If there is genuine excitement to be had in Bordeaux 2020, that is, excitement above the wines made in 2018 and 2019 here, then it probably lies in the wines of the right bank, and starts with the Côtes de Bordeaux appellations, especially those on limestone and clay limestone soils, such as Francs and Castillon. I was super impressed by the quality of some of the wines from the latter appellation especially [and also in Fronsac too – more on that appellation shortly]. Château Alcée, L’Aurage, Château Le Rey and Clos Puy Arnaud are simply knockout in Castillon in 2020. Château Ampélia and Château La Brande are also very impressive and close behind in quality. Château Puygueraud in Francs is very good and in the Côtes de Bourg, Roc de Cambes is a wonder.
Posts Tagged ‘Côtes de Bordeaux’
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.
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.
This year one of the opportunities of having samples sent to you is the extra time you can spend tasting them. There are benefits. Rocking up to a château, tasting for fifteen minutes and speeding off to the next property can get a bit Formula One. The grower spends all year making their wine and you make notes in a few minutes with one eye on the clock to keep on track for the next appointment. In primeurs week what else can you do? You want to taste as much as you can but have a finite time to do it. This year samples have turned up at my front door steadily over a couple of months. Yes, it has taken me longer to work my way through the wines and come to an overview this way. There is also a risk that samples won’t be as impressive as when tasted in situ, and there is the chance of spoilage in transport. But being able to taste a wine over a two or three-hour period, I feel confident in the conclusions I am able to draw about the individual wines this year, despite not being able to travel to Bordeaux. Zoom and other video conferencing have allowed winemakers to fill in the gaps in a less hurried way, too.