Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: a question of quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: the 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”.⁣


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.


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.


Bordeaux 2020 en primeur: the calm before the storm?

As we approach the end of May, the Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign is still yet to kick off in full force. The past week has seen a slight lull in en primeur activity, with a selection of mid-level wines trickling onto the market.

Following Pentecost Monday, releases commenced on Tuesday (25th May), with Berliquet 2020 entering the market at £36.25. In the expert hands of Canon and Rauzan-Ségla‘s Nicolas Audebert since 2017, Berliquet is fast becoming a true Saint-Émilion gem to watch. Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, notes that she was “totally wowed by this wine – Berliquet’s best yet, on a vertiginous ascent”, detecting “flower pollen, verveine, fennel, and chamomile” on the nose, and a “grounded but melting” texture on the palate.

Nicolas Audebert – Winemaker at Rauzan Segla, Canon, and Berliquet (who released its 2020 vintage on Tuesday 25th May) 

A trio of Margaux properties released their latest vintages on Wednesday morning (26th May), with Kirwan, Prieuré-Lichine, and Marquis de Terme 2020 entering the market in quick succession. At £25.37, Prieuré-Lichine’s latest release falls under the price of all recent back vintages in the market, while a score of 17 from Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com places it in line with the well-regarded 2019 vintage. Offering good value for quality, the 2020 is described by Julia as “fragrant with the intense aromas of cassis and spicy black plum”, with a full palate that remains “nicely dry and fresh on the finish”.

Added to the mid-week haul is another Margaux estate, du Tertre, who this year received its highest ever score from Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com (17+). Ella was also impressed by the latest release, which entered the market yesterday (Thursday 27th May), describing “charming, meandering fruit on the palate”. Having been sold by AJ Domaines (owners of fellow Margaux property, Giscours) this year, du Tertre is now under the helm of the Helfrich family, who have hired Cynthia Capelaere (formerly of Villemaurine) as the new Estate Director. As we often see following the sale and acquisition of an estate, this may be one to watch for future investment as it is revitalised by its new owners.

Also released yesterday, Quinault l’Enclos 2020 was described by Ella as “the culmination of the Cheval Blanc team’s work at this property since its acquisition in 2008”. Tasting in Bordeaux, she notes that “the trademark smoked notes have been relegated to the merest hint”, with “rich, dapper fruit” on the nose, and a palate with an “exceptional light-tough and melting mouthfeel”.

Also released this week are: Cantemerle, Chasse-Spleen, Château Les Cruzelles, Grand Corbin-Despagne, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Kirwan, and La Lagune.


Bordeaux en primeur: the 2020 trickles through

As another week of Bordeaux 2020 en primeur releases draws to a close, the campaign has begun to show signs of speeding up, with some compelling releases entering the market over the past three days.

Below we examine releases from Laroque (Wednesday 19th), Lafon-Rochet (Thursday 20th), and Branaire-Ducru and Batailley (Friday 21st).

Lafon-Rochet’s latest release is a “very successful 2020”, according to Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson

Released at £18.95 per bottle (in-bond), Laroque was described by Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister as having an “ebullient, classy, very cassis nose”, developing into a “serious, structured wine on the palate”. The estate has seen recent improvements and investments to achieve a higher quality, starting with the hiring of David Suire in 2015, and the 2020 is no exception in the recent pattern of excellent value for money.

Lafon-Rochet’s latest vintage also illustrates the property’s upward quality trajectory. Having been awarded 17 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, (up from 16.5+ for the 2019) she describes it as a “very successful 2020” and congratulates owner, Basile Tesseron, for “producing something so appetising and groundbreaking”. Entering the market yesterday at c.£27.10 per bottle (in-bond), the vintage marks a year of development at Lafon-Rochet. As well as embarking on an agroforestry scheme in 2020 to enrich its environment, the latest release marks the inaugural collaboration of Jean-Claude Berrouet and Eric Boissenot, who worked together on its blending (recap our blog here). The price positioning of this top-quality vintage 10% below the 2019 market price has reportedly been very well-received.

Cru Classés Branaire-Ducru and Batailley were released this morning. Having made a name for itself as offering exceptionally good value within the Saint-Julien appellation, Branaire-Ducru’s latest release (at £31 per bottle in-bond) enters the market at an average 11% and 22% below than current availability of the 2019 and 2018 respectively.

Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther awards Batailley 2020 17 points, describing it as “Solid, subdued and distinctly Pauillac”. At c.£28 per bottle (in-bond), it enters the market under current average market prices of the last six vintages.

Keep track of en primeur releases on Wine Lister’s dedicated En Primeur Page here.


Bordeaux en primeur 2020: our view of the vintage

2020 is an unprecedented vintage both in terms of the pandemic context and its juxtaposition of tannic power and exquisite freshness. On both banks of Bordeaux, the wines are characterised by an early growing season that underwent a series of extremes: a warmer winter than usual, a rainier spring, and a record dry summer, without so much as a drop of rain from mid-June to mid-August, then finally exceedingly hot during the harvest (one should spare a thought for the masked pickers). In spite of such difficulties, Veronique Sanders of Château Haut-Bailly notes that “the easy vintages in Bordeaux used to be the best ones, but in recent years that’s not the case”.

Left: Baptise Guinaudeau of Lafleur and Grand Village / Right: Véronique Sanders of Haut-Bailly and Le Pape

Henri Lurton, owner of Château Brane-Cantenac in Margaux, referred to 2020 as a “quite unique” vintage, both “hot and classic” at the same time. This observation is echoed by Baptiste Guinaudeau, co-owner of Château Lafleur in Pomerol, who recognises in 2016, 2018, and now 2020, a new type of growing season that didn’t exist before, uniting a big, sunny vintage like 2009 with a more classical vintage like 2008. 2020 is “multiple vintages in a single wine”, according to Lafleur’s cellar master, Omri Ram.

While several wines in 2020 in have record tannic density, you wouldn’t know it without the technical analyses. When you taste the wines, this power hidden by a delicate, diaphanous veil. Acidity remains decently high, and alcohol relatively low, allowing the wines to maintain the classicism that we recognise and love in Bordeaux.

In a year where the Bordelais couldn’t go on their usual marketing trips to the US, China and beyond, they were closer to the vines and to nature. This often meant whole teams dedicated to the vine-growing and winemaking instead of sales and marketing. This often meant whole teams dedicated to the vine-growing and winemaking instead of sales and marketing. “Un vin d’équipe”, says Marielle Cazaux, technical director of La Conseillante, referring to the unprecedented “team effort”, as the office staff worked in the vineyards, helping the vines through extreme rain, then drought, then heat.

Completing a trilogy of excellent vintages, after 2018 et 2019, 2020 is nonetheless more heterogeneous, where the top terroirs were best able to cope with the extreme climatic conditions. Each appellation boasts some exceptional wines, be it Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan or Pomerol. And these wines have a floral freshness, often of peonies or iris (the latter a scent deriving from merlot when it undergoes hydric stress).

Finally, the whites deserve a special mention in 2020. A vintage for lovers of richer, creamier whites, we found the best almost Burgundian, without the varietal grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc.