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Bordeaux 2020: St Emilion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

It’s always difficult to generalise about the wines in St Emilion, such are the complexities of terroir and the variations of winemaking and viticultural approaches. Still, I think it’s pretty safe to say that 2020 is another exciting vintage here in the heart of the right bank. In terms of the broader overview, alcohols are down slightly on the heady numbers in 2019, and it feels as if there is greater freshness in the 2020s than in the last couple of years. These wines feel well balanced and delicious in this vintage, with attractive textures and supple creamy tannins. On the best limestone and clay-limestone terroirs the wines are fabulous. The summer was dry, and conditions were even drier here than on the left bank. Some properties on sandier soils may have run into trouble with vine stress but generally I was very impressed by the wines here at this early stage. The following post contains notes on forty châteaux. It’s slightly less comprehensive than usual and I hope to fill in some of the gaps with further tastings over the coming months.

At the top level amongst those tasted are wines from Château Angélus, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf. Very high quality wines have been made at Château Bellefont Belcier, Château Laroque, Château Bellevue, Carillon d’Angélus, Château de Pressac and also Château Grand Corbin-Despagne. Beautiful and seductive wines have been made at Couvent des Jacobins, Château Fombrauge, Château Larose, Château Magrez Fombrauge, Château Mangot, Château La Marzelle, Château Rol Valentin, Château Tour Saint Christophe and Château Sansonnet. Close in quality and also delicious are wines from Château Alverne, Château Fombrauge, Château Daugay, Château Fonroque, Château Godeau, Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs, Château Haut-Brisson and Château Yon Figeac.

There are many wines from St Emilion that I missed out on tasting this year and I hope to update on these soon. In the interim, I hope you find the notes useful. Certainly 2020 looks another strong vintage in St Emilion for sure. As ever, the notes are more important than the numbers!

Château Alverne, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep and solid looking; legs; black cherry; violet lift; plenty of new oak on the nose adding liquorice tones; plenty of fruit; nicely layered; black fruits; ripe plums and fruitcake notes; creamy entry; soft and attractive; this has plenty of depth and spicy fruit; creamy tannins; nice job! Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2038. 90-91+

Château Angélus, Premier Grand Cru Classé Group ‘A,’ 2020

Opaque but fresh purple at edge; colour tight to rim; blackcurrants; baskets of black fruits; very layered and has real density; creamy; lovely purity; plums; damsons; savoury note; has minerality on the palate; suave; very harmonious and wonderful balance; hides the weight; real lightness of touch; has freshness and bounce too; lovely wine and very nicely balanced. This is a brilliant follow up to their 2019 and continues an extraordinary run of form here at Angélus. [40% Cabernet Franc, 60% Merlot, 14.5% alcohol]. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2026-2045. 97-98+

Château Bellefont-Belcier, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Dark; purple at edge; legs; fresh plums and black cherry notes; deep and enticing; has wonderful freshness; nice sweet plum tones; very pure and emphasis on the fruit that sits above the oak nicely; had real tension in the mid palate which gives some amplitude to the wine. Has race and style. Plenty of plummy, black cherry scented fruit make this delicious but also substantial. The joyful nature of the fruit hides the structure. I’d expect great things from this in the medium term and it is already delicious. Really good stuff this year. Energy and life. [13.5ha, 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alc, pH 3.65, yield 37hl/ha, elévage 30% new oak, 20% foudres remainder split between first and second year barrels. Harvest September 15 – October 9.]. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2026-2045. 94-95+

Château Bellevue, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and dark; saturated look; glossy; vibrant purple at edge; colour tight to rim; deep and attractive aromatics; very polished and complete; violets; purity; wonderful plums; spices beneath; creamy entry; a beauty this; so nicely handled; the purest fruit; perhaps lacks a tiniest bit of middle but this might just be because this is misleadingly easy; lovely wine; soft finish; think 2019 might have been a fraction better but this works very well indeed. [100% Merlot, 6.82ha]. Tasted April 2021. Drink 2025-2040. 92-94+

Carillon d’Angélus, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep centre; purple edge; closer to rim; legs; lush; blackcurrants; plums; very focused and layered with very attractive oak edge; polished and seemingly plusher than usual; savoury aspect too; deep and layered though; ripe and deep; plenty of extract here but super refined and polished; precisely made; supple tannins; has extract and wood tannin to resolve. Oaky note on the finish with chocolate and mocha notes on the end. Impressive Carillon. Oak needs to integrate [it will] and this looks very promising. [90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 14.5 alcohol]. Tasted April 2021. Drink 2025-2040. 92-93+

Couvent des Jacobins, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep, earthy purple red at edge; legs; very fine and composed on the nose; deep; dark fruits and well integrated oak; savoury tones with a nice violet lift; black fruits – plums, savoury; little Laroque like; I do like this; polished; nice entry; structured palate; more oak influence but the fruit has soaked it up well; textured; very savoury styled St Emilion which I like. Moreish and appetizing again. Very good effort here. Like this! [45% new oak, pH 3.68, 14.5% alc]. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2024-3035. 90-92+

Château La Croix Younan, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep at centre; vivid at edge; legs; enticing aromatics initially; spices; red fruits; some strawberry and redcurrant notes; entry; works well to start with; satiny red fruits; redcurrants; has texture. Bit dry on the finish. Needs to settle. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2033. 87-89

Château La Croizille, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep; vibrant purple at edge; black cherry, plums and dark chocolate; vivid; sweet entry; soft fruit; black cherries; dips a faction in the middle; extraction handled well; cherry and chocolate notes; lacks the concentration of the best but has elegance. Zappy on the end. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2032. 87-89

Château Daugay, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Mid depth; vibrant at edge; less deep than Bellevue tasted side by side; stalky, spicy briary aromatics; red fruits; strawberry tones; some schist and spicy notes; opens up well; nicely done; lovely entry; perfumed; textured; like this; has amplitude; freshness on the finish. Spicy and savoury on the end. Caressing exit. [82% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 24% new oak, remainder a mix of one and two year oak, harvest 14th- 30th September]. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2035. 90-92

Château Destieux, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and dark; saturated; legs; purple red; lush and intense; very ripe and plush; some graphite too; violet lift; touch of volatility but this might be the sample; oak quite present beneath the fruit; very lush on the palate; super ripe black cherry notes; tannins a little on the dry side; plenty of extract and chocolate notes on the finish. Plenty of texture and sap. Bit chewy on the finish currently. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2035. 89-91

Château Fombrauge, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and dark; saturated at core; deep and substantial; sweet fruit here though; plums; fruitcake; some schist notes; not hugely aromatic but evidently quite full and sweet; some cherry; prune and eau de vie; nicely done this; precise and poised; caressing palate; minerality on the finish. Ripe fruit and succulent tannins. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2035. 90-92+

Château Fonroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; full; quite chunky to start with; mineral; feels substantial; less a beauty than 2019; feels brawnier; salty mineral note; nice entry; texture good; love the balance; good length. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2035. 90-92+

Château Godeau, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep and saturated; arterial; colour tight to rim; opaque at centre; ripe and rich; some spice; some sweetness; black fruits; some oak; sweet entry; some wood tannin; plenty of fruit extract; quite chunky; spices from oak; structure evident; bit chewy at present; would expect this to settle down during elévage; spicy finish. A mouthful currently but will settle. Plenty of fruit enveloping the oak. Drink 2024-2032. 90-91+

Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs, Art Russe, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; ripe plummy fruit; some violet lift from the oak; nicely layered; spices; fruit a little masked by the oak initially; creamy fruit beneath; sweet fruit on entry; nicely layered with plummy tones; fair whack of oak again too; but this feels quite restrained and polished in the mid palate and the finish is refined. Savoury tones alongside the plummy fruit. This works well. Nice harmony to the tannin. Has elegance on the end. Returning to the wine later, the aromatics had settled and it had taken on a savoury aspect. Very good. Tasted May 2021. Drink 2025-2035. 91-92+

Château La Grâce Fonrazade, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Mid depth; red purple at edge; plenty of fruits; some lift; lush red fruits; spices and briary notes; opens up; more red fruits; unctuousness; sweet entry; nice fruit; lots of oak and a bit dry in the middle but will fill out; sweet strawberry fruit is here, just a little dominated by new oak at the present. Should work well. Tasted May 2021. Drink 2025-2035. 89-91

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and saturated: opaque at centre; colour tight to rim; ripe and full; some sweet plums; some fruitcake; very tight and layered; feels like there is a lot here; opens up nicely; ripe, sweet fruit with depth; inky yet attractive; nice entry; plenty of matter and extract; sweet and ripe; plenty of oak; tannins are smooth and creamy. Has plenty here. Despite the extract it finishes in a soft and attractive manner with a nice fresh twist on the end. Great stuff! Really composed and impressive. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2040. 92-94+

Château Haut-Brisson, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Earth red purple at edge; deep looking; ripe and sweet; black fruits; ripe cherries; really deep; summer fruit pudding style; enticing and attractive; creamy cherry and plum notes too; very pure; opens up a treat; stylish nose; very pure but not jammy; plenty of matter on entry; some freshness too; black cherry; plums; black stone fruits; quite structured beneath this fruit; good texture on the palate; lots here; plenty of chew on the finish but doesn’t feel stewed; quite fresh on the finish. Very good stuff here. [18ha, 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 13.8% alc, pH 3.65, yield 32 hl/ha, elévage 35% new oak, 35% one year, 30% two year. Harvest from September 15 – October 9]. Tasted April 2021. Drink 2023-2035. 90-92+

Château Larcis Ducasse, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, Group ‘B’

Deep and dark; earthy purple at edge; deep and sensuous; lovely purity; wonderful plum tones here as ever; violet notes; looks like another cracking vintage for Larcis; elements of tar and menthol also emerge; lovely entry; enveloping sweet fruit; briary, brambly and plummy qualities; plenty of extract and matter on the back; lots here; deceptively powerful; with ripe and textured tannin; long finish. This is wonderfully plush and opened up further showing more fruitcake spices; caressing finish. Super strong Larcis this – up there with 2018 and 2019. [90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 14.5% alc]. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2045. 96-98+

Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Great depth; opaque at centre; colour tight to the edge; creamy brambly fruit with briary notes; black cherries too; sweet entry; good purity; quite savoury – it’s the style; has texture and depth; really polished palate; nicely balanced but has plenty of extract and matter; doesn’t have the coquettishness of 2018 or the fabulous balance of 2019 but it has power; impressive stuff again from this property with fantastic terrior, revitalised under the talented direction of David Suire. Texture to the tannins which provide wonderful punctuation at the end. Long finish. Two hours later this remains intense and inky; there are savoury notes and menthol tones; it is rich; still with plenty of extract and matter; works well; harmony; lasts well in the glass; has lots of guts; tannin ripe on the finish. [99% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, alc 14.5, pH 3.44, 34hl/ha]. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2026-2040. 93-94+

Château Larose, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and saturated; less tight to the rim than Sansonnet; legs; lovely spikey vibrant briary fruit; lots of black cherry, sweet plums and blue fruit notes; little undergrowth dimension too; like this; genuine complexity here; lovely sweet entry and texture to the fruit; real gloss and harmony; like this; fresh tasting; not the most weighty in this line-up – but I like the vibrancy and freshness; very positive wine. Has elegance and depth; well done! Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-3038. 91-93+

Lynsolence, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Inky and dark; saturated; colour tight to rim; legs; deep; inky; big; lots of extract and matter; quite nicely handled if a bit chunky; black fruits and chocolate; some asphalt; has some freshness though and twist. Big structure and lots of extract. Needs to settle. Brawny at present and a bit raw. Dry finish. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2035. 87-88

Château Magrez Fombrauge, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Very dark and bold; legs; super saturated look; sweet and ripe; more poise than usual; [has been a bit of a statement in the past]; lashings of ripe and soft fruit; tannins soft and creamy; not at all puckering; nicely done; lots of black fruit and ripe black cherries; lacks a bit of definition in the mid palate but again that might simply be the lushness of the fruit; but works in a ripe, inky way. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2040. 91-93+

Château Mangot, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep and dark; legs; super ripe cherry, sweet and lush; layers of very ripe fruit; lots of extract and matter on the palate; very dense but the tannins are wonderfully ripe and soft; very full St Emilion; foot on the pedal here but still nicely judged in that style. Little dryness on the finish which you would expect to settle. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2025-2035. 91-92+

Château Mangot Cuvee Todeschini Distique, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep and arterial; legs; less immediately open but evident depth; some chocolate and sweet plums; black cherry notes; creamy; deeper and darker quality to the fruit than Mangot regular; glossy mid palate; had plenty of matter and extract; voluptuous quality to the fruit; fair bit of oak but well-integrated. Lots of evident depth and succulence; creamy and concentrated; has plenty of depth and many layers; needs time; longer term offering this. Nice texture on the finish. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2026-2040. 92-93+

Château La Marzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and dark; substantial looking; bright fruit; black cherry and plum tones with an earthy note; needs to open up; a little reductive to start with; did indeed open up; freshness; lovely ripe black cherry and plum purity; spices and undergrowth too; I love this property; has a vivid blue fruit freshness here; blueberry; lovely nose really opens up significantly; mocha notes too; caressing fruit on the palate; works well; positive and still has punctuation and freshness; real concentration at the back end of the palate and finishes really well. Great stuff – yet again! Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2023-2040. 91-93+

Le Menut des Jacobins, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep; red purple at edge; legs; ripe and figgy; soft and easy; soft easy St Emilion; supple tannins; uncomplicated but easy; would go a treat with steak frites – already! Sweet and attractive St Emilion which will work well. Unadorned by oak and nicely spicy and fruit driven. Not hugely long on the end but appetizing. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2024-2030. 87-88+

Number 3 d’Angélus, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep at centre; purple red; looser at edge; briary and blackberry notes; fruit driven and has lots of fun; also a savoury aspect too which is attractive [from Carillon young vine plots]; very attractive already; sweet entry; nicely spicy and briary notes; some undergrowth; has freshness and zap though; real bounce here. Nice to drink. Zappy and refreshing style. Elegant and a delight. [85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% alcohol, 3.5 pH]. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2023-2030. 89-91+

Château Pas de L’Ane, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Mid depth; vivid purple at edge; vanilla; plums; pain grillé; seductive; nicely measured; yes there is oak; plums; violet lift from the oak; but not over extracted in the middle and has some balance and equilibrium; lacks some freshness and zap on the finish and falls away a bit but works. Good St Emilion. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2035. 88-90

Château Patris Querre, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Dark at centre; earthy purple red at edge; dark chocolate; black cherry; strong if a bit unyielding; opens up revealing more black cherry fruit; nicely done; big and bold; plenty here but a mouthful of fruit and oak at present. Needs to settle. Quite chewy on the finish. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2035. 87-89+

Château Pavie Macquin, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, Group ‘B’

Very deep; opaque at centre; colour very tight to rim; vibrant meniscus; concentrated black fruits but has a glossy aspect to it this year; wonderfully deep; strong and layered; black cherry, blackcurrant and plum tones; lovely depth; beautifully ripe fruit; has plenty of depth; texture and chew; inky and powerful; this needs time. A little chewy at present on the very end but this will settle. Opened up later – revealing considerable depth and oodles of fruit. Great stuff! [80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 14.5% alc]. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2028-2050. 96-97+

Château de Pressac, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Earthy red purple; inky and resinous; layered and sublimated; earthy aspect too; like this; ripe quality to it; super ripe plums and black fruits; and a leafy herbal note too; nice fruit; sweet and ripe; on the very ripe side; almost verging on the jammy but still very attractive; nice entry soft but enveloping fruit; plenty going on here; has volumes of flesh in the middle; works really well; seductive this de Pressac. Very good estate and terroir. Tasted May, 2021. Drink this 2024-2040. 92-94+

Château Roylland, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep and saturated looking; full and saturated with fruit; smoky note alongside chocolate; bit corked; fruit has a creamy quality; nicely layered; well extracted not overly tannin – nice sweet ripe fruit. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2035. Little masked by the taint but this is in the 89-91 range I reckon.

Château Rol Valentin, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Super saturated; colour tight to rim; tar, black fruits; very ripe, focused and pure; intense and heady; molasses; super ripe plums; layered on the nose; nice substantial wine on the palate; has layers; full and spicy fruit; texture; works well. Savoury notes at the end. Tannin at the end is soft and succulent. The winemaking is extractive but not over done. Savoury finish. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2038. 91-93

Château Sansonnet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Deep and saturated; opaque at centre; purple edge; legs; substantial aromatics; plush plums; plum pudding and spice; feels very substantial; some black chocolate notes; little eau de vie too; palate is very full; lots here; extract and depth; sweet tannins; fairly extractive but this will undoubtedly settle well; has the fruit and a savoury edge on the finish. Little bit of chew at the back. Good stuff though. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2040. 90-92+

Château Soutard Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Another dark number; arterial; colour close to edge; black fruits, tar and liquorice; salty mineral tang too; lots here; briary fruit; chocolate notes quite chunky but tannins nicely done again. Plenty here and some zap. Freshness on the finish. Works well. Chunky St Emilion. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2025-2037. 88-90

Château Tauzinat l’Hermitage, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Mid depth; vivid purple at edge; pretty cherry and bubblegum fruit; some marzipan; clean and fresh; like this; purity; ripe; summer fruit compote; sweet entry; cherry; plums; summer fruits; nice emphasis on that; good purity and nice mineral finish. This works well. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2037. 89-91

Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep earthy purple at edge; opaque at centre; wow – lovely aromatics – fresh black plums and black cherries; great freshness and life; super jolie; seductive yet really focused; lovely life and joy on the palate; really super and caressing; a beauty; lovely texture to the tannins and finesse on the palate; despite the concentration and the fruit; this remains nimble; some black chocolate notes on the finish. Epic and caressing, with a real brightness. Excellent length. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2025-2040. 96-97+

Château Tour Baladoz, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep and dark; inky; deep and ripe; some spices; some minerality; quite nice zap to the fruit here; big but tannins good – not a furry mouthful; could do with a little more weight in the middle but the winemaking doesn’t feel forced. Nicely measured. Has freshness on the finish. Slightly medicinal touch in the end. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2036. 88-90

Château Tour de Pressac, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Deep; vibrant purple at edge; plums and dark chocolate; cool and nicely done; quite deep; emphasis on the fruit; plum and cherry; pure; pure fruit; little fruit cake; spices; plum pudding notes; quite broad; has some freshness on the end. Lacks complexity but has purity. The little brother of the cru classé de Pressac. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2033. 88-90

Château Tour Saint Christophe, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2020

Opaque and dense; colour tight to rim: sweet and ripe; some spicy oak lift but well integrated and layered; pent up to start with; little harder initially than Haut-Brisson with more evident structure; plenty of density and extract; quite serious to start with but should settle. Good length. Needs to integrate further obviously but has all the elements. In fact after an hour it opened up substantially and displayed plenty of fruit and extract with savoury tones and chocolate notes emerging. Promising stuff. [20ha, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 14.7% alc, pH 3.6, yield 37hl/ha, elévage 40% new oak, 40% one year and 20% two year-old barrels. Harvest from September 14-28.]. Tasted April, 2021. Drink 2024-2035. 91-93+

Château Yon Figeac, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020

Earthy purple: full; fruitcake and plum pudding notes; satisfying St Emilion; substantial; sturdy but with complexity; some pain grillé tones too; some tar; nice entry; clean; has nice texture and curves; plenty of fruit but nicely soft around the edges. This is gutsy and satisfying St Emilion. Ripe tannin on the finish. Tasted May, 2021. Drink 2024-2032. 90-91+

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