2020 has been a year of challenges worldwide, and things have been no less eventful in the wine world. COVID-19 restrictions changed how we enjoy wine, while major new legislation in both the US and UK are set to impose tariffs on European wine. This year saw significant heatwaves and unusual weather patterns, an indication of the effects of climate change, which was a boon to some regions, and a frustration in others. Let’s dive in for a quick review of 2020 in the wine world.
The 2020 Vintage Across the Globe
It’s safe to say most of us are looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020, but in spite of it being a difficult year, there are some bright spots. As a vintage, 2020 was brilliant for several major regions. On the whole, it was definitely a warmer year, with some regions experiencing significant heatwaves. In Burgundy, some producers found their grapes shrivel to raisins, while others who were more fastidious in their approach to canopy management report excellent quality. This is where it pays to know your producers. 2020 was the earliest harvest on record in the region, one that offered up plenty of challenges.
Up in Chablis, the cooler climate mitigated some of the summer heat, allowing for beautiful ripening while maintaining the searing acidity we associate with the wines of this region. Very promising.
While yields are down in Champagne, early reports indicate the quality could be stellar, thanks to warm weather and mild rains. Sparkling wine connoisseurs be sure to keep track of the region, as 2020 Champagnes could be worth adding to your collection.
However, 2020 was also a year of tragedy for some. Much of California’s wine country was once again plagued by deadly wildfires in summer 2020, some of the most devastating on record. Napa and Sonoma Valleys were hit particularly hard by the Glass Fire, and while some wineries were affected, about 80% of Napa’s producers are planning on releasing a 2020 vintage.
As in parts of France, many harvests in Italy took place earlier in the seasons this year, however, the quality looks promising. Barolo, Brunello, and Chianti all report excellent quality, and overall, many producers are pleased with what appears to be an all-around fantastic vintage.
Over in Portugal, things look good with some quintas already declaring they’ll be releasing a 2020 vintage Port. Another region to watch if you’re a collector or simply enjoy a fine Port (and really, who doesn’t?).
Wine and Climate Change
As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent with the passing years, many winemakers are making a push towards sustainability. From adopting organic farming to reducing their carbon footprints during production, growing numbers of wineries are making the switch. Some winemakers are dabbling in experimental varieties in their home regions, with some researchers testing new hybrids.
New US Tariffs on European Wine
2020 also saw the introduction of new tariffs in the US, which led to significant drops in imports from Europe. Several countries, including France, Spain, and Germany were hit with these 25% tariffs.
Meanwhile, Brexit looks to potentially affect wine trade with the EU, with additional tariffs to be put into place. Pre-Brexit stockpiling and COVID have also made it difficult to get wine into the UK, although as of the yet, there are no shortages reported.
2020 Wine Trends in Review
The natural wine trend continued to grow over 2020, with many new options populating wine shops and gracing the wine lists of restaurants across the US and Europe. Millennials, who represent the largest wine-drinking demographic, are partly responsible for this push. Expect to see this wine trend develop further in 2021.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 looms largest over 2020, the effects of which saw huge numbers of restaurants, tasting rooms, and bars forever shutter their doors. Yet wine sales went up as many retailers shifted their focus to online sales. The face of wine e-commerce is stronger than ever before, thanks to the fact many wine lovers began popping open bottles during lockdown. Next year, we can expect shopping for wine online to become even more streamlined, which could make it even easier to get your hands on those cult wines you’ve had your eye on.
Canned wine, canned cocktails, and hard seltzer sales went up this year, and show no signs of stopping. While many of the options were once forgettable, there’s been a large quality jump in the realm of canned drinks. And as more brands enter into the canned alcoholic beverages market, we can expect the quality to keep improving.
Italy’s ever-popular Prosecco saw the addition of a new designation for a rose style. Don’t be surprised if the pink version of Prosecco flourishes in the new year. Though it’s been a difficult year with unprecedented challenges, let’s all raise a glass to a bright, positive 2021.