Key findings from this year’s first regional report
In anticipation of this year’s en primeur releases, Wine Lister has published Part 1 of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study. In collaboration with Wine-Searcher, our market overview examines the region’s price performance and comparative popularity progression, and examines the wines that have seen the greatest increase in Wine Lister Quality, Brand, and Economic scores over the last year. Drawing upon valuable insight from 48 leading trade survey respondents, the study also identifies which properties have benefited from a rise in trade confidence over the past year, and explores the key benefits of the en primeur system.
Please see our key findings below, or download the study digest in English: Bordeaux Study Digest Part 1 – 2023 ENG or in French: Bordeaux Study Digest – 2023 FR.
Owner and winemaker of Château Haut-Bages Libéral in Pauillac and Château Ferrière in Margaux: “If it was a person my wine would be an opera-singer, like Pavarotti”.
The fifth in Le Figaro Vin’s series brings us back to Bordeaux to meet Claire Villars-Lurton, #46 best winemaker in France, who has embraced biodynamic viticulture to create her exquisite wines at her two estates. In her interview she shares her passion for a vocation to which she has devoted the last 30 years.
Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?
Claire Villars-Lurton: I am not sure that I am a winemaking champion, but I do feel that I am now on the right path and that I have fully found my feet. When I started there was so much to learn and I really struggled. After a time I wanted to take the lead. Today I feel that everything I have set in train makes sense and that I have a clear grasp of the way ahead.
Have you been training for long?
Yes, for almost 30 years. I have tried a variety of approaches and it hasn’t always been easy. I question almost everything and am never satisfied, which prompts me to challenge myself and also to push my colleagues out of their comfort zone. I cannot bear being comfortable and I don’t like treading water. It is now over 20 years since I took over at Château Haut-Bages Libéral and Château Ferrière. For the last 15 years I have immersed myself in a comprehensive training in biodynamic agriculture. I think it’s wonderful that there is now so much awareness and appreciation of its methodology, so much expertise, research, and literature, all of which paves the way towards an alternative viticulture.
Who is your mentor?
I have a number of mentors. The most important guide on my biodynamic adventure has been Alain Moueix who, crucially, has convinced my colleagues that this is the way forward. Jacques Lurton has shared his expertise on all things wine. Alain Canet (agroforestry adviser to Château Cheval Blanc, ed.) has helped me with the planting of trees in the vineyards. Four or five years ago I, my husband Gonzague (Lurton, owner of Château Durfort-Vivens, ed.), and the agronomist Konrad Schreiber, set up a knowledge-sharing platform for winemakers to pool their experience and expertise, “La Belle Vigne”. I have found this really helpful.
Is wine a team sport?
More than ever, especially when you don’t take shortcuts and don’t introduce cultured yeasts. We have to work with what we have, so we need to operate as a team, from vineyard to cellar. Wine is a team sport played in front of a huge number of spectators who are focused on the product.
What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?
Always the terroir! But you need both. You can make a poor wine from a great terroir, while a good winemaker can never work miracles with poor terroir.
To what do you owe your success?
I am not sure that I have been successful. I would say that I owe a great deal to my education and my family. I had dynamic parents who refused to rest on their laurels. Mum was a role model, even though she was very young when she left us, and I never got to see her at work. I felt secure in the knowledge that my grandfather, my uncle, and my husband all had my back. Becoming sole owner at 30 developed my sense of responsibility. I knew that my family was always there for me, so now I am delighted by the thought that my children want to take up the reins.
Are your children proud of you?
You would have to ask them, as they certainly won’t tell me, but I think so.
Who is your biggest supporter?
Your favourite colour?
Orange, because it’s a warm, bright colour that’s full of energy. As far as wine is concerned then, of course, it’s red.
The king of grape varieties?
Entirely predictably, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Your favourite wine?
Château Haut-Bages Libéral 2018.
Your favourite vintage?
I really like 2020, which is a bit like 2010.
If your wine was a person, who would it be?
It would be an opera-singer, like Pavarotti. Brilliant and luminous, with a perfect timbre, at once powerful and restrained.
What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?
I try to make a wine that can be enjoyed whatever the circumstances. Ideally, it’s when you share it with good friends or with family, at your leisure and with a lot of love.
Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine?
Never! I am called Claire and a given name like that means that I cannot cheat. I think our first names determine who we are. I’m a completely open book, so much so that I reveal too much, reveal everything. So absolutely no chemical enhancement for me, not even make-up.
For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?
Money doesn’t interest me. I will never sell. It’s not money that makes me happy; it’s the tool of my trade, my land, that brings me joy.
Who is your strongest competition in Bordeaux?
My husband. He’s not really a competitor – if he were listening, I don’t think he’d take it very well! – but, all the same, there’s a slight competitive edge between Gonzague and me, which makes us motivate each other and which always keeps us on our toes. We both want to do our best and he is always pushing me to the next level. I try to match him, or even outperform him [laughs]. We really complement each other, and we admire each other a lot; for me to love someone is to admire them.
What is the competition that you fear the most?
People who cheat or use others to get ahead. I try to succeed on my own merits.
What are you most proud of?
What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?
Bringing trees into the vineyard, embracing agroforestry, all the work we put in today to support the soil as a living organism. Our approach is to work organically, from the soil and roots up, to produce robust, healthy grapes more resistant to diseases and parasites.
In the cellar we have developed an innovative approach to protecting our wine against oxidisation, one which allows us to use the least sulphur possible, thereby reducing additives to a minimum. The active ingredient in sulphur is only part of the whole element. Although sulphur is indispensable, its use in the battle against oxidisation can be radically reduced, and that’s where our work is bearing fruit. Indeed, we are pioneers in the field.
Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?
My children, obviously. Inheritance is a central part of our Latin culture. I inherited my property and I want to leave something for the next generation.
Amongst other findings, Part II of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study, ‘Walking the tightrope’, explores the outperformers of the latest vintage – the top 15 wines whose Wine Lister Quality score (part of our Pro rating system) in 2021 most exceeded their wine-level average. The wine-level average is calculated based on a mean Quality score over the last five vintages, to reveal more recent trends. Seven of this year’s outperformers were also featured in the 2020 list, indicating that these wines continue to build long-term quality in 2021.
Quality score – outperformers in 2021 (as featured in Part II of our 2022 Bordeaux Study)
Four Margaux wines feature in the 2021 outperformers chart, with Durfort-Vivens this year taking the top spot from Ferrière. Receiving a score of 92-94 from Ella Lister (for Le Figaro Vin), she describes it as “Effervescent with energy and life […] with an impressive density, and a generous future ahead of it.”
New additions to the outperformers chart this year, Marquis d’Alesme and Marquis de Terme rank in 11thand 13th place respectively. As well as appearing in our list of Bordeaux 2021 Value Picks (wines with the best quality-to-price ratios), the latter earns the status as the Bordeaux red with the biggest increase in 2021 Quality score compared to the 2020 vintage (also explored in Part II). Antonio Galloni for Vinous awards Marquis de Terme 2021 its highest ever potential score from the critic platform, 93-95, calling it “inky, vibrant, and super-expressive”.
La Lagune returns to the 2021 chart in fourth place, down from third in last year’s study. James Lawther (JancisRobinson.com) calls the 2021 “pure and precise”. The estate has been certified organic since the 2016 vintage and is currently working towards biodynamic certification.
Pauillac also sees four wines on this year’s outperformers chart, with Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Haut-Bages Libéral, Haut-Batailley, and Pédesclaux showing strong improvements in Quality score in 2021. Awarding a score of 92-94, Antonio Galloni notes that Grand-Puy-Ducasse “has made important strides of late”, given the increased investment under the direction of Anne Le Naour, while Pédesclaux has also seen significant investments from proprietor Jacky Lorenzetti.
Saint-Emilion brings three wines to the 2021 outperformers chart, with Fombrauge entering the outperformers chart in 10th place, and La Dominique overtaking La Lagune to occupy the third spot. La Gaffelière has also increased its standing on the chart, having climbed six places from 11th place last year, and achieving its highest ever Wine Lister Quality score in 2021.
Les Carmes Haut-Brion continues its upward trajectory in 2021, receiving a score of 17++ by James Lawther (the highest score given by the JancisRobinson.com team since the 2015 vintage), and gaining Ella Lister’s top score for the vintage (96-99 points). Larrivet Haut-Brion enters the outperformers chart in ninth place, with the estate deciding not to include any Merlot in their 2021 blend – a first in Bordeaux.
Also appearing on our list of Value Picks for the 2021 vintage, Les Ormes de Pez rounds off the list of outperformers, having received a score of 91-93 from Neal Martin (Vinous), who calls it “A stylish Saint-Estèphe”.
For the full list of Wine Lister’s top 20 Value Picks for Bordeaux, as well as further analyses of the region’s performance on Quality, search data, auction activity, and short-term price performance, download Part II of Wine Lister’s 2022 Bordeaux study here.
It increasingly looks as though the campaign will be more or less drawing to a close this week, with a further flurry of Bordeaux 2021s released en primeur at the end of last week and into Monday, including key entries from the likes of Beychevelle, Pichon Baron, Cos d’Estournel, and Mouton.
Released on Thursday 9th June at £58.90 per bottle, Beychevelle 2021 entered the market 16% below stocks of the 2020 (which has risen in price by around 15% since last year), and otherwise substantially below all other back vintages. With a consistent track record of post-release price performance and critic speculation of the 2021’s promising potential, this may well be one worth backing en primeur.
Trotte Vieille 2021 – an oft-forgotten Saint-Émilion Classé “B” to get behind – also released on Thursday at £53 per bottle (just below the current market price of 2020 and 6% above the now scarce 2019, and otherwise comfortably below recent back vintages of comparable quality). Following suit, Brane-Cantenac 2021 entered the market at £47 (6% below the 2020 vintage and below the prior five back vintages in the market).
Pichon Comtesse 2021 released on Thursday at £134 (just below last year’s release price and 30% below the current market value of the record-quality 2019). The vintage marks the estate’s first year of organic conversion, with Nicolas Glumineau informing the Wine Lister team that 2021 was ” the worst in France for 74 years in terms of climate”, but excellent for Cabernet. Volume is down 70% in 2021, with the vintage comprising 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc – the highest proportion since the 2013 vintage (100% Cabernet Sauvignon). These drastically reduced volumes mean that anyone looking to add Pichon Comtesse 2021 to their cellar likely needs to buy it now.
Friday 10th June saw releases from the likes of Giscours, Pichon Baron, and Lafon-Rochet – the latter marking the last ever vintage tended by the estate’s third-generation owner, Basile Tesseron, and the first blended by its new Managing Director, Christophe Congé (of Lafite fame). Released at £25 per bottle, Lafon-Rochet 2021 enters the market below the price of all available back vintages.
Releases came in thick and fast on Monday 13th June, with first growth Mouton entering at £425 per bottle (11% and 15% below the current availability of the 2020 and 2019 vintages respectively). Its little sibling, Le Petit Mouton 2021 was released at £170 per bottle – it appears in eighth place amongst the wines that have seen the highest relative increase between ex-négociant release prices and current market prices across vintages 2016-2020 (see below – extract from Part I of Wine Lister’s 2022 Bordeaux Study).
Cos d’Estournel also entered the market on Monday at £143 per bottle (5% below current market availability of the 2020, and around 8% above the 2019), followed shortly by Cos d’Estournel Blanc at £105 per bottle. According to Wine Lister’s Quality score (892), the 2021 vintage is the best Cos d’Estournel Blanc ever produced, with Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister calling it “delectable, lingering in the mouth”. Le Gay and La Violette owner, Henri Parent released his 2021s on Monday at £69.50 and £240 per bottle respectively. The latter achieves a higher Quality score in 2021 than in 2020 or 2018, while scarce availability of recent vintages on the UK market may also drive interest in the latest release.
Also released during this period: Chasse-Spleen, Réserve de la Comtesse, Léoville Poyferré, Ausone, Lascombes, Ferrière, Giscours, Pagodes de Cos, Aile d’Argent, Rouget, Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, Gruaud-Larose, Larcis-Ducasse, Smith Haut Lafitte.
While this year’s en primeur releases are yet to kick into full gear, the past week has seen key entries from the likes of Berliquet, Pontet-Canet, Palmer, Haut-Batailley, Lafleur, and more. Reporting on a shorter week of releases than usual due to the French bank holiday on Thursday 26th May, we examine the latest 2021s to market.
Released on Tuesday 24th May at £38.15 per bottle, Berliquet achieves its highest-ever combined score from Wine Lister partner critics, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin (Vinous), who both award 91-93 points. While up on the last two years’ release prices, one top UK merchant has informed us that this is understandable at this stage in Berliquet’s progression, especially considering the comparable rise in quality and pricing from its Chanel siblings, Rauzan-Ségla and Canon.
This was followed shortly by Pontet-Canet 2021, which is so far being offered at around £74.17 per bottle. While slightly up on last year’s release price, it still poses as a good-value pick relative to its appellation, especially considering its status as the sixth-highest scoring Pauillac according to WL score (see here).
Also entering the market on Tuesday, Palmer’s 2021 vintage is another stand-out offering from the estate, reminding the Wine Lister team of a Palmer from the 1990s, but with more energy and ripeness. At £237 per bottle, the 2021 opens 1% below the 2020 release price, while volume released is down 30% this year. This, alongside strong critics’ scores and a propitious renovation programme currently underway, should no doubt encourage the success of the latest release.
This week saw releases from Palmer – tasted by the Wine Lister team in the cellar
Released on Wednesday 25th May, Haut-Batailley 2021 is so far being offered at around £39 per bottle (slightly down on the 2020 release price). As with the other Cazes properties, mildew pressure has impacted the yields in 2021, and volume produced is down 10% compared to the 2020. Its sibling in Saint-Estèphe, Les Ormes de Pez 2021 followed suit, and is so far being offered at around £18 per bottle – also fractionally down on last year’s release.
Finishing the week with a bang, Lafleur 2021 was released on Friday 27th May through its UK agent, Justerini & Brooks at £542.33 per bottle. While entering the market 3% and 12% up on the 2020 and 2019 release prices respectively, there is no remaining availability of last year’s release on the market, and the 2019 has more than doubled in price since its release. As the second-best Quality performer of red Bordeaux in 2021 (after Cheval Blanc), and with a history of consistent and impressive price performance post-release, this will be one of the best buys of the campaign for those lucky enough to get their hands on it.
Also released during this period: Sociando-Mallet, Laroque, Alter Ego, Clos du Marquis, and Nénin.
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.
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.
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