Bordeaux Wine Vintage 2020 Is A Silky Delight
[This and another article published today complement each other.]
After sampling hundreds of wines and visiting multiple chateaux throughout Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Médoc, Graves, Bourg and Blaye in the Bordeaux region of southwest France—the overall take on vintage 2020 is—in a word: stellar.
A mild, wet winter in 2019 and 2020 resulted in an early bud burst. The spring was a medley of bizarrely warm days in March and April (as well as periods of downpours), while the summer included two heat waves at the end of July and during early August—resulting in some heat stress and drought.
Left bank yields on Cabernet Sauvignon (according to Christian Seely of Château Pichon-Baron) were relatively low due to the small size of berries—but provided intensity and purity with often refined tannins. According to Hubert de Boüard of Château Ángelus, the dry season at the end of June did not lead to heat stress on much of the right bank due to the groundwater table having been well stocked from earlier precipitation. Merlot did exceptionally well.
Aromas of vintage 2020 red wines are often subdued, with those that are pronounced appearing more elegant than powerful.
In general, Bordeaux 2020 red wines have low-key but silky tannins, excellent (and in many cases, seamless) acidity/tannin/fruit integration, and generally vibrant acidity that shines a lighthouse beam on gorgeously rich, soft and often velvety fruit characteristics. The sleek and radiant acidity and its coziness with profound fruit aromas/flavors is a prominent aspect of the 2020 vintage. Whereas the overall quality of left bank reds is elevated and relatively consistent, the right bank is also, but includes a few almost outlier spikes in beautiful quality—due primarily (again) to precise, silky tannins, vibrant acidity and deeply satisfying fruit characteristics.
A few red wines include a lick of mildly bristling herbaceousness—whether in the form of eucalyptus, mint, sage or green grass characteristics. In general, this characteristic is innocuous to overall quality and the longer term character of vintage 2020 Bordeaux red wines.
Vintage 2020 is easy drinking now (which makes it comparable 2016), yet will age well for decades.
When we recently met, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, Executive Managing Director of Château Ángelus of Saint-Émilion, commented on the vintage.
‘2020 is sublime, with the Cabernet Franc characterized by tension and freshness. The 2018 had more opulence, the 2019 was a classic Bordeaux vintage, and 2020 is somewhat in the middle.’
Many white 2020 Bordeaux wines sizzle with brilliant acidity—showcasing honey and rich tropical fruits.
Some of the best quality wines (from my somewhat limited tastings) are described fully below. Other are described in another complementary article published today. For full descriptions, scores and a few recommended food pairings for these and dozens of other 2020 Bordeaux wines, click here to visit my VinoVoices website.
The wines listed below score a subjective 96, 97 or 98 points out of a 100-point scale. For 96 point wines, abbreviated descriptions are provided; full descriptions are on my VinoVoices website. Other excellent 94 and 95 point vintages are described in this additional Forbes article.
[A note about ‘scoring’ wines: I am not a winemaker. My ‘scores’ for wine reviews are generally not low. I do not provide any scathing/negative reviews for any wine, but instead will exclude comments related to that wine from publication.]
Château Beauregard. Pomerol. 2020. 97 to 98 points.
A 70/30 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from 30-year-old vines. This wine ages 18 months in 45% new French oak from five different coopers, and a small portion ages in Italian fabricated terra cotta jars. Seductive young cherry aromas, as well as those of blueberries and moist earth. This is a wispy wonder—ethereal, precise, silky and providing a creamy mid palate (as well as finish) that includes crisp and dark blackberries, blueberries, cherries as well as sultanas. Excellent, invisible integration of fine acidity, fruit and tannins.
Château Ángelus. Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”. 2020. 97 to 98 points.
This 60/40 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc is made from vines having an average age of 38 years, and ages for up to 22 months—mostly in fine grain French oak barriques, but also in large foudre for some of the Cabernet Franc. It has complex though soft aromas that include lavender, black pepper, florals and fruit. A rainbow of fruits mid palate, a lingering attractive internal tension, and a juicy finish with fresh acidity. This is classic Ángelus—calm, becalming, and gloriously precise. Pair with a range of foods—including grilled steak with shiitakes, or duck breast topped by foie gras. As CEO Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal commented, ‘Since 2016, Ángelus has been refining the power/elegance ratio to evolve slightly toward elegance.’
Château Petit-Village. Pomerol. 2020. 97+ points.
A 60/32/8 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon from 35-year-old vines. Parcel based vinification in small concrete vats. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak, with a small amount aged in amphorae. The label and bottle alone are visual and tactile art. However—the wine aligns: Distinct, precise and redolent aromas of black fruit, brownies, moist earth, slight mint, treacle and licorice. A dark and beautifully structured, flavor-saturated and memorable wine with a complex red and black fruit mid palate and a hint of iced, sliced cherries on the finish. True pleasure in a pour.
Château La Fleur de Boüard. Le Plus de la Fleur de Boüard. Lalande de Pomerol. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
This 100% Merlot includes light and bright aromas that include those of raspberries, cherries, country lane hedgerow, and a little peat. Almost wild–sauvage–but luscious and approachable. Gorgeous red fruit and billowing acidity in the mouth within a firm tannic structure. A rich and creamy mid palate that includes cassis, fudge, and cherries. The finish is a light touch. Consider pairing with artichoke and a rosemary sauce, or pata negra ham with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or a dessert of strawberry tart.
Château Tour Peyronneau. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. Cabernet Franc. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
No sulfites in this right bank blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Light red fruit aromas with slight menthol and hint of cumin. A seductively silky blockbuster in the mouth, with creamy cherries and mangoes mid palate, black cherries and black pepper on the finish. Complete integration of tannins and acidity.
Château de Pressac. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
A Merlot dominant blend that includes Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carménère. Well-structured aromas of dark and red fruit, as well as some spice and earth characteristics—such as mushrooms. A joyous mouthful—well balanced, seductively silky tannins, as well as rich and well-integrated juicy acidity. Pair with a spicy sirloin with mushrooms, or magret de canard duck breast or a stir fry vegetable medley. A joy to enjoy.
Château Mondou. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
This approximately two-thirds Merlot and one-third Cabernet Franc blend includes commanding and ebullient but dense and rich aromas of rich ripe red cherries, plums, blueberries, figs and treacle. A chewy, silky mid palate of fudge, chocolate brownies, cherry parfait, mint and anise. Complex and confident with layered tannins that are well-integrated with acidity. A joy. Consider pairing with Szechuan spicy beef, enchiladas or a Basque tart dessert.
Château Monlot. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
This 75/25 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend includes aromas of brownies, oranges, red plums, sage and cocoa. Fresh and vibrant acidity. In the mouth, an even keeled, calm wine that includes well balanced, suave tannins. Includes rich red fruit mid palate and a dark licorice finish with a hint of spearmint.
Château Monlot. Heritage de Monlot. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
From owner Zhao Wei comes this 85/15 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend that includes succulent, fresh and energetic aromas off wild strawberries, plums, lavender and sage and a little bit of coffee cake. In the mouth—light and silky tannins, persistent and consistent acidity, plums and brownies mid palate and a lingering dark licorice/spearmint finish that keeps on giving. Consider pairing with Szechuan beef, a pastry and meat pie or a dessert that includes caramel.
Château Fleur Cardinale. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020. 96 to 97 points.
From new winemaking facilities at this Grand Cru Classé château comes this 75% Merlot dominant blend that also includes Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich and sublime aromas of hedgerow wild fruit—blackberries and raspberries—as well as layers of earth. In the mouth this is a layer cake of juicy surprises, including acidity with flavors of clementines, a dark mocha/aniseed matrix mid palate and a finish with a hint of cherries and mint. Rich, juicy acidity and firm though unobtrusive tannins. Once opened, this wine will not last long. A fun though seriously crafted wine—pair with lamb and mint sauce, even oysters with tabasco, or a dessert of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Muse du Val. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
A 50/50 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend with a rich and diverse range of aromas that includes brownies, red currants, apple cider, wild raspberries and a hint of molasses. In the mouth silky tannins and a creamy, juicy river of citric fruit-tinged acidity—oranges and kiwis—in a matrix of sliced fresh cherries and treacle. This is a layer cake, a real joy that offers complexity, diversity, surprise and constant change in the mouth. Consider pairing with medium to well done sirloin steak, a quinoa and vegetable bowl or a dessert with chunks of bitter chocolate.
Château Ripeau. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020. 97 points.
From the Grégoire family comes this 65/30/5 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon that ages in 100% new French oak barrels. Juicy and light aromas that include raspberries, cherries, vanilla, slight menthol and even a little apricot. A bountiful wine with generous acidity and firm, low-key tannins that will have you demand a second glass. Cocoa, spices and shiitake mushrooms on the persistent finish. A layered, complex, delightful vintage. Bravo. Pair with filet mignon or hard cheeses.
Couvent des Jacobins. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020. 96 to 97 points.
An 85/10/5 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from the first organic vintage from this château. Includes low-key aromas of silky dark fruit and black cherries. Deep, dark and complex in the mouth with bracing acidity that highlight dark fruit. Textured and rich mid palate with suave tannins and slight raspberries on the finish.
Châteaux Croix de Labrie. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020. 97+ points.
From Axelle and Pierre Courdurié comes this 92/5/3 Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend. A dizzying flurry of energetic rich red fruit aromas—a complex melee of wild strawberries, sliced black cherries, morels, chocolate wafers and even peppermint candy cane. Excellent integration between fruit, acidity and layered tannins provides a deeply scrumptious mid palate of profound fruit and a rich, enduring finish with a lick of anise. This is a vibrant, succulent, three-layer cake of elegant complexity. Spectacular. Consider pairing with a filet mignon, or a vegetable and black pepper broth.
Château Saint-Hilaire. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Médoc. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
This Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend with Merlot includes gorgeously rich and complex aromas of red cherries, figs and plums. Complex and well-structured with vibrant tannins integrated well with acidity. A mid palate that includes plums and cherries and raspberries, with silky black cherries on the finish. Consider pairing with roast duck or cannelloni.
Château Larose Perganson. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Haut-Médoc. 2020. 97 points.
This Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend with Merlot includes hearty, deep aromas of dark plums, cooked figs, minestrone, sultanas and mocha. Complex and beautifully beguiling. In the mouth—a voluptuous, creamy, silky mouth feel and shining acidity that highlights plum, stroganoff and cranberries mid palate. A hearty tannic and acidic finish. Pair with French dip with jus, clear beef broth or a salad with cauliflower, broccoli and cheddar.
Château Montrose. Grand Cru Classé. Saint-Estèphe. 2020. 95 to 97 points.
A 71/23/5/1 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The mystical aromas here alone are worth 99 to 100 points: a silky and quiet first nose followed by a complex medley of black cherries, violets, blueberries, balsamic, cola and perhaps even truffles. In the mouth—integrated, supple, delicate, fine and precise tannins, non-exuberant acidity (radiant but restrained) that includes a hint of citrics. A well-integrated and supple mid palate that includes flavors of treacle and wild strawberries and a little sage on the finish. Beautifully balanced. Pair with relatively delicate fare—consider ostrich steaks or a butterscotch dessert.
Château Lalaudey. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Moulis-en-Médoc. 2020. 97 points.
A Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Jumping, energetic and uplifting aromas showcase citric acidity and attractive herbaceousness. Gorgeous mouthful with excellent tannic structure includes flavors of pomegranate and black cherries.
OTHER QUALITY WINES TO CONSIDER
The wines listed below would all score up to 96 points on a subjective, 100-point scale. For tasting notes, blends and suggested wine pairings for these vintage 2020 wines, visit my VinoVoices site. Additional wines are listed in this complementary Forbes article.
Château Bernateau. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. Merlot. 2020.
Château Bernateau. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020.
Château Villemaurine. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020.
Château La Commanderie. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020.
Château Adaugusta. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020.
Château Tour de Pressac. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020.
Château Laroze. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020.
Château Petit Val. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 2020.
Couvent des Jacobins. Calicem. 2020. 94 to 96 points.
From winemaker Denis Pomarède and enologist Thomas Duclos comes this 100% Merlot is made from 60-year-old Merlot vines that ages in 500 liter oak casks. The expressive aromas need a few minutes to come marching out of the glass and include raspberries, cherries, morels ad salinity. Flavors include black cherries, raspberries and blueberries mid palate. Vibrant acidity and good structure—a quiet but elegant wine that still needs to age for two years to be more approachable. Pair with sirloin grilled over embers of burnt vines.
Château Bellevue. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. 2020.
Carillon d’Angelus. Saint-Émilion. 2020.
Château Gouprie. Pomerol.
Château La Fleur de Boüard. Lalande-de-Pomerol. 2020.
Dame de Boüard. Montagne Saint-Émilion. 2020.
Château Hyot. Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux. 2020.
Château Gaby Cuvée. Canon-Fronsac. 2020. 94 to 96 points.
This 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc includes aromas of dark plums, figs, black pepper and cumin. Exceptionally luscious and silky tannins in the mouth as well as astoundingly deep flavors of dark fruits that include red and black cherries. Mid palate includes flavors of both fruit and crust from a dark blackberry crumble. Pair with barbecued beef or a vegetable platter with sweet potatoes and beans.
Château Lamothe-Bergeron. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Arnauld. Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Beaumont. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Doyac. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Les Vimiéres. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Ségur. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Soudars. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Verdignan. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Victoria. Cru Bourgeois. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Clos la Bohème. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Bel Air Gloria. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Haut-Médoc. 2020.
Château Haut-Beauséjour. Saint-Estèphe. 2020.
Château de Côme. Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. Saint-Estéphe. 2020.
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse. Grand Cru Classé. Pauillac. 2020.
Château Julia. Pauillac. 2020.
Château Teynac. Saint-Julien. 2020.
Château D’Arsac. Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. Margaux. 2020.
Château La Tour de Bessan. Margaux. 2020.
Château Moutte Blanc. Cru Artisan. Margaux. 2020.
Château de Chantegrive. ‘Caroline.’ Graves. 2020.
Clos Castelot-Bussac. Graves de Vayres. 2020.
ENTRE-DEUX-MERS, BORDEAUX SUPÉRIEUR AND OTHERS
Château Laurence. Grand Vin de Bordeaux. 2020.
Hubert de Boüard. Chardonnay. IGP Atlantique. 2020.
Château Boutillot. Bordeaux. 2020.
Château du Cros. Loupiac. 2020.