As in the preceding vintages, 2020 saw average temperatures that were among the highest ever recorded due to a series of heatwaves and an exceptionally dry summer.
After abundant rainfall at the end of 2019, there was very little rain in the first quarter of 2020, 80 mm (3.15 inches) less than the thirty-year average. Winter 2020 stood out for its mild temperatures. Average temperatures were 3°C (37°F) above the thirty-year average and temperatures in February sometimes exceeded 20°C (68°F). Only four light frosts occurred in what was otherwise a mild winter. As a result, bud break was extremely early, from the 22nd to the 26th of March depending on the grape variety, approximately ten days earlier than average. The 2020 vintage promised to be an early one.
The spring was also very mild. Temperatures in April were among the hottest since 1962. Flowering occurred between the 21st and the 26th of May, in excellent conditions. There were no signs of coulure or millerandage. The spring was particularly wet, which meant a greater risk of disease that we nonetheless managed to control (very few signs on the leaves and none on the bunches).
The summer brought long and intense heatwaves between the 23rd of June and the 12th of August, as well as significant drought, with no rain at all between the 19th of June and the 10th of August. Ripening occurred between the 23rd and the 26th of July. It was only during the second ten-day period of August that rainfall helped limit potentially excessive hydric stress. Nearly 80 mm (3.15 inches) of rain fell on August 13th. In spite of the thunderstorms that followed, the rainfall did not significantly penetrate the soil. However, the storms did cause the temperature to decrease and limit sun exposure thus contributing to maintaining good acid potential in the berries.
Conditions in September were also ideal for the grapes, with glorious sunshine by day, cool nights and only 14 mm (0.55 inches) of rain.
We began to harvest our early Merlots on September 10th. There were just a few days in mid-September when it became too hot to harvest during the afternoon. The harvest began on a larger scale on September 21st when all our grape-pickers arrived and immediately began picking our Cabernets. The harvest ended on September 30th.
The Grand Vin of Château Margaux 2020 follows in the footsteps of those of 2018 and 2019. It is very rare for three consecutive years in Bordeaux to be so homogenous and of such high quality.
The final blend is very similar to those of the most recent vintages: Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for 89% of the blend, completed by 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The Grand Vin represents 36% of the harvest. There is a perfect balance between the density and the fineness of its tannins.
Several factors contributed to making this a superb wine: homogenous flowering, summer conditions that favoured small berries and therefore concentrated wines, and excellent harvesting conditions. Only the yield was not as we had hoped. The fertility of the grape varieties was lower than in previous years, with 1.6 bunches per shoot, compared to 2 in 2019. The average yield on the estate was therefore 36 hl/ha.