We choose our words carefully to describe our wines and we will always be transparent in our assessment of the quality of a vintage. If a vintage is average, we will say it. Because The Society’s job is to put members’ interests first and we can do this because there are no external shareholders measuring business success on sales or profit. It’s therefore pleasing to report that after a challenging 2021 harvest, the quality of the 2022s is more than making up for it.
When Tim Sykes describes 2022 Bordeaux as one that ranks among the finest of the past 50 years, you sit up and take note. I tasted many with him earlier this year and the wines are delicious. In fact most of France has ultimately turned out a very good vintage in the classic areas like Burgundy and the Rhone.
Italy is becoming increasingly popular choice for members and general vintage statements are impossible to get accurate- for region by region detail do read Sarah’s in depth commentary.
2022 saw a more classic Austrian vintage in comparison to the warm conditions and subsequently opulent wines of 2021. A steady growing season with lower temperatures than those seen in some recent unusually warm years had growers happy towards the end of the summer. Frustratingly rains hit Lower Austria at harvest, which caught out some of the less attentive growers. As we have a portfolio of many of the best names in Austria, it’s a relief to be able to say that they navigated their way around the rain admirably. Many had picked plenty before the rain came anyway, with the remaining grapes being bought into the winery with short passes through the vineyards, only when timing was just right. This means that many of the smaller wineries were able to be a little more agile and able to make the right calls at the right times when it came to picking.
The resultant wines are fresh, vibrant and refreshing, with a particularly pretty core of fruit flavour. Less intensity than previous years but more elegance and delicacy. The good wines of this vintage are truly excellent but it’s worth knowing your onions because those who were caught-out by the weather have produced less good wines. I can hand on heart say that we don’t work with those producers and I have been very impressed with the quality I have seen from this beautiful vintage so far.
2022 – a superlative vintage that ranks among the finest of the last 50 years
When Christian Moueix, whose family owns a string of top châteaux, declares that 2022 was “a perfect vintage” you sit up and take note. Not given to exaggeration, Christian is someone we always turn to for an honest opinion of an emerging vintage.
After spending 2 full weeks tasting and retasting hundreds of wines from 2022, I wholeheartedly agree with Christian’s assessment – it is overall the best vintage that I’ve tasted en primeur, and ranks among the finest of the last 50 years. The reds from 2022 are quite simply outstanding, displaying deep colour, rich, fleshy yet concentrated fruit, and prodigious length of flavour. Despite challenging weather conditions throughout much of the growing season, in particular extended periods of heat and drought, the reds have maintained beautiful balance of fruit, tannin and alcohol. ‘Harmony’ and ‘energy’ are words that appeared again and again in my tasting notes this year with, paradoxically, most wines retaining scented freshness and vitality in the mouth. Despite the heat and lack of rain few wines were jammy or overblown.
The 2022 reds are wonderful at all price levels, with all appellations and communes producing outstanding wines. The best wines will keep for decades. The only downside is that yields at some châteaux are well below average, particularly in the Médoc.
The grapes for the dry whites were harvested extremely early in 2022, with several châteaux picking from the second week of August. The wines display clean-cut fruit and good aromatic intensity, despite the heat. Acidity levels are moderate, so most wines will be best enjoyed over the short to medium term.
A lovely vintage for Sauternes and Barsac, with plenty of sweetness and botrytis cinerea (noble rot) character. Most of the grapes were picked late, in the third week of October when botrytis was widespread. Mercifully Sauternes experienced a decent-sized crop for a change.
2022 will go down as a record-breaking vintage, with long periods of unprecedented heat and drought. Mercury levels regularly hit 35°C over the summer months, with occasional peaks in excess of 40°C. Sunshine averaged no fewer than 11 hours per day in July and August - an extraordinary statistic. After a short but welcome spell of rain in June virtually no further precipitation materialised before the grapes were picked. Yet most vineyards remained green right up to the harvest, with only the younger vines on sandy soils suffering from the lack of water.
Some of the extremes experienced in 2022 brought back memories of the 2003 vintage, the first really hot, dry vintage this century, but the end results in 2022 are decidedly more interesting than in 2003. The major difference between 2022 and 2003 is that the water deficit started early in the 2022 season. Vines are remarkably resilient and possess an ability to adapt to the conditions at hand. The shortage of moisture over the winter and spring encouraged the root systems to delve deep into the subsoil to find water. The heat also built gradually throughout 2022, unlike in 2003 when there was a huge heat spike in August. Nicolas Audebert (Rauzan Ségla and Canon) used the analogy of someone who has spent all summer outside acclimatising to the sun, compared with someone who steps outside for the first time in August – clearly the latter will suffer more than the former; vines react in a similar way. Finally, unlike in 2003, the nights remained cool for much of the summer in 2022 allowing the vines to recover from the day’s heat. The wines in 2022 display superb balance despite these climatic extremes.
The beginning of the 2022 harvest for whites and reds alike was exceptionally early. Château Figeac had its earliest harvest since the nineteenth century. Cheval Blanc had picked 80% of its merlot by the end of August.
I asked Christian Moueix why he thought the wines in 2022 were so well balanced – he admitted that he simply didn’t know. Frédéric Bonnaffous, chief winemaker for Dourthe (Belgrave, Le Boscq, La Garde) pointed out with more than a hint of irony that ‘Bordeaux seems to have benefitted from global warming in 2022 – we have never made such good wines!’
Anyone who is serious about Bordeaux and who wants to build a great cellar should consider buying 2022 in abundance. The wines are consistently excellent and will provide years of drinking pleasure.
2022 is an excellent vintage in a ripe style.
It was a very warm year. It was also a dry year but there was timely rain in July. It was a relatively easy year for the growers as there were few problems with diseases which affect the vines.
A successful early flowering led to an early harvest of thick skinned and healthy grapes. The low rainfall concentrated the flavours in the grapes and led to a smaller crop than expected.
The wines are rich and well balanced. Alcohols are around 13.5% and offset with good levels of balancing acidity considering the ripeness.
The German vintage can, as everywhere else be explained by heat and drought.
Together they ensured that once again the crop would be small.
The lack of rain broke all records for low rainfall. This would have a curious consequence. Plants need water for growth and it ability to photosynthesise. In this vintage, growth was stunted and the ripening process was blocked. Relief came in early august and suddenly the vine burst in to life, releasing all that solar energy. The Pinot family raced ahead to full ripeness. Rieslings took much longer and at the end, rain in September complicated matters a little.
The result is a vintage of ripe fruit flavours in styles that are mostly dry or off-dry, lovely balance and length. In short a lovely vintage
Due to Italy’s long and varied geography, it is hard to make generic statements about any vintage, however in 2022 will be known across Europe as a warmer, dry vintage and this is true for Italy too.
Harvest began early (mid-August) in the Veneto following the warm dry conditions of June and July. Growers were worried about reduced yields and lower acid levels, however at harvest many seemed more positive with the early pH predictions. Due to the warm, dry conditions 2022 was a exceptionally disease and mould free vintage. The early release, fresh whites now on the market from this vintage as showing the benefits of the pure concentrated ripe fruit flavours, and have retained good freshness.
A cool but dry winter led to a warm early spring with good flowering and fruit set. June, July and August however were much warmer than average causing real concern for the fruit quality, meaning that viticulturists had to work hard to provide shade and relief irrigation was implemented in particularly affected vineyards. Interestingly those vineyards nearer to the forests, or at altitude were able to retain real freshness, but the saving grace for the vintage was that rains finally arrived in late July early August, enabling harvest times to almost align with the average, and for winemakers on reflection to be genuinely positive about the wines they now have in barrel.
Meanwhile, there are still some very charming 2018’s on the market, with Tuscany very excited about the brilliant run of stellar vintages to come in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Total yields are down in 2022 in Peidmont due to the dry conditions, however the cold winter and cooler spring allowed for snow melt to help the local water table before the incredibly warm summer arrived. Harvest was a little earlier than usual, but pH’s in the must showed promise that despite the heat the wines from 2022 would have good acidity. It’s a little too early to tell, but despite worries, 2022 nebbiolo’s have great concentration and promise.
Elsewhere 2019 and 2020s from the Langhe and Barbaresco are coming to market and are increasing the anticipation that this will be a particularly strong vintage. Barolo’s from the extremely high quality vintage of 2019 have just been released and while they ideally need more time, they are an excellent vintage to add to your cellar. The best vintage for enjoying this year is perhaps the charming, still youthful 2018’s which are showing lovely perfume now. For those with deeper cellars the 2010s and 2013s are gaining in charm and balance coming into their drinking window.
South and Islands
From Puglia to Sicily, Southern Italy (and their varieties) are more used to the heat, and in 2022 they too basked in the Jun and July sun. However, some heavy rain events in August revived many vines, and led to average yields with good quality fruit.
It is really the same story as in the Rhône. Drought was a serious factor and a reduction in volume was often the consequence. Quality though is outstanding
Grape varieties throughout the south of France are constantly being reevaluated. Roussanne for instance was not at its best in 2022. Clairette, bourboulenc, piquepoul, grenache and cinsault thrived in this vintage. Their ability to withstand what nature seems to throw at them will clearly influence my selections now and in the future.
“Labor day” was the holiday date I learnt when asking winemakers about the 2022 vintage.
That was because generally across California before Labor Day (5th September 2022) conditions for harvest were dreamy. Winter had brought average to good levels of rain, spring and summer were more-or-less average and vine health was generally very positive. Then just as the earliest grapes were being harvested in September the heat struck. Across the Labor Day weekend many of the major Californian regions experienced an incredible heat wave with multiple days over 40 degrees. So late in the season many winemakers had rip up the rule book in their approach to harvest being highly strategic in what might be best for the fruit quality. Irrigation, soil and canopy management seems to have been key to shielding the grapes from the most damaging elements of the heat spike.
By February 2023 however, I was able to taste a number of the 2022’s from tank or barrel from across the state, and it highlighted that the suppliers that we work with who are really ontop of their vineyards and made very considered and deliberate choices have now got fully ripe, high quality wines to taste. It will be a vintage where cherry picking is needed, but there should be some brilliant wines to be sourced.
2022 had a cool start, with quite damaging frosts in late April. However the summer progressed nicely with warm, dry days, September was a little cool, leading to a slightly delayed harvest, although October ended up being relatively warm and dry, reducing disease pressure at harvest. Speaking to our winemakers, they are very happy with the wines in the cellar, and are describing the vintage as a “classic” Oregon vintage.
A cool and wet winter led to delayed start to the season, the summer warmed up, however Washington did not experience the severe heat spikes seen further south. In fact the cooler season, and lack of wild fire pressure saw a more relaxed harvest with producers unanimously pleased with the results.
The combination of drought and heat is as marked here as everywhere else. The northern Rhône had rain at the right time and the results seem very promising.
Climate is becoming less predictable and 2022 produced a rare phenomenon which luckily was restricted to a very small area on the plateau of La Crau in Chateauneuf. Storms with hail and a vicious tornado ripped through the vineyards of Vieux Telegraphe. The tornado was very localised, hail a little less so, picking off plots here and there.
Ultimately though 2022 will turn out to be a very good vintage with ripeness, ripe tannins combining well with freshness. Talking of freshness, the whites are as good as 2021 but with more fruit
In almost every respect the vintage followed that of Bordeaux as it usually does. And so a combination of ripe fruit, round tannins and a remarkable freshness characterises the 22 vintage. There is one important point to make though. Damaging spring frosts were as keenly felt here as they were in 2021. The crop is small but well formed.
Like the rest of Europe, heatwaves marked the weather across Spain in 2022, resulting in early harvesting. Overall yields were down with Catalunya hit the hardest (-20%) but the key red wine regions- Rioja, Ribera del Duero- were less impacted. The quality is likely to be very good but at the time of writing I have yet to assess and taste Spanish 2022 reds. Many of the early-bottled whites are now available and have very appealing, precocious fruit thanks to lower acidity.