9th week (July 5tht to July 9th) : Focus on whites wines
The marketing of the 2020 Bordeaux wines is now over and, after having dedicated since the end of May our newsletters to the red wines, we finish by coming back today to the dry and sweet white Bordeaux wines whose quality level in 2020 absolutely deserves to be praised.
Dry white wines: a great vintage of balance between flavour, richness and tension
All the tasters noted that, although 2020 was one of the hottest years in Bordeaux, it was more than conducive to the production of great dry white wines.
By September 10, 2020, the harvest of dry whites was over and the winemakers knew they had a great, fresh, aromatic vintage. The Sauvignons, although less exuberant than in 2019, showed a beautiful freshness without herbaceous aromas, while the great success of 2020 was the prerogative of the Semillons, tasty and intense, giving the blends depth and density.
Pessac-Léognan, the north of the Médoc, with a more temperate climate than elsewhere in the Gironde, and more generally all the terroirs with good water retention (limestone and clay) produced brilliant dry whites in 2020 and we took advantage of this to broaden our selections this year:
- Cos d'Estournel blanc 2020
« Really impressive density, aromatic brilliance and length on the palate, shows the potential of the Medoc at its highest level with some form of generosity
» for Michel Bettane
- Smith-Haut-Lafitte blanc 2020
« Ample on the attack, melting and airy on the mid-palate, very fragrant and exquisitely sweet, with no reference to its sauvignon dominance, the wine caresses the palate, all melting, subtle, long and ultimately unapproachable. Since 2015, it has gradually become the greatest dry white wine of Bordeaux. A fabulous work of art where joy and aesthetics are combined
» for Jean-Marc Quarin
- Pape-Clément blanc 2020
« The palate is well balanced and seems less oaky than previous vintages when tasted from barrel. Ginger and lemongrass enliven the finish on this excellent Pape Clément Blanc
» for Neal Martin
- Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2020
« Rich but subtle, the wine develops in stages, passing from an initial contact where it speaks of wheat and honey to a more floral and exotic expression where the aromatic generosity of the Sauvignon (70%) is more fully expressed. The intensity of flavour and substance is remarkable, carried by a tone that is rare in this vintage. Favorite wine.
» for La Revue du Vin de France
- Valandraud blanc 2020
« The 2020 Valandraud Blanc offers terrific density but also quite a bit of raw, unbridled power. Lemon confit, almond, dried flowers, mint and crushed rocks open in the glass with great reluctance. The Blanc is intriguing, but it needs time.
» for Antonio Galloni
- Malartic-Lagravière blanc 2020
« The colour is pale with green tints and beautiful spearmint aromas. The wine is dense and minty with a good concentration, it is slightly woody and a little tannic, which is rare but will allow it to evolve well in bottle
» for Bernard Burtschy
- Larrivet Haut-Brion blanc 2020
« The 2020 Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc marries a sweet tropical bouquet with a real feeling of power on the palate. Lemon confit, marzipan, white flowers and pineapple open in the glass. The 2020 is a potent, explosive Blanc with a lot to say. I loved it.
» for Antonio Galloni
- Latour-Martillac blanc 2020
« I could nose this all day. The very well-balanced palate is quite intense, offering a fine bead of acidity and plenty of tension and mineralité toward the saline finish. If I was going to spend my money on one dry white Bordeaux this year, it might well be this. Hidden gem.
» for Neal Martin
- Couhins blanc 2020 « The aromas are of citrus fruits and the wine is of honest density, well structured by its acidity, a little threadbare, very typical of Sauvignon. The vintage has produced the best that the château has ever produced.
» for Bernard Burtschy
Sweet white wines: both miraculously saved and gifted
A miraculous four-day lull in mid-October allowed the Sauternes grands crus to harvest bunches showing all stages of botrytis evolution, from "pourri plein" to "pourri rôti". Only Suduiraut went so far as to carry out a final sorting on the 3rd and 4th of November to pick up bunches that were completely botrytised.
Thus, 2020 in Sauternes is a qualitative vintage with fine, pure, fruity wines, on semi-liquid bodies giving them an airy and delicate style. But it is once again a very small harvest (less than 10hl/ha). We selected 6 sweet wines this year, preferring Clos Haut-Peyraguey to Lafaurie-Peyraguey and reintegrating Haut-Bergeron:
- Suduiraut 2020
« The palate is thick and viscous on the entry, then dense and powerful, with light spicy notes toward the finish. A grandiose Sauternes, very persistent, revealing a hint of white pepper on the aftertaste.
» for Neal Martin
- Guiraud 2020 bio
« The 2020 Guiraud is fabulous. Usually a more opulent wine, the 2020 impresses with its translucent personality. Orange confit, apricot preserves, chamomile and dried flowers all develop in the glass. I very much like the energy here. A classy, impressive wine.
» for Antonio Galloni
- Coutet 2020
« Despite a more moderate liqueur with a few grams less sugar than in previous years, it retains a beautiful sweetness on the palate. But it quickly asserts itself by the tonic and mineral strength of the Barsac soil, by its invigorating intensity with nice bitters and citrus zest notes on the finish. Favorite.
» for La Revue du Vin de France
- Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2020
« The 2020 Clos Haut-Peyraguey is wonderfully sensual and polished. Lemon confit, passionfruit, pineapple, coconut and a touch of new oak give the 2020 its exotic, alluring personality. Creamy and wonderfully expressive, the 2020 opens nicely with a bit of time in the glass. It has been absolutely terrific in two separate tastings.
» for Antonio Galloni
- Doisy-Daëne 2020
« An astonishing success confirmed by each sample. Fullness, brilliance and preservation of the fruit to be cited as an example. We can speak of a great vintage.
» for Michel Bettane
- Haut-Bergeron 2020
« On the nose, there is a sense of a fresh, vegetal breath that is typical of the character of this vintage, even giving the impression that a touch of Sauvignon dominates its fragrance. Then a powerful note of fresh pineapple takes over. A pure, clean and well-balanced sweet wine, with a good length in the mouth and a nice acidic hint on the finish. Splendid!
» for La Revue du Vin de France
8th week (June 28th to July 2nd) : Final touch
This week, the Thienpont family (Jacques, Alexandre and Guillaume) added the last stone to the "Primeurs 2020" building:
• Pomerol : Vieux Château Certan
Sigh: the production of L'If (Saint-Émilion) is so reduced in 2020 that Jacques Thienpont has not been able to ensure its usual distribution. It is with regret that we do not offer you L'If 2020 (at least in primeur).
Value for money in 2020
Since the end of May, the two tasters of vinous have greatly increased their notes and appreciations on the 2020 Bordeaux wines, Antonio Galloni by receiving and tasting in the U.S.A. a number of new samples, Neal Martin by coming to taste in Bordeaux this June.
Thus, using their now complete databases, we indicate for each note the three cheapest red Bordeaux of our selection, with the price per bottle in brackets.
This allows you to discover immediately the best ratio of rating (=quality) / price of the vintage. The wines in bold are still available for reservation.
Classement Antonio Galloni
97/100 et + : Haut-Brion (432 €), Margaux (432 €)
96/100 et + : La Gaffelière (48 €), Clos Fourtet (78 €), Pichon-Baron (110 €)
95/100 et + : Petit Gravet Aîné (26 €), Domaine de Chevalier (47 €), Feytit-Clinet (47 €)
94/100 et + : Ferrière (28 €), Branaire-Ducru (31 €), Clos Saint-Julien (34 €)
93/100 et + : Poesia (20 €), Barde-Haut (22 €), Virginie de Valandraud (24 €)
92/100 et + : Carbonnieux (22 €), Clos Puy-Arnaud (21 €), Mazeyres (22 €)
91/100 et + : Les Trois Croix (12 €), La Vieille Cure (14 €), Montlandrie (15 €)
90/100 et + : d'Aiguilhe (12 €), La Dauphine (13 €), Tour des Termes (13 €)
Classement Neal Martin
98/100 et + : Margaux (432 €)
97/100 et + : La Mission Haut-Brion (252 €), Ausone (500 €)
96/100 et + : La Gaffelière (48 €), Canon (96 €), Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande (132 €)
95/100 et + : Brane-Cantenac (48 €), Grand Puy Lacoste (50 €), Pape-Clément (62 €)
94/100 et + : Malartic-Lagravière (29 €), Cantenac-Brown (34 €), Malescot-St-Exupéry (38 €)
93/100 et + : Latour-Martillac (21€), Barde-Haut (22 €), Gloria (26 €)
92/100 et + : Les Trois Croix (12 €), Dalem (14 €), La Fleur de Boüard (16 €)
91/100 et + : La Dauphine (13 €), La Chenade (13 €), La Tour de Mons (13 €)
90/100 et + : Alcée (11 €), d'Aiguilhe (12 €), Côte de Baleau (14 €)
7th week (June 21th to June 25th) : Best for last
With the numerous releases this week, the list of 2020 Bordeaux is now almost complete (only Vieux-Château-Certan is missing next Monday, with L'If and Le Pin to follow):
• Bordeaux dry white : Aile d'Argent, Cos d'Estournel (new), Smith Haut Lafitte
• Graves / Pessac-Leognan : : Haut-Bailly II, La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte, Haut-Bailly, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Haut-Brion
• Medoc / Left Bank : G d'Estournel (new)
• Margaux : Pavillon Rouge, Palmer organic, Margaux
• Saint-Julien : Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases
• Pauillac : Le Petit Mouton, Mouton-Rothschild
• Saint-Estèphe: Les Pagodes de Cos, Montrose, Cos d'Estournel
• Pomerol : La Conseillante
• Saint-Émilion : Côte de Baleau, Dragon de Quintus, Les Grandes Murailles (new), Pavie-Macquin, Quintus, Clos Fourtet, Figeac
Newbies. 3 new wines have joined our en primeur selections this year:
- Cos d'Estournel white
. The coolness of the estuary helps to counter the effects of global warming, and the northern tip of the Médoc has become the terroir in vogue for making great dry white Bordeaux. Cos d'Estournel has understood this by producing since 2005 its confidential white wine, 2/3 Sauvignon and 1/3 Semillon. Aged with less than 10% new barrels to better highlight its fine lemony energy, its pure length and its ageing potential.
- G d'Estournel
. Like Léoville-Las Cases, which owns Potensac in the Médoc appellation, Cos d'Estournel has a 32 hectare vineyard in the Goulée area on the edge of the estuary. But the comparison stops there, because while Potensac is a wine that needs at least 10 to 15 years of ageing to reveal itself, G d'Estournel is an immediately tasty, generous and delicious wine. A spectacular bomb of ripe fruit and a strong note of pleasure, at less than 20 € HT per bottle.
- Les Grandes Murailles
. A tiny 2 hectare Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, adjacent to Clos Fourtet, owned since 2012 and run since 2018 by the same technical team (Messrs Derenoncourt and Berrouet). A quasi Clos Fourtet for half the price, which one should hurry to enjoy because Les Grandes Murailles should disappear and be incorporated into the Clos Fourtet vineyard at the next classification (2022?).
Let's talk prices...
The price of red Bordeaux had reached a high point during the 2018 Primeurs. Last year, as the pandemic spread across all continents and caused widespread concern, the 2019 Primeurs were marketed with price drops ranging from -20% to -30%.
This spring, the health crisis is still with us, but the dissemination of vaccines discovered in the meantime suggests a positive outcome in the short to medium term. In these conditions and taking into account the low yields but also the quality of 2020, we announced last May that the price of 2020 Bordeaux was expected to rise by 10% to 15%, placing 2020 halfway between 2018 and 2019.
Now that the prices are known, we can see that this mid-point rule has been respected by 95% of the wines we offer en primeur, with the majority of them being at the lower end of the range, with a 2020 price closer to 2019 than 2018.
Among the 5% that are exceptions to the rule, here are the most notable:
- those wines whose 2020 price is even lower than last year's 2019 price
. We found two:
- Fugue de Nénin
(-7%) in Pomerol
- du Retout
(-3%) in Haut-Médoc
- those wines whose 2020 price is higher than their 2018 price.
These are the most sought-after, whose prices reflect the increase in quality and demand in recent vintages:
- Léoville-Las Cases
(+10%) in Saint-Julien
- out of competition. Petit-Village, with new owners and new ambitions in terms of both quality and price (2020 75% more expensive than 2018).
Thus, assuming that 2018, 2019 and 2020 are three very great Bordeaux vintages of equal reputation overall (cf. their notes and comments), their prices are bound to converge when they become available after bottling. That is to say an average predictable increase of 20% to 30% for the 2019s, and 10% to 15% for the 2020s.
6th week (June 14th to June 18th) : Nice week
This week was rich in great Bordeaux names, some at the top of the hierarchy (Ausone, Pichon Baron and Comtesse...), others among the most sought after (Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Pontet-Canet, Calon-Ségur...):
• Bordeaux dry white : Virginie de Valandraud, Blanc de Lynch-Bages, Valandraud, Pape-Clément
• Graves / Pessac-Leognan : Pape-Clément, Les Carmes Haut-Brion
• Margaux : Baron de Brane, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Giscours, d'Issan, Durfort-Vivens organic , Brane Cantenac
• Pauillac : Les Griffons de Pichon-Baron (new), Réserve de Pichon Comtesse, Pontet-Canet organic, Lynch-Bages, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande
• Saint-Estèphe : Le Marquis de Calon-Ségur, Calon-Ségur
• Pomerol : Feytit-Clinet, Clinet, l'Église-Clinet
• Saint-Émilion : Virginie de Valandraud, La Marzelle organic, Larcis-Ducasse, Rocheyron organic, Troplong-Mondot, Valandraud, Chapelle d'Ausone, Ausone
• Espagne : PSI, Flor de Pingus, Pingus organic
As the top 2020 crus are or will soon be offered, it is time to talk about the best successes of the vintage.
In each vintage, a few crus find themselves at the top of all the critics' rankings and make the consensus. In 2020, none of that. It is even surprising to see how different the critics' opinions are this year.
As proof of these divergences, the overall judgement on the wines of Pessac-Léognan led Antonio Galloni to write: "the most successful appellation
" , while La Revue du Vin de France spoke of an "appellation in half-tone
The reasons for this diversity of sometimes antagonistic judgements are multiple:
- the greatest successes in 2020 are to be found in all the appellations on both sides of the river, both for Merlot and for Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon.
- the tastings were spread out over two months, from the beginning of april to the end of may, and the wines evolve rapidly during the first months of barrel ageing.
- The tasters who were able to come to Bordeaux this spring tasted in the barrel, while the others tasted samples at home that were more or less affected by transport.
- not all critics had access to all the wines this year, for various reasons related to the health crisis.
Here is the wine(s) that received the highest score from the various critics we follow (the wines are listed in alphabetical order, in bold those in our selections):
• Bettane&Desseauve (mybettanedesseauve.fr)
Highest score 98/100 : Ausone,Cheval-Blanc, Lafleur, Montrose, Pavie, Petrus
Nous remarquons que tous les crus cités sont en rive droite, sauf Montrose seul représentant de la rive gauche.
• La Revue du Vin de France (larvf.com)
Highest score 98-100/100 : Montrose, Palmer, Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande, Pontet-Canet
All the wines mentioned are on the Left Bank and no 1st grand cru classé is mentioned.
• Le Point (lepoint.fr)
Highest score 19/20 : Lafite-Rothschild
Only one vineyard, the Left Bank, is cited ahead of all the others.
• Jean-Marc Quarin (quarin.com)
Highest score 99/100 : Ausone, Cheval-Blanc
Only the two greatest Saint-Émilions are placed at the top.
• Antonio Galloni (vinous.com)
Highest score 97-99/100 : Haut-Brion, Margaux, Pavie
Three crus, two on the Left Bank (Margaux and Pessac), one on the Right Bank (Saint-Émilion).
• Neal Martin (vinous.com)
Highest score 97-99/100 : Margaux, La Mission Haut-Brion, Trotanoy
Three wines, two from the Left Bank (Margaux and Pessac), one from the Right Bank (Pomerol). The similarity of the podiums of the two American tasters, even though they tasted different samples on their own, is disturbing.
Not wanting to be outdone, we give you our podium for this year:
• Maison Dubecq
- left bank : Lafite-Rothschild, Léoville-Las Cases
- right bank : Ausone, Cheval-Blanc, Vieux-Certan
We place these 5 vintages equally at the top of the 2020 vintage. For the first time since the 2016 vintage, Lafite-Rothschild wins (ex-aequo) in our opinion on the Left Bank. It is true that 2020 and 2016 are two vintages with comparable climatic profiles, which freshness and tannic finesse bring together.
Peter Sisseck : made in Ribera del Duero
In Ribera del Duero, the weather in 2020 was similar to that in Bordeaux (which is common in recent years):
- a hot and humid spring responsible for the earliness of the vines and severe mildew,
- a dry summer with regular but not excessive heat (maximum 37.8°C on 27 July), and cool nights (4.3°C on the night of 29 to 30 August!)
- a rainy disturbance (40 to 60 mm) at the beginning of the harvest, between 17 and 20 September.
Peter Sisseck's main concern today is to counteract the effects of global warming, with increasingly pronounced droughts and heat, so as not to harvest grapes that are too rich and give wines with 17-18° alcohol.
Twenty years ago (the first vintage of Pingus was in 1995), Peter Sisseck had very low yields and harvested as late as possible. Since the last two cooler vintages of 2012 and 2013, he has been careful to increase his yields by 10% to 15%, to harvest among the first in the Ribera and to conduct his fermentations below 25°C.
These practices have been a lifesaver in 2020 and alone explain Peter Sisseck's great success and enthusiasm for his wines:
• Pingus : harvesting began on 7 September (the earliest ever at Pingus) and finished on 17 September, just before the rains. Despite the obvious richness, it is the extreme softness and finesse of the tannins that surprises, to the point of thinking that the tannins are absent. To preserve all the delicacy of the fruit, no new barrels were used and some of the wines are aged in 20 hl oak tuns. Only 625 cases of a (very) great Pingus in 2020, price slightly up (+5% while prices had not changed since 2015).
• Flor de Pingus : harvested simultaneously with Pingus, just before the rains. Only slightly less concentrated and long than Pingus, also floral (violet....) and remarkably fresh. Unlike Pingus, 25% of Flor is aged in new barrels, which Peter Sisseck says is necessary to better polish and smooth Flor's tannins. Estimated production: 9000 cases in 2020, price unchanged.
• Psi : harvesting took place in two stages, with the earlier western part of the Ribera before 20 September and the eastern part after the rains and until 3 October. Fermented at 23°C, Psi 2020 has a clear colour, surprisingly transparent for a Ribera del Duero (like that of Rayas among the Châteauneuf du Pape). On the palate, the wine is fresh, juicy and dynamic. If Psi 2019 was born under the sign of greed, Psi 2020 is characterised by its unprecedented elegance. Aged in large oak tuns, estimated production: 29,000 cases in 2020, price unchanged.
Peter Sisseck : made in Saint-Émilion
• Rocheyron : in partnership with Sylvio Denz (owner of Faugères and Lafaurie-Peyraguey), Peter Sisseck confirms in 2020 the progression of Rocheyron « I think this is the best Rocheyron we have produced so far, I am very very happy and proud of this wine ». Here too, Peter Sisseck's practices, aided by the natural coolness of the limestone plateau to the east of Saint-Emilion, played their part to the full in 2020, producing a floral, sappy, intense Rocheyron. Aged 50% in new barrels, certified organic from 2020, 1600 cases produced, price unchanged.
5th week (June 7th to June 11th) : Cruising speed
With the release of Lafite-Rothschild this week, the "Primeurs 2020" campaign now covers the entire range of Bordeaux crus classés:
• Margaux : Ferrière organic, Cantenac Brown
• Saint-Julien : Connétable de Talbot, Sarget de Gruaud, Gloria, La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Pierre, Talbot, Gruaud-Larose
• Pauillac : Lacoste Borie, Haut-Bages Libéral organic, Duhart-Milon, Clerc-Milon, Carruades de Lafite, Lafite
• Pomerol : Fugue de Nénin organic, Mazeyres, Nénin, Clos l'Église, L'Évangile, La Violette
• Saint-Émilion : Fonroque organic, La Gaffelière
No one is irreplaceable : we can only regret the disappearance of our selections of vintages for reasons other than quality. This is the case this year for Petit-Verdot de Belle-Vue following an exclusivity granted to a single distributor (Bordeaux Tradition) and for Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarosse following its change of owner (and the departure of Messrs. Thienpont and Derenoncourt).
Put in Urgo's hands : when the Le Lous family (owners of Urgo Laboratories) bought Cantenac-Brown at the end of 2019 and decided to keep the existing team (led by Mr. José Sanfins), one would have thought that nothing had changed in this already excellent classified growth of Margaux. We have to admit that a new spirit is blowing there and we fell under the charm and the harmony of their 2020, as well as Antonio Galloni « Cantenac Brown is shaping up to be one of the wines of the vintage. 94-97/100 ».
Dressed to the nines : as announced in a newsletter last February, Duhart-Milon has since 2010 greatly refined its style to gradually approach that of Lafite (same owner and same team). The first vintage to benefit from the new vat house (with 60% more vats for parcel management), its 2020 surprised all the tasters by its tonic freshness, its length and its aromatic refinement. One more competitor among the great Pauillacs, the only one that was classified 4th great growth in 1855.
1820-2020 : to celebrate 200 years at the head of Haut-Bergeron, the Lamothe family decided to create an exceptional label dedicated to the 2020 vintage. This label, like a fresco, retraces the history of the property and the values passed on for 9 generations. The Lamothe family also took the opportunity to produce one of the best Sauternes of the year, praised by all the critics, French "It exceeds half of the Crus Classés. A splendid wine! 94-95/100" for Bernard Burtschy, as well as foreign "Very promising. 91-93/100" for Neal Martin.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind : until now, there was the horizontally mixed case (different chateaux in the same vintage, for example the five first growths of Sauternes) or the vertically mixed case (same château in several vintages, for example the case caisse Biodynamie at Pontet-Canet).
Grand-Puy-Lacoste has just invented the mixed case of the 3rd type: same château, same vintage but in 3 different formats. Starting with the 2020 vintage, Grand-Puy-Lacoste will also offer a case called Variation containing 4 bottles, 2 magnums and 1 double-magnum, the equivalent in volume of a 12-bottle case. This is an excellent initiative to satisfy the (many) lovers of this great Pauillac, starting with those who had a child in 2020.
4th week (May 31th to June 4th) : Flying start
The appearance this week of significant vintages in all the appellations gets the "Primeurs 2020" campaign off to a flying start:
• Bordeaux dry white : Les Arums de Lagrange, Malartic-Lagravière, Domaine de Chevalier
• Graves / Pessac-Leognan : Malartic-Lagravière, Domaine de Chevalier
• Medoc / Left Bank : Potensac, La Tour Carnet, Sociando-Mallet
• Margaux : La Gurgue organic, Siran
• Saint-Julien : Les Fiefs de Lagrange, Lagrange, Clos du Marquis, Beychevelle
• Pauillac : Pédesclaux, d'Armailhac
• Saint-Estèphe : Ormes de Pez, Meyney, Cos Labory
• Right Bank / Libournais: d'Aiguilhe, La Vieille Cure
• Pomerol : La Petite Église, Gazin
• Saint-Émilion : Fombrauge, Clos de l'Oratoire organic, Canon-La Gaffelière organic, La Mondotte organic
Hidden gems on the right bank: with d'Aiguilhe and La Vieille Cure proposed this week, our "Right Bank/Libournais" selection is now complete. From Fronsac to Castillon, adding the satellites of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, this region is full of vineyards favored in 2020 both by their limestone or clay-limestone soils and by a predominantly Merlot grape variety. With prices remaining almost constant, these 19 crus, in the shadow of their prestigious neighbors, offer in an exceptional vintage like 2020 unrivalled quality/keeping potential/price ratios.
Bicephalous : two tasters (and ex-collaborators of Robert Parker) comment on the wines of Bordeaux on the site vinous.com: Neal Martin the analytic and Antonio Galloni the enjoyer. By organizing their tastings separately but publishing their opinions simultaneously, they allow their differences and their cross-checks to identify the quality and style of the wines as closely as possible.
Antonio takes the plunge... : after Neal Martin last week, it is now Antonio Galloni who has just given his verdict on the 2020 Bordeaux. The verdict is incomplete for the same reasons (samples not received in the U.S.A. or degraded by transport) but Antonio Galloni gives a list of 32 red Bordeaux that, without necessarily being the best rated, stood out during his tastings (in italics those that are not in our selections):
Graves / Pessac-Léognan : Domaine de Chevalier, Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Haut-Brion
Margaux : Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
Saint-Julien : Branaire-Ducru, Beychevelle, Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville-Las Cases
Pauillac : Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pontet-Canet, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Comtesse
Saint-Estèphe : Phélan-Ségur, Lafon-Rochet
Pomerol : Bourgneuf, Clos l'Église, Trotanoy, L'Évangile, L'Église-Clinet
Saint-Émilion : Tour Saint-Christophe, Laroque, Petit-Gravet Aîné, Clos de l'Oratoire, Le Prieuré, Larcis-Ducasse, Clos Fourtet, Valandraud, L'If, Pavie, Angélus
... and committed himself : unlike Neal Martin, Antonio Galloni makes no value judgments about the overall quality of the 2020 vintage compared to 2019 and 2018 (see last week's newsletter). However, he does clearly mention his favorite appellation, which, unlike those of most critics, is not on the right bank:
« Pessac-Léognan is the most successful appellation as a whole, most likely because the timing and amount of summer rains worked very well with where vineyards were in their ripening cycles. Of course, Pessac-Léognan is really two appellations, but for this purpose I will consider them together. Yes, the top names are magnificent, but there’s more to it than that. I was especially struck by the quality of both the second wines at top properties as well as by wines from a number of more modest châteaux. It is that depth that leads me to believe that Pessac-Léognan did exceptionally well in 2020 ».
3rd week (May 25th to 28th) : Pre-rush
While the French and international critics are in the process of publishing their notes and comments (see below), a number of crus have taken advantage of this week to propose their 2020 before the expected surge starting next week:
: Prieuré-Lichine, Du Tertre
Without fuss: for nearly 100 years, the Kressmann family has led Latour-Martillac with a concern for work well done and respect for their vines as well as the end consumer. Their 2020 white is pure, precise, with perfect aromatic freshness, while the red offers a beautiful synthesis of the qualities of the 2020 vintage, blending the silkiness of the 2019 with the fruit and freshness of the 2016. Neal Martin just gave them an excellent score of 93-95/100 in both colors. Unquestionably, Latour-Martillac is right on the heels of the stars of Pessac-Léognan, with both white and red bottles at €24.50 ex-VAT this year.
Lurking in the shadows: Pibran, wedged between Pontet-Canet and d'Armailhac, is one of the rare nuggets in the commune of Pauillac, whose vineyards are almost entirely covered by the great classified growths. A discreet nugget while Pibran is vinified at Pichon-Baron (same owner Axa-Millésimes), benefits from the know-how of the Pichon-Baron team, from the talent of the excellent cellar master Jean-René Matignon (in post since 1985!) and from the same rigorous selection with the elaboration of a second wine despite its only 17 ha.
Galling : It is a real regret for the Maltus vineyards to see their 2020 harvest cut by 3/4 on the eve of the next classification (2022?) of Saint-Emilion. Between mildew, coulure, millerandage and the summer drought, only 3500 bottles were produced this year (half as many as Le Pin!) instead of the usual 12000. Their three vineyards (Le Dôme, Les Astéries, Le Carré) are now grouped under the Le Dôme label and vinified in the new winery (semi-buried and shaped like a dome) designed by Foster. This was supposed to be inaugurated with great pomp in June 2021, but the health crisis has passed and the inauguration has still not taken place. When it doesn't want to...
Who hears only a bell hears only a sound: this is why we indicate for each vintage (by clicking on it) the notes and a part of the comments of the critics, in our opinion sincere and relevant, 5 French (Bettane, Dupont, Revue du Vin de France, Quarin, Burtschy) and 2 Americans (Galloni and Martin). Of course, none of them holds the absolute truth and a simple note cannot describe a wine. On the other hand, from all the opinions, an impression emerges, a set of presumptions that will allow you to guess if a wine can correspond to your taste, to your expectations.
To be taken with a pinch of salt: Lisa Perrotti (Wine Advocate) and Neal Martin (Vinous) have just given their verdict on the samples of Bordeaux 2020 that they tasted at home in the USA. Between the samples that were not received and those that were vitiated by transport, it is impossible to draw any instructive conclusions or even to establish a podium. For Neal Martin, who was unable to note, for example, Pavillon Blanc, Yquem, Rieussec, Palmer, Beychevelle, Gruaud-Larose, Latour, Petrus, Le Pin, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, etc., we will let you know when he has completed his table after his visit to Bordeaux this June.
To venture a guess: if all the tasters agree on the high quality of the 2020 vintage, none of them dares to place 2020 in the concert of the 3 consecutive great vintages 2018-2019-2020 that Bordeaux has just experienced. Except Neal Martin who places 2019 first followed by 2018 and then 2020. While for us 2020 would come after the exceptional 2016 (refinement) and 2018 (richness) but ahead of 2015 and 2019 (see our general newsletter of May 15: here). One thing is sure: the tastings, comparisons and evolutions of these 5 great vintages will be absolutely fascinating to follow and have not finished to feed the debates.
Whit Monday (May 24th) : outside Bordeaux
We take advantage of this quiet day (Whit Monday) on the Bordeaux 2020 front to put online the 2020 vintage of two non-Bordeaux producers selling their wines en primeur at the same time as the Bordelais:
2020 Bourgognes whites : After a mild winter, the good weather settled in Burgundy from mid-March and quickly gave the vines a 3 week lead which they kept until the harvest. The summer was hot and above all dry (like everywhere else in France) and the harvest, of a historic precocity, could start as early as August 17-18 with an impeccable sanitary state and standard yields between 40 and 50 hl/ha for all. By harvesting early, the good winegrowers were able to keep their whites with good acidity and richness. Even if 2020 is a sunny vintage (the 6th in a row), the wines have undeniably a classic Burgundian balance.
• Tardieu-Laurent - Whites of the Rhône Valley
: 4 northern wines (from Condrieu to Saint-Péray) and one southern (Châteauneuf)
2020 Rhône whites : As in Burgundy, the white grape varieties of the Rhone Valley are showing surprising freshness, the most marked since 2013. This freshness makes the wines more precise, more slender and more expressive, the aromatic palette being masked neither by richness nor by alcohol. Refined wines between tension and finesse called to beautiful aging.
2020 Northern Rhône reds : It is no exaggeration to describe 2020 as a very great classic vintage for Syrah. Harvested early in September, the 2020s have everything to please: aromas of raspberry, violet and licorice, a velvety texture supported by a slightly lively acidity that time will soften, a structure and tannic richness reminiscent of the 2015s. Normal yields, alcoholic degrees 0.5° lower than those of 2019.
2020 Southern Rhône reds : A heterogeneous vintage in the Avignon area: some were overwhelmed by too high yields (especially for Mourvèdre), others experienced maturity blockages due to the prolonged summer drought (from July to September, 83.5mm of rain fell instead of the 30-year average of 171.8mm, i.e. less than half), and obtained diluted and/or short and/or under-ripe wines. Once again, the old vines made the difference, by the natural limitation of their yields and by a regular water supply (deeper rooting). In these conditions, we find, as in the north, the qualities of dynamism and aromatic purity that are the signature of the 2020 vintage, the Gigondas vieilles vignes of Tardieu-Laurent being a perfect demonstration of the supremacy of old vines in 2020. Low yields in 2020 from qualitative Rhone producers.
2nd week (May 17th to 21th): in progress
Finally, this week has been rich in new Bordeaux 2020 but not as plethoric as expected:
: Langoa-Barton, Branaire-Ducru, Léoville-Barton
: Poesia, Barde-Haut, Moulin Saint-Georges, La Dominique, Le Carillon d'Angélus, Angélus
Oscars: all of Bordeaux (or almost all of it) is waiting for the influential American critics (Lisa Perrotti, Antonio Galloni, Neal Martin...) to give their verdict on the 2020 Bordeaux wines in the coming days before the end of May. As travel between continents has been made (almost) impossible this spring, these critics did not come to Bordeaux to taste the 2020s but received, as last year, armfuls of samples to taste at home. We will share their opinions on our website as soon as we have them. The overall notes and comments will surely be as complimentary as the quality of the 2020 vintage, but with the variability induced by the length and damage of the transport, the temperature during the shipping, etc.
Full House: our list of 2020 Sauternes/Barsac is now complete, knowing that Climens is absent (tiny production, as every year since 2016) and that Yquem, Fargues and Rieussec will only be offered for bottling in September 2022. We wrote in the general information letter about the vintage that 2020 was "miraculous" in Sauternes. This vintage has given the producers of great sweet wines cold sweats for 2 months, for a tiny production of unhoped-for quality and we invite you to read the tasters' appreciations for each of the 6 crus that we have selected (by clicking on the cru, you will see the notes and comments published to date).
Abnegation: all the Sauternes châteaux force our admiration. Perhaps even more so Suduiraut this year: 1st cleaning sorting from September 16 to 19, 2nd sorting from September 29 to October 15 still for nothing, 3rd rich and well botrytized sorting (the heart of the vintage) from October 19 to 24, 4th sorting, tiny but qualitative, from November 4 to 6. In the end, the pickers went through the whole 91 ha of the vineyard 4 times for a total production of 8.5 hl/ha.
1st week (May 10th to 14th): Kick-Off
This week, the Bordeaux châteaux kicked off the Futures 2020 season, with a number of small wines but just as many great talents:
• Bordeaux dry white
: Clos Floridène, Doisy-Daëne, Couhins (new)
, Haut-Bergey organic
, Larrivet Haut-Brion
• Medoc / Left Bank
: Du Retout, Lousteauneuf, Petit Manou, Belle-Vue, Charmail, Clos Manou
• Right Bank / Libournais
: Reynon, Puyguéraud, Alcée, La Mauriane organic
, Dalem, Haut-Carles, La Fleur de Boüard, Clos Louie organic
Stability: by more or less maintaining last year's prices, this week's white and red wines are all remarkable quality/price ratios in 2020, as only Bordeaux knows how to produce them in great vintages. One exception: Clos Louie has increased its price by 25%, in proportion to a reduced production (no second Louison and Léopoldine wine in 2020).
At a gallop: the surprise release of Cheval Blanc this week has created quite an event and is reminiscent of the release of Pontet-Canet last year at the launch of the 2019 Primeurs campaign. With a very moderate price increase of +7% this year (after a 32% drop last year), Cheval Blanc 2020 is offered at €450 ex-VAT per bottle, it was €616 ex-VAT in Primeurs 2018. Bravo and thank you to this courageous Cheval Blanc for showing the way to other grands crus.
5th great vintage since 2015: given the accumulated sunshine and temperature of the summer, it was obvious that 2020 would again be a great vintage for red Bordeaux. In the formidable series of great recent Bordeaux vintages - 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020 - our hunch is to place 2020 behind the exceptional 2016 (refinement) and 2018 (richness) but ahead of 2015 and 2019. You can find our comments and appreciations on the 2020 vintage in the newsletter: here.