Bordeaux 2020 is a modern vintage. There were short periods of drought, excessive heat, thunderstorms, a bit of hail. Past vintages would be summed up by one of those traits, not having all of them in small patches. The wines from Bordeaux 2020 are good; some are spectacular. It would be fair to say that 2020 was saved by modern techniques too. Chateaux knowing the individual plots on their estate. Knowing the best variety for the site and how the soils and sub-soils will make the vines react to the conditions. Tailoring treatments for each plot. Encouraging the vines to take the roots down deep to combat the drought conditions that have become more frequent since the heatwave of 2003.
Bordeaux is always changing. The weather is changing, the grapes are changing, their understanding of the land is always improving. Bordeaux has always been an interesting place to grow grapes. The left bank used to be a marshland. It used to be so marginal that you’d be lucky to get a ripe crop most years. To see a couple of great vintages in your lifetime was a big deal. And many vintages were so dire that it probably would have been better not to release them. I was born in 1982, which coincides with one of the greatest ever vintages in Bordeaux. I’m lucky enough that since I’ve been legally allowed to drink in 2000, we’ve had 9 candidates for greatest ever vintage and only 3 disastrous vintages.
Bordeaux Honour Roll of Vintages
1929, 1945, 1961, 1982, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020
Bordeaux 2020 Vintage Review
Jane Anson tasted 800 samples: “With an overall rating of 4 out of five, it is the same as 2018 but lower than the 2019 and 2016 vintages.”
James Suckling says, “After tasting more than 400 barrel samples from the 2020 vintage, I can 100% confirm that it is another great year for Bordeaux. The 2020 vintage marks a rare trilogy of excellent vintages that produced wines at the same or very close quality level across the board from great named chateaux to lesser-known estates.”
Jancis Robinson says, “2020 has ended up being a really good but variable year with wines of outstanding potential for many Bordeaux estates. The growing season follows a similar pattern to 2016, 2018 and 2019, in that we had a wet spring followed by a dry, hot summer, topped off by a warm, dry harvest. Unlike 2016 and 2019, it was an early vintage – not unlike 2018 in terms of timing.”
My opinion on Bordeaux 2020
I tasted 68 samples, and I keep in mind that I couldn’t guarantee all of them were in 100% perfect condition. They are unfinished wines, taken from barrel and flown across the world. So I don’t have the fullness of experience of Bordeaux 2020 that other critics do. But I’ve tried enough to have an informed opinion.
My tasting notes, my experience of selling En-Primeur since 2003, and my gut says that Bordeaux 2020 is a good vintage. It is a vintage I would stick to proven performers. For Bordeaux 2020 I’ll be heavily focusing on St-Julien and Pomerol. Those were the wines were truly impressive. They had the structure, fruit, and acid that makes Bordeaux great to me.
Why buy Bordeaux 2020 En-Primeur
Mostly, Bordeaux En-Primeur is quaint and fun. It is a very old system where the wines are sold at 6 months of age and delivered to you 18 months after that. It used to let the growers fund the next harvest without having to bottle the wines before they were ready. Now a lot of the big estates are owned by insurance companies or luxury brands. They don’t really need that cash flow injection.
Without the cynicism, though, I love it. I get excited making the selection of what to buy and what to recommend. I love the anticipation of waiting for my order from two years ago to turn up. And I love opening that first bottle the evening that they do arrive. Then immediately thinking, “Oh! This is very young.” In life at the moment, it is possible to live without anticipation, and that is a huge loss if you ask me. Those butterflies in your stomach are fun times.
It is prudent to order En-Primeur, so you have the good wines tucked in your cellar. At a recent dinner, we tasted a range of 2011 Bordeaux, mostly from my cellar. 2011 was not considered great like the 2020 vintage. I was a bit nervous about what I was going to do with all this 2011 Bordeaux. After enjoying Palmer, Cos d’Estournel, Vieux-Chateau-Certan, Pontet Canet, Leoville-Barton (and others) with our meal, it was proven that the 2011s from great producers are drinking perfectly right now. Therefore my dinner guests bought all of my stocks of 2011. When I went and looked for more, there is none in Australia. And the prices in Bordeaux have gone up. They know how good the 2011s are drinking right now too!
If you’ve ever drunk a 10-year-old Bordeaux from a perfect cellar, you’ll know exactly why you want Bordeaux in your cellar. If you’ve ever looked up the prices for great Bordeaux producers, from a great vintage at 10 years of age, you’ll know why buying En-Primeur is advantageous to you.
In particular, you should buy these Bordeaux 2020 wines for your cellar