Currently in Bordeaux we are tasting the baby vintage of 2020 from the barrel. The best are very good and these are not only from the classified growths. Some unfortunately fell into the old trap of extracting too much in a dry hot summer with thick skins and not much juice.
What style is 2020? It was very hot and dry during the summer of 2020 which produced small grapes with thick skins as the vine tried to protect itself. There was not a lot of juice and a high juice to skin ratio. As a result there are firm tannins and structure in 2020, something we have not seen for some time – definitely not in the very fruity 2018s and the pretty 2019s.
What can 2020 be compared to? The best wines (and they are certainly not homogenous) are wines that have the quality of 2010, 2015 or 2016 and are wines to keep and to enjoy at a later date at least some 10 years.
The best wines are concentrated, powerful and fine with a long finish and lots of promise. The Right Bank seems to have produced wines with more fruit to fill out the middle palate and I would say are more consistent (as in 1998 and 2015). The Merlot in these cool soils are the Queen of the vintage. The Left Bank however dictates the image of the vintage though.
The Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left Bank had to be picked before the substantial rain that arrived in October. Some Cabernet Sauvignon suffered from ripeness blockage with the extreme heat and its dry stony soils.
For those who have extracted gently, these wines, in my opinion are equal if not superior to 2019 (beautifully seductive charming wines) and 2018 (yummy gourmand wines that drink deliciously already). Whatever it makes for a beautiful Trilogy (rather like 1998, 1999, 2000 or 2008, 2009, 2010).
For those who went a bit far in the extraction there is not the exuberant fruit found in recent years and this has made tasting en primeur this year quite hard-going, like the old times. The less successful wines lack this middle and finish dry and tight.
There are wonderful deals to be had from smaller producers too such as Coutet and Béard la Chapelle in St Emilion whose primeurs sells for around 20€ per bottle. Delicious cherry fruit and smooth tannins.
What was the weather like in 2020? Climatically it was a year of extremes with a very wet spring and early summer (dreadfully wet March, April, May, June) which made treatments for mildew essential and often – it was very difficult to get on the water sodden land. The summer was very dry and hot.
The Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux group together producers from the right and left bank that are not classified but of a good quality level.
It seemed Right bank wines were more consistent. My favorites were;
Pomerol; Feytit Clinet, Bourgneuf, Maillet
St Emilion; Godeau, Clos dubrieul (of course!), Pressac
La Dauphine Fronsac, La Rivière Fronsac, Pinard, Reynon
Left Bank; Loudenne, Clos Foridene, Du Glana
It was too hot and dry for the dry whites of Bordeaux. I tasted one sweet wine, Haut Bergeron 2020 which was rich and honeyed.
Loved the 2020 wines of the Barton family at Mauvesin Barton (rich, red cherry and spice, nice core), Leoville (meaty cedary, creamy, blackcurrant) and Langoa Barton (creamy, spicy, fresh, velvety – which I’m liking more and more with its new found exuberance in recent vintages). It is possble to taste all three at their Château in Moulis where Melanie Sartorious Barton is in charge of the winemaking of this excellent value wine.