It was remarkable to taste the resultant wines, conscious of the fact that the region experienced significant heatwaves across the summer months with temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius. The wines in general do not bear a similarity to previous hot vintages like 2003, where the extremes of the vintage are revealed more clearly in the glass, namely low acidity and jammy fruit. Commentators like William Kelley at robertparker.com have talked of how the vines in 2022 had to adjust from the outset – spring was dry, and the vine’s vegetative vigour adjusted, meaning it lost less moisture by transpiration via the leaves. Timing of harvest was also a key factor – across Bordeaux winemakers have by and large learned their lessons well. As Marielle Cazaux at high-flying Château La Conseillante commented, ‘it was the experiences of previous hot vintages that made the successes in 2022 possible.’ If I consider the changes we have witnessed in Bordeaux over recent years, the one that is perhaps most striking is the investment that has been made in state of the art cellars, enabling winemakers to ferment the fruit from different plots, or even sub plots, separately. This has pushed quality higher as winemakers are able to determine the right moment to harvest each plot, or in some cases partial plot. Vinifying the wine separately then allows the winemaker to consider if the wine from a specific parcel of vines benefits the final wine. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Château Troplong-Mondot, the recipient of considerable investment itself. In 2022, they made less Grand Vin by percentage than the norm on account of stricter selection. This was made possible by the outstanding winemaking facilities now at their disposal. Here, it comes back to the 'haves and have nots' once more, as the facilities at most top Châteaux allow for the greatest flexibility in winemaking, but of course, not all Châteaux benefit from the same scale of investment. Frankly, the focus on detail at the leading Châteaux today is nothing short of incredible.
The other area that has changed in recent years relates to the topic of extraction. With the richness of the fruit in recent, warmer vintages, extractions have become much gentler. In fact, the word that tends to dominate conversations on extraction today is ‘infusion’, the gentlest method of all, where very few pump overs are carried out. In years like 2022 which produced small berries and thereby a low juice to skin ratio, this approach was ideally suited. The resultant wines certainly do not lack tannin, though courtesy of this approach and cooler fermentation temperatures, the wines do not taste overtly tannic. The warm, dry conditions of 2022 meant that the tannins had the chance to fully ripen, with various winemakers commenting that the pips turned brown (a sign of ripeness) much earlier than normal. I think that is one of the most surprising characteristics of the 2022s; their precision and finely expressed tannins. Of course, there were some wines that tasted a bit four-square on account of a more active approach to extraction but, by and large, the finesse of the tannins impresses in the 2022s. Winemaking in Bordeaux has certainly adapted to drier conditions, and it seems the vine itself is revealing incredible resilience, but so much came down to location and approach.