Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: a question of quality

Part II of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study, “Going the (quality distance)”, explores the outperformers of the latest vintage – the top 15 wines whose Wine Lister Quality score (part of our Pro rating system) in 2020 most exceeded their wine-level average.

Read on below to find out more, or head to our analysis page to download the Bordeaux Study here.

Margaux is well-represented in the 2020 outperformers chart, with five wines showing significant improvements this year. Appearing in fourth place of quality outperformers for 2019, Ferrière now tops the chart. Gaining a score of 94-96 from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), he describes the latest release as a “powerhouse” that shows, “the more virile side of Margaux off to great effect.” Appearing in the top spot in 2018 and 2019, Durfort-Vivens ranks second place this year, while fellow Margaux châteaux, Cantenac-Brown, Brane-Cantenac, and d’Issan take 10th, 14th, and 15th place, respectively.

La Lagune appears third in the list of outperformers for the second year running, having been described by Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, as having, “Exquisite texture” in 2020. Also hailing from the Haut-Médoc, Poujeaux appears in eighth place, with Antonio Galloni (Vinous) calling the latest release “Plush, engaging, and flat-out delicious.”

In neighbouring Pauillac, Haut-Bages Libéral returns for a second year to rank fifth amongst the top outperformers in 2020. Awarding 17 points, James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com found the latest vintage to be, “Pure and precise with plenty of energy and drive.”

On either side of Pauillac’s parameters, two châteaux from Saint-Julien feature in the list, with Talbot and Gruaud-Larose showing strong improvements in Quality score in 2020, while Saint-Estèphe is represented by Lafon-Rochet. Awarding a score of 93-95, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) describes Lafon-Rochet 2020 as, “Silky, elegant and so pure […] shaping up to be one of the real under the radar gems of 2020.”

Alongside Les Carmes Haut-Brion – who appears in seventh place amongst top outperformers in 2020 – the Pessac-Léognan picks comprise the only Bordeaux white to feature in the ranking.  Carbonnieux Blanc receives a score of 90-92 from both Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin (Vinous), with the latter noting, “A fragrant, well-defined bouquet of Braeburn apples, pear and wild mint”.

Two wines from Saint-Émilion made significant advancements in this year’s ranking, with La Dominique ranking fourth, and La Gaffelière appearing in 11th place. The latter features for the second year in a row, receiving 96-98 from Neal Martin in 2020, who calls it a “magnificent prospect”.

Part II of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study also explores evaluating the leading Bordeaux bottles for long-term price performance and presence at auction. Check out the Study Digest for some key findings here, or purchase the full report on our Analysis page. Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur – the best by appellation

As the Bordeaux en primeur campaign draws to a close, Wine Lister has published its latest Wine Leagues on the new vintage – exploring which Bordeaux 2020s rank best for WL score in each major appellation (as separated by decimals).

For the third year running, First Growths Mouton and Lafite dominate the Pauillac leader board with a joint WL score of 97. Super-seconds Pichon Comtesse and Pichon Baron follow suit with scores of 96 and 95, while Haut-Bages Libéral has climbed to joint-eighth place in 2020 (from ranking 18th in 2019). As explored in Part II of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux study, the estate is one of the top-15 wines to have seen its quality improve the most in 2020, compared to its average Quality score (explore key findings from the study here).

The Margaux appellation possesses the top-scoring wine of the vintage, Margaux 2020. Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, tasted the vintage and is confident that “This will age into eternity. And yet the texture is already so soft now.” For the second year in a row, Palmer secures the next-best place with a WL score of 96, while Rauzan-Ségla climbs eight places this year, into the third spot.

The top five Saint-Julien 2020s are in line with that of last year’s league, with Léoville Las Cases and Ducru-Beaucaillou sharing the top WL score of 96. Neighbours Léoville Poyferré and Léoville Barton follow suit with 95, while Gruaud-Larose once again achieves fifth place. Also appearing on the list of top 15 wines whose perceived quality in 2020 most exceeded their average, (Part II of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux Study) Talbot climbs four places since last year’s league, securing a WL score of 94 for the first time since its 1986 vintage.

Wine Lister Buzz Brand, Montrose, has another successful vintage in 2020, overtaking last year’s leader, Cos d’Estournel, to achieve the top place in the Saint-Estèphe league. Tasting in Bordeaux, Ella describes Montrose as having “silkiness in spades” and “beautifully integrated” wood on the palate. Lafon-Rochet climbs four spots to third place in 2020, having gained its highest WL score since 2016 (94). Entering the market last month (Thursday 20th May), the estate also features alongside Haut-Bages Libéral and Talbot as one of Wine Lister’s Quality score outperformers for the vintage.

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion perform notably well, once again achieving joint-first place in the league of top Pessac-Léognan 2020 reds. As in 2019, Smith Haut Lafitte and Haut-Bailly share third place, alongside the en primeur darling, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, whose WL score increases by one mark this year to 95. Second wines Les Hauts de Smith and Le Clarence de Haut-Brion enter the league with WL scores of 93, with the former gaining with its highest ever WL score in 2020.

Despite both scoring slightly down from 95 in 2019, Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion attain joint-first place for their whites as well as reds in 2020, achieving scores of 94 in the league of top Bordeaux whites by WL score. Tasting Haut-Brion Blanc, Ella notes it “Flexes its flinty muscles on the nose, with an almost Burgundian minerality accompanying its unmistakable Pessac green and yellow-fruit character.”

Pavie rises through the ranks from fourth place last year to lead Saint-Emilion’s league for the 2020 vintage, alongside Angélus, Ausone, Figeac, and Canon, whose scores of 96 are separated by fractional differences. Having been awarded 97-99 by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), he describes it as, “Very clearly one of the wines of the year.” Clos Fourtet has climbed significantly this year, now standing in sixth position (up from the 17th spot in 2019).

As the only appellation to achieve a significantly higher average Quality score in 2020 than in 2019 (as explored in Part II of our Bordeaux Study), Pomerol takes the top spot for Quality score across all appellations in the latest vintage. Lafleur, Trotanoy, and Petrus share the leading WL score in its 2020 league (97), beating their score of 96 last year. Lafleur 2020 receives notable praise from the few critics who tasted in Bordeaux – Ella describes its mouthfeel simply as “out of this world”.

Click here to view all Wine Leagues. Pro users have access to a more extensive set of Leagues and can log in to access here.


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: Margaux enters the market

As we find ourselves in the peak of this year’s en primeur activity, Tuesday morning (22nd June) saw a wave of releases from the Médoc and beyond, including wines from First Growth Margaux, its popular neighbour Palmer, and fellow biodynamic trailblazer, Smith Haut Lafitte.

Moments at Margaux: the First Growth released its 2020 on Tuesday (22nd June) at £433 per bottle

Smith Haut Lafitte kicked off the release rush, entering the market at £96 per bottle. The 2020 receives top scores across the board, with Wine Lister’s partner critics, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin (Vinous) each giving 95-97 points, and the latter deeming it “an outstanding effort”. Tasting with co-owner, Florence Cathiard at the property, Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, describes “playful black fruit, dark chocolate, and black liquorice” on the nose, and a “fine-boned but monstrous tannic structure” on the palate.

Joining its red offering (at the same price), Smith Haut-Lafitte’s white also receives strong scores from critics, including 17.5 points from Jancis Robinson, who calls it “a real triumph”. Ella observes that the 2020 vintage is a perfect example of why Smith Haut-Lafitte is so famous for its blanc sec, finding “a subtle, flirtatious nose of white pepper, lime and pure white fruit”, and a “rich, creamy texture” on the palate. Both Smith Haut Lafitte 2020 rouge and blanc have special edition labels designed to celebrate the 30th vintage under Florence and Daniel Cathiard, as well as 655 years of the property.

Moving over to the Médoc, Margaux 2020 released yesterday at £433 per bottle, having been widely considered as the wine of the vintage. According to scores from Wine Lister’s partner critic panel, the First Growth does indeed top the 2020s, gaining the highest WL score of the vintage. Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin both award Margaux 97-99 points, with the former calling it “very clearly one of the wines of the vintage in 2020″. Tasting at the property in Bordeaux, Ella describes an “intensely rich, concentrated” nose, and a palate that is “off-the-charts potent in terms of fruit and acidity”. Wine collectors will likely be desperate to get their hands on this.

Margaux’s second wine, Pavillon Rouge, and dry white, Pavillon Blanc were also released, at £138 and £180 per bottle, respectively. Ella praises both wines in 2020, describing an “all-round beautiful balance and intensity of fruit” in the red, and admiring the “really rich, mouthcoating texture” of the white – “almost a Chardonnay-esque opulence”.

Popular en primeur pick, Palmer also entered the market at £240 per bottle. Speaking to Wine Lister in October, Managing Director, Thomas Duroux explained that while “négociants would have liked a vintage with high volume and lower prices, the 2020 will be small”, yet nonetheless “rich and exuberant”. Palmer 2020 receives strong scores from the few critics who have tasted it (having maintained its policy of not sending samples). James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com awards it 18+ points, while Ella comments on the wine’s “exquisite texture”, hailing it “like brushed Indian silk”.


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: releases from big names across both banks

The past two days have seen the 2020 campaign pick up speed, with more releases from Margaux, some promising picks from Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol, and Pauillac, as well as an entry from top Saint-Emilion estate, Ausone.

Barrels of Lynch-Bages, whose 2020 vintage was released en primeur yesterday (Wednesday 16th June)

Released on Tuesday (15th June) at £500 per bottle, Ausone 2020 is awarded strong scores from the small selection of Wine Lister partner critics who have tasted it. Akin to its Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé “A” neighbour, Cheval Blanc (who released its 2020 over a month ago), Ausone maintained its policy of not sending samples to critics abroad this year. Tasting at the property in Bordeaux, James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com awards it 18+ points (up from 17.5 in 2019 and 2018), while Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, is also positive, noting that it is “perhaps the mascot for the vintage of gentle power”.

Across the Garonne, Les Carmes Haut-Brion followed suit at £79 per bottle, having once again received successful ratings from critics this year. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) awards the 2020 95-97+ points, calling it, “dazzling, but also a wine of reserve and understatement”, while Ella notes “a velvety, decadent crescendo” on the palate. The estate’s impressive price-performance post-en primeur release saw Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2020 enter the market 24% and 30% below market prices of the 2019 and 2018 vintages respectively, and sold out within minutes.

Top Margaux properties Brane-Cantenac and d’Issan also entered the market on Tuesday, at £50 and £42.20 per bottle, respectively. Neal Martin (Vinous) awards the former its highest score ever received from the critic body (95-97), and calls it “an absolutely fantastic Brane-Cantenac, in my mind superior to the previous two vintages”. Ella was also impressed with the 2020 vintage, describing the nose as “profound and complex” and observing “supple, lithe, thoroughbred (racé) tannins”.

Awarding 17.5 points, James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com calls d’Issan 2020 a “Classic Issan but with more aromatic complexity and a tad more length”, while Antonio Galloni (Vinous) gives his highest score to the estate since 2015, noting that it is “shaping up to be a jewel of a wine’.  The latest release marks a historical year for the property, with the addition of three new grape varieties to its blend in 2020 (which comprises 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and for the first time 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec). The critics’ praise across the board in 2020 suggests that the additional varieties have indeed achieved Emmanuel’s goal of “creating more complexity”.

Released yesterday (Wednesday 16th June) at £134.50 per bottle, Pichon Comtesse 2020 was awarded 96-98 points from Neal Martin (Vinous), who describes “a magnificent, cerebral Pichon-Lalande”. Ella is similarly optimistic about the latest vintage, noting “energetic fruits that span the colour palette from black to red.” Pichon Comtesse’s successful 2019 vintage has seen its price increase by over 50% since its release last year, which should encourage interest in the 2020.

Popular Pauillac powerhouse Lynch-Bages also entered the market yesterday, and merchants have been offering the wine for just under £87 per bottle. Tasting in Bordeaux, Ella found it to be “monumental as it first hits your nostrils” with a palate that “ boasts focussed, tart, crunchy red fruit, with a subtle toastiness on the finish”. The estate’s strong brand strength and loyal following, particularly on the UK market, will likely help the 2020 find buyers, not to mention that 2020 is the first vintage made in the property’s long-awaited new cellar.

Also released during this period are: Malescot Saint-ExupéryNéninRéserve de la ComtessePibranEcho de Lynch-BagesBlanc de Lynch-BagesTrotte VieilleChapelle d’Ausone, and Blason d’Issan 


Firing up the First Growths with 2020 releases from the Lafite stable

With en primeur releases steadily gaining momentum this week, the campaign has been propelled forward today (Friday 11th June), as we see the first release from a First Growth: Lafite and its associated wines.

Duhart-Milon hit the ground running at £57 per bottle. The château has seen significant investment over the last 10 years, and with its vineyards on cool sites, it has flourished over the past few, warmer vintages. Tasting the Lafite line-up alongside International Director of DBR, Jean-Sébastien Philippe, Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, found Duhart-Milon 2020 to be “rivetingly pure, lifted, [and] eager” on the nose, with a “bouquet of spiced plums, black liquorice, chocolate-orange, and fresh flowers”. Marking the first vintage made in the property’s new winemaking facility in the heart of Pauillac town, this is a promising buy for lovers of the appellation.

Carruades de Lafite followed in quick succession, entering the market at £177 per bottle. Jean-Sébastien explains that owner Saskia de Rothschild considers Carruades to be the “promise of Lafite” – from vines that might one day have the potential to provide for the Grand Vin. Cutting volumes by half over the last few years is just one of the steps taken to increase the second wine’s quality. Described by Ella as “A mysterious Carruades, with a nose that is sultry and flirtatious”, the 2020 vintage comes onto the market comfortably under all recent back vintages available.

Lafite’s Pomerol property, L’Evangile released its 2020 grand vin at £185 per bottle. Alongside its left bank siblings, the estate has been undergoing its own transformation over the past few years, complete with a new winemaking team. Set to be certified organic from 2021, it already employs many biodynamic principles. Wine Lister’s partner critics Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni (Vinous) award the latest release 94-96 and 95-97 points respectively, with the latter stating “The 2020 L’Evangile is fabulous. […] Don’t miss it!”.

To end the release rush on a high, Lafite takes the first leap for the First Growths with a vintage that scores well across Wine Lister’s partner critics. Playing into the movement of a more restrained style of Bordeaux, Lafite 2020 sports the lowest alcohol percentage since 2010 (of 12.8%), and a low pH of 3.5. Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther awards it 19 points, noting its “Incredible potential”, while Ella comments that “the high acidity will carry it long into the future, gracefully, balletically. This is no monster, but rather soft and delightful”. As ever with Bordeaux’s super-brand, competition to access Lafite 2020 will likely be high.


Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Study Part II

Going the (quality) distance

As we prepare for the Bordeaux 2020 en primeur releases to really pick up pace, Wine Lister has published Part II of its annual Bordeaux Study.

With contribution from two of our partner critics, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin (Vinous), Part II looks at how the latest vintage compares to recent years, considers which wines have seen the greatest step up in quality in 2020, and evaluates the leading Bordeaux bottles for long-term price performance and presence at auction.

Please see a handful of our key findings here:

Download your copy of the Study Digest in English here: Bordeaux Study 2021 Part II – Study Digest and in French here: Bordeaux Study 2021 Part II – Résumé d’étude. The full report can be purchased on our Analysis page, while Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.


Jeannie Cho Lee’s top Bordeaux 2020 scores

The final Wine Lister partner critic to release their Bordeaux 2020 scores, Jeannie Cho Lee’s latest ratings provide further insight into the best of Bordeaux’s latest vintage.

Recap the top scores from Bettane+Desseauve, JancisRobinson.com, Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni (Vinous), or read more below.

Giving a near-perfect score of 99, Jeannie Cho Lee praises Lafite 2020, calling it a “classic Lafite with a soft, almost effortless entry” and a “long lingering finish”.

Along with La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge, First Growths Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Mouton follow shortly behind with 98 points. Haut-Brion Blanc gains 94 points, while several siblings of the Premier Crus clan also appear on the list, with Carruades de Lafite and Pavillon Rouge scoring 95.

Of the 27 wines that earn 94 and over from Jeannie Cho Lee, 13 hail from Saint-Emilion – once again suggesting the success of the appellation in 2020. Angélus, Monbousquet, and Pavie lead the pack with a score of 98, while Pavie’s second wine, Arômes de Pavie also makes an appearance.

Further top-scoring Bordeaux 2020 from Jeannie Cho Lee are: Pichon Baron, Bellevue-Mondotte, Canon, l’Evangile, Laroze, Pavie-Decesse, Rauzan-Ségla, Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Clos des Jacobins, Bellevue, Cos d’Estournel, Destieux, Duhart-Milon, Fleur Cardinale, Arômes de Pavie, and Quintus.

Watch this space for Wine Lister’s latest Wine Leagues on the new vintage – examining which Bordeaux 2020s rank best for WL score in each major appellation.


Antonio Galloni’s top Bordeaux 2020 scores

The majority of Bordeaux 2020 en primeur scores have now been published by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who notes in his latest tasting report that the vintage impresses “for a combination of energy and vibrancy”.

Explore all Bordeaux 2020 scores here, or read more below.

Antonio Galloni awards his top score of 97-99 to Pavie, Haut-Brion, and fellow First Growth, Margaux, which he describes as having “magnificent balance” in 2020. Mouton and Lafite are also featured on the list, having received 96-98 and 95-97, respectively.

Stating in his report that “Pessac-Léognan is the most successful appellation as a whole” in 2020, Antonio Galloni’s top Pessac picks alongside Haut-Brion include La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge (96-98), Les Carmes Haut-Brion (95-97+), Pape Clément, Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Haut-Bailly, and Domaine de Chevalier Rouge (all 95-97).

A significant 21 out of the 37 wines earning 95-97 and over from Antonio Galloni hail from the Right Bank, suggesting once again that it coped well with fluctuating water tables in 2020.

Further top-scoring Bordeaux 2020 from Antonio Galloni are: Angélus, Clos Fourtet, Vieux Château Certan, Trotanoy, L’Eglise-Clinet, Pichon Baron, Léoville Las Cases, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse, Léoville-Poyferré, Bélair-Monange, Valandraud, Le Prieuré, Bellevue Mondotte, Larcis Ducasse, La Mondotte, Figeac, Canon, Tertre-Rôteboeuf, L’If, L’Évangile, Feytit-Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, Pontet-Canet, Pichon Comtesse, and Rauzan-Ségla.

Explore the top Bordeaux 2020 scores from Bettane+Desseauve, JancisRobinson.com, Neal Martin (Vinous), and Jeannie Cho Lee.


Neal Martin’s top Bordeaux 2020 scores

Wine Lister analyses Bordeaux 2020 scores from our partner critic, Neal Martin (Vinous).

Bordeaux 2020 wines earning 95-97 and over from Neal Martin (Vinous)

Which were Neal Martin’s (Vinous) top-scoring wines from Bordeaux’s 2020 vintage?

In his latest tasting report for Vinous, “Vingt-vingts Vins”, Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards no perfect scores for Bordeaux 2020 en primeur (he gave two potential 100-point scores to the 2019 vintage – La Mission Haut-Brion and Pichon Comtesse).

His top 33 wines below nonetheless sport three potential 99-point wines, for First Growth Margaux, Moueix-owned Trotanoy, and Pessac powerhouse La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge.

The Right Bank fares well, earning 15 of the top spots (nine Saint-Émilion, and six Pomerol).

Of Left Bank appellations, Pessac-Léognan fares the best, if entirely from reds, with Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Haut-Bailly, and Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge joining La Mission for the top offerings in 2020. Pauillac also (perhaps unsurprisingly) performs well, with the two Pichons joining first growths Mouton and Lafite as the appellation’s top scores.

To find out Antonio Galloni’s (Vinous) scores for Bordeaux 2020, read: Antonio Galloni’s top Bordeaux 2020 scores

Further top scorers are otherwise scattered across the remaining appellations, including three sweet wines from Sauternes – both cuvées from Doisy-Daëne, and Lur-Saluces-owned de Fargues.

Some of the remaining top-scoring Bordeaux 2020 from Neal Martin are: Léoville Las Casesl’Eglise Clinet, La Gaffelière, Figeac, Canon, La Conseillante, Vieux Château Certan, Angélus, Pape Clément, Léoville Poyferré, Haut-Bailly, Hosanna, Pavie, Le Gay, La Mondotte, Belair-Monange, Clos Fourtet, Cos d’Estournel, Valandraud, Brane-Cantenac, and Rauzan-Ségla.

Explore the top Bordeaux 2020 scores from Bettane+Desseauve, JancisRobinson.com, and Jeannie Cho Lee.


Top Bordeaux 2020 scores from JancisRobinson.com

Wine Lister’s partner critic platform, JancisRobinson.com has now released the majority of its scores for the 2020 vintage, helping to paint a better picture of some of the top en primeur picks.

Explore all Bordeaux 2020 scores here, or read more below.

With a shared score of 19 from James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com, First Growths Margaux and Lafite lead the pack alongside Pomerol’s beloved Lafleur. Lawther describes Margaux 2020 as “aromatically complex with floral, mineral and dark-fruit notes”, and notes that Lafite 2020 is “rich, but with a massive charge of fine-grained tannin and lingering freshness” on the palate.

Fellow First Growths Haut-Brion and Mouton follow shortly after with a score of 18.5, shared with Lafleur’s neighbouring property, Petrus, and Saint-Estèphe staple, Cos d’Estournel.

Pomerol represents eight out of the 39 wines earning 17.5 and over from the JancisRobinson.com critics, recalling sentiments that earlier-ripening Merlots fared best in the latest vintage. Joining Lafleur and Petrus, Vieux Château Certan, Le Pin, Trotanoy, l’Eglise Clinet, Certan de May, and La Fleur-Pétrus earn a score of 17.5 for their 2020s.

Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is the only dry white Bordeaux to gain a score of 17.5 and above from JancisRobinson.com critics so far. Robinson tasted the wine herself, and observes that it is “already gorgeous” with “some richness on palate entry” that “gives way to really fantastic vibrancy on the palate”.

Also featured in the list of Bordeaux 2020s earning 17.5 and over from Wine Lister partner critic platform, JancisRobinson.com are: Calon Ségur, Pichon Baron, Palmer, Léoville Barton, Pavie, Angélus, Pichon Comtesse, Léoville Las Cases, Montrose, Ausone, La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge, Trotanoy, Duhart-Milon, Figeac, Durfort-Vivens, Clerc-Milon, Carruades de Lafite, Le Petit Mouton, Rauzan-Ségla, Canon, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Léoville Poyferré, Meyney, Belair-Monange, Gruaud-Larose, and d’Issan.

Explore the top Bordeaux 2020 scores from Bettane+Desseauve, Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni (Vinous), and Jeannie Cho Lee.