Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: the Clarence Dillon clan

As we approach the end of this busy Bordeaux en primeur campaign, yesterday (Wednesday 23rd June) saw the release of the Clarence Dillon family wines, Saint-Éstephe superstar, Montrose, and promising Pessac-Léognan pick, Haut-Bailly.

A family affair: Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister tasted the Clarence Dillon family wines in Bordeaux

Haut-Brion released its red and white grands vins at £433 and £600 per bottle respectively, with both wines receiving strong praise from critics in 2020. The former gains 97-99 points from Wine Lister’s partner critic Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who notes “The 2020 Haut-Brion is shaping up to be one of the wines of the year. […] Wow.” Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister was also impressed, describing “Focussed purple fruits, with a fresh lift of aloe vera, pepper, and fading peonies” on the nose, with “Classical flavours of cassis and violet, [and] a beautiful, beamish balance” on the palate.

Ella also provides a positive perspective on the latest release of Haut Brion Blanc, describing an “almost Burgundian minerality” on the nose, a “golden” palate. It gains the joint-highest WL score of all dry Bordeaux whites in 2020, tying for first place with its cousin, La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc.

La Mission Haut-Brion’s red and white entered the market yesterday at £252 and £480 per bottle, respectively. Gaining an impressive score of 97-99 from Neal Martin (down from the potential 100-point score of 98-100 in 2019), La Mission Haut-Brion 2020 is described by the critic as “An enthralling wine in the making from Jean-Philippe Delmas and his team”. Ella is also impressed with the latest release, noting “brooding, poised aromas of pomegranate and fig” on the nose, with a “layered and expressive” palate. Falling under the current market price of the 2018 and 2019 (whose price has increased around 63% since its release), while sporting similar average critics scores to the 2015 and 2016 vintage, this could be an attractive buy.

Outside of the Clarence Dillon clan, Montrose entered the market at £128.35 per bottle, having been well received by the few critics who tasted in Bordeaux this year (the estate was among those that did not send samples abroad). Wine Lister’s partner critics, Bettane+Desseauve award 98 points on their new scale of 100 points, while James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com gives 18+ points. Tasting in Bordeaux, Ella notes that “The fruit this year is ethereal. Luminous, racy, and as with the second wine, with an incredibly gentle touch” on the nose, whilst the palate “has that Montrose silkiness in spades”. Gaining the highest WL score of Saint-Estèphe 2020s (96), this may well see demand from fans of the estate and its appellation.

Haut-Bailly also released yesterday at £96 per bottle, having gained positive scores of 95-97 from both Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin. Hosting a virtual tasting of the estate’s 2020s for our London office, owner Véronique Sanders told us that the château confronted extreme climatic conditions last year, akin to the past three vintages, which have all produced top quality wines. Indeed, tasting at the estate, Ella found Haut Bailly’s Grand Vin to be “poised, savoury, and relaxed” on the nose, with “a lovely weight, and trademark ribbon mouthfeel”.⁣


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: confidence in the campaign

Concluding a busy week of releases, Friday (18th June) saw new entries from shining Saint-Émilion estates, Troplong-Mondot, Valandraud, and Canon, as well as top Pomerol property, l’Eglise Clinet.

Troplong-Mondot 2020 opened Friday’s releases at £72 per bottle. Neal Martin (Vinous) awards the latest release 94-96 points, hailing it “delicious and characterful […] Excellent”, while Ella Lister (Wine Lister) notes a bouquet of “blue plums and black cherries, rounded out with star anise and cardamom”. Gaining the largest confidence rating increase of any Bordeaux wine in Wine Lister’s latest Founding Member survey (see below), Troplong-Mondot may well be worth investing in for the future.

Results from Wine Lister’s 2021 Founding Member survey show Troplong-Mondot achieves first place for largest confidence rating increase of any Bordeaux wine.

Valandraud followed suit and has been so far offered by merchants for c.£106.50 per bottle. Writing for JancisRobinson.com, Richard Hemming awards the estate its highest score ever given by the critic body (17.5+), while Antonio Galloni (of Vinous) shares his praise, scoring 95-97 and noting “a magnificent effort from Muriel Andraud and Jean-Luc Thunevin”. The husband and wife duo have stepped up the storytelling at Valandraud recently, which should encourage demand for its latest release.

Released at £234.29 per bottle, l’Eglise Clinet 2020 entered the market 21% below the current price of the 2019, which has shown strong price performance post-release. The 2020 marks the start of a new era for l’Eglise Clinet, following the passing of its legendary owner and winemaker Denis Durantou last year. With Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin both awarding 96-98 points (the former notes it “very clearly claims a stake for itself among the wines of the vintage”), the 2020 certainly appears to live up to the legacy of the famed Durantou.

Rounding out Friday’s releases, Canon 2020 released at £96 per bottle (2% and 9% below the market prices of the 2019 and 2018 vintages, respectively). Critics praise has once again been strong in this year, with Neal Martin awarding 96-98 points and calling it “the best since the benchmark 2015/2016 vintages”, while Ella also proposes that it could be “A new 2015?”. With demand for the estate continuing to thrive, the 2020 is worth snapping up.


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.


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

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.

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.

Further 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, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), 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.


Bettane+Desseauve’s top Bordeaux 2020 scores

The majority of Bordeaux 2020 en primeur scores have now been published by Wine Lister partner critic, Bettane+Desseauve, offering further insight into some of the best bottles from the latest vintage.

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

Note that this year Bettane+Desseauve’s scores are officially ranked on a 100-point scale, as shown above. For consistent and comparable analysis with previous vintages, Bettane+Desseauve have provided 20-point scores to be displayed on individual Wine Lister wine pages during the transition into their new system. 

Five of the six wines that receive a score of 98 from Bettane+ Desseauve this year hail from the Right Bank, with Cheval Blanc, Pavie, Ausone, Petrus, and Lafleur leading the list. This adheres to initial indications that it is a Right Bank year, with earlier-ripening Merlot, partnered with the soil’s increased water-holding capacity, helping it handle the drought during the summer.

Indeed, a further five wines on the list come from Saint-Emilion, whose limestone terroirs encouraged a steady water table for the vines in 2020. Figeac, Angélus, Canon, Clos Fourtet, and Belair-Monange all score an impressive 97.5 with their latest vintages.

Pomerol also provides a further four picks, with La Fleur-Pétrus, Trotanoy, and La Conseillante gaining 97.5, followed by micro-production La Violette (releasing 4,800 bottles in 2020) with 97 points.

Also featured on the list of Bordeaux 2020s earning 97 and over from Wine Lister partner critic, Bettane+Desseauve are: Mouton Rothschild, La Fleur-Pétrus, Haut-Brion, Margaux, Palmer, Ducru-Beaucaillou, La Mission Haut-Brion, Pontet-Canet, and Léoville Poyferré.

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