Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: the calm before the storm?

As we approach the end of May, the Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign is still yet to kick off in full force. The past week has seen a slight lull in en primeur activity, with a selection of mid-level wines trickling onto the market.

Following Pentecost Monday, releases commenced on Tuesday (25th May), with Berliquet 2020 entering the market at £36.25. In the expert hands of Canon and Rauzan-Ségla‘s Nicolas Audebert since 2017, Berliquet is fast becoming a true Saint-Émilion gem to watch. Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, notes that she was “totally wowed by this wine – Berliquet’s best yet, on a vertiginous ascent”, detecting “flower pollen, verveine, fennel, and chamomile” on the nose, and a “grounded but melting” texture on the palate.

Nicolas Audebert – Winemaker at Rauzan Segla, Canon, and Berliquet (who released its 2020 vintage on Tuesday 25th May) 

A trio of Margaux properties released their latest vintages on Wednesday morning (26th May), with Kirwan, Prieuré-Lichine, and Marquis de Terme 2020 entering the market in quick succession. At £25.37, Prieuré-Lichine’s latest release falls under the price of all recent back vintages in the market, while a score of 17 from Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com places it in line with the well-regarded 2019 vintage. Offering good value for quality, the 2020 is described by Julia as “fragrant with the intense aromas of cassis and spicy black plum”, with a full palate that remains “nicely dry and fresh on the finish”.

Added to the mid-week haul is another Margaux estate, du Tertre, who this year received its highest ever score from Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com (17+). Ella was also impressed by the latest release, which entered the market yesterday (Thursday 27th May), describing “charming, meandering fruit on the palate”. Having been sold by AJ Domaines (owners of fellow Margaux property, Giscours) this year, du Tertre is now under the helm of the Helfrich family, who have hired Cynthia Capelaere (formerly of Villemaurine) as the new Estate Director. As we often see following the sale and acquisition of an estate, this may be one to watch for future investment as it is revitalised by its new owners.

Also released yesterday, Quinault l’Enclos 2020 was described by Ella as “the culmination of the Cheval Blanc team’s work at this property since its acquisition in 2008”. Tasting in Bordeaux, she notes that “the trademark smoked notes have been relegated to the merest hint”, with “rich, dapper fruit” on the nose, and a palate with an “exceptional light-tough and melting mouthfeel”.

Also released this week are: Cantemerle, Chasse-Spleen, Château Les Cruzelles, Grand Corbin-Despagne, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Kirwan, and La Lagune.


Bordeaux en primeur: a discussion of demand

With Bordeaux en primeur releases trickling through, the fine wine trade continues to speculate behind the scenes on which properties will provide the top picks from the 2020 vintage. To shine some light on the perennial châteaux to watch, we are looking back on the results of our latest in-depth trade survey, showing results of properties receiving the highest number of mentions in response to the following question:

Which Bordeaux properties do you think have the most potential in the near- to mid-term to see the highest increase in demand?

As answered by the 49 CEOs, MDs, and wine department heads from across the globe, wines from properties mentioned below are likely to see high demand again in this year’s en primeur campaign, thanks to their astute marketing and storytelling, usually coupled with a real step-up in quality.

The survey results and graph above are extracted from Wine Lister’s latest Bordeaux Study

But how have they gained the confidence of the trade? Storytelling, backed up by real quality, thanks to serious investment:

Canon and sister property, Rauzan-Ségla have benefitted from investment by their owner, Chanel, as well as painstaking and perfectly judged branding efforts, accompanied by impeccable winemaking – with Managing Director, Nicolas Audebert front and centre of both undertakings. Calon-Ségur has been on a similar trajectory, reviving a sleeping beauty of a property with irresistible branding, excellent communication with the trade, and grand events. Pichon Comtesse has likewise benefitted from a perfect combination of exceptional wines, management and investment by its owners, Group Roederer.

If any one château were to serve as a masterclass in storytelling around a single event – in this case the 2018 vintage – it is Palmer, who turned the loss of the majority of its crop due to mildew into a silver lining, and turned the remaining production into something of a myth.

Figeac has made incredible wines the last three years with Managing Director, Frédéric Faye at the helm, returning it to the great quality of the last century – and better – and showing the true potential of its terroir. Significant investment by the Manoncourt family has also played a crucial role.

A rising star in recent years, Les Carmes Haut-Brion ties for joint-first alongside Canon. Small production levels, rising demand, and attractive en primeur pricing for the last few years has made Les Carmes Haut-Brion a top buy.

Lafite is the sole first growth to make an appearance, with three respondents mentioning it in their list of top properties likely to see the highest increase in demand, no doubt thanks to a raft of initiatives and modernisation thanks to a new generation of management in the form of Saskia de Rothschild and Jean-Guillaume Prats.

Also featuring are cult Pomerol pick Vieux Château Certan, Margaux staple Giscours, and from Saint-Emilion, up and coming La Gaffelière and newly fresh Troplong-Mondot.

Results are extracted from Part I of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study. You can download the study digest in English here: Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Study – Digest or French here: Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Résumé d’étude. The full report can be purchased on our Analysis page, while Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.


Bordeaux en primeur: the 2020 trickles through

As another week of Bordeaux 2020 en primeur releases draws to a close, the campaign has begun to show signs of speeding up, with some compelling releases entering the market over the past three days.

Below we examine releases from Laroque (Wednesday 19th), Lafon-Rochet (Thursday 20th), and Branaire-Ducru and Batailley (Friday 21st).

Lafon-Rochet’s latest release is a “very successful 2020”, according to Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson

Released at £18.95 per bottle (in-bond), Laroque was described by Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister as having an “ebullient, classy, very cassis nose”, developing into a “serious, structured wine on the palate”. The estate has seen recent improvements and investments to achieve a higher quality, starting with the hiring of David Suire in 2015, and the 2020 is no exception in the recent pattern of excellent value for money.

Lafon-Rochet’s latest vintage also illustrates the property’s upward quality trajectory. Having been awarded 17 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, (up from 16.5+ for the 2019) she describes it as a “very successful 2020” and congratulates owner, Basile Tesseron, for “producing something so appetising and groundbreaking”. Entering the market yesterday at c.£27.10 per bottle (in-bond), the vintage marks a year of development at Lafon-Rochet. As well as embarking on an agroforestry scheme in 2020 to enrich its environment, the latest release marks the inaugural collaboration of Jean-Claude Berrouet and Eric Boissenot, who worked together on its blending (recap our blog here). The price positioning of this top-quality vintage 10% below the 2019 market price has reportedly been very well-received.

Cru Classés Branaire-Ducru and Batailley were released this morning. Having made a name for itself as offering exceptionally good value within the Saint-Julien appellation, Branaire-Ducru’s latest release (at £31 per bottle in-bond) enters the market at an average 11% and 22% below than current availability of the 2019 and 2018 respectively.

Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther awards Batailley 2020 17 points, describing it as “Solid, subdued and distinctly Pauillac”. At c.£28 per bottle (in-bond), it enters the market under current average market prices of the last six vintages.

Keep track of en primeur releases on Wine Lister’s dedicated En Primeur Page here.


Back in business: Bordeaux 2020 en primeur

With the 2020 en primeur campaign now in full swing, the past two days have seen releases from the likes of Angélus, the Barton family, the Perse family, and more.

“Another big step in the right direction for this château in revealing its excellent terroir” – Wine Lister, CEO Ella Lister, who visited Pavie’s owner, Gérard Perse (pictured) last year

Released yesterday morning (Tuesday 18th May), the latest vintage of the Barton family wines – Léoville Barton, Langoa Barton, and Mauvesin Barton – has reportedly seen a positive uptake in the UK market already. Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, gives high praise to the flagship release, Léoville Barton, awarding it 18 points, and noting that it shows “very fine winemaking indeed”, adding, “I have to admit I was tempted to swallow this, it was so majestic”. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, also commends the latest vintage, describing a “sculptured structure which takes it into a different register”. The 2020 was released at £60.80 per bottle in-bond – over 10% higher than last year’s release, but potentially sporting the wine’s best quality to date.

Two more Saint-Émilion Grand Crus Classés “A” have joined fellow comrade and early-bird release Cheval Blanc, with Angélus entering the market at £254 per bottle (in-bond), and Pavie following closely behind at c.£241 per bottle (in-bond).

The latter gained resounding praise this year: James Lawther (for JancisRobinson.com) notes “absolute precision” which he says “more than highlights the change in style,” concluding, “one of the best yet”. Ella echoes this sentiment, asserting that “delightful floral freshness and a feather-light texture mark another big step in the right direction for this château in revealing its excellent terroir,” and calling the wine ”complex and refined”. The comments combined suggest that Pavie 2020 is the culmination of stylistic changes undertaken by the property over the last few years.

Perse family sibling, Pavie-Decesse 2020 was also released yesterday at £83 per bottle (in-bond). The latest vintage gains 17 points from James Lawther, who describes “Tension and minerality as well but plenty of charm this year”. With virtually no stocks of last year’s release remaining on the market, and the estate offering an element of rarity (at 3.5ha, it is a 10th of the size of Pavie), the latest release is likely to gain appeal beyond its volume released.

Also released so far this week are: Marquis d’Alesme, Labégorce, Coutet, Guiraud, Bellevue-Mondotte, and Monbousquet.


Bordeaux en primeur 2020: our view on the campaign

The Bordeaux en primeur 2020 campaign began in earnest last week, with Cheval Blanc the first of the major releases out of the gate. Its latest vintage was offered at a small, 3% increase on the 2019 release price, which itself came to market with a generous discount of c.30% on the previous year.

UGCB Tasting at The Intercontinental Hotel Bordeaux, attended by Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Much of the international trade has entered into a second consecutive year without the normal en primeur tasting week in situ. Instead, the bordelais have generally come up trumps with sending samples this year (only a very small handful of châteaux have declined to send any at all), and in many cases, one-on-one video calls have replaced the fleeting group tasting slots at the estates. Edouard Moueix, Managing Director of Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix observes how this has actually been a help, rather than a hindrance, in telling the story of the vintage to clients: “we can take time to explain things like we did some years ago”, he says. With a much wider range of tastings this year (albeit remotely for most) and a slightly less condensed campaign schedule, this should allow room for lesser-known wines that have excelled in the vintage to shine, where last year the sale of 2019s at lightning speed favoured well-known and trusted brands in the main.

While pricing is more often than not the hot topic for many participants in en primeur campaigns, sales of 2020 have the potential for focus on the great stories of each individual Bordeaux estate, given that the price equation this year is perhaps simpler than it has been in recent years.

Following a broadly successful “price reset” through the 2019 campaign, Bordeaux is holding all the cards that should ensure en primeur sales of 2020 work just as well (if not better), riding the wave of renewed interest in Bordeaux created last year. If 2019 prices set the precedent, then all that need happen now is to follow suit – matching last year’s release price, since the quality of 2020 for the majority of wines does the same. A healthier GBP-Euro exchange rate than existed last year should also help to keep price tags attractive, and choices for top-quality, excellent-value wines will hopefully be available in spades.

Follow Wine Lister’s en primeur analysis here on our blog, where we will be highlighting top picks from the 2020 vintage as they are released.

Recap Part I of our Bordeaux Study here for further analysis of en primeur pricing.


First horse out of the gate

Cheval Blanc 2020 was one of the first key releases out of the gate for this year’s Bordeaux en primeur campaign yesterday.

Having tasted in Bordeaux last week, Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, hails the wine “restrained and profound” on the nose, with “dark, hypnotic fruit”. The palate, she says, is “straight-lined, mineral, mouth-watering and fresh”, with an “incredibly long, saline finish”. As one of her favourite wines of the vintage, she would potentially give it a perfect score.

Technical Director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet notes that 2020 is cut quite differently from recent years at the estate. He characterises the vintage at Cheval Blanc in “three major waves”. First, the humid spring encouraged the vines to grow calmly and homogenously, accumulating water and nutrients much needed later in the season. The second wave was one of drought, which Clouet explains gives Cheval Blanc 2020 “a deep, tannic structure – dense but not hard, firm but not dry, ripe but not cooked”. Balancing this is Clouet’s “third wave” – a period of intense heat towards the end of the summer. With temperatures during harvest reaching 38-39 degrees Celsius, the hot spell translates into a very “expressive, intense, crisp, and aromatic nose”, and a freshness on the palate thanks to quick picking, within 20 days (half the usual duration).

Cheval Blanc 2020 was being offered by UK merchants at around £380 per bottle in-bond – 3% above the 2019 release price, but well under the price of any small remaining quantities of 2019 currently available on the British secondary market. Last year’s gesture on pricing was exceptionally well-received, and the 2020 will likely be no exception.


Bordeaux en primeur 2020: our view of the vintage

2020 is an unprecedented vintage both in terms of the pandemic context and its juxtaposition of tannic power and exquisite freshness. On both banks of Bordeaux, the wines are characterised by an early growing season that underwent a series of extremes: a warmer winter than usual, a rainier spring, and a record dry summer, without so much as a drop of rain from mid-June to mid-August, then finally exceedingly hot during the harvest (one should spare a thought for the masked pickers). In spite of such difficulties, Veronique Sanders of Château Haut-Bailly notes that “the easy vintages in Bordeaux used to be the best ones, but in recent years that’s not the case”.

Left: Baptise Guinaudeau of Lafleur and Grand Village / Right: Véronique Sanders of Haut-Bailly and Le Pape

Henri Lurton, owner of Château Brane-Cantenac in Margaux, referred to 2020 as a “quite unique” vintage, both “hot and classic” at the same time. This observation is echoed by Baptiste Guinaudeau, co-owner of Château Lafleur in Pomerol, who recognises in 2016, 2018, and now 2020, a new type of growing season that didn’t exist before, uniting a big, sunny vintage like 2009 with a more classical vintage like 2008. 2020 is “multiple vintages in a single wine”, according to Lafleur’s cellar master, Omri Ram.

While several wines in 2020 in have record tannic density, you wouldn’t know it without the technical analyses. When you taste the wines, this power hidden by a delicate, diaphanous veil. Acidity remains decently high, and alcohol relatively low, allowing the wines to maintain the classicism that we recognise and love in Bordeaux.

In a year where the Bordelais couldn’t go on their usual marketing trips to the US, China and beyond, they were closer to the vines and to nature. This often meant whole teams dedicated to the vine-growing and winemaking instead of sales and marketing. This often meant whole teams dedicated to the vine-growing and winemaking instead of sales and marketing. “Un vin d’équipe”, says Marielle Cazaux, technical director of La Conseillante, referring to the unprecedented “team effort”, as the office staff worked in the vineyards, helping the vines through extreme rain, then drought, then heat.

Completing a trilogy of excellent vintages, after 2018 et 2019, 2020 is nonetheless more heterogeneous, where the top terroirs were best able to cope with the extreme climatic conditions. Each appellation boasts some exceptional wines, be it Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan or Pomerol. And these wines have a floral freshness, often of peonies or iris (the latter a scent deriving from merlot when it undergoes hydric stress).

Finally, the whites deserve a special mention in 2020. A vintage for lovers of richer, creamier whites, we found the best almost Burgundian, without the varietal grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc.


Wine Lister expands its fine wine database

As Wine Lister enters its fifth year in business, we are excited to announce the addition of 650 new wines onto Wine Lister’s information hub. Thanks to scores from our trusted partner critics, prices through our official pricing partner, Wine Owners, and data measuring popularity, as determined by the number of searches on Wine-Searcher (Pro and Pro+ site only), website users can now discover Wine Lister scores, prices, and apply decision-making analysis tools to a broader range of fine wines.  With the latest additions, our database now extends across 4,450 wines, and over 40,000 wine-vintages, providing further insight to inform wine investment choices and strategic solutions.

Below we examine the regional split of the additional wines, and take a closer look at some of the properties featured in the expansion.

Burgundy represents 36% of the new selection, with more cuvées added from the likes of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Cécile Tremblay, Benjamin Leroux, and more. A further 42 wines (6%) are added to the already-established set of Bordeaux properties featured on the Wine Lister site, including Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels, Cambon La Pelouse, and Malescasse. Domaine des Roches Neuves represents seven out of the 10 new additions from the Rhône, alongside Bernard Baudry and Domaine du Closel.

Wine Lister’s Italian listings grow by 24% in the latest update, including 118 additions from Piedmont, 22 from Tuscany, and 16 from Sicily. The new Piedmontese picks include Arnaldo Rivera Barolo, Elvio Cogno, Figli Luigi Oddero, Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio, and more. A region on the rise, Sicilian additions include new wines from organic Etna producers, Tenuta delle Terre Nere and Passopisciaro.

Wine Lister has also expanded its New World portfolio, which now features more additions from California (10% of the latest haul), Australia, and Oregon, among other regions. Featured amongst the new Californian picks are rising estates such as Littorai, Quintessa, Bevan, and Cardinale. Moving up the West Coast, Oregon additions include five new wines from Evening Land, four new bottles from Bergstrom, and three new picks from Antica Terra.

For more industry insights and advice on which wines and regions to buy, sign up for Wine Lister’s free newsletter here. Members of the trade can sign up to the Pro account to search and filter wines by Wine Lister Pro metrics.

Any of the producers recently added to the Wine Lister website can provide us with additional information on their wines, including production volumes, grape varieties, and label images. Email us at: team@wine-lister.com.


Bordeaux en primeur – wines to watch for price potential post-release

One of the most significant periods of purchasing in a wine collector’s calendar is once again upon us. Bordeaux en primeur provides the opportunity to secure wines before they are bottled, with the primary benefits being both to gain access to crus that sell out quickly, and to pick them up at attractive prices, which will likely be higher once the wine becomes physically available.

In Wine Lister’s latest Bordeaux Study, we examine a five-vintage retrospective analysis showing the greatest positive percentage change between wines at ex-négociant release price and current market prices.

Taking a closer look at the top-20 wines in the list, these bottles often see significant demand post- release, and are worth keeping an eye out for during the impending en primeur campaign.

Lafleur, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, and Petrus typically see the greatest percentage changes in price, with all three producing notably small volumes within the context of Bordeaux – c.1,000, 1,800, and 2,500 cases per annum, respectively. With rarity on its side, demand for Lafleur has encouraged its original release price to grow by 115% on average in the secondary market.

Four of the wines featured are produced under the same roof, or by the same team, as the Bordeaux First Growths, with demand surely heightened through association. Carruades de Lafite, Pavillon Blanc, Petit Mouton, and Clerc-Milon all offer potential price increase post-release, at a lower initial price than their Premier Cru siblings. Appearing fourth on the list, Carruades de Lafite has seen market price increase by c.56% post-release across the past five vintages, while the current cost of Petit Mouton is up c.54% on its ex-négociant price.

Offering relative value and potential for future returns, several “rising stars” are featured in the ranking, and are worth watching over the upcoming releases. Canon, Calon Ségur, and trade darling for good value, Meyney have exhibited strong increases in quality over recent years, which has resulted in higher demand, and thus strong price performance after en primeur campaigns. The three promising picks have seen their average price increase by c.33%, c.24%, and c.19% respectively.

Results are extracted from Part I of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study. You can download the study digest in English here: Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Study – Digest or French here: Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Résumé d’étude. The full report can be purchased on our Analysis page, while Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.

Wine Lister provides Pro+ subscribers with  real-time en primeur release alerts during the campaign. Email us to enquire about signing up, or track releases prices on our dedicated en primeur page here.