Bordeaux 2020 En Primeurs: A Year of Mostly Very Solid Wines that Sees the Right Bank Shine, Part 3

In part 3, Ian addresses how the appellations of the Médoc, the Haut-Médoc, Graves and Pessac-Léognan fared in 2020. Tasting notes and scores are also available to readers for guidelines.
A review by Ian D’Agata

After part 1 and part 2 published here on TerroirSense, this is part 3 of the ongoing series of my reviews of the 2020 Bordeaux wines tasted en primeurs (there will be six parts in all, including Sauternes and Bordeaux Dry whites). Part 1 detailed the 2020 vintage’s weather during the growing season, a brief market analysis and the summary of what the year’s wines are like. In part 2, I began with the tasting notes and scores, broaching first the wines of, from north to south, Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux. In part 3, I address how the appellations of the Médoc, the Haut-Médoc, Graves and Pessac-Léognan fared in 2020.

In general, the wines of the Haut-Médoc can offer great value, and those of Moulis (especially) and Listrac even more so. Not that anyone will ever say that climate change is a positive thing (it isn’t), but it has allowed Cabernet Sauvignon that once had trouble reaching full physiologic ripeness in Listrac (except for in the most favourable vintages), to do so more often of late. Like most everywhere else in 2020, the appellations in this report all suffered from a wet spring and a hot, droughty summer, so as always, it is those estate with older vines and water-retentive soils that had the chance to make potentially the best wines. For a full analysis of the 2020 vintage and how the wines have turned out, I refer you to part 1 of this series of articles published ten days ago or so. The upcoming Bordeaux 2020 Primeurs part 4 article will detail the wines of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion.

Château Beaumont

2020 Château Beaumont Haut-Médoc          89-91

Dark ruby. Classy aromas of blackcurrant, menthol, and cedar have a very floral top note. Very round and suave, with harmonious, balanced acidity and a layered texture and easygoing appeal. Stylish, supple and completely unforced, this medium-bodied beauty finishes with smooth tannins and plenty of length, not to mention life. Very well done here. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

Château Belgrave

2020 Château Belgrave Haut-Médoc          90-92

Full medium-dark ruby. Boysenberry, cassis, smoky oak, and a whiplash of vanilla greet the nose. Sweet, fat and full, this big and toasty wine is quite powerful for a Haut-Médoc and is both very clever and well-made. The palate is smothered by a boatload of ripe fruit nicely supported by youthfully chewy tannins. Closes long and dense, with sweetly spicy oak accents repeating. If the fruit holds out, this will be a really lovely (and usually fairly-priced) Bordeaux. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Château Bouscaut

2020 Château Bouscaut Pessac-Léognan          90-92

Ruby-purple. Perfumed nose offers blueberry, violet, minerals and licorice. Sweet on entry, with a firm mineral spine giving shape to the easygoing and clean flavours of dark berries, cedar, licorice and herbs. Chewy and pliant, with a long and subtle aftertaste. A very fresh wine that though not the last word in complexity, offers plenty of early accessibility and appeal and that you won’t have to age forever in your cellar to enjoy. Drinking window: 2026-2035.

Château Cantemerle

2020 Château Cantemerle Haut-Médoc          90-93

Good full ruby. Very elegant aromas of black cherry, blackberry, violet, cedar and exotic herbs. Sweet and pliant in the mouth, boasting excellent clarity to its herbal, dark fruit and cedar flavours. Nicely balanced and very stylish, this lively medium-bodied wine is not the longest 2020 Bordeaux you’ll taste but it’s certainly classier than most. Nicely done. Drinking window: 2025-2031.

Château Carbonnieux

2020 Château Carbonnieux Pessac-Léognan          91-93

Moderately deep saturated ruby. Vibrant, laid-back aromas of violet, blackberry, dark cherry, smoke and tobacco. Then lively and sweet in the mouth, with firm acids and underlying minerality keeping the pure flavours of dark fruit and smoke under wraps currently. Structured to age, this finishes with very good persistence and firm, tooth-dusting tannins that build and spread out over the palate but that will require patience. Drinking window: 2028-2040.

Château de Chantegrive

2020 Château de Chantegrive Graves          90-91

Medium-deep ruby. Fresh deep nose combines black cherry, cassis, minerals menthol and smoky notes. Mouth-filling and shapely but fresh, with a chewy, layered texture to the clean, precise flavours of cassis, licorice and stones. Fruitier and fresher than some past vintages of Chantegrive, with well-integrated acidity and excellent length, the 2020 Château Chantegrive is long on personality. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Château Chasse-Spleen

2020 Château Chasse-Spleen Moulis          90-93

Though 2020 Château Chasse-Spleen offers it usual ripely sweet set of aromas and flavours, I found it to be almost massive by this estate’s usual standards. Currently rather closed, with an imploded nose and palate hinting at violet, blueberry, tobacco and mocha notes. Needs to spend time in a good cellar to develop more nuance and complexity but I’d say this is a very promising Chasse Spleen. Drinking window: 2028-2040.

Château Citran

2020 Château Citran Haut-Médoc          87-89

Bright medium ruby. Aromas of blackberry, red cherry, lead pencil and espresso are big and thick but not especially nuanced. Then thick and concentrated in the mouth, but with a slightly monolithic quality to its berry and cherry flavours. Full and long, with ripe, sweet tannins coating the entire palate on the medium-long aftertaste. Drinking window: 2026-2031.

Château Clarke

2020 Château Clarke Listrac          90-92

Bright ruby. Fresh and clean aromas of blackberry preserves, vanilla, incense and violet. Fleshy, palate-staining but vibrant dark fruit flavours show very good depth, with harmonious acidity very good clarity and cut. Silky but serious, powdery tannins provide backbone and shape, but will need time in a good cellar to round out fully. The finish displays very good persistence and echoes the blackberry note. Drinking window: 2028-2040.

Château Coufran

2020 Château Coufran Haut-Médoc          90-92

Good full ruby. Blackcurrant, cola, coffee and graphite on the nose, with a whiff of violet. Big and concentrated, with very good inner-mouth energy to its floral, chocolaty and coffee flavours. The long finish shows a lovely light touch for what is a rather dense, full wine. Boasts at once strong structure for aging, but a good deal of elegance too. Drinking window: 2025-2034.

Château de Camensac

2020 Château de Camensac Haut-Médoc          88-90

Full bright ruby. Multidimensional and strongly floral aromas offer red cherry, licorice, mocha, tobacco leaf and oak spices. Enters juicy and fruity, then turns slightly tight and a bit muscular, with its pure, intense red berry, spice and mineral flavors currently under wraps. Firmly structured, even a bit astringent, with the tannins dangerously close to overcoming the fruit. The long finish features a lingering violet note. Drinking window: 2025-2030.

Château de Fieuzal

2020 Château de Fieuzal Pessac-Léognan          92-95

Good fully saturated ruby. Ample but pure aromas and flavours of dark berries, violet, thyme, and licorice have an intriguing smoky quality. Very dense, thick, rich and deep, with a large yet refined structure, and powerful tongue-dusting but noble tannins hitting both early and late. A youthfully medicinal, classic de Fieuzal that features an excellent use of oak that is marvellously well-integrated with the rich ripe fruit. Well done here. Drinking window: 2030-2045.

Château de France

2020 Château de France Pessac-Léognan          91-93

Deep vivid ruby. Fruity dark berry aromas and flavours are complemented by graphite and flowers. Fruit-driven, supple and fresh in the mouth, with enticing dark berry fruit and tobacco notes that repeat on the long suave finish. This will offer immediate appeal. Astute Bordeaux lovers know to look for this wine which is amongst the best priced in Bordeaux and that has been punching well above Otis weight class in recent vintages. An underrated property and wine, the 2020 Château de France red is lovely. Drinking window: 2025-2033.

Château de Lamarque

2020 Château de Lamarque Haut-Médoc          87-89

Good medium ruby. Aromas of blackberry, plum, cedar and violet are perked up by a graphite element. Juicy and pliant on entry with enticing inner-mouth perfume to the flavors of blackcurrant and iron, but a trace of dilution in the middle leaves an impression of just a touch less stuffing than one might like. Finishes with noteworthy fragrance and length, with suave mounting tannins and notes of fresh mint and espresso. Easy to like and to drink, I’d pull the cork on this sooner rather than later. Drinking window: 2025-2030.

Château Fonréaud

2020 Château Fonréaud Listrac          85-86

Dark ruby. Excessive amounts of toasty oak, coffee and cocoa on the nose; then astringent and more coffee as well as savory notes on the palate. Not for me. Maybe I just got a bad bottle (though I had them open two different ones) and it will one day round out nicely, but I found this to be a very disappointing wine that showcases caricatural oakiness and size. Drinking window: 2032-2038.

Château Fourcas-Dupré

2020 Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac          88-91

Bright ruby-red. Inviting nose combines black and red fruits, licorice, violet, and cedar. Smooth and juicy, with nicely integrated acidity providing verve to the mid-palate and supporting the dark fruit and floral flavours on the medium-long back end. Nicely ripe and round, this accessible red provides lots of flavour and easygoing appeal. I like this style. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

Château Fourcas Hosten

2020 Château Fourcas Hosten Listrac          88-90

Good full ruby. Clean and fresh black cherry, blackberry coulis, mocha and sexy oak on the nose. Boasts good flavour intensity and brightness on entry, then slightly simple in the middle, with the dark cherry and chocolate flavours slightly pinned down by a powerful underlying spine. Seems a little less ripe than it might have been, with mounting but slightly harsh tannins currently leaving an impression of being slightly fruit-challenged. The long finish is promising though, with big tannins spreading out all over your taste buds. Try cellaring this for a good ten years and see how the fruit has held up. Drinking window: 2030-2038.

Château Haut-Bergey

2020 Château Haut-Bergey Pessac-Léognan          89-92

The 2020 Château Haut-Bergey is a throwback to the early 2000s when big black wines that had soft acidity and lots of oak were deemed good wines by critics who regularly scored them highly. To my palate, those wines weren’t especially fun to drink back then and neither are they today. The 2020 Haut-Bergey is broad and ripe, with plenty of toasty vanilla and oak-derived notes (coffee and cocoa) that will however make some wine lovers very happy. Currently monolithic, there is good underlying fruit here and so with a little patience this might yet turn out well. Drinking window: 2030-2040.

Château La Lagune

2020 Château La Lagune Haut-Médoc          93-95

Inky ruby. Complex, expressive aromas of fresh blackcurrant, graphite, violet, and sweet spices. Superbly sweet and pliant in the mouth, with a satiny mouthfeel and real density to its classic Bordeaux flavours of cassis, cedar and graphite. Finishes long with velvety tannins yet also terrific grip and backbone. A truly beautiful wine, this very pure, vibrant La Lagune is one of the stars of the vintage. Chapeau! Drinking window: 2027-2040.

Château La Louvière

2020 Château La Louvière Pessac-Léognan          91-93

The 2020 Château La Louvière is a real stunner, one of the easier to like reds of the 2020 vintage in Pessac-Léognan. Bright ruby in colour, it offers fresh raspberry, blueberry and mineral aromas complicated by tobacco and dried flowers. Lively and pliant, with energetic spicy lift and stony nuance to the flavors of plum, Cuban cigar, and licorice. The long, smooth finish features a bright herbal note. This medium-bodied, vibrant beauty should age well. Drinking window: 2026-2035.

Château La Tour Carnet

2020 Château La Tour Carnet Haut-Médoc          90-92

Deep ruby. Very ripe aromas of blackberry, black cherry, smoke, and dark chocolate are lifted by a pungent floral note that adds freshness but that may not be to everyone’s liking. Then almost confectionery in its sweetness and ripeness, but offers better lift and nuance in the mouth than on the nose with dense flavours of dark berries and cocoa. Finishes with a firm supporting spine, easygoing sweetness and a note of bitter chocolate. Those who like their Bordeaux wines on the side of some very ripely-styled California Cabs will enjoy this more than I. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Château La Tour de By

2020 Château La Tour de By Médoc          90-92

I’ve always been a big fan of La Tour de By, finding its under the radar wines offer very good drinking at a fair price, and the good news it is much the same story in this vintage. The 2020 Château La Tour de By offers good ruby colour, and a clean, sweet set of floral and fruity aromas and flavours that are bright and lively. Easygoing, accessible and very pure notes of plums and violets dominate from start to finish. The aftertaste is long and vibrant. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion

2020 Château Larrivet Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan          92-94

Deep ruby. Blackcurrant, plum and tobacco aromas and flavours are lifted by a floral top note and a mineral overlay. Sweet and very clean on entry, but a bit youthfully clenched, turning mountingly tannic in the middle and on the long finish, but also showing an attractive spicy quality but with its fruit currently pushed deep in the background. Quite tight today but not hard, this will require some patience. Drinking window: 2032-2045.

Château Latour-Martillac

2020 Château Latour-Martillac Pessac-Léognan          92-94

Good full red-ruby. Dark berries, tobacco and cola on the nose, with hints of minerals and nutty oak. Nicely integrated acidity gives this very refined wine lovely mid-palate energy and lift, in spite of its easygoing, delicate blueberry, mocha and flinty flavours that have a nicely glycerol quality. The 2020 Château Latour-Martillac is a superb effort that has the fruit to buffer its rather fine-grained but firm tannins. Drinking window: 2028-2040.

Château Malartic-Lagravière

2020 Château Malartic-Lagravière Pessac-Léognan          92-95

Good saturated ruby. Blackcurrant, minerals, lead pencil, roasted coffee beans, and loam on the broad nose. Sweet, ripe and rather easygoing in the mouth, with rather chunky, monolithic flavors of blackcurrant, plum, mint, and chocolate, but not much in the way of complexity and nuance just yet. There is lots going on here but the wine is brooding and shut down currently. Arm yourself with patience and watch it blossom as it ages in a good cellar. The 2020 Château Malartic-Lagravière is a very promising 2020 Bordeaux. Drinking window: 2030-2045.

Château Maucaillou

2020 Château Maucaillou Moulis          87-89

Medium-deep ruby. Blackberry, roast coffee, licorice and oak notes on the pretty but slightly simple nose. Then soft and forward in the mouth; offers an easygoing, smooth and long wave of smoky dark fruit. Very attractive medium-bodied wine, if not especially complex. Drinking window: 2026-2038.

Château Olivier

2020 Château Olivier Pessac-Léognan          92-94

Lively, very deeply saturated purple-ruby; this is one of the darkest wines of the 2020 vintage. Spicy aromas of blackcurrant, cherry cola, minerals and a hint of smokiness in the background. Fleshy and smooth in the mouth, offering juicy and fresh dark berry flavors and notes of mint and minerals. Closes with good stony persistence and reverberating dark and red cherry and cassis notes. Rather gentle, silky tannins make for early accessibility but also suggest that this will repay five years in a good cellar. The 2020 Château Olivier strikes me as one of the best young wines made at the property in some time. Drinking window: 2026-2035.

Château Pape Clément

2020 Château Pape Clément Pessac-Léognan          94-97

Deep purple-ruby. Ripe, fragrant aromas of cassis, blackberry coulis and licorice, with sexy oak spices and violet notes emerging with aeration. Deep and concentrated but vibrant, with multilayered and piercing dark cherry and berry flavors that are nicely framed by sweet tannins and harmonious acidity. A very big wine that strikes me as being less needlessly aggressive than some past vintages of Pape Clément, and that closes youthfully chewy and extremely long, with repeating notes of dark cherry and tobacco. A little patience ought to be well rewarded here, as this is unquestionably the best young Pape Clément in some time.  Drinking window: 2032-2045.

Château Poujeaux

2020 Château Poujeaux Moulis          92-94

The 2020 Château Poujeaux is a 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot blend that is a real showstopper.  Good full ruby in colour, it boasts very clean and deep blackcurrant, dark plum, black tea, iron and smoke aromas and flavours, plus an intriguing whiff of cocoa and pomegranate. Fleshy but smooth, with a restrained sweetness and real density on the broad, weightless and long finish. A beautiful wine but currently somewhat still closed, this deep, brooding wine is an excellent Poujeaux that hints at potentially very exciting future development. Drinking window: 2030-2045.

Château Rahoul

2020 Château Rahoul Graves          89-91

Bright dark ruby. Cassis, minerals and violet on the nose. Fresh and vinous, showing not much in the way of sweetness and fat but offers plenty of easygoing vinousity and lovely smoky and stony persistence to its pure dark fruit flavours. Long and fragrant on the stony, dense finish. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Domaine de Chevalier

2020 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan          96-98

Deep saturated ruby. Subtly perfumed aromas of blackberry, blueberry and violet, complemented by a strong mineral overlay. Boasts superb density and sweetness, not to mention extremely suave tannins that give the dark fruit, mineral and herbal flavours a penetrating quality. Finishes with downright explosive, repeating nuances of cassis and tobacco and memorable length. A very classy, elegant, seamless wine, the 2020 Domaine de Chevalier red is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 3 % Cabernet Franc that is one of the Bordeaux stars of the 2020 vintage. Drinking window: 2030-2050.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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