2020 Bordeaux En Primeur

‘An outstanding quality level from first growths to petit Châteaux.’
James Suckling

For the second year running our team tasted the latest Bordeaux vintage from our cellars in Greenwich rather than Bordeaux.

Bordeaux’s largest professional body, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC for short) were swift in preparing for another vintage to be sampled outside of Bordeaux and we, along with several other UK Merchants, received a selection of over 125 samples from the UGC. Along with more samples which came direct from the châteaux, these were tasted and re-tasted during the week commencing 26th April. Our summary of the growing season and the wines themselves can be found below.

VIEW THE LATEST RELEASES

2020 Top Recommendations

There have already been a handful of releases well worth your consideration and we have highlighted some of our top recommendations so far. There will be more to come…

2020 Château Laujac, Médoc Case of 12x75cl IB £95.00

2020 Château Tour St. Christophe, St. Emilion Grand Cru Case of 6x75cl IB £138.00

2020 Ch. Beaumont, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, Haut-Médoc Case of 12x75cl IB £105.00

2020 Ch. Chantalouette, Pomerol Case of 12x75cl IB £180.00

2020 Bordeaux – our summary

Well, is it any good? is often the first question we’re asked, followed quickly by how much will it cost?

In short, 2020 is an excellent vintage – the third in a row. It will sit comfortably alongside 2018 and 2019 and shares some of the same traits, although they all show some fascinating differences too. In all three of these vintages, we have found characteristics we have never tasted before – this trilogy of vintages will amaze wine-lovers for decades to come. It is often said in Napa, where there is naturally a lot more sunshine, that there is no such thing as a bad vintage. Are these vintages a sign of things to come for Bordeaux? We’ll have to wait and see, though 2020 suggests that the vines are adapting, as the wines show beautiful harmony. As to pricing, we’ll expand on that below as much as we can.

Last year’s En Primeur campaign was in doubt until the last minute – it was difficult to see how there could be a campaign in such difficult global circumstances. However, the generous discount given to the prices against previous vintages coupled with the quality of the vintage saw a very successful campaign take place and we are hopeful for similar this year. Early reports were of another great year with slightly reduced yields and similar consideration given to pricing, which would presumably see demand equal to last year.

However, as you may have seen in various news reports over the last four weeks, large parts of France’s grape growing regions, including Bordeaux, were badly hit by freezing temperatures and frosts during April. Although vignerons have developed increasingly clever and innovative ways to deal with frost, none of them are foolproof and unfortunately the 2021 vintage across France will see much reduced quantities. One must think this could affect the pricing of the 2020s, though it remains to be seen by how much. The yields for 2020 Bordeaux were already expected to be 10% lower than last year.

The Growing Season

  • A similar pattern to 2016, 2018 and 2019. Challenges of lockdown and managing people not inconsiderable.
  • Mild winter with temperatures around 2’c above the 30-year average – vine cycle begins early.
  • Wet spring raises the threat of mildew.
  • Second half of May was warm and dry which led to early flowering.
  • This was followed by a dry hot summer – from 18 June to 11 August there were 54 days of drought.
  • Lots of rainfall, but mainly through thunderstorms in May, June and August. This meant rain hit different appellations at different times. Rainfall in 2020 is 15% above the 30-year average.
  • The best wines seem to have come from terroir capable of excellent drainage and the capacity to handle hydric stress – particularly Pomerol, St. Emilion and parts of Pauillac and St. Julien.
  • Warm and dry harvest. Merlot picked from mid-September and Cabernets a week later, during a late heat-wave.
  • Average volumes are down 10% against 2019, although some communes lost up to 25%, through a combination of frost, mildew, drought and small berries.

The Wines

  • Full-bodied and balanced wines with a wonderful crunchy freshness.
  • Similar in style to the 2019s, perhaps a little more generous fruit and slightly less consistent.
  • Julien the most consistent and elegant of the left bank communes, some very impressive and typical Pauillacs.
  • Estephe good all round while Margaux appears quite inconsistent (not unsurprising for one of the largest appellations on the left bank).
  • Pessac & Graves is consistently very good to excellent – easiest wines to taste and generally the most harmonious left bank samples, along with St Julien.
  • Pomerol & St. Emilion show the warmth and charm of the vintage, with ripe open and hedonistic wines – the grapes here tend to ripen earlier and may have avoided the September heat wave which had the potential to over-concentrate, through evaporation, later ripening grapes.

VIEW THE LATEST RELEASES

Excellent wines have been made in all appellations, however, we found in our tastings that the Merlot based wines on the right bank were showing a much more consistently with generous fruit from the heat of the vintage – more careful selection is needed on the left bank, but choose well and 2020 will reward you.

Please sign up at the bottom of this page if you would like to receive all En Primeur release emails, or email our Fine Wine team [email protected] with any requests or questions.

If you’re new to En Primeur you’ll find detailed information in our article ‘What is En Primeur?’