Ben Upjohn, Senior Private Account Manager
It’s a very different experience tasting in Basingstoke rather than Bordeaux. There’s something special about being in a château’s tasting room, or – even better – in the cellar when they draw the wine from barrel right in front of you. When you’re tasting in a warehouse, it’s not exactly a romance story, but it does give you a totally unbiased approach.
The samples were great, and the vintage as a whole is very good. I think St Julien has done particularly well; I really, really loved Ch. Beychevelle and the Barton stable. From St Estèphe, I thought Ch. Meyney and Ch. Capbern were brilliant and they should offer good value.
There were a couple of absolute standouts though. Ch. Pichon Baron was mind-bogglingly good – the star of the show from the tasting. It was so with it; it was almost as if you could drink it now; it was so together, it’s not very often that you get a wine that is as complete as that to taste from a barrel sample. I also thought Ch. Brane-Cantenac was extremely good. I love Margaux – I’ve always had a thing for Brane; when you’re looking for something that stands up to the big boys, it has that slight edge and is a really, really good buy.
Nick Pegna, Global Sales Director
I was really impressed by the overall quality. Wines that stood out were as good as some of the best that I’ve tasted in the past five years.
The vintage’s weather conditions make some of the best wines really stand out. In particular, I was looking out for wines from clay soil where water retention will really help; I didn’t spot any sense of flabbiness in the wines which could have been a problem.
I was really impressed; there are some wonderfully expressive wines. A commune-by-commune breakdown isn’t easy as I found really good wines across the board. The wines that stood out will develop to become structured, powerful and wonderfully savoury. There’s another element I really like with these wines: a fruit profile with lots of black cherry, red cherry and no sense of overpowering tannin. There’s freshness too. Not freshness so much from acidity, but from structure and tannin. The wines are really balanced, not particularly heavy or overwhelming.
Specifically, I think that from the samples that I’ve tasted, Ch. Brane-Cantenac, Ch. Pichon Baron and Ch. Haut-Bailly were wonderful. I was also impressed by some others, which I find very heartening as a signal for the overall quality of the vintage. Ch. d’Issan, Ch. Talbot, Ch. Lafon-Rochet and Ch. La Gaffelière were particularly good.
I think we’re likely to have a trio of vintages in ’18, ’19 and ’20 that stand together in being incredibly impressive.
Tatiana Humphreys, Private Account Manger
I was really impressed. I went out to taste the 2018s in Bordeaux, and I found them pretty intense: very tannic, very full on. But this vintage seems very fresh, the tannins are grippy and present, but it’s fruit driven and quite elegant. There are differences in the communes, of course, but overall it’s a very fresh, fruit-forward vintage. Considering there were extremely warm temperatures at various points in the year, I don’t think you feel that in the wines.
I think that St Julien has done really well; all the wines are singing in ’20, and there seems to be lots of complexity in that appellation. St Emilion was generally characterised by wines with pleasing red fruit notes, while the Margauxs were notably elegant and fine-grained.
Particular wines that stood out for me were Ch. Langoa Barton – loads of really lovely red-fruit characters. I really loved Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste, which was really lively and energetic with a lovely long finish. It’s a total crowd-pleaser. And Ch. Meyney, with its very ripe fruit notes and unctuous cassis flavours, concentrated and dark fruits.
Ch. Pichon Baron was very put together – really balanced and I also really liked Ch. Chasse-Spleen which is one of those wines that shows you don’t have to spend a great deal of money in Bordeaux to get great wine.
Fergus Stewart, Private Account Manager
I try to avoid reading too much about a vintage before I taste it. Otherwise, you can come to a tasting with assumptions that cloud your judgement. So, my overall impression: is it a great vintage? No. Is it a very good vintage? Yes. The tannins are ripe and lush, and it doesn’t feel like the wines have been worked too hard. There’s a lot to like.
Some of the wines were really impressive today: Ch. Langoa Barton I loved; Ch. Léoville Barton I loved, Ch. Beychevelle I loved. I thought Ch. Brane-Cantenac have made a great wine: historically, it’s flown a bit under the radar but actually they’ve been making better and better wine over the last 10 years. It certainly stood out today as a highlight in a Margaux flight.
I was really impressed with the Right Bank; the wines were rich without being over-ripe, framed well but not over-wooded.
I think 2020 sits well along the past three warm vintages. I think ’18, ’19, ’20 will sit alongside each other as a trio of good vintages that are slightly different. As a triptych of warm vintages, they will be interesting to watch side by side; the nuances of each vintage will be drawn out with time.
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