Bordeaux En Primeur 2020 The Golden Age Continues
Friday, May 14, 2021 in News
Bordeaux En Primeur 2020 is here. Our Head of International Buying, Jesper Kjaersgaard delivers the Langton’s En Primeur campaign in a strong vintage from the great châteaux from the Left and Right Banks of Bordeaux. Keep up to date with all the latest releases from Langton’s, Australia’s home of Bordeaux.
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The previous decade was defined by perhaps the most densely populated calendar of high quality Bordeaux vintages. But this is a new decade, and 2020 has opened with another vintage of great quality. We are without doubt in a golden age on the banks of the Gironde. The question remains, is this the golden age of Bordeaux?
The vines, thankfully, are oblivious to the pandemic. But every other aspect of bringing Bordeaux to market has been set extraordinary challenges by it. Sourcing skilled pickers during periods of restricted movement, a decline in on-premise demand during extended lockdowns, running an En Primeur campaign remotely, uncertainty in the various luxury wine markets, and so on. But carry on, we do, and so too have the Bordelais.
‘...En Primeur as it should be. ’
The 2020 En Primeur campaign sees a refinement of the processes that were born out of necessity last year. More samples have arrived earlier, with more wines in better condition, each unfinished barrel sample representing the châteaux. More like En Primeur as it should be.
Our sampling sessions in the Langton’s Tasting Room have illustrated the primacy of fruit from both banks of the river. But those sporting Merlot in any significant measure have provoked a few eye-widening responses as the abundance and detail of fruit crashed home on the senses. The line, ‘these are unfinished wines’, was uttered more than once with a healthy dose of incredulity. That said, the tannins were firm and structural for the Cabernet-led Left Banks and big and gripping on the Right. As the shape of the wines formed on the palate, the time needed in barrel was apparent but made the wines no less exciting.
On Price, En Primeur
Last year, the 2019 vintage was marked (and some say saved) by a significant reduction in price. On average the châteaux released wines at 21% lower than the previous vintage. Global uncertainty, the delay (or absence) of samples, the wait for critical reviews, all posed the potential of the En Primeur campaign missing its mark. The reduction in price (painful act in Bordeaux) was the saving grace. Château Pontet-Canet, a Langton’s client favourite and often early to release, dropped its price by 31% to a ten-year low, at once setting the tone for the campaign and lighting a fire under it. Anticipation of this year’s 2020 vintage En Primeur release was filled with informed rumours and a little idle speculation across the industry. It is Bordeaux after all. This speculation had prices jumping to return to 2018 levels.
‘...good sense’ riding a white horse.’
This year’s knight in shining armour was ‘good sense’ riding a white horse. Château Cheval Blanc went early (congratulations to our colleagues at Corney & Barrow for beating us to the ‘Horse Has Bolted’ headline) and went low with a 3.5% ex-Château price increase. At the time of writing, with more headliners to come, will this be Chavel Blancs’ vintage to win? With this sort of sensible pricing, we certainly encourage it.
Early bird gets the grape
The 2020 vintage was early to start with flowering in May leading to a dry September harvest before a dump of October rain. Fortuitous, yes, but not unusual as this was the pattern we saw two years previous in 2018. Spring rains were followed by a warm, dry summer with near drought-like conditions that continued into harvest where each grower had to show a clean pair of heels with an early crop.
While production in Bordeaux was down on average it was still double that of 2017. Lower volumes, yes, but the quality is very high. Indeed there are some châteaux looking to their 2020 grand vins as their best this century. Château Hosanna being one such example.
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Browse, bid and shop for En Primeur wines.