Last Tuesday’s tasting of Bordeaux 2022 in London, organised by the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux was, like every other year, the first opportunity to taste the latest vintage and get a feel for what it has to offer – even before the en primeurs are held in Spring. And what a vintage it is – not a green note in sight, writes Sarah McCleery “a vintage that, sensibly priced, will leave buyers spoilt for choice.”
“The challenges of the vintage certainly brought tense moments and plenty for the winemakers to worry about, but the results are terrific,” writes McCleery about the Bordeaux 2022 wines.
What a difference a vintage can make. Twelve months ago, the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux in London was, if not gloomy, a little defensive – 2021 a tricky and inconsistent vintage.
In sharp contrast, those presenting the Bordeaux 2022 wines had confident smiles and a swagger in their step. “It’s a great vintage, and I think it will be the finest we have ever produced,” says Jean-François Quenin of Château de Pressac.
2022 was hot and dry. Though cool, the winter months were impressively dry, with rainfall recorded at half the average for the period. Budbreak and flowering were supported by consistent temperatures, with even the April frosts mannerly in their timing, negating their impact. Impressively large hailstones came at the end of June, and while localised, they caused damage where they struck with some properties noting complete devastation of their Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot plantings. This seems to mostly have impacted the satellite villages.
Summer temperatures soared, thermometers recording 40°C and not a drop of water in sight. Vines showed evident signs of heat stress, and those estates with older vines and soils with greater water retention properties thanked their lucky stars. Although nobody mentioned it at the tasting, the extreme temperatures led to irrigation being permitted in some areas, including Saint-Émilion, Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol.
Though notably small in both size and volume, the harvested berries brought joy across the region. “Perfectly ripe,” “fantastic aromatics,” “fragrant,” “colour so rich the tips of my fingers turned black” and “beautiful,” enthused owners and representatives from both the Right and Left Banks.
Tasting the Bordeaux 2022 wines on show was no hardship. Not a single green reference on my tasting notes – adjectives were focused on the richness of colour, generous bouquets, fruit-laden palates, and silky-smooth tannins.
This is a vintage that, sensibly priced, will leave buyers spoilt for choice.
So how were the Bordeaux 2022 wines tasting?
There was just one estate representing Bordeaux Supérieur at the event: Château Penin. Represented by the super-smiley Etienne Carteyron, the wines were terrific and ticked all my boxes, being both poised and vibrantly fruity. On show were two reds: Les Cailloux and Les Cailloux Combes. Both single vineyard wines made from 100% Merlot, Les Cailloux Combes from soils that have more clay and limestone. Both wines spend about 12 months in oak, with some new and a varied selecti0n of first to fifth-fill barrels.
Of the two, Les Cailloux Combes was the more fragrant and with arguably more finesse, but a devil of a choice to pick between them.
Equally charming was the Penin white. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Sémillon, there’s lees stirring and astutely managed oak ageing resulting in a brilliantly vibrant, textural white that I’d come back for time and again. Madness if Penin doesn’t secure wider UK representation with these wines.
In Fronsac, Châteaux Dalem and de la Huste are both owned by Vignobles Brigitte Rullier-Loussert. They have, since 2019, been working with revered winemaking consultant Eric Boissenot, and his deft touch is reflected in the wines. The two wines have striking individuality, though share lovely fruit expression with textural tannins that give them both appealing energy. I especially like the touch of vibrant crunch on the Dalem.
Château Moulin Haut-Laroque is another Fronsac property that impressed. The wine is cheerfully plush and honestly irresistible. Made from 100% Merlot in 2022.
Château de Pressac in Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is owned by Dominique and Jean-François Quenin, Tour de Pressac their so-called second wine. Quenin says Bordeaux 2022 is their best vintage yet and I thought the wine was a delight: scented red and blackcurrant fruit, lovely balance, and a touch savoury. The first wine is, unsurprisingly, richer and delicious but in 2022 I see no need for the upgrade.
In Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, I am a long-term fan of Château Fonroque. This biodynamic estate makes consistently nuanced and characterful wines and 2022 is a cracker. I picked up a nice herbal edge to the fruit, with fine ripe tannins and pleasing acidity.
Château Rol Valentin is a very different style of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, and I think the splash of Malbec adds what is an almost savoury sweetness to the wine. There’s a smoky quality to this that I like. In recent times, Rol Valentin has invested heavily in its cellar with smaller, all-cement fermentation tanks, allowing for vinification by parcel.
In the Haut-Médoc, Château Lanessan has made a cracking wine in 2022. Again, with support from Eric Boissenot. The estate might have lost its Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot but the final blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot seriously impressed – tannins a touch grippy, with rich, black autumnal fruit on the palate that was wonderfully vibrant. Director, Pierre Delage explained that Cabernet Sauvignon had performed exceptionally well for them in 2022 – even a small plot planted on clay, that they’ve often thought about pulling up. Happily, they’d left the vines be and they’d delivered liquid magic.
Bordering the vineyards of more famous names, such as d’Issan and Rauzan-Ségla, Château Le Coteau is a Margaux property that can deliver fantastic value for money. Nicely perfumed on the nose, the palate had good texture and balance, with good length too. Pretty.
As I said at the start, 2022 is going to be giving the Bordelaise plenty to smile about for many years to come. The challenges of the vintage certainly brought tense moments and plenty for the winemakers to worry about, but the results are terrific.