Checking in on Bordeaux 2020


A photograph of vines by Jason Lowe
Photograph: Jason Lowe

The 2020 vintage is in barrel, and En Primeur season is fast approaching. While our team waits to taste the new vintage, we’ve asked some of our Bordelais friends for their insights.

Ch. Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

“It’s a vintage of conviction,” says Guillaume Pouthier, Director at the Pessac-Léognan estate. “We had to adapt all the time. The first part of the season was very humid and then afterwards it was very dry. The hydric restriction was perfect: it created balance in the wines. It’s an amazing vintage, for us it’s like 2016, ’18 and ’19. For ’20, each detail is important. I’m very proud of it, and the team who made it – when you consider the year, to make a wine in ’20 was magic. It’s the wine that I want to make; it’s the wine I want to drink.”

Ch. Brane-Cantenac, Margaux

“It will be a year we shall all remember,” says Henri Lurton, owner-winemaker at the Margaux second growth. “We are proud to have made a wine with a strong personality, one which I particularly like. The grapes reached perfect ripeness, after a humid June and a long spell of drought. The nights were cool. The wine shows that freshness and refined tannins; it’s beautifully balanced.

“Brane was classified as a second growth in 1855 thanks to the exceptional terroir on the fourth gravel terrace. It’s a real treasure to have 30 hectares here. Since the 2019 vintage, 100% of the grand vin has come from this special location. I regrafted old Merlot over to Cabernet Sauvignon, which allowed me to make that change. The wine has gained in strength, character and purity. The 2020 Brane will be a grande bouteille!”

Ch. L’Évangile, Pomerol

“We were the first in Pomerol to harvest,” says Olivier Trégoat, Technical Director at L’Évangile and a number of other properties in the Lafite stable. “We started with young vines on 2nd September and picked all the best terroir the week after that. We wanted to prevent any shrinking or jam flavours, to keep freshness.”

“It’s my first vintage here,” adds Juliette Couderc, L’Évangile’s new Technical Manager. “We wanted to have a blend with tension and good acidity. We have some plots from the plateau with powerful notes: not jammy, more like black fruits and opulence. We blended these with other plots for acidity and vivacity. For purity. I think the word of 2020 is ‘balance’.”

Domaine de l’A, Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux

“For me, ’20 is a beautiful vintage,” says Stéphane Derenoncourt. “The flowering was not exceptional, and the quantity is generally low, but the quality is perfect because the weather was there. Spring was very humid, with a lot of rain. We had a lot of mildew pressure: as in ’19, there was a kind of war in ’20 until June. After that, we had a lot of sun. Because of the water during the spring, we didn’t have hydric stress in summer.

“The harvest was a luxury because we had three weeks during which to pick. There was no stress and no botrytis; it was perfect. It’s a very interesting vintage with beautiful wines. It’s difficult to compare, but it’s a little bit like ’18, though a little less powerful.”

Ch. Berliquet, St Emilion

“We have lower yields here than normal, so we will probably have a little less Berliquet this year,” says winemaker Nicolas Audebert, who also runs nearby Ch. Canon and Ch. Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux. “But it’s fantastic in terms of density and precision. It was ripe, but not too much. We have great intensity of the fruit, but it’s keeping a lot of freshness and vibrancy.

“It’s a great vintage, but it was difficult to reach it. I used to play rugby. When you go on the field and you win by 52-to-three – something like that – yes, it’s a victory. But it was easy. When you just win by one point or two, and you fight for 80 minutes: that’s the real taste of victory. So, ’20 is a year we’ll remember: the year that the team stayed very close, and everybody helped each other to be sure that we will be able to produce the wine we want to produce. It was a very difficult year, but the result is fantastic.”