Keeping it in the family with the best value second wine picks
Further informing your Bordeaux 2020 purchases, we look at the top 20 second wines of the vintage by Wine Lister’s value score. The score is calculated based on the quality to price ratio of a wine and vintage, while still allowing room for higher-priced wines to feature.
The top 20 leading sibling wines by Wine Lister value score
Which second wines provide the greatest value?
Often lurking in the shadows of their Grand Vin counterpart, sibling wines offer a high quality, more accessible alternative to Bordeaux’s long-ageing elite. While some are the product of grapes remaining from the Grand Vin, other producers prefer to give a sibling wine its own dedicated plots, often of slightly younger vines. In either case, these wines made at the hands of some of the world’s greatest winemakers should be considered seriously. Below we look at our top picks of sibling wines for value, based on the latest offerings from the Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign.
Left Bank legacies
All major Bordeaux appellations across both banks are well-represented amongst the top 20 value picks, with Margaux property, d’Issan achieving the greatest value score for the 2020 vintage. First produced in 1985, Blason d’Issan bears a greater proportion of Merlot than its Grand Vin sibling (57% compared to 39%), but as noted by its maker, Emmanuel Cruse, is still very much a “baby d’Issan”, sporting the château’s perennial style. The second wine of 2020’s wine of the vintage (according to Wine Lister partner critics), Margaux, has been a permanent feature of the estate since the 17th century; christened Pavillon Rogue in 1908, it is 2020’s only top 20 second wine from a First Growth property. Margaux comrade, Giscours, is also represented, by its Sirène de Giscours, which enjoys the same winemaking attention and ageing as the Grand Vin, but with grapes sourced from younger vines. Finally, Margaux majesty, Palmer is featured with Alter Ego. Its 2020 release was well sought-after, particularly after no second wine was produced in 2018.
Pessac-Léognan royalty, Haut-Brion’s Clarence de Haut-Brion ranks among the top 20 sibling wines for value. It is joined by L’Espirit de Chevalier – the red counterpart of Domaine de Chevalier’s sibling series – and Haut-Bailly’s Haut-Bailly II. The latter was renamed (from La Parde de Haut-Bailly) in 2019 to symbolise the second generation of owners, the Wilmers family. Finally, Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion comes from the same vineyard as the Grand Vin, grown and harvested in the same way, with the introduction of grapes from the older parcels of La Tour Haut-Brion since the 2006 vintage.
Saint-Julien has three properties represented by their second wines, including Croix de Beaucaillou, which ranks in second place. This sibling wine is produced using grapes hailing from its own distinct vineyard, lying to the west of the château. Completing the top five rankings is Fiefs de Lagrange, which bears familiarity to its Grand Vin sibling, but is more suited for earlier drinking. Finally, Léoville Las Cases’ le Petit Lion celebrates its 13th vintage with the release of the 2020, produced from a blend of replanted vines that are now between 15 and 18 years of age.
In neighbouring Saint-Estèphe, Le Marquis de Calon Ségur and Pagodes de Cos occupy 10th and 11th place respectively, with the former taking very different form from their first wine as an alternative interpretation of the Calon terroir. The latter is produced from a separate, dedicated plot of 40-year-old vines.
Completing the Left Bank selection are four Pauillac value picks, of which two hail from the same property. Pichon Baron is the only property to see its two additional wines feature – Les Griffons de Pichon Baron and Tourelles de Longueville. Lynch-Bages’ Echo joins them within the top 10 picks by value score. Finally, Pichon Comtesse’s Réserve de la Comtesse – first sold in 1973 – is a top feature for en primeur 2020. This well-established sibling wine represents between 20% to 50% of Pichon Comtesse’s total production.
Right Bank relatives
One the Right Bank, and particularly in Pomerol, sibling wines have been slower to catch on, simply due to lower production levels per property. Two Saint Emilion Classés A properties nonetheless stand out for sibling value picks– Pavie and Angélus – featuring Arômes de Pavie and Carillon d’Angélus, respectively. The latter is increasingly becoming a “cousin” rather than a sibling, since the property has recently invested heavily in new plots for Carillon alone. Amongst this top pick hoard is Pomerol estate, Pensées de Lafleur, which takes 13th place amongst the top value picks with a limited-production of 500 cases.
As well as gaining top scores across its reds, Bordeaux 2020 was successful for dry whites, notably at the highest level. Helping you to discover some of the leading examples, we explore the top five Bordeaux 2020 dry white wines by WL score.
The top dry Bordeaux whites of the 2020 vintage, displayed in order of WL score
Will 2020 be a good vintage in Bordeaux for dry white wines?
Despite another exceedingly warm growing season in 2020, Bordeaux’s earlier-ripening white grapes fared well across many of the region’s top blanc producers. Having seen one of the earliest harvests on record, the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were picked on the 14th of August, and all fruit destined for dry whites was harvested by early September. The white Bordeaux vintage therefore avoided high temperatures during the rest of the month, maintaining balance and freshness.
With a remarkably small production of just c.600 cases per annum, Haut-Brion Blanc remains one of the most sought-after Bordeaux dry whites. To combat the warm summer temperatures, the team conducted pre-dawn harvesting, picking grapes during the cooler night-time climate to ensure better levels of acidity and freshness. Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, found Haut-Brion Blanc to show “an almost Burgundian minerality accompanying its unmistakable Pessac green and yellow-fruit character”. With a WL score of 94, it champions the leader board of Bordeaux dry whites for the last four vintages, and there is still some of the 2020 available to purchase en primeur at IG Wines for £600 per bottle (in-bond).
Haut-Brion’s sibling estate, La Mission Haut-Brion’s white is characterised by a Sémillon-dominated blend – a grape with naturally low acidity compared to Bordeaux’s other white varietals. With soaring summer temperatures in 2020, the team therefore increased the percentage of Sauvignon Blanc in its blend to 54.7% (up from 30.1% in 2019) to ensure balance. Ella notes the impact of the increased Sauvignon on the wine’s acidity, describing a “zippy acidity, zingy energy, [with a] peach stone finish.” La Mission Haut-Brion’s white gains a WL score of 94 for the 2020 vintage, and can be found at Justerini & Brooks for £480 per bottle (in-bond).
Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc’s white vines are planted just behind the château to the north, where they benefit from a cooler microclimate that withstood high temperatures in 2020. Technical Director, Fabien Teitgen found a “nice balance and liveliness” in the grapes after harvest, while Ella characterises the 2020 as “subtle and flirtatious, building slowly into notes of white pepper and lime, as well as pure white fruit”. Gaining a WL score of 93, Smith Haut Lafitte blanc 2020 is available at Honest Grapes for £96 per bottle (in-bond).
Located at the heart of the Landes pine forest, Domaine de Chevalier’s vines are also subject to a cooler microclimate as a result of the surrounding woodland, which was certainly welcomed in 2020. When sampling the latest release at the estate, Ella enjoyed the richness of the vintage, noting “Aromas of tangerine, white flowers, custard, and acacia honey” and a palate that is “creamy and caressing […] with a lift of tension and a savoury bite.” Receiving a WL score of 93, Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2020 can be acquired from Berry Bros & Rudd for £68 per bottle (in-bond).
Though First Growth Margaux has been producing a dry white for over 300 years, Pavillon Blanc 2020 marks the 100th anniversary under its current name. The only non-Pessac pick to feature in the top-five ranking, the success of the latest release was not without its challenges. Tasting alongside Margaux’s Managing Director, Philippe Bascaules, and Business Development Director, Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos, Ella was informed of the high mildew pressure as a result of a hot wet spring in 2020, which risked affecting the Sauvignon Blanc grapes of their single-varietal wine. Nevertheless, their 2020 receives a WL score of 93, with Ella describing a “Really rich, mouthcoating texture on entering the mouth – almost a Chardonnay-esque opulence”, and declaring the wine “Delicious.” Pavillon Blanc 2020 can be purchased en primeur from Goedhuis & Co for £180 per bottle (in-bond).
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.
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.
Marking the end of this year’s Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign, the past two days (Thursday 24th and Friday 25th June) have seen the last First Growth to enter the market and some promising Right Bank releases, among others.
The last First Growth to be released, Mouton entered the market yesterday at £433 per bottle, 20% below current prices of the physical 2018. Completing a trilogy of top-scoring vintages, the 2020 earns high praise from critics, including Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who awards 96-98 and describes “a wine of unreal elegance and finesse”. Tasting in Bordeaux, Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister also praises the latest release, writing, “Everything is in perfect harmony,” adding that the wine is “Arterial in its focus, poise, and pure presence”. Mouton’s top quality in 2020, and it being the number one most searched-for wine in the world (according to searches on Wine Searcher), should encourage interest amongst collectors.
Sibling properties La Conseillante and Figeac were both released this morning, Friday 25th June, at £156 per bottle. Both wines sport scores suggesting a third consecutive triumph following on from 2019 and 2018.
Vinous’ Antonio Galloni gives La Conseillante 94-97 points, while his colleague Neal Martin awards 96-98 points, calling it a “deeply impressive and quite profound” wine, in which “The old “iron fist in a velvet glove” cliché rings true”. Ella adds to the commentary; “Wow – is this the purest, brightest, most precise La Conseillante yet under the auspices of Marielle Cazaux?”
Figeac’s 2020 release prices comes to market comfortably below what little remains of 2019, and 4% below 2018. Similarly well-scored, Galloni names Figeac 2020 “superb”, while Martin remarks simply, “a magnificent Figeac”. For the Wine Lister team and CEO, Ella, Figeac is one of the wines of the vintage. Ella describes a “gentle, distinguished” nose “with ripe red fruits and floral delicacy”, and a “juicy, profound, mouth-filling and feather-light” palate. She concludes, “The harmony is mind-blowing.”
Given the moderate price increase compared to other releases this week, and taking into consideration next year’s reclassification for Saint-Emilion, Figeac appears an attractive buy.
Excepting a handful of wines sold more or less on allocation-only bases (Petrus and Le Pin), the release of Vieux Château Certan, expected early next week, will conclude the Bordeaux en primeur 2020 campaign.
Watch this space for a retrospective review of best picks of the campaign, including our official list of MUST BUYS.
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”.
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.
Yesterday (Thursday 17th June) saw a flurry of promising releases from both banks, including the likes of Clinet, Pichon Baron, Pontet-Canet, Calon Ségur, and more. Below we examine some of the highlights.
Alfred Tesseron getting a coffee at the Pontet Canet food truck during Bordeaux 2020 en primeur tasting week
Clinet 2020 opened the stage for yesterday’s release rush, entering the market at £66.50 per bottle. Falling c.30% below the current average market price of last year’s release, which has seen strong price performance since, the 2020 receives good critical praise that places it qualitatively in line with both the 2019 and 2015. Tasting in Bordeaux, Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister calls it the best Clinet she’s tasted, observing a “Graceful, silky-smooth entry into the mouth […] A triumph”.
Super-second, Pichon Baron followed closely behind, releasing its 2020 at £110.60 per bottle. Having also shown good price-performance in recent vintages, the latest release comes onto the market 5% below the current average price of the 2019, and 15% below the 2018. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) awards the 2020 96-98 points, noting “This is hands down one of the most impressive wines of 2020”. Ella is also complimentary, describing a palate that is “Structured, voluminous at first”, then shows a “wonderful feather-lightness”.
Fellow Pauillac peer, Pontet-Canet also released yesterday at £74.23 per bottle, providing another discount on market prices for its 2019 and 2018 vintages (26% and 19%, respectively). Antonio Galloni gives the 2020 95-97 points (level with the 2019), calling it a “captivating effort from the Tesseron family” that is “luxuriously rich from start to finish.” Ella agrees with this optimistic assessment, describing “Characteristically unique aromas of black forest gâteau” on the nose, and a “sweet, and savoury” palate.
Rounding out the releases, Calon Ségur 2020 entered the market at £78.20 yesterday – 6% down on the remaining market availability of the 2019 (which has seen its price increase by around 28% since last year), and 27% down on the 2018. James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com awards the 2020 18 points, calling it “clean and saline on the finish”, while Ella describes “Iris, violet at the fore” on the nose, and a “moreish and elegant” palate.
Also released are: Pape Clément, Pape Clément Blanc, Pichon-Longueville Baron Les Griffons, Le Marquis de Calon Ségur, and Capbern.
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-Exupéry, Nénin, Réserve de la Comtesse, Pibran, Echo de Lynch-Bages, Blanc de Lynch-Bages, Trotte Vieille, Chapelle d’Ausone, and Blason d’Issan
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.