This year's Bordeaux En Primeur campaign is particularly exciting due to the strength of the 2022 vintage: this was hot and dry, yet the wines show great freshness, and there's no shortage of exceptional scores even for very accessibly priced wines.

On the whole, this is considered as good as the 2018–2019–2020 trio; whites and Sauternes/Barsac also have some stellar wines, so don't be put off by the reports of heat — châteaux have become increasingly adept at handling this kind of weather.

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2021 saw a little too much rain for some châteaux's liking; 2022, on the other hand, was worryingly dry: April and May had around 200 mm of rain (versus the typical 400 mm) and July was the driest on record since 1959, with around 3 mm of rain. This led to the exceptional authorisation of (limited) irrigation in Pomerol, Saint-Emilion, and Pessac-Léognan — one that, ultimately, went unused by many, since châteaux tend not to have the infrastructure to irrigate on any appreciable scale; such hot and dry vintages were, until relatively recently, considered anomalies.

This would understandably encourage comparisons to 2003, but it's important to remember the relatively cool nights: these contributed enormously to preserving freshness. The Right Bank saw a greater diurnal range; Saint-Émilion's cooler soils, whose clay content also retains more water, exemplifies this best.

Also notable are the lessons learnt over the last 20 years or so in vineyard management: this vintage encouraged maintaining vegetal cover in the vineyard and this was shown to reduce maximum soil temperatures by up to 10ºC.

No surprise that yields are low; the Médoc in particular saw low yields due to the soils having less water retention than the much of the Right Bank, and hail in Saint-Estèphe caused some crop loss. This harvest called for gentler extraction, shorter maceration, and favouring a more reductive style of ageing by reducing exposure to oxygen and new oak; Mathieu Bessonnet (Pontet-Canet) explicitly stated they "will be more reductive and use less SO2. We want to preserve the fruity aromas and flavors."

As for Sauternes and Barsac, the warm and dry conditions encouraged the slow onset of noble rot with relatively little cause for concern for the ignoble kinds; those who were willing to risk waiting were rewarded with a very welcome change from the results of the previous vintage. "It was one of the hottest and driest growing seasons in the history of France’s most famous wine region, yet it produced thousands of opulent and structured but still fresh and balanced wines." — James Suckling

"2022 is a paradox. We had extreme weather conditions. But we have fruit in our wines that is black and fresh and not cooked. It’s not pruney. We thought it would be like that, but no! It is a year that shows wines with beautiful balance. And they have no greenness. They are fresh. It’s astonishing. Nothing is out of balance." — Jean-Philippe Masclef (Technical Director of Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion)

"You know that it’s a great vintage when small chateaux and great ones make outstanding quality wines. This is a very special vintage." — Jean-Guillaume Prats (Managing Director for Léoville-Las-Cases)

"We haven’t harvested this early since 2003, but the wines are fresher and not as heavy" — Nicolas Thienpont


Key points for Bordeaux's 2022 vintage:

• A hot and dry vintage — the opposite of 2021 — but the wines look to have great freshness: the châteaux are increasingly confident in handling such conditions.
• Many wines will probably show very well in their youth and also have great ageing potential.
• White wines are also generally fresh despite the heat; the warm and dry conditions, causing a slow onset of botrytis, were a welcome change for Sauternes and Barsac after their miserable 2021 harves — at least for those willing to take the chance and wait for full ripeness.
• Prices are generally expected to see an increase due to the outstanding quality of the vintage.
• Quality is generally considered at least as good as the 2018–2019–2020 trio.

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