A brilliant set of wines have been made in Fronsac in 2020. It completes a run of three wonderfully impressive vintages here 2018-2020. I wonder if perhaps this year pips the rest in terms of balance and harmony. The wines show exceptional freshness and zap, alongside ripeness and there seems to be even greater vibrancy here this year than in 2019. Of the wines I’ve tasted, no one has put a foot wrong in my book, so if you still see any of these offered, you’d not be disappointed. At the very top we have Château Dalem, Château de la Dauphine and Château La Vielle Cure, who have all produced terrific wines but excellent Fronsac has also been made at Château Fontenil and Château de la Rivière. Do search these any of these out.
Posts Tagged ‘Château La Vielle Cure’
For a second year running trips to Bordeaux have been complex. Once again, the châteaux have been sending barrel samples. Of course, there are concerns about the air freighted wines being in top notch condition when they arrive. It’s a compromise. For me, better to taste and exercise your judgement, than not taste anything at all. So there are caveats to reviewing Bordeaux these days, but given this, what does 2020 look like? The heat and drought of the summer, combined with varying quantities of rain at the end of the growing season, have resulted in a generally impressive vintage. Overall it is a good partner to 2018 and 2019, and marks a trio of fine vintages. On the basis of the few hundred wines I’ve tasted it’s the least consistent of the three. In general, it doesn’t have the coquettishness of 2018, nor the excitement and magnificent texture of the 2019s. It does have plenty of substance, the fruit is generally supple, the tannins creamy, and alcohols that are a tad lower than the last couple of years. But 2020 seems a more heterogenous vintage than the two before it, so it is not as straightforward to understand as those seemed. There is a hollowness to some and a lack of aromatics in others. Prices are slowly being released. You’d certainly not want to be paying more than you did for your 2019s. Ideally, given the economic uncertainty, and the volume of fine Bordeaux available in bottle, savvy châteaux should be selling this at a decent discount to make sense of an en primeur purchase.
The wines of Fronsac should be on every Bordeaux lover’s list. There have been some terrific successes here in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and 2018 joins these vintages as an exciting one for the appellations of Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac. I’m always struck by the homogeneity of these appellations, year in, year out. Despite the difficulties of the 2018 vintage – a growing season with an extremely wet first half, followed by the sunny and dry second half – there are a great number of wines in Fronsac that are outstanding. These should also offer good value to the consumer en primeur. If some of the wines lack a little bit of tension in terms of acidity, the tannins are beautifully ripe and the lush fruit present makes many of these irresistible.
I used to save the best to last. When I first started visiting the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin I’d turn up at the end of primeurs week. What a fool I was. Now it’s the first place I head to in St Emilion. It was interesting hearing Jean-Luc’s thoughts on the 2017 vintage. In places unaffected by frost, on the best terroirs he reckons it’s the equivalent to 2014 and even 2015 in places. Importantly Château Valandraud itself was not affected by the late April freeze. Other properties that Thunevin advises were, including some of his own properties such as Clos Badon in St Emilion and Le Clos du Beau Père in Pomerol. If volumes are down, in many cases quality is good to very good, judging from the wines tasted in Thunevin’s cellars. I love the energy that he manages to generate in his own wines and for Valandraud fans [read Jean-Luc fans] his 2017s do not disappoint.