capacity to age well in the medium term.

Unusually for a great red wine vintage, this is also an outstanding year for the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. The hot, dry, clean conditions allowed their grapes to be left out on the vine until the Botrytis finally arrived in the last week of October, with almost complete coverage, further concentrating the already sugar-rich juices.

These incredible sweet wines in some cases saw sugar levels pushing 200 grammes per litre. Some producers have chosen the route of pure hedonism, making wines of great viscosity, which some have retained a thread of fresh acidity. There are outstanding wines in both camps. All will drink well young.

 

There is high quality at every level. Many wineries have made brilliant wines which stand in comparison with the best they have ever produced. Pricing is yet to be confirmed, and while the big names will no doubt be priced accordingly, there should be great value to be found amongst the lower classified growths, second wines, Crus Bourgeois and regional wines, all of which have gone up a level or two, but might not see a great deal of price fluctuation.

 

We would strongly recommend this as a vintage to buy. Not only is this shaping up to be one of the greatest 3 or 4 vintages of the last 20 years, but the intrinsic character of the wines is incomparable in style to any other year. There will be wines in this vintage which offer immediate gratification as well as those which age comfortably for 20 years.

 

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