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.
Posts Tagged ‘Château Haut-Brisson’
There are a number of properties in the Vignobles K portfolio, the group established by businessman Peter Kwok. Amongst the châteaux in St Emilion are Château Bellefont-Belcier, which occupies a super position just down the road from Château Pavie and Château Larcis-Ducasse, along with Château Tour St Christophe and Château Haut-Brisson. In Pomerol there are two properties, the tiny one hectare Enclos Tourmaline and the three hectare La Patache, and in neighbouring Lalande de Pomerol, there is Enclos de Viaud. In Castillon, the impressive Château Le Rey produces two styles from different parcels of vines, the unoaked Les Argileuses from the vines on clay and Les Rocheuses from the limestone soils. This is the first time I have tasted this Castillon and I was knocked out by the quality. In fact, across the board, this line up is impressive in 2020. It is undoubtedly led by Château Bellefont-Belcier which is the jewel in the crown, but all the wines displayed plenty of purity and fresh fruit qualities. There is an evident gentleness to the winemaking, and a plushness to the wines in the stable, notwithstanding differences in terroir and approach.
Many delicious wines have been made in St Emilion in 2018. This is a vintage with the most sumptuous, sublime fruit. While the wines do not have the magical balance of 2016 or 2015, with their fresher acidities, on the best terroirs there are a range of wines here that rival 2009 in character for sheer exotic ripeness and joy, but without the evident over-extraction that characterised the appellation a decade ago. Yes, these are wines with plenty of tannin, enviably ripe tannin, and in all but a few cases I would confidently expect the wines to settle by bottling. As in 2009 this will be a vintage that will drink well from the very beginning, but that has the evident structure to last.
There are some excellent wines in St Emilion this year. While the 2017 vintage will always be remembered for the severe April frost, unlike 1991, that other frost affected year, there are a great many impressive wines in the appellation [and the same could never be said for ‘91]. Still the frost has created inconsistency, affecting the blends of some, reducing the volumes for many, and wiping out vineyards for others. Interestingly critic Antonio Gallioni has called 2017 a right bank year. Certainly many of the top wines here are really good, friendlier perhaps that the correct reds on the left bank, even though the left bankers technically profited more from the growing season. Yet as Cyrille Thienpont at Pavie Macquin pondered, ‘It is not really a case of left bank versus right this year, or Merlot versus Cabernet, more a question of which terroirs performed best.”