2020 : elegance and accessibility

The winemaking process for the 2019s was coming to a close. The summer and harvest were very dry. Conversely, October, November and December enjoyed virtually twice as much rainfall as the seasonal norm, creating an incredible contrast. This abundance of rain replenished water reserves well.

Winter was mild. January, February and March once again witnessed little rainfall. Fortunately, April and May were blessed with rains on a par with average levels registered over the past few years.

Spring was also mild and the sequence of above-average temperatures was confirmed when a new record was broken – it was the hottest winter and spring since 1900.

As a direct consequence of this, the growth cycle was 10 to 15 days ahead. Early flowering went pretty well in 2020 with excellent rates of fruit set, a stage that is crucial for Grenache.

As an aside, the vineyards of Gigondas were not affected by frost at the end of March, nor hail at the end of May.

As we entered summer, the weather was extremely dry. Good water resources, however, kept the vines within their ‘comfort zone’ until around July 5, which is quite exceptional. In fact, it is not uncommon to see vines grow until mid-July. As visible evidence of this, the foliage was much more developed than in 2019.

One noteworthy fact is that cumulative rainfall from September 2019 to July 2020 matched average statistics. However, the distribution of that rainfall was unusual, characterised by long periods with no rain followed by intense rainy spells.

Water stress only really became apparent at the end of July. At the end of August, some areas were suffering and in some vineyard blocks the stress significantly shut down ripening. Some of the Grenache then showed signs of incomplete veraison.

As the fruit ripened, testing was stepped up. Physiological balance (sugars and acids) proved to be 7 to 10 days ahead of normal and berry weight was higher than in 2019. Levels of available nitrogen – an essential nutrient for yeast, guaranteeing fermentation will follow its proper course – were also very good.

Ripeness was very inconsistent and very challenging to get to grips with. The discrepancies between phenolic and physiological ripeness were in some cases very significant. In fact, some distressed vineyard blocks would not reach that level. In 2020 once again, there was a compelling argument for compromise. There were no health issues until the first dew appeared in mid-September, followed by more unsettled weather at the end of September (heavy rain and hail). Some of the effects were visible and called for particular attention. Gigondas’ first rosé was harvested in the first week of September and the last red grapes were brought in on October 15, 2020.

In volume terms, it was a decent harvest. The size of the berries was sufficient albeit in the lower average of previous years. The fruit was healthy but inconsistency made winemaking challenging to negotiate with significant analytical variations within the same tank.

Generally speaking, probable TVA registered very high and acidity extremely low, with record-breaking pH levels once again. Good nitrogen levels were confirmed and fermentation proceeded fairly smoothly.

Regarding tannins and colours, there was no massive, rapid extraction like in 2019. Although the polyphenols finally emerged, tanks of 2020 will never be as tannic as those of the previous vintage.

Quality was looking good, with aromatic fermentations and very few noticeably aggressive acids or tannins. As is customary, the winemaking process – vatting times, extraction and fermentation temperatures – had to be adjusted to suit the grapes. Daily tastings ensured precise management. It was essential to differentiate between ripe grapes that were suitable for extraction and under-ripe tannins that should not be mismanaged.

There is no denying that 2020 will not be classed as a power-packed heavyweight. However, the elegance and accessibility imparted by its great balance are definitely an advantage for early drinking.

The rosés are generous with lots of floral aromatics and fleshy fruits. The reds are rounded and balanced with beautiful ripe fruit and spice aromatics. The finishes are silky and elegant with no aggressiveness.

Copyright : Laurent Philis – Philis Œnologie

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