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2020 Bordeaux En Primeur: Figeac, Talbot, Domaine de Chevalier, Sociando-Mallet, Pavie Macquin, La Gaffelière, De Fieuzal, Smith Haut Lafitte, Latour-Martillac, Langoa Barton, Pichon Longueville Baron, Léoville-Poyferré, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Troplong Mondot, La Conseillante, Prieuré-Lichine, Suduiraut…

May 14, 2021

The vintage of 2020 was characterised by wet weather in spring followed by a long dry hot summer stretching from early June till end-September. This extreme meteorological pattern produced early bud break (marking the first stage of the vine cycle) in March, followed by early flowering in May that led to early ripening such that most estates managed to complete their harvesting in the dry part of September (whites even earlier in August) before heavy rains lashed down again in the first week of October. Sporadic nocturnal thunderstorms were noted here and there during August, which brought welcome relief from the drought but further disaster (the real threat of mildew) to estates already hit by hail. Latour Martillac Blanc (2)Thanks to the heat stress, 2020 is a relatively low-yielding vintage (up to 10% less volume than 2019) and variation in quality across the region is to be expected, unlike the uniformly good years of 2005, 2009 and 2010. The Right Bank, in particular, experienced considerably less rain and hotter temperatures compared with the Left.

Normally, the world’s wine press would have descended on Bordeaux at this time of year for the en primeur tastings but, because of Covid, the reverse is taking place where samples are sent instead to various cities around the world which would organise their own decentralised tastings. Thanks to the wonderful people at Wine Clique, Singapore, I had the opportunity to taste a line-up of 2020 Bordeaux samples on 30 April 2021 (and thereafter extending into May as well for some samples) organised very professionally at the correct ambient temperature of 18°C with the bottles aired well in advance, limited to only a handful of individuals well spaced apart in line with current Covid regulations. I found the overall quality to be very good to excellent. In particular, the Right Bank as well as Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien impressed with their fine elegance, phenolic ripeness, exemplary balance and ability to convey their terroir. Elsewhere, Pichon Baron and the majority from the northern Médoc, Saint-Estèphe and Margaux also came across well. But the real standouts were actually the whites (!), imbued with superb concentration, lovely verve, balance and definition. Some estates tend to be a little too cautious and backward, perhaps being wary of potentially excessive sugar ripeness (the opposite of phenolic ripeness, leading to a tendency towards more alcohol) from the heat. However, the line-up tasted represents only a very tiny fraction of Bordeaux. Moreover, one must remember these are still unfinished products, emphasised by the word échantillon (ie. sample) stamped across the labels. The wines may flesh out further in barrel and the final blend upon release in 2023 may end up being substantially different. Nevertheless, I believe those which already has everything in place will be fabulous. But don’t forget the whites! Many thanks again, Alice and Emerson.

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2020 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc. Pessac-Léognan. Pale. Effusive in clean dry petroleum characters. Lovely expanse of lychees and other tropical fruit that exert excellent presence with fine acidity and intensity. Good balance. Has everything in place. Great potential.

2020 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc. Pessac-Léognan. Pale. Effusive bouquet of morning dew and clean white characters. Rather fruit focused, showing very good presence with a lovely rounded intensity. Good verve and fluidity, finishing with lingering nutmeg. Excellent potential.

2020 Château De Fieuzal Blanc. Pessac-Léognan. Pale. Highly effusive in white tones with a tinge of diesel on the nose that is really superb. More lean and concentrated on the open palate with a controlled intensity, displaying excellent integration and lithe acidity laced with a trace of sweetness. Finished well. Very lovely.

2020 Château Latour-Martillac Blanc. Pessac-Léognan. Pale. Cool clean characters amid glowing white tones and nutmeg. Highly agile, almost delicate, layered with a suggestion of tropical fruits marked by a trace of sweetness. Excellent balance. Superbly structured with understated acidity and intensity, imparting lingering tension that is just simply beautiful in the mouth. Hard to believe this is an unfinished sample when everything is already in place. Great stuff!

2020 Château Fleur Cardinale. Saint-Émilion. Deep purple. Bramble and wild berries on the nose. Remarkably ripe palate of raspberries and dark cherries cushioned by soft sexy tightly-knit tannins with a certain graphite sparkle, underscored with fine acidity. Excellent effort from an unexpected source.

2020 Château Grand Mayne. Saint-Émilion. Bright cherries and currants with delicious aromatic lift. Medium-bodied. Fleshy and supple. Gentle on the palate, showing excellent integration and sleek acidity. Distinctly feminine. Very correct but could do with more presence.

2020 Château La Gaffelière. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B. Bright purple. Emulsion and dark currants in equal measure. Medium-bodied. Bright, rounded and supple, showing good acidity and integration though there is a persistent dry woodiness in spite of more emerging fruit (re-tasted again from bottles that have received several hours of aeration).

2020 Château Pavie Macquin. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B. Deep purple. Unusually developed bouquet of delicious dark currants and ripe berries. Medium-full. Fleshy and subtly structured with a graphite sparkle, exerting a very fine teasing intensity on a dryish floor. Good potential.

2020 Château Troplong Mondot. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B. Deep purple. Somewhat reluctant and brambly on the nose though the palate is imbued with a slightly forward balance of fleshy exotic fruit that teased with lithe agility and fine acidity, hinting at some velvety warmth. Has a certain attractive juicy succulence. Good length. Plenty of lovely charm.

2020 Château Figeac. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B. Deep purple. Reductive earthy nose of briar, bramble and ripe wild berries. Softly rounded and fleshy. Slightly lean, showing good presence of dark fruits with balanced acidity but underpinned by a distinct ethanolic trace. Has a certain dark herbaceous tone from the cabernet component. Not an opulent Figeac at this stage but it will come around.

20210514_171903.jpg2020 Château La Conseillante. Pomerol. Deep bright purple. Ripe wild berries tinged with red fruits on the nose with a suggestion of velvety crimson. Medium-full. Warm and rounded with fleshy definition, underscored with precise subtle acidity that imparted good tension. Structured with highly understated tannins laced with a trace of sweetness, tapering with excellent balance and seamless transition throughout its length. Practically ready now. Delicious! The Nicolas family proudly celebrates its 150th anniversary of ownership of La Conseillante with a distinct winner.

2020 Château Marsau. Francs, Côtes de Bordeaux. Bright purple. Fairly lifted. Softly contoured with slender proportions. Good balance. Quite sensibly focused on ripe darkish fruits that impart a certain warmth and fine intensity with dryish textures though its terroir remains indistinct.

2020 Château Poujeaux. Moulis-en-Médoc. Opaque purple. Good fruit quality but set rather too far backward on a ferric base, shrouded in enamel with a pervasive sense of heat that proved to be too distracting, not helped by its dry intensity and austere finish.

2020 Château Latour-Martillac Rouge. Pessac-Léognan. Good colour. Typical Pessac nose of bush and earthy warmth but the palate disappoints with fruit that is set too far backward, seriously obscured by alcoholic heat.

2020 Château De Fieuzal Rouge. Pessac-Léognan. Good colour. Attractive nose of ripe berries and currants. Structured with very fine presence and depth, revealing some earthy inner detail. Quite elegant. Good representation of the Pessac terroir.

2020 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge. Pessac-Léognan. Deep garnet core. Lovely lift of floral fragrance and currants. Quite fleshy, revealing gritty inner detail along with some earthy elements that are highly characteristic of Pessac. Very finely balanced with sophisticated tannins, rather understated in intensity throughout its length. Excellent.

2020 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge. Pessac-Léognan. Deep garnet core. Good lift of delicious dark currants. Surprisingly open. Very evenly toned with lovely cool depth, showing very fine integration with an understated layered intensity on a dryish floor. Just a tad reserved but all the better. Very good potential.

2020 Château Pédesclaux. Pauillac. Good colour. Good lift of fresh berries. Rather fruit focused, carrying good verve with very fine acidity and intensity within a narrow spectrum. Short.

2020 Château Pichon Longueville Baron. Pauillac, Deuxième Cru. Deep purple. Quite effusive in dark roses, mulberries, violets and wild berries amid a brambly glow. Medium-bodied. Very good density of ripe cool fruit cushioned within velvety textures with a tinge of tangerines and some minerally elements, showing lovely freshness and seamless integration with refined intensity. Very naturally balanced. Gentle finish. Highly promising.

2020 Château Beaumont. Haut-Médoc. Deep purple. Aromatic lift of ripe wild berries. Medium-bodied. Structured with fine depth and well-managed tannins, conveying bright pebbly notes with understated intensity at the finish. Good terroir representation but ultimately lacking in distinction.

2020 Château Sociando-Mallet. Haut-Médoc. Good colour. Classic Médoc nose of bush and warm gravel. Medium-bodied. Well structured with very good presence and excellent suppleness, yielding fine gritty detail with attractive intensity. Good length. Excellent.

2020 Château Phelan Ségur. Saint-Estèphe, Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. Dark opague purple. Lifted aromas of delicious dark currant, haw and dark cherries. Medium-bodied with a bright pebbly tone. Fleshy but dryish, showing good inner definition with a dash of understated intensity. Somewhat narrow in spectrum though well-balanced and unpretentious.

2020 Château Lafon-Rochet. Saint-Estèphe, Quatrième Cru. Deep garnet core. Attractive nose of briar, bramble and earth. Medium-full. Fleshy, displaying a fairly high-toned acidity and intensity. Excellent balance. Somewhat narrow in spectrum without too much depth but one appreciates its unpretentiousness.

2020 Château Gloria. Saint-Julien. Deep garnet core. Hint of warm gravel. Medium-bodied. Rather reticent and backward. Shows good acidity with understated tannin structure but it is just too reluctant at this stage.

2020 Château Labégorce. Margaux, Cru Bourgeois. Lovely colour. Forward nose. Medium-full. Rather bold and fleshy with structured intensity, yielding dry earthy detail. One senses that this wine is trying very hard to impress.

2020 Confidences de Prieuré-Lichine. Margaux. Second wine of Prieuré-Lichine. Very deep ruby, sporting notes of wild berries and wild roses with some bush. Smooth and rounded with an easy charm without much depth, though very well integrated.

2020 Château Prieuré-Lichine. Margaux, Quatrième Cru. Deep purple. Lovely lift of red fruits and cherries. Medium-full. Superbly integrated with sleek acidity and intensity. Has great proportion and balance. Almost velvety. Excellent.

2020 Château D’Issan. Margaux, Troisième Cru. Good color. Imbued with very good quality fruit that exude a lovely lift of ripe plums and red fruits. Medium-full. Well-structured with excellent balance and refined intensity. Carries good verve and presence. Highly promising.

2020 Château Malescot Saint-Exupery. Margaux, Troisième Cru. Deep garnet core. Very attractive nose of delicious sweet floral tones. Medium-bodied. Softly contoured and fleshy with a high-toned presence contributed by its sleek acidity but a tad too hot, let down by a short dry finish.

2020 Château Saint-Pierre. Saint-Julien, Quatrième Cru. Good color. Nose of bushy earthiness, slightly reductive. Medium-bodied. Rather backward and cautious in spite of the seamlessly integrated acidity and tannins. Could do with more fruit presence.

2020 Château Beychevelle. Saint-Julien, Quatrième Cru. Opaque purple. Distant fragrance. Rounded with very fine integration and understated intensity. Good presence but the fruit is set a little too backward, filled by earthy minerals in equal measure.

2020 Château Branaire-Ducru. Saint-Julien, Quatrième Cru. Deep purple. Shy. Quite brightly lit on the medium-bodied palate imbued with distant cool ripe fruit and rounded suppleness. Good acidity though there is a persistent restraint.

20210506_160915.jpg2020 Château Talbot. Saint-Julien, Quatrième Cru. Bright purple, proffering distant dark currants with a delicious fragrance. Medium-bodied, showing very good presence with fine depth of fruit set just a tad backward. Highly seamless and understated in acidity and intensity, framed by very well-managed tannins. Very correct. Not overdone in any way. Highly elegant.

2020 Château Langoa Barton. Saint-Julien, Troisième Cru. Deep purple. Nose of warm gravel. Rounded with lovely agility and floral freshness, producing a distinct feminine lift though the fruit is set a little backward, imbued with graphite trace. Carries good verve and balance. Well-layered and integrated, just a tad dry at the finish. Very successful.

2020 Château Léoville-Poyferré. Saint-Julien, Deuxième Cru. Deep purple. Dense bouquet of a full floral bloom, highly aromatic and delicious. Highly understated, displaying rounded contours with very refined acidity, imbued with traces of graphite. Lovely warmth, almost velvety, sweeping across the palate with a very fine teasing intensity towards the finish. Very correct, and almost aloof but all the better. Excellent.

2020 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. Saint-Julien, Deuxième Cru. Deep purple. Layered glowing bouquet of dark floral fragrance and currants amid traces of vanillin. Medium-bodied, this wine displays an open presence with refined concentration of fruit, yielding some bright minerally inner detail as it mellowed down in the glass with superb seamless integration. Very naturally balanced with plenty of sophistication. Almost aristocratic. Very lovely. Great potential.

2020 Château Suduiraut. Sauternes, Premier Cru. Full enticing sweet fragrance with dominant characters of lychees and yellow tropical fruits. Layered with a fairly rich rounded density, displaying good clarity and understated acidity with a controlled sweetness and intensity. Gentle finish. Well proportioned and balanced. Excellent.

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