Like most things this year, 2020 was a very strange vintage for Beaujolais, specifically Fleurie. The overall morale is high due to a bountiful harvest (25-35 H/L), however, the continuous heat was nearly detrimental. Thankfully, a bout of rain right before picking saved the vintage. For comparison’s sake, 2019 was also rather hot, and the relatively low acidity in the wines is proof. Nonetheless, the 2019s still remain lighter and crunchier than their 2020 counterparts.
There was no major frost in 2020, nor any significant hail other than a small storm in Juliénas. But the continuous hot weather, combined with the long dry season, resulted in a very early harvest (almost everyone started around 8/21-8/25). During the harvest, a lot of sorting was required, and around a quarter of the grapes will be sorted out due to dryness and sunburn.
The exceptions were vines planted on thicker top soils (which retain more water), or very old vines (80+ years) that have deeper roots and can therefore pull water from the earth. Jean-Louis Dutraive said that this vintage reminds him of 2003, as it was a rather peculiar one with very hot sun. However, this year has been even hotter than 2003.
There will probably be wildly varying results, as atypical vintages demand a lot of snap decisions. Those that didn’t begin harvesting early in hopes of capricious rain (for better maturity) were either left with burnt parcels two days later or 16%+ alcohol potential.
The saving grace is the unreal sense of community in Beaujolais. Winemakers get together during lunch breaks (Métras, Dutraive, Thillardon, in photo above) to share information and to help each other. Experienced winemakers readily welcome younger vignerons for dinners or quick chats, which isn’t always the case in other winemaking regions.
Along with Jean-Louis’ encyclopedic knowledge, paired with Ophelie’s fierce leadership — not to mention the bright insights of Justin and Lucas — the Dutraive family is deftly and calmly managing the challenges of the vintage. Every vintage has its own unique challenges, but there’s no certainty until the wine is actually bottled. Let us wait while drinking the most delicious glouglou ‘19s.