Way back in early September the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion put on a tasting high up above London at Landing Forty Two in the remarkable Leadenhall Building. The views were impressive. So were many of the wines. Ostensibly it was an opportunity to taste the joyful 2018 vintage, but each producer also offered an additional, older vintage. This was fascinating. For me it also confirmed the superlative quality of the 2016 vintage in St Emilion, but also the quality of some of the rather unsung 2017s. In fact, there were quite a few properties to my mind that performed better in ’17 than they did in ’18 – and that was no mean feat given the challenges of the frost that so badly affected the former vintage. Given that some 45 different chateau were represented at the tasting, I’m dividing my report into two parts. This one contains notes and thoughts on some twenty-four properties [and forty-seven wines], starting with Château Barde-Haut and ending with Château Franc-Mayne [essentially half of them alphabetically].
I was fortunate enough to have bought a reasonable spread of Bordeaux en primeur in 2005. At the time of purchase in 2006 there was a lot of hype surrounding the vintage. At that stage it was being compared to legendary vintages, like 1961. In many ways, it had been the first vintage since 2000 to really shout about in Bordeaux. The 2003 had its admirers of course, Parker amongst them, and that heatwave year made some thrilling wines – but it was also very inconsistent. I didn’t get the chance to taste the 2005s during primeurs, but those that did told me that, whilst it was evidently very promising, it was also somewhat tricky to judge with all the fruit, tannin, oak and acidity. Over the intervening years, I wonder if the vintage has lost some of its lustre, certainly relative to 2009 & 2010? There is an interesting piece from Jancis Robinson here worth a read from a few years back. So now that the vintage is sweet sixteen, just how are some of the wines faring?
Final blog post for the moment on the reds of Bordeaux in 2020. I’ve grouped together notes taken on wines from the Médoc and Haut-Médoc in this post, as well as some specific communes like Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe. All of these are based on samples sent by the Grand Cercle. I’ve yet to taste members of the Union des Grand Crus and there are a number of properties that I usually get to taste which I didn’t manage to organise this year. I hope to update these omissions soon. From what I have tasted the reds are fresh in the Médoc in 2020, although there is not the richness of 2019 or 2018 for me. In some there is a certain austerity and angularity. Wines tasted from the Haut-Médoc have good depth and colour, with freshness and zap, but again some can feel a little angular. A handful of wines tasted from St Estèphe look promising, with good colours and nice textures, and there were some nicely perfumed, fresh wines from Margaux. The few bottles I tasted from St Julien and Pauillac showed finesse, but were not quite up with the quality and concentration of the previous two vintages. Overall my tastings in these communes were not as comprehensive as those on the right bank this year. If you want detailed reports on the left bank wines I’d defer to others whose writing on Bordeaux I admire [Jane Anson, James Lawther, Chris Kissack, Neal Martin & Jeb Dunnuck all cover Bordeaux extremely well]. Nevertheless, I hope you find the notes on the following 24 wines useful.
Attractive, mid-weight wines have been produced in Graves and Pessac-Léognan in 2020. Of the samples tasted, the aromatics were fresh and pretty amongst the reds, and the vintage has produced wines of medium body with ripe tannins. Overall, while there is a little more variation than in 2019, the impression is of good, well-balanced wines that should drink nicely in the near and medium term. The whites were not hugely aromatic for me but nevertheless the best had life, zest and texture and were appetizing. These tastings notes are based on samples sent by the Grand Cercle in the main, with a few additions. I hope to catch up with other properties and members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at forthcoming events.