Bordeaux 2020: dry white wines


Domaine de Chevalier, the producer of one of the best dry white Bordeaux wines
Photograph courtesy of Domaine de Chevalier

In this series, Mark Pardoe MW provides insight into how Bordeaux’s key communes fared in 2020. Here, our Wine Director considers the dry white wines of Pessac-Léognan and Graves, based on a conversation with Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier.

At a glance: Graves and Pessac-Léognan whites

  • Hectares under vine: 937
  • Average yield: 36hl/ha in 2020 (41hl/ha in ’19); down 26%
  • Significant châteaux: Haut-Brion; Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Latour-Martillac, Malartic-Lagravière, La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Smith Haut Lafitte

Dry white Bordeaux in 2020

Low yields can be seen as an advantage for red wines, adding concentration and power. They are not seen as beneficial for whites, however. A low yield delays the grapes’ maturity; they lose acidity and freshness, which are as key to white wines as tannin is to reds.

Thus, Olivier Bernard was both pleased and surprised by his white-wine yield in 2020, which came in at 43hl/ha. He had feared that the dry summer would have over-concentrated the berries. As with Domaine de Chevalier’s reds, the cooler August helped to maintain levels of acidity. Olivier’s team began their harvest in the last week of August, picking only in the mornings. They continued to the end of the first week of September.

Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon

The Sauvignon Blanc here was fresh and pure, not too green and not overripe. The aromatics do not have the lift and energy of a cooler vintage, but they are generous and balanced. They harvested the Sémillon in wonderful conditions in early September.

For the whites of Pessac-Léognan, this is a cooler vintage than ’18, ’15 and ’09. The style is rounder and fuller than years like ’17 and ’14; nevertheless, this is a good vintage for the category. For Olivier Benard, one of the major surprises of the vintage overall is the quality of the dry whites, which have defied his expectations.

For more Bordeaux 2020 En Primeur coverage, you can visit or browse our range of Bordeaux 2020 virtual events. Or to learn more about this underappreciated style, read Barbara Drew MW’s guide to dry white Bordeaux.