Over the last few vintages I’ve been really impressed by the Bordeaux Supérieux châteaux represented by the Grand Cercle. The 2020 vintage was not as harmonious as 2019, and there is greater variation in the wines tasted. Nevertheless, there was plenty of bright fruit and freshness on display but also generosity in the half dozen or so 2020 samples sent, and there is much to recommend in many of the wines tasted below. Château Sainte Barbe stood out once again for its quality, but I was also impressed with Château Sainte-Marie, Vielle Vignes, Château Penin, Les Cailloux and Château Prieuré-Marquet. Grand vin de Reignac and Bathus also looked good, if a little more evidently extracted, though I’d expect these to settle during élevage. The following notes were taken earlier in May from samples sent to the UK in late April.
There are a number of properties in Bordeaux which offer striking value for the quality. St Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Laroque is most definitely one of them. It has heritage and fabulous limestone terroir high up in St Emilion. It is also a substantial property with over 61 hectares planted. It has been well looked after by the Beaumartin family since the 1930s. So far, so good. But it has been the arrival of winemaker David Suire that has been the catalyst for this property to hit the big time, qualitatively speaking. Fortunately, the prices have still yet to catch up. While Château Laroque is perhaps no longer an insider’s secret, thanks to sensible pricing here this certainly remains a property to follow. The 2020 is another significant wine. Qualitatively it is up there with the impressive wines fashioned in 2019 and 2018. Laroque is an exciting 2020 indeed.
The Nicolas Thienpont range looks excellent in 2020. The jewels in the line up here are Château Pavie Macquin and Château Larcis Ducasse, two super impressive St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé. Stylistically these are always chalk and cheese. The former is usually super powerful and bold, the latter is as pure and beautiful as St Emilion gets. The emphasis of Nicolas Thienpont and his son Cyrille, along with winemaking colleague David Suire, is always on the purity of expression of the terroir and not on turbocharged hijinks in the cellar. It is a shame that this team are no longer involved with making Château Beauséjour [HDL], but that’s another story. In the Côtes de Francs, the well-known Château Puygueraud looks very good and their Castillon, Château Alcée, is knockout [as are a number of wines in this appellation in 2020].
There is no doubt that the de Boüards really know what they are doing across their portfolio of family owned properties on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Château Angélus, managed by Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal backed up with the winemaking savoir-faire of father Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, has never made better wine. This last decade has been an extraordinary one for the property. Fabulous wines have been made here in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. Their 2020 looks to set be impressive too. It has freshness, power and remarkable balance. Stephanie compares it to a blend of the 2018 and 2019 vintages. Elsewhere in St Emilion, the de Boüard’s Grand Cru Classé, Château Bellevue, which makes super plush wine every vintage it seems, has succeeded yet again. Château Daugay also impresses this year. The de Boüards are also making remarkable wines in Lalande de Pomerol at Château La Fleur de Boüard, including the exceptional Le Plus Fleur de Boüard. I’ve been writing about this property for almost a decade and 2020 looks like another promising vintage here. Over in Montagne St Emilion, Coralie de Boüard continues to make exciting wine at Château Clos de Boüard. Again, this looks like a wine to consider in 2020. It was impressive in 2019 too.