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Bordeaux 2020: what the critics are saying

The Bordeaux châteaux – and the world’s wine lovers – are waiting for the critics to give their verdict on the 2020 vintage. We’ll be adding to this page as their reports are released – offering a summary of what each of these prestigious palates are saying about the vintage and the wines they rated most highly

James Suckling

First out of the gate is James Suckling, who is in complete agreement with what we have been told by the châteaux and tasted so far: this is another great vintage for both the Left and Right Bank, forming the third in a trilogy of great vintages for Bordeaux. He writes, “The Médoc reds are closer in character to the 2019 vintage with more linear and finer tannins and precise, pure cabernet fruit while the Right Bank, particularly Pomerol and St.Emilion, is more like 2018 with reds that have more flamboyant fruit and creamier, densely ripe tannins.”

While he had heard reports of heterogeneity, 90% of what he has tasted “show an outstanding quality level from first growths to petit chateaux”. He feels that Merlot has excelled, however there are plenty of outstanding wines in the Médoc too – indeed several worthy of perfect scores.

Suckling’s highlights: Haut-Brion, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Hosanna, La Fleur-Pétrus, Smith Haut-Lafitte, Le Gay, L’Eglise-Clinet, Troplong-Mondot, Angélus, Ducru-Beaucaillou, L’Evangile, Trotte Vieille

Read more of James Suckling’s thoughts on the vintage on his site

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Ch. Angélus

Jane Anson – Decanter

Jane Anson rates the 2020 vintage four out of five, similar in quality to 2018 but lower than the ’19 and ’16 vintages. While she believes the Right Bank is similar in style to 1989 or the 2018s, she feels the Left Bank has more in common with 1996, 2000 and 2006 due to the tannic profile caused by the dry summer months. “You will find plenty of racy, supple tannins that power forward and have a sense of energy, but also tannins that are a little dry and sometimes underripe if the drought led to blockages,” she says.

Despite many similarities in terms of tannin concentration to 2010 and ’16, she feels overall the 2020 vintage is not as consistent as either of these years. For her, the biggest potential issue was this risk of unripe tannins, typically in the Cabernet Sauvignon, mostly affecting the Left Bank. While she notes that some properties’ second wines bear the brunt of this, she commends the exceptional efforts of La Croix Ducru-Beacaillou, Mondot and Blason de l’Evangile.

She highlights, however, that 2020 continues a trend in the region, with the best wines performing “a sleight of hand from the vintage conditions” – something that she feels comes from “a confidence that I find in Bordeaux today, where there no longer seems to be the need to choose the biggest tannins for the main estate wine, and instead many choose to prioritise site expression.”

All her potential 100-point wines (of which there are five) come from the Right Bank, bar Ch. Margaux which takes the title of wine of the vintage on the Left Bank, while Ch. Canon steals the top spot on the Right.

Anson’s highlights: Ausone, Bélair-Monange, Canon, Margaux, Cheval Blanc, Larcis-Ducasse, Rocheyron, La Gaffelière, Pontet-Canet, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Montrose, Calon Ségur, Lafleur, L'Evangile, Trotanoy, La Croix de Beaucaillou, Fleur Cardinale, La Serre, Le Prieuré, Durfort-Vivens, Les Perrières de Lafleur, Clos Puy Arnaud, Phélan Ségur, Domaine de l’Aurage

Read more of Jane Anson’s thoughts on the vintage on the Decanter site

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Ch. Margaux

Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW + James Lawther MW – jancisrobinson.com

The team at jancisrobinson.com has tackled the vintage as a trio – with James Lawther MW tasting in the region, and Julia Harding MW and Jancis Robinson MW herself tasting in the UK. Collectively, they’ve tasted their way through the majority of major releases, publishing a range of articles around the vintage including tasting reports on the Left Bank, Right Bank and white wines of Bordeaux 2020. Perhaps most refreshing to hear is a positive article on the “revolution” that is taking place in Bordeaux when it comes to precision viticulture leading to “delightfully fresh, expressive, 'new old' wines”.

As for 2020, “There are admittedly some stunningly good 2020s, even if [it] is not as consistent a vintage as 2019,” Robinson says. Lawther highlights the surprising freshness of the wines, positioning it somewhere between ’18 and ’19. The lower alcohol levels on the Left Bank “delightfully combine the classicism of traditional Bordeaux with modern winemaking and vine-growing sophistication”.

Similarly to Anson’s report, Robinson feels some of the later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon wouldn’t have reached full maturity before the threat of early October storms forced vignerons to pick by 30th September (something that didn’t impact the Right Bank with its earlier-ripening Merlot). She feels, however, the overall volume produced on the Left Bank allowed estates to be extremely selective, including only the finest lots in the Grand Vin. All in all, the team declares it a vintage that falls in favour of the Right Bank – with wines that have led Robinson herself to “[fall] back in love with” Saint-Emilion. On the Left, however, Robinson notes particular consistency in the wines of Graves/Pessac-Léognan,

jancisrobinson.com’s highlights: Lafleur, Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Cos d’Estournel, Haut-Brion, Mouton Rothschild, Pétrus, Angélus, Pichon Baron, Vieux Château Certan, Montrose, Ausone, La Lagune, Léoville Barton, Prieuré-Lichine, Rauzan-Gassies, du Tertre, Kirwan, Canon, Figeac, Pavie

Read the team's full report on jancisrobinson.com

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Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion

Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW – Wine Advocate

For Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, 2020 is “an enigma – a vintage that has been more difficult to understand than 2018 or 2019, with far more potential and, in some cases, greater growing season complexities than even 2017 (the year of the devastating frosts).”

Despite comparisons with 2018, the wines are, in her view, very different. She highlights the differences between Left and Right Banks this year – with “more weight and generosity” in the latter, and more varied quality on the Left, noting that some from the Médoc lacked mid-palate weight. The key she thinks was the impact of the August rains: welcome relief for some, too late for others, and too much (therefore diluting the fruit) for certain properties in the Médoc in particular.

Overall she feels the variability brings 2020 in line with 2017 in some ways, however thinks that, at its best, the vintage is up alongside 2018 and 2019: “For some areas and terroirs, this is absolutely the third outstanding vintage.”

She notes that it is a simplification too far to declare it a Merlot vintage, as there are excellent wines from both Cabernets too. Pomerol and Saint-Emilion impressed her, while Fronsac and the Côtes de Castillon offer some great-value wines. Like us, she notes some outstanding performances from Pessac-Léognan. In the Médoc, she emphasises the importance of terroirs with sufficient gravel to drain the August rains, as well as the budget and manpower to do the necessary work to manage the year’s challenging conditions.

On the Right Bank, she characterises the best wines as “beautifully pure and perfumed expressions of ripeness”. Pessac is for her “staunchly earthy/savory”, while she warns some are dilute, the Médoc’s finest are “a paradox – lighter bodied, elegant, perfumed head-turners”.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW’s highlights: Smith Haut Lafitte, Haut Bailly, Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Clerc Milon, Mouton Rothschild, Pontet-Canet, Canon, Angélus, Trotanoy, Vieux Château Certan, Margaux, L’Eglise Clinet, Le Dôme, Le Tertre Roteboeuf, Pavie, L’Evangile, Rauzan-Ségla

Read Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW's full report on Wine Advocate

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Ch. Canon

Neal Martin – Vinous  

In his report for Vinous Neal Martin declares 2020 “an excellent vintage” and “the third in a trilogy of great vintages”. He feels it is “better than 2018 but doesn’t quite reach the peaks of 2019”. 

While he describes 2018 as more hedonistic and 2019 elegant and purer, he believes the difference between 2019 and 2020 is marginal. “There are instances where 2020 will surpass 2018 and 2019,” he says, believing this will become clearer in bottle. 

In his view, lower alcohols on the Left Bank have “allowed for greater expression of individual terroirs and more salinity in the wines”, but the finest examples are wines that also have great concentration. In contrast, the alcohol levels on the Right Bank are generally higher than in 2019 and the best wines of the vintage were those that managed to retain elegance. The 2020s’ slightly firmer tannins in general, Martin believes, will “merit long-term cellaring” compared to the 2019, which can be enjoyed earlier.   

Martin highlights the cool nights in August and September as a key factor in determining the success of a Bordeaux vintage, helping the wines retain acidity – and 2020 had just this. These cool nights mean the wines have “excellent acidity levels that engender fresh wines with ample tension”. 

As has been the case in the last three vintages, he has found greater consistency in the top hierarchy of wines, where the finer terroirs have kept the vines healthy through a challenging growing season. Despite this, he says there are “still a raft of excellent wines punching above their weight outside the famous appellations, representing outstanding value”.  

Neal Martin’s highlights: Margaux, Trotanoy, La Mission Haut-Brion, Canon, Figeac, La Conseillante, L’Eglise Clinet, Lafite, La Gaffelière, Haut-Brion, Léoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande, Mouton Rothschild, Vieux Château Certan, De Pez, Grand-Puy-Ducasse, La Bridane, Marojallia, La Voûte, Le Chemin, Latour-Martillac and Latour-Martillac Blanc 

Read Neal Martin’s full report on Vinous 

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Ch. Figeac

Jeb Dunnuck 

Jeb Dunnuck is undeniably enthusiastic about 2020, declaring it “unquestionably a great vintage”.  For him, the wines more focused than 2018, but denser than 2019 – but feels it sits just behind these two and 2016 in the rankings. He notes that the early season rains have given the wines “a beautiful sense of purity”. As almost everyone has noted, it is this purity and freshness from such a warm vintage that is surprising. 

He highlights the advantage of clay and limestone soils, as well as old vines. For him Pomerol is the star of the vintage (with “a bevy of legendary wines”), while Saint-Emilion and Pessac-Léognan also thrived. He found the Médoc less consistent (especially Margaux), with the best wines coming from further north in the region, where you’ll find “a swath of beautiful, elegant, ripe, classically styled wines”.  

Jeb Dunnuck’s highlights: Trotanoy, Vieux Château Certan, La Fleur-Pétrus, Clinet, La Conseillante, Hosanna, Feytit-Clinet, L’Eglise Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Valandraud, Tertre Roteboeuf, Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Belair Monange, Pavie Decesse, Canon, Troplong Mondot, Figeac, Pavie, La Mondotte, Pichon Comtesse, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Baron, Lynch-Bages, Calon Ségur, Cos d’Estournel, Capbern, Phelan Ségur, Lafon-Rochet, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré, Beychevelle, Léoville Barton. Margaux, Rauzan-Ségla, Brane-Cantenac, D’Issan, Giscours, Malescot Saint Exupéry, Labégorce, Marquis d’Alesme, Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Smith Haut Lafitte, Haut-Bailly, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chevalier 

Read the full report on jebdunnuck.com 

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Ch. Léoville Poyferré

Antonio Galloni – Vinous  

Antonio Galloni is the last of the major critics to release his report on the Bordeaux 2020 vintage and was impressed by the “energy and vibrancy” of the year. While he believes 2020 is not as consistent as 2019 or even 2018, he does believe the best examples are “incredibly exciting” and “unquestionably dazzling” wines.  

For Galloni, the most important signature of 2020 is “a balance of richness and energy” which he believes is “highly unusual”. From his interviews with winemakers, he surmises that the cold August/September nights, along with the high seed count in the berries are the reasons behind the freshness of the wines, making them “sizzle with brightness and mineral-drenched vibrancy”.  

He identifies Pessac-Léognan as the most consistent appellation of the vintage, which benefitted most from summer rains. The Left Bank, more generally, he says is more about “linearity and persistence rather than volume”, providing the wines with a classic feel and notably lower alcohols. The châteaux situated on the limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion, he believes, produced some of the vintage’s most exciting wines, “defined by a soaring vertical energy”, in a notable positive shift away from an overreliance on opulence. 

Antonio Galloni’s highlights: Haut-Brion, Margaux, Pavie, Angélus, Clos Fourtet, L’Eglise Client, La Mission Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild, Pichon Baron, Trotanoy, Vieux Chateau Certain 

Read Antonio Galloni’s full report on Vinous 

Find out more about Bordeaux 2020 and browse all the latest releases

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