Cult Insider



2022 vintage first look - Early optimism from a hot, dry year

Written by - Aaron Rowlands, Research Editor - Cult Wines

Northern hemisphere wine harvests are complete with the freshly fermented wines now starting their cellar ageing. The common theme of climate change hovered over a 2022 growing season that featured heat, drought and wildfires.

Sadly, this is becoming more the norm than an irregularity, but climate change will impact different regions differently year in, year out. After a cooler wet 2021, the dry sunny days this summer meant more consistent ripening and reduced disease pressure. Water stress also leads to smaller grapes, which can hurt volumes but help quality as flavours become more concentrated.

Most of the world’s finest wines won’t hit the market for years, but here we provide a rundown of the initial view from the major northern hemisphere regions in 2022.

Expand to read more about each region:

Bordeaux experienced the full force of the 2022 climate chaos from hailstorms to nearby wildfires triggered by a severe summer drought. Fortunately, the major fine wine appellations seem to have avoided any damage from smoke as the fires were far enough away and and came too early in the growing cycle to cause smoke taint.

Temperatures stayed a few degrees above average for the entire growing season, and July marked the driest month since 1959. Some estates reported the earliest starts to harvest.

The warm sunny conditions lasted through the harvest period, spurring optimism for the end product. Cyprien Champanhet, Chateau Haut-Bailly’s Commercial and Marketing Director, spoke to Cult Wines.

“After the first run-offs and the tasting of the first juices, we can already say that a great vintage is on the way! The juices have an intense colour, an exceptional concentration and density while keeping a nice freshness thanks to surprisingly high acidity levels. During a particularly hot and dry summer, the vines once again proved their great capacity for resistance. The contrast in early September between our green vineyard and some of the trees and lawns severely impacted by the drought was striking.”

Generally speaking, the warming climate has, so far, had both positive and negative effects in Bordeaux. Many producers have explained how ‘down’ vintages are less common – cool years such as 2013 and to a lesser extent 2021 are now very infrequent. Water stress can also boost quality of the grapes by making the vines’ roots dip deeper for water and nutrients.

The trade-off though is often lower yields due to smaller grapes and a challenge to maintain balance and the traditional Bordeaux style by avoiding jammy flavours and overly alcoholic wines. In Bordeaux, Merlot is often most at risk of becoming overripe during hot years but early signs in 2022 point to encouraging acidity levels. Right Bank estates are also highlighting that the year could be a great year for Cabernet Franc, which has been getting used in higher proportions in recent years.

A similar story of hot, dry weather predominated in Burgundy for most of the growing season but 2022 is in much better shape than the challenging 2021. Volumes should be up this year compared to 2021 as the region avoided any significant frost damage.

Unlike Bordeaux, Burgundy producers don’t have multiple grape varieties to work, relying on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and their various terroirs to cope with the rising temperatures and water stress. Harvesting started early but not record-setting as in other regions, and low night temperatures suggest a good balance between acidity and ripeness. Still, quality will likely vary from site to site and the skills of winemakers and producers will be put to the test in 2022.

Different country but same story – heatwaves and drought. The Italian government declared a state of emergency in several northern Italian states including Piedmont during the summer. The water stress and some sunburn loss could eat into yields. At one point this summer, estimates put Piedmont production at 20%-30% below average, but August rains suggest declines may not be this severe in the end.

In Tuscany, the summer drought gave way to intense storms in late August, causing damage from flooding and hail in some areas. The Tuscan coast was especially hard hit. But those that escaped significant damage could benefit from the late season rain.

“Although the season was hot and dry, the rains in mid-August rebalanced the vineyards, ripening grapes at their best,” explained Stefano Carpaneto, the estate director at Tenuta Tignanello.

Early signs point to Champagne emerging from 2022 as a winner. Both the quantity and quality of 2022 look promising thanks to warm summer temperatures balanced by large diurnal ranges. The dry year also remained largely free from hail or disease damage. Harvesting began in August, which is earlier than normal but not unprecedented.

The Executive Bureau of the Comité Champagne set the maximum commercial yield at 12,000 kg/hectare, the highest level since 2011, while allowing an additional 4,500kg to go toward the ‘Reserve Individuelle’, which is the wine set aside for future years. Many producers’ stocks are running low after difficult growing seasons in recent years, which is why the Bureau was keen to take advantage of this bountiful harvest.

An extremely warm May and summer droughts accelerated the growing season, bringing forward harvest dates by over a week compared to 2022. This signals a ripe, concentrated crop across much of the region. The dry conditions also mean disease pressure was minimal.

It’s not a secret how the warming climate benefits German fine wine production, and the sunny 2022 adds to this view. Following the excellent 2018 and 2019 vintages, 2022 could again see world class quality German Riesling while more of the top Pinot Noir sites also enjoyed long ripening periods, foreshadowing fuller-bodied, age-worthy reds.

England, another cool climate region, also expects the sunny 2022 growing season to deliver a great vintage for its sparkling wine.

Thankfully, 2022 saw no devastating wildfires near major California wine regions. However, a relatively normal year took a dramatic turn in early September when a mid-40s Celsius heatwave hit the inland Napa and Sonoma regions. Harvests were already early for most producers, but those that hadn’t yet picked scrambled to avoid losses from sunburn or shrivelled grapes. We expect to see some great wines emerge from the 2022 Napa cohort but there may also be some misses. Coastal areas remained cooler. The Sonoma Coast has reported a windy year which has kept yields down, but quality is expected to remain high.


News in brief

News 1


American wine family lands Bordeaux’s Lascombes

US-based investors Lawrence Family Wine Estates recently purchased Second Growth Chateau Lascombes, one of the largest vineyards of Bordeaux’s 1855 classification, for an estimated €300million-€400million. Lawrence Family Wine Estates already owns Napa wineries Burgess, Heitz Cellar, Ink Grade, and Stony Hill Vineyard but this Margaux estate marks its first foray in Europe. Lascombes has been owned since 2011 by MACSF, a French medical insurance company.

News 1


Kiwi winery develops wine ‘fingerprinting’

New Zealand winery Pyramid Valley, together with forensic science company Oritain, have created what they call the world’s first ‘fingerprint’ of a wine’s origin. The technology will pinpoint the presence and concentration of 42 different elements that distinguish an individual wine. They claim this method can provide a guarantee of a wine’s provenance as the fingerprint can link a wine with a region or even an individual vineyard.

News 1


Hospices de Beaune auction will be ‘largest ever’

Organisers of the annual Hospices de Beaune auction have said this year’s edition, scheduled for 20 November, will feature the largest amount of wine in the event’s history. The charity event will auction off 620 barrels of Burgundy red and 182 barrels of white wine from the fresh 2022 vintage.



What we’re drinking

Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir 2014

Sian Parry, Head of PR - Cult Wines

  • • Legend has it that Gary Pisoni planted his Monterey Coast vineyards with cuttings from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (rumoured to be La Tache), so it’s no surprise Robert Parker touted the vineyard as “the Grand Cru site of the Santa Lucia Highlands.”

  • • Big, bold, velvety and rich but also well balanced with plenty of fruit – I’d reach for this wine again and again! Pisoni’s secondary line – Lucia – is worth checking out as well.

  • • For stateside wine lovers, I couldn’t think of a more perfect pairing for Thanksgiving dinner.


Our fine wine feature

How age-worthy is Albariño?

Written by - Neil Thorne, Portfolio Manager - Cult Wines

Albariño’s rapid rise in popularity over the past decade has been impressive. But could Albariño wines have even more to offer than many fans realise?

The perception of Albariño wine is that of a crisp and fresh wine best suited for serving very chilled on a hot day, either with oysters, fresh fish or just on its own. Typically, this style calls for a young wine, probably within two of three years of harvesting, that retains the fresh primary fruit and mineral flavours. Indeed, a quick online browse of large and small UK retail wine merchants comes up with a preponderance of 2019 or younger vintages.

I love this style of Albariño but I think it only captures half the grape variety’s potential. It’s high time the wine world wakes up to the ageing potential of Albariño!

Other than its famously acidic backbone (a key indicator of a wine’s potential for ageing), reports that Vega Sicilia is producing premium, aged single-varietals piqued my interest in Albariño’s potential.

Multiple media articles suggest Vega made a sizeable investment in buying swathes of land in the Rias Baixas appellation with inaugural wines due for release from 2025. Clearly if the top premium wine producer in Spain sees the potential, then some further investigation is required.

Cult Wines, Neil Thorne visits Pazo de Senorans

I had the chance to visit Albariño’s home ground of Galicia this summer and noted that local restaurants don’t shy away from older vintages. Michelin star Yayo Daporta listed several early 2010s on their wine list in addition to a number of 2000s in sommelier Esther’s ‘cellar Daporta’. We tried a bottle of Rodrigo Mendez’s 2015 Cies which had developed considerably from the pale-almost-green to a more golden-hue whilst the citric, youthful fruit flavours were dialled down in favour of more dried and stone fruits. A more rounded flavour profile and mouthfeel expanded the wines food-pairing universe too.

At Pazo de Senorans, traditional perceptions of Albariño were challenged further. Exportation Director Javier Izurieta prepared a tasting of their current offerings: a 2021 Albariño, 2018 ‘Coleccion’ and finally the 2013 ‘Selección de Añada’.

The young wine was a classic, vibrant example with a racy acidity and green apple freshness. It was the next two wines that really turned the perception of Albariño on its head. Coleccion spent six months on its lees in stainless steel plus 30 months in bottle while the Añada spent up to 36 months on its lees followed by a minimum 12 months in bottle. Nicely rounded wines emerged that retained that acidic bite alongside more secondary fruit and even hints of tertiary flavours from ageing. These older premium offerings benefitted from being served slightly less chilled and would pair well not only with seafood but could also cut through rich meat dishes (traditional suckling pig was flagged). Despite the absence of any oak influence, the wines conjured up characteristics of a top Chablis – fine company indeed!

And the best Albariños can age well beyond a decade. Javier mentioned he had enjoyed a 1997 Añada, describing it as fully developed and drinking fantastically despite the 25 years since harvest! He also confirmed that fine-dining restaurants in the region curate menus with different styles and ages of Albariño to suit the variance in cuisine.

Here are a couple excellent Albariño wines with long-term ageing ability:

Pazo Barrantes La Comtesse – The Murrieta family is dedicated to showcasing the full potential and breadth of Albariño. This La Comtesse is the star, coming from a 1.4-hectare single plot called Pago Cacheiro with 50+-year-old vines. The low yields limit production to 8,000 bottles annually, which offer well over a decade of ageing potential and regularly pull in scores in the mid-90s from leading critics.

Do Ferreiro Albariño Cepas Vellas – Winemaker Gerardo Méndez of Do Ferreiro, along with his father Francisco, was integral in forming the original denomination of origin Rías Baixas in 1988. Today, Cepas Vellas is one of Spain’s iconic white wines, sourced from a single 1.5ha Albariño vineyard planted in 1785 in front of the winery in the Salnés Valley.


Explore & travel

Tourism in Bordeaux: Showcasing the fine wine lifestyle

Written by - Olivia Bodle, Global Head of Events - Cult Wines

In just three days, nine strangers went from polite introductions to singing U2 classics together in a cosy Saint-Émilion wine bar. What did this group from England, France, Sweden, Malta, Dubai and Ireland have in common? An appreciation of the great food, magnificent wines and welcoming hospitality of Bordeaux.

As we at Cult Wines look back on 2022, one of our favourite memories will be getting reacquainted with Bordeaux’s personal side. It began with the first in-person En Primeur in three years but also included an exploration of the region’s often-underappreciated tourism scene. Bordeaux lifestyle tourism has taken a big leap forward in recent years with many top producers bridging the gap with customers by creating fine wine experiences in addition to great bottles of wine.

Back in June, Cult Wines organised the above-mentioned trip for clients to visit Saint-Émilion and Pessac-Léognan. Bordeaux sometimes gets an unfair reputation of being business first but once we were all on the ground in the historic region, the charming hospitality and fine wine lifestyle vibes overwhelmed us.

Cult Wines, Olivia Bodle on tourism in Bordeaux

Our hosts were incredibly eager to open their wineries, many of which are winners of engineering and design competitions that exquisitely blend the modern with the historic.

The personal touches were what stuck with me the most. Florence Cathiard, owner of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, introduced us to her pet llamas who ate nuts from our hands whilst we sipped their chilled 2018 white. We walked through the vineyards at Château Angelus with three generations of the de Boüard family; Hubert the owner, his daughter Stephanie who is the general manager and her two young sons who are the future of the estate. Bordeaux doesn’t feel like a business; everyone we met exuded a palpable sense of joy in what they do.

I visited Château de Ferrand later in the year. This Saint-Émilion estate is very much a family run business with a clear vision to communicate the full Bordeaux lifestyle through its wines and its hospitality. A first-rate house chef and trained sommelier tour guides are just some of the touches that de Ferrand believes can elevate a visit to a true fine wine experience.

My colleague Aaron Rowlands also visited de Ferrand just after the harvest this year. “Sitting in the middle of de Ferrand’s vineyards on a warm autumn afternoon with barbequed steak and a double magnum of aged red really is the fine wine lifestyle,” he explained. “People can forget just how amazing Saint-Émilion, actually all of Bordeaux really is – the beautiful landscape, the ancient châteaux, the world class food. Places like this are where everyone wants wine to come from.”

Many châteaux dedicate themselves to offering unique experiences that can bring their region to life for their customers. For anyone thinking of a trip to Saint-Émilion, these are the château-owned restaurants we recommend:

  • • Logis de la Cadene (*) owned by Château Angelus
  • • La Table de Pavie (**) owned by Château Pavie
  • • Le Jardin owned by Château Petit Faurie de Soutard

In Pessac-Léognan the destination hotel Les Sources de Caudalie, owned by Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, has two restaurants. One has two Michelin Stars, and one is more informal but still exquisite -

  • • La Grand'Vigne (**)
  • • La Table du Lavoir


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