Today as we continue with the En Primeur campaign, we are delighted to announce the release of Chateau Lagrange, one of the top scoring wines of the Saint Julien appellation. For many years this 3rd Growth was viewed as somewhat of an underperformer, however, after a massive renovation and replanting program, Lagrange has made a major step up in quality, this being reflected by the critics’ scores which have only been growing vintage to vintage. Lisa Perrotti-Brown has awarded the 2020 release with 94-96 points, the highest score for Lagrange from The Wine Advocate so far, admiring “vibrant notes of redcurrant jelly, ripe blackcurrants and minted blackberries, followed by nuances of dark chocolate, star anise and mossy tree bark. The medium-bodied palate is both super intense and super elegant, featuring exquisitely ripe, fine-grained tannins and seamless freshness to frame the bright, crunchy black and red fruits, finishing long and mineral laced.” Neal Martin describes it as “a classy Lagrange from winemaker Matthieu Bordes and his team. I always feel this Saint-Julien is underrated, but it will challenge the best 2020s from the appellation.” The sentiment is reaffirmed by Jeb Dunnuck who states that Lagrange 2020 is “a wine that excels in the appellation.”

The release price today is £212 per case of 6 or £424 per case of 12, which is a 13% increase to last year, nevertheless we think Lagrange 2020 represents a fantastic value for a wine of this caliber. In 2020 vintage the final yield was the lowest ever: 26hl/ha–34hl/ha for Merlot and 22hl/ha for Cabernet. Only 38% of Grand Vin was made. 

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Grapes have been grown on the Lagrange site since Medieval times and the property changed numerous names and owners. In 1983 the Chateau was purchased by the Japanese Suntory Group which carried out a large renovation program, replanting the vineyards and modernising the winery. Today Lagrange boasts one of the best equipped cuvier in Bordeaux. The 118 hectares vineyard is planted to 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. The vines are dispersed over 2 gravel hillsides. The slopes are well placed in the west of the Saint Julien appellation, close to Chateau Gruaud Larose and Chateau Branaire Ducru. At the peak of their vineyards, the hillsides reach up to 24 meters, which puts their vines at the highest elevation in the entire Saint Julien appellation. Today, the average age of the vines is more than 35 years of age. The superb quality of the terroir paired with heavy investment resulted in a true renaissance of this great Chateau.

Chateau d’Armailhac has also released this morning for £198 per case of 6 or £396 per case of 12. The average trading price for vintages since 2005 is £489, so today’s release leaves around 23% on the table for those who secure an allocation. Neal Martin in his Bordeaux 2020 vintage report praises this vintage of d’Armailhac as one of the best he has ever tasted: “I also want to draw readers’ attention to the superb Château d’Armailhac, one of the best I have tasted at this stage; again, much more classic and almost reserved in style compared to vintages of 15–20 years ago, classier and perhaps bearing more resemblance to the Mouton-Rothschild as the years go by.” Martin granted this release with 92-94 points, concluding: “This Château d’Armailhac is a splendid wine in the making, and one of the best examples from the estate that I have tasted out of barrel.” The release has been awarded 93 points by Jane Anson of Decanter, who notes, “This Armailhac is gorgeous, lovely mid palate dept, and plenty of juicy blueberry and bilberry fruit, with lift through the finish.”

We view d’Armailhac as one of the perennial must buy wines of Pauillac. Chateau d’Armailhac was once part of the Mouton Rothschild vineyards. As such, it boasts impressively deep gravel, 20% of which is clay-limestone, and the vines have the very impressive average age of 46 years, with one fifth of the vines dating back to 1890. The wine embodies much of Mouton Rothschild’s greatness, yet at a superb price point: one can purchase a 12-bottle case of d’Armailhac for the price of one bottle of Mouton Rothschild. The production is down 20% this year.

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Baron Philippe de Rothschild bought the estate in 1933 and the 50 hectares of vineyards are planted with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The Cabernet Franc famously provides a wonderful fragrance; the high percentage sets it apart from Mouton’s other wines. Chateau d’Armailhac is a Fifth Growth in its own right and as one can imagine the combination of superb terroir and access to Mouton’s winemaking makes this wine an astute purchase, the value for money is fantastic.