The 2020 Bordeaux vintage remains memorable to many not only as the third in a trilogy of excellent vintages, but also for falling squarely in the midst of the global pandemic. The impact of the extraordinary circumstances was wide ranging; not only were creative measures needed to complete the production of the wines, but facilitating sample tastings while countries around the world were still subject to lockdowns and travel restrictions was no mean feat.
The 2020 vintage had consistent but not excessive heat throughout the crucial months of the growing season. Despite the well-balanced temperatures, yields were lower than average due to bouts of mildew and a very dry summer which led to the evaporation of water within the bunches. There is a great positive to this however, for the remaining berries were caviar-like with intensely concentrated juice. Following the more immediately seductive and opulent 2018 and 2019 vintages, the wines of 2020 offer appealingly moderate alcohol levels, excellent levels of energy and freshness, and laser focussed individual terroir expression.
We are revisiting the 2020 wines now in a new light, looking first to the recently released wines of 2021. Here the upside of the former vintage is clear, for the 2021’s pricing upon release remained largely on par with 2020 for far less consistent, and more generally less heralded wines. While the 2019s offered ultra-compelling pricing on release unmatched by the 2020s (19 saw an average price reduction of 21% from the 2018 vintage), do not be deterred for the merits of 2020 Bordeaux both to drink and hold are great. Note most particularly that now the wines are finally in bottle, we face the imminent arrival of these wines to UK shores as well the customary re-evaluation by critics. Given the various complications faced when tasting these wines en primeur, we have every reason to believe that the scores for the tremendous 2020s are likely to see an upswing before the end of the year, especially as global demand for fine wine reaches an all-time high.
Today’s superb selection of wines from the 2020 vintage spans across every major appellation and at every price point. This includes Super-Second stalwarts such as Cos d’Estournel, Leoville Las Cases and Ducru Beaucaillou; Right Bank heavyweights La Mondotte, Pavie Macquin and Canon la Gaffeliere; and our fantastically affordable, perfect-for-drinking cellar-stockers like Chateau Beaumont, Chasse Spleen and La Chenade. There is no better time to secure our last few cases still available at release prices, from this once in a lifetime vintage (in more ways than one).
Top Tier Highlights
While there have been notable pairs of exceptional vintages in the past, such as 09 and 10 as well as 15 and 16, there has arguably never been a trilogy of vintages that can compare to 18, 19 and 20, all of which can be considered truly “outstanding”. The early and dry harvest of the 2020 vintage meant the quality of Merlot was particularly exceptional in 2020, which can explain the great success of so many estates on the Right Bank and in Pessac-Leognan, but the thick-skinned and tiny berries of Cabernet Sauvignon also contributed an intoxicating complexity to the wines. The dry white wines were picked early in 2020 in order to maintain their balance and freshness resulting in racy wines with remarkable vivacity from top names such as Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier and La Mission Haut Brion. Following the challenging 2021 vintage, and as it is set to be rescored by international critics over the next several months, we anticipate another flurry of demand for the triumphant wines of 2020 before the year is through.
Exceptional Drinking & Value
As we have emphasized in previous weeks, the level of quality that can currently be found within the region of Bordeaux has never been higher with a succession of recent vintages producing a spectacular array of wines whose value for money may still surprise many. Wines such Malartic-Lagraviere and Marquis d’Alesme topped Wine Lister’s top Bordeaux value picks in 2020 while Chateaux like Pedesclaux, Grand Mayne and Saintayme boasted one of their best vintages to date. This is a collection of wines which we believe have massively over-delivered in a vintage as outstanding as 2020, easily offering another 10-15 years of exceptional drinking.