Or primeurs as the French, so often, refer to them. 162 wines, tasted blind in deepest Beaujolais, 04 November 2020:
2020 is the next in a series of warm vintages in the Beaujolais; it was frost-free in the Springtime and there was practically no hail in the Summer either. If there was to be one problem it was the dryness – some areas were described by locals as ‘being on the limit.‘
Yet when it came to the harvest they had good, clean, grapes – even those with quite high degrees of potential alcohol. The final figures are not yet available for the yields in 2020 but the current expectation is for volumes that are below the average due to the aforementioned dryness. If that turns out to be the case, I won’t be at all surprised.
2020 and the most recent vintages:
I’ve done this tasting since the 2017 vintage, and whilst the recent quality from Grower Nouveau is on a much, higher level than I can ever recollect – and with much more consistency too – it seems to me that yields go a long way to defining what you will find in a bottle of Nouveau.
I’m certain that it’s not particularly from the perspective of absolute quality that yields show themselves but rather from the perspective of the consistency of the observed quality where they play their role. Some people will always go to the maximum allowed – 65 hl/ha – whilst others are quite happy with 45 – or less:
Vintage 2017 – a warm, clean, early vintage – one hailstorm excepted – but low yielding. The best wines were excellent and the quality was consistent
Vintage 2018 – a warm clean and again an early vintage but with many higher-yielding places where the producers allowed. I observed significant quality differences in the samples – I largely attributed this to big swings in yields.
Vintage 2019 – another warm vintage with harvesting a little later but because of both frost and hail, yields were cut. The best wines were of high quality and the consistency was intermediate to 2017 and 2018.
Vintage 2020 – a warm clean vintage with consistently below-average yields. The best wines, once again, show high quality and a consistency that’s at least as good as seen in the 2017s. The wines are relatively powerful and well constructed, the ‘villages’ wines generally need a little patience but are consistently excellent! NB Given the early harvest in 2020, these wines have seen nearly an extra month of ageing – that’s 33% more! – than would be the case for a, more traditional, late-September harvest. In 2020 you can almost blind-buy Beaujolais-Villages-Nouveau as they are overwhelmingly excellent, less-so Beaujolais Nouveau but still with some confidence. Of course, if you don’t want to gamble, try the list further below.
And the market?
Of course, it’s a nightmare time to have an en-primeur campaign in ‘mid-lockdown’ but judging by the number of trucks on French roads, logistics still seem to be effective. It’s (still) a very important slice of the region’s sales for these primeurs – Japan representing the largest export market after the US, Canada, Switzerland and then the UK. About 46% of the production was exported from France in 2019, when Nouveau accounted for nearly 30% of all the sales from Beaujolais – about 21 million bottles – and that now includes 2 million bottles of rosé too!
So how are the wines? One week before the big day, here is my list of 21 goto wines from 162 tasted 04 November 2020:
2020 Beaujolais Nouveau:
2020 Fellot Emmanuel, Vieilles-Vignes
2020 Château de L’Eclair
2020 Coquard Christophe
2020 Famille Chasselay, La Marduette
2020 Jean Loron, Tradition Vieilles Vignes
2020 Domaine Girin
2020 Chandesais, Petit Marcel
2020 Domaine Perroud Robert, Vieilles-Vignes
2020 Les Vins Aujoux
2020 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau:
2020 Domaine Nesme Mickael
2020 Famille Chevrier
2020 Colonge André et Fils, N°1 Gasby Gamay
2020 Fessy Henry, Tradition
2020 Domaine Lagneau
2020 Domaine des Fournelles – Dumontet Guillaume
2020 Lacondemine Jérôme, Coeur de Raisin
2020 Domaine Monternot Les Jumeaux
2020 Dubost Jean Paul, Beaujolais Lantignié
2020 Cave du Château des Loges, Les Trois Madones
2020 Boudeau Nicolas
Click below to see the full notes for all 162 wines: