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”.


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.


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: the pace is picking up

The Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign has shifted up another gear this week, with a flurry of releases from both banks entering the market. Below we examine some of the highlights, including several wines who receive some of their highest critics scores in 2020.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste‘s new mixed-format case, which includes one double magnum, two magnums, and four standard bottles of the 2020 vintage – equivalent to 12 bottles in total.

Kicking off the week, Claire Villars Lurton’s Haut-Bages Libéral 2020 was released on Monday (7th June) at £25.92 per bottle – a significant 23% under the average market prices of the 2018 and the high-scoring 2016. Receiving its joint-highest score from Wine Lister partner critic outfit, JancisRobinson.com in 2020 (shared with 2015), Haut-Bages Libéral gains 17 points from James Lawther who notes that the “property continues to improve”.

Sister property Ferrière also entered the market on Monday at £26.42 per bottle, having similarly shown a step-up in quality in 2020. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) awards it 94-96 points this year – its highest-ever score from the critic – noting that “Readers will find a wine of tremendous gravitas”.

Released on Tuesday (8th June) at £34.35 per bottle, Cantenac-Brown likewise receives its highest score ever given by Antonio Galloni in 2020 (94-97), who describes it as “shaping up to be one of the wines of the vintage”. With exciting renovations underway for a new underground eco-cellar at the estate following its acquisition by agro-engineer, Tristan Le Lous, at the end of 2019, the estate shows promising potential.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste followed suit at an opening price of £50.60 per bottle, having similarly gained strong critic praise in 2020. Writing for Vinous, Neal Martin awards it 95-97 points, while Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister (who tasted at the estate in April) describes a “Clean, pure, chiselled, classy” palate with “Fine-grained, sinewy tannins and generous fruit, delicately framed.” Pictured above, Grand-Puy-Lacoste‘s latest release also boasts a new mixed-format case designed by co-owner Emmeline Borie’s little brother, Pierre-Antoine.

Entering the market yesterday (Wednesday 9th June) at £38.40 per bottle, Saint-Pierre was praised by Ella as offering “A vibrant, confident bouquet, with smoky, stony, spicy notes”, on the nose, and “a very attractive, potent palate, full of black fruit, black liquorice, and cardamom spice”. Having shown consistently strong critics scores over recent years, this under-the-radar fourth growth merits backing in 2020. Sibling property, Gloria, also released its 2020 (at £26.40 per bottle) and presents great value within the Saint-Julien appellation.

Two further releases with great potential also come out this week. La Gaffelière 2020 gains the estate’s highest score ever from Neal Martin for Vinous (96-98), who calls it “a magnificent prospect”. Ella notes that the latest release has a “Captivating nose, elegant and inviting”, and a palate with “Stunning freshness [and] poise”. The property’s upward quality trajectory and increasing interest from the trade should see good demand for the 2020, which enters the market at £48 per bottle.

Finally, the newest jewel in the Cazes family crown, Haut-Batailley, released its 2020 vintage yesterday at £39.76 per bottle. Described by Ella as showing “rich opulent fruit [and] floral freshness” with a “toasty and expressive” finish, the latest release may see increased demand as a result of its recent acquisition by the popular new owners.

Also released during this period: Phélan SégurFieuzal, Fieuzal Blanc, Ducru-Beaucaillou La CroixClerc-Milon, La Violette, Le Gay, Palmer Alter Ego, and de Camensac.


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: a family affair – Guinaudeau, von Neipperg, and Bernard wines released

The past week has once again seen a trickle of 2020s enter the market, with highlight releases from the likes of the Guinaudeau family, Vignobles von Neipperg, and Domaine de Chevalier.

A Lafleur line-up: Ella joins Baptiste Guinaudeau in Bordeaux to taste the 2020s

One of the most in-demand wines from Bordeaux, Lafleur was released on Wednesday (2nd June) at a UK price of £526.67 per bottle. While samples have not been sent to critics abroad for the last two remote campaigns, Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister tasted the 2020 at the estate. Giving it high praise, she notes “aristocratic blue fruit, cherries, and a relaxed smoky character” on the nose, and a mouthfeel that is “out of this world”.

For those unable to access the small-production grand vin, the estate’s Pensées de Lafleur, or the relatively new Perrières (in its third vintage since its official baptism following 15 years of research under the beta pseudonym, “Acte”) provide great-value alternatives, having been released at £113.33 and £47.50 per bottle, respectively.

Another promising pick for cellaring is d’Armailhac 2020, which released on Tuesday (1st June) at £33 per bottle. Former Director, Philippe Dhalluin (who retired last year) called d’Armailhac a “rugby player in black tie”, and this year, new Estate Manager, Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy calls it an “athlete in black tie”. Ella agrees, describing it as “very dense, but more athletic than some d’Armailhacs of old”.

Kicking off Wednesday’s releases at an opening price of £57.90 per bottle, Beychevelle 2020 was described by Ella as having a nose of “delicate flowers and hypnotising fraises de bois”, and a palate that shows “a rush of fresh fruit and the flowers again on the finish”. Beychevelle’s strong post-release track record may well encourage buyers to back the latest release.

The Neipperg family wines followed suit, having received strong critic praise across the board this year. Tasting the 2020s in London, the Wine Lister team were extremely impressed with La Mondotte, noting its heady, luscious black fruit, and dense yet velveteen texture. An alternative pick from the Neipperg properties  for value, d’Aiguilhe was released at £12.10 per bottle, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) as “bright, punchy and so expressive”.

Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg: tasting the 2020s in Wine Lister’s London office

Released on Thursday (3rd June), Domaine de Chevalier Rouge and Blanc both receive strong praise from Antonio Galloni, who noted that “Domaine de Chevalier remains one of the most under the radar wines in all of Bordeaux”, and “The Blanc is one of the world’s great wines, hands down”. With both the red and white entering the market over 10% above the 2019 release prices (at £47.10 and £66.40 per bottle respectively), the rave reviews from Galloni should help find buyers.

Rounding out the week, Malartic-Lagravière and its white counterpart were released on Friday (4th June). Ella was impressed with the 2020, describing “deep, dusky fruit and a touch of spice” on the nose, and “a satin mouthfeel, beautiful midweight body, and a chocolately gravitas on its long finish”. At £28.90 per bottle, the latest release comes onto the market c.15% below the 2018 and even further below both 2015 and 2016 vintages (while sharing average critics’ scores), making this a very attractive buy.

Also released this week are: La Tour Carnet, Lagrange, Lascombes, Gazin, Les Ormes de Pez, Siran, Cos Labory, Pédesclaux, La Pointe, Sociando-Mallet, Clos du Marquis, Meyney, Potensac, and Grand-Puy-Ducasse.


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

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.


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.