‘There are some stunningly good 2020s… the wines are so much fresher and more expressive than they used to be…’ Jancis Robinson MW
‘Clay-limestone soils did brilliantly… If you are a fan of classic, concentrated Pauillacs and St-Juliens, you are going to find plenty of brilliant wines.’ Jane Anson
Last year’s Bordeaux En Primeur campaign took place in extraordinary circumstances. The COVID-19 crisis dictating life in general and the ability of Brunswick to taste the annual vintage in Bordeaux. However, these bewildering circumstances actually represented a rare opportunity for clients to take advantage of SIGNIFICANTLY reduced prices in Bordeaux for the first time since 2008. Since that time the wine world has adapted and Zoom tastings with multiple freshly-couriered samples is now the normal way for the wine trade taste wine (although, we hope not forever!) Having sampled a representative ‘excursion’ through the various key appellations and chateaux we feel that the 2020 wines could offer similarly intriguing possibilities following up last year’s hugely successful – well-priced – campaign. It completes a trio of high quality, ‘solaire’ vintages, all subtly different. If the prices remain fair there should be plenty of excellent wines to interest customers.
All growing seasons are different. Although 2020 ostensibly resembles 2018, in part, the wines are distinctly different. Much early season rainfall was followed by a drought summer with some alleviation, from time to time. But unlike 2018 which did not feature extreme heat the conditions in 2020 led to more moderate alcohols. A mild early season led to early bud break and good even flowering but drought conditions in summer meant it was no easy ride for vignerons. However, certain terroirs and canny wine makers excelled – don’t they always? Given the timing of the season’s maturation cycle and the intrinsic advantage clay and limestone has when it comes to retaining moisture, the earlier ripening Merlot-dominated appellations have excelled. It was a little more difficult for the classic Cabernets of the left bank and stormy forecasts in October led to some smart picking by the wiser chateau owners. The earlier uniform flowering and fruit set led to speed related advantages months later when picking. While drought influenced blockages affected grape ripening – and quantities are down 25% in some places – those who picked at the most opportune time have been rewarded with fresh, floral wines of no little structure.
Alcohols are thankfully lower than 2018 and the wines fresher. Maturation was slower with dry but not overly hot conditions and sugar build up was more controlled. The final grapes were small, concentrated and thick skinned. In the best hands the tannic structure imparted by Cabernet is mitigated by the fleshy core of Merlot. It is interesting to see the re-emergence of this classic Bordeaux component in the 2020 vintage, reminding us that Bordeaux is – and always was – a region that depends on the way these varieties interplay according to the vagaries of a particular season! Winemaking too has changed – as picked up by Jancis Robinson in her quote above. Freshness is prized along with precision, over-extraction is rare and vibrant harmony is the aim.
Pricing and the tortuous allocation process of the Bordelais have in recent vintages taken the shine off the en-primeur process for many. However, as with last year, the Covid related backdrop should keep the client in the driving seat to an extent in 2020. Our advice is to buy wines only if the pricing reflects the still unusual world circumstances. Last year saw reductions of 25-30%. We don’t expect this to last but we suggest that consumers and clients follow chateaux with a similar sensible outlook to last year.
As for which wines to buy? Many years of tasting the wines have demonstrated to us that there is not much new under the sun in Bordeaux. Certainly, chateaux like Canon and Troplong Mondot can make gradual or sometimes radical stylistic changes. But, in the main, if you enjoy a Leoville Barton or a Pichon Lalande or a Vieux Chateau Certan in one year you are very likely going to love them this year too! However, please don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations – that is what we are here for at Brunswick.
Please find the wines we are currently offering below and please let us know your wish lists.
All prices exclude UK duty & VAT unless otherwise stated. Wines offered subject to remaining unsold E&OE. 07/12/2021