2020 Bordeaux: Médoc, Haut-Médoc and Moulis

Making it worth your while, from barrel

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

As I noted in my initial review of “Top 50+” Bordeaux 2020 barrel samples, the Left Bank features wines that in 2020 can have stricter tannins than usual, but the vintage also includes excellent wines, at various price points and from less celebrated appellations like Médoc, Haut-Médoc and Moulis. In this section, I review wines worthy of your attention. Indeed, those with asterisks could have been included in the Top50+ (i)Deals section, but space considerations left them out of that first posting.

Tasting scores of 2020 Bordeaux barrel samples – such as wines at the Centre Oenologique de Pauillac – and picking out the best for you. 😉

Many thanks to wine consultant Eric Boissenot, the Grand Cercle, Centre Oenologique de Pauillac director Christophe Coupez, the CVGB, the UGCB and Maison Joanne for proposing such exemplary en primeur tastings where these and other wines were assessed.

All wines in bold, as I like them, but red and bold, even more 😊.

AOC Médoc

Château Les Ormes Sorbet Médoc – Already in my Top50+, this exudes black fruit, plum, and cassis and is ripe with grip, and a suave nature. The vines are located in the cooler northern Medoc, near the Estuary, with some clay underneath and limestone, which makes sense in this vintage for the blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Another example of wine with both key subsoils and a cooler microclimate that excelled in 2020. 92-93

Château Potensac – Already in my Top50+, this estate – year in, year out is an (i)Deal wine, punching above its weight. Older vines here between 30 and 100 years of age, including old Cabernet Franc. This blend of 44% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot is juicy and dense and with powerful tannin for structure (the tannic index is 76 IPT). Aging in 20% new oak, it clocks in at just over 14% alcohol. I am a buyer! P.S.: If you see the second wine, Chapelle de Potensac, at a restaurant, it won’t dissapoint, either. 92-93+

Château Preuillac – Tasted at Joanne, a fine example of smooth tannin and ripe fruit. While not among the very top, a pleasure to drink. 91-92

Château Tour Haut Caussan – Another example of a more sap-driven Médoc, ripe and tasty, blending about 47% Merlot to the 53% Cabernet Sauvignon. Located in the northern Médoc, with 17 hectares of vines planted over plenty of clay and limestone in Blaignan, and gravel in Potensac. Aging in 25% new oak. 91-92


Château Malmaison – I like the plum and pencil lead aromas, leading to a smooth palate. This blends 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the friendly plump aspect of Merlot comes to the fore. 90-92

Château Mauvesin Barton* – Ten years since it was purchased by the famous Barton family, and the best wine that they have crafted since then! I really like the juicy mid palate, and the overall well-balanced feel to the wine, with fine acidity. It blends 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 6% Cabernet France, clocking in at just over 12.6% alcohol. 92-93

Château Poujeaux – Already in my Top50+, the nose is expressive with bright red and dark fruit. “Aromatically, this is a rather open as a vintage”, remarked co-owner Matthieu Cuvelier. The palate shows more structure but is also fresh and there is tannic power. Tasted twice with consistent positive impressions (at the UGCB and at Clos Fourtet). As is the case with many other estates on the Left Bank, the percentage of Merlot in 2020 is higher than average although not that much more for Poujeaux, which in this vintage blends  50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot. “I think 2019 was better on the Left Bank than on the Right Bank, but 2020 is a bit better on the Right Bank compared to Left”, Cuvelier stresses. In any case, this is an excellent Poujeaux, which should not cost too much. Bravo! 92-93

Haut Médoc AOC

Château d’Agassac – Quite smooth and even rather nuanced with well managed tannin. 90-92

Château Belgrave* – This classified growth conveys freshness from a very gravely terroir. Indeed, the wine tends towards a more charming Saint Julien style, which is the case in 2020, albeit a bit more tannic and grippy than usual. The succulence comes from a higher than average Merlot component in the blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. Alcohol is 13%. 92-93

Château Beaumont – Tasted three times with similar results. The wine is undeniably smooth and one of the better Haut-Médoc estates, with some refinement and elegance. There is a plump Merlot aspect from the 41% Merlot that appeals. The rest of the blend includes 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot. 91-92

Château Caronne Sainte Gemme* – Love the pure graphite aromas, indeed lovely aromatics with a palate of substance albeit with somewhat “academic” tannins. But overall, this will nicely profit from barrel aging. 92-93

Château de Charmail* – Typically made with at least 40% Merlot, as this northern Médoc estate has soils of clay as well as gravel, the wine is very successful in 2020, prompting a “How charming!” reaction. While it can be enjoyed today, you can cellar for about 10 years. Worth seeking out. 92-93

Château Coufran – Dubbed the Pomerol of the Médoc, this blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from vines grown on plenty of cool clay soils, shows much personality, and comes across very pleasant plump and pleasing. What is not to like? 91-93

Château Dillon* – Very juicy and nuanced, this blend of 56% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Carmenere. The cold clay soils certainly helped, remarked Christophe Coupez, although the estate also has sand and gravel and some limestone. I like this lesser wine more than some other more prominent brands that in 2020 had harder tannins. 92-93

Château de Gironville – This has power and nuance. An impressive performance in 2020 from … 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Well done! 91-93

Château Grands Chênes – Quite an appealing wine that conveys juiciness and tannic edge. 90-92

Château La Lagune* – A wonderful La Lagune ! This has plénitude … The Sociando, tasted just before, may win on density, but La Lagune has fine ripe fruit and juiciness for pleasure. The underlying (rather powerful) tannins kick in, of course, on the finish, as this is a vin de garde. It blends 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, clocking in at 14.1% alcohol. 92-93+

Plenty of fine wines from the Médoc for friendly prices in 2020. As tasted here at Eric Boissenot’s office.

Château Lanessan* – Tasted three different times, and it counts among the top wines from the Haut-Médoc appellation, blending 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Juicy mid-palate sap! The wine conveys “contained opulence”, given an overall linear focus; the touch of austerity on the finish is nothing worrisome, as barrel aging will soften matters. What counts is the matière and focus. Juicy mid palate 92-93+

Château Lestage Simon – Juicy and very pleasing although a touch hard on finish. Still, the mid palate is very pleasing. The extent to which barrel aging will soften matters should determine more which end of the score range it will get from bottle. 90-92

Château Malecasse* – An excellent wine in 2020, rich and tannic and juicy, too. Clocks in at 14% alcohol and blends 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot 91-93+

Château Malleret – This Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel shows its mettle. – Although a touch aloof, it conveys freshness, substance and juicy mid palate sap. 91-92+

Château du Retout* – Floral, supple, subtle, elegant, fruit and suave tannin. What is not to like? 92-93+

Château Reysson – Succulent and precise, a delicious wine. Tasted on several occasions with consistent results. Given the 100% limestone and clay, vineyard facing north, near Saint Estèphe, I am not surprised at how well this wine did in 2020. Mainly with Merlot and some Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (no Cabernet Sauvignon). 92-93

With Christophe Coupez

Château Sociando Mallet* – One expects results each year from this venerable northern Médoc estate that sees the river, and it doesn’t disappoint in 2020. It gets my highest score among all wines assessed in this section and is the title picture (lovely glass overlooking the vineyards) for this page. The tannins, although smooth and refined on the mid palate, may seem a tad strict on the finish. People sometimes forget the main point of barrel aging: to soften edges. And what impresses most? The substance and depth. The wine blends 53% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, clocking in at 14% alcohol. 93-94

Château de Villegeorge* – This estate with some 70% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend is great success in 2020, with juicy tannins and a smooth finish. 92-93

Château Les Vimières* – Tasted in the lab of talented wine consultant Eric Boissenot, as this is his wine, and a great success. There is much energy and linear focus, and even if some may note high-toned acidity, I like the fruit purity expressed with refined tannins. 92-93+



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