2020 Margaux is the best vintage for the appellation since the stunning 2015. And for several chateaux, 2020 Margaux is the better vintage!
2020 Margaux wines at their best are simply gorgeous. They display a beautiful depth of color, along with soaring aromatics and strong floral characteristics. The top wines are universally silky, elegant, concentrated, rich and sensuous. Lower in alcohol than 2018 and 2015, and showing good freshness, many of the wines, while not as quite as full, offer more freshness, length and purity.
Plus, there were a few underperformers in 2015 that made perhaps the best wine in the history of the estate in 2020! And that is an important part of the story.
So, how did all this happen? What makes 2020 Margaux so darn good?
The growing season was difficult for vignerons all over the Left Bank. The spring was warm and quite wet. The summer months were hot and extremely dry. In fact, Margaux experienced almost no rain between mid-June and mid-August. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a massive heatwave that hit the region in the middle of August. Even the nights were warm, reaching 20 Celsius, (68 Fahrenheit.) Fortunately, rain began falling August 9-14.
The extreme August weather created much of the character found in 2020 Margaux. Philippe Bascaules of Chateau-Margaux feels the success of the vintage was in part due to the vintages’ climatic extremes.
“The precocity of the vintage, together with alternating periods of hot temperatures, drought, and rain produced a classic style of wine, with exceptional levels of concentration.”
Each vineyard coped with the drought the best it could. Vines planted in soils with sand and mostly gravel had a difficult time reaching maturity. Henri Lurton of Chateau Brane-Cantenac credits much of the success this year to the clay in their soil.
“2020 Margaux vintage can easily be characterized by its capricious weather. The dry weather worked here due to our grapes from Terrace IV with its gravelly soil and higher proportions of clay.”
While the drought shaped much of the character of the vintage all over the Medoc, conditions became more manageable after the August rains as the season headed towards September. Temperatures dropped, dipping slightly below seasonal averages. While daytime temperature increased in early September, the nights remained cool, allowing the grapes to gain in acidity and much-needed freshness.
September was dry for the first two weeks for the first time since 1958. Young vines and plantings in vineyards that were not able to handle the lack of water were having a difficult time. But the vineyards with ample water were reaching maturity. For a detailed report on the 2020 Bordeaux growing season and harvest
However, making 2020 Margaux even more difficult was harvesting during the pandemic.
Emmanuele Cruse of Chateau-d’Issan recalls the difficulties brought about by Covid during harvest.
“One of the major concerns was preparing for the harvest. For example, our Danish pickers were not allowed to travel to work the harvest. But like all the other chateaux, fortunately, we were able to find a solution.”
By September 16, it began raining intermittently, continuing through the harvest. While some young vines were picked earlier in September, most of the harvest took place from about the middle of September, continuing until the beginning of October.
Jose Sanfins of Chateau Cantenac-Brown said the climatic conditions experienced during the harvest helped the grapes reach maturity.
“The high temperatures of September resulted in maturity for the Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a very high level of concentration. However, it was necessary to take care during harvesting to pick ripe fruit, while keeping the berries juicy, without harshness.”
Alexander van Beek of ChateauGiscours recalls the exacting work needed during the harvest, especially with their oldest parcels.
“We harvested parcel by parcel, taking into account the age of every single vine with some vines dating back to 1926. Today, with vintages becoming more extreme, it is essential to take the age factor into consideration when harvesting, similar to picking in Sauternes, as we went through some parcels three different times!”
For 2020, it was imperative that producers took it easy during the vinification process. 2020 was not a vintage where it was necessary to put the pedal to the metal and get as much as you could out of the wines. Instead, it was a year where vignerons needed to keep a relaxed hand during the vinifications and extractions.
According to Philippe Bascaules of Chateau-Margaux, a gentle, mindful approach was needed during the vinification of 2020 Margaux.
“The quality of the grapes required precise control of the extraction of the phenolic compounds to preserve the elegance and silky textures of the tannins.”
All of the following 2020 Margaux wines were tasted in my home office in non-blind conditions.
2020 Angludet – Cherries, raspberries and flowers are there for the taking in the perfume. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, soft, refined, clean, juicy, spicy and sweet, with a line of earthy black cherries that starts off in the mid-palate and keeps right on going. 89-91 Pts
2020 Brane Cantenac – Blackberry liqueur, creme de cassis, violets, tobacco leaf and earthy nuances create the attention-seeking nose. Dark in color, with equally dark, palate-coating fruits with layers of velvet-textured, sensuous, sexy, deep red berries. The fruits display a majestic sense of purity. The elegant, silky finish remains with you for close to 60 seconds, expanding and building in intensity. This is a wow wine that fans of the estate should run, not walk and buy as soon as it’s offered. The wine blends 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmenere 13.7% ABV pH 3.71. The harvest took place September 14-September 28. 96-98 Pts
2020 Brane Cantenac Le Baron de Brane – Forward, medium-bodied, early-drinking, silky-textured wine that is already showing well. There is sweetness, refined textures and lift on the palate and finish with a fun touch of spice on the backend. 90-92 Pts
2020 Cantenac Brown – Inky in color, the wine hits all the right notes with its floral, camphor, blackberry, incense, espresso and black currant aromatics. There is serious intensity here with layers of ripe, sweet, dark fruits, toasty oak and polished tannins on the mid-palate and in the finish. Long, and deep, give this at least 7-8 in the cellar and this is going to really start to show well. 94-96 Pts
2020 Clos Dufourg – Spicy currants and underbrush come through easily in this lush, round, juicy, black currant-filled wine. Medium-bodied, round and fruity, this will be quite charming to enjoy in its fleshy, sweet youth. 88-90 Pts
2020 Dauzac – Dark in color, the wine is filled with flowers, blackberries, smoke, violets, licorice and earthy aromas. Lush, elegant, polished, sweet fruit fills your palate and leaves you with hints of bitter cocoa and supple textured, dark cherries in the finish. 92-94 Pts
2020 Desmirail – Smoke, tobacco, cigar box, earth, leaf and currant scents bring you to a savory, fresh, bright, chewy core of red fruits and dusty tannins. Give this a few years of aging and it could show better. 89-91 Pts
2020 Deyrem Valentin – Elegant, sweet and polished, the complex set of aromatics, with their flowers, blackberry, plums, smoke and subtle coffee bean scents hits the spot. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, refined, polished and supple, leaving you with silky fruits that readily express their purity and freshness. 91-93 Pts
2020 La Fortune – Medium-bodied, bright, fresh, crisp and crunchy, the nose, with its floral accents is a bit better than the very, bright, tart, red berry finish. 84-86 Pts
2020 Giscours – Deeply colored, the nose kicks off with an intensive display of flowers, truffle, cigar box, cedar, red and black currants, lead pencil and savory herbs. Full-bodied, silky, sensuous, rich and vibrant, the layers of black, red and blue velvety, spicy fruits hit everything just right. There is a beautiful purity to the fruit and symmetry on the palate. The sexy finish goes on and on as it lingers and expands. The wine blends 56% Cabernet Sauvignon with 44% Merlot, 13.5% ABV. Picking took place September 8, October 2. Yields were only 36 hectoliters per hectare. 95-97 Pts
2020 Giscours La Sirene de Giscours – Medium-bodied, fresh, vibrant and floral, with sweetness, length and an elegant, lifted, spicy, sweet, cherry-filled finish. Enjoy this beauty while waiting for the Grand Vin to develop. The wine blends 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. 90-92 Pts
2020 Grand Tayac – Floral, fruity, medium-bodied, soft, and easy to like due to all its fresh, ripe, early-drinking charm, the elegantly styled finish serves up a nice mouthful of ripe dark cherries with touches of cocoa and herbs in the finish. This is a solid value from the Margaux appellation. 88-90 Pts
2020 Haut Breton Larigaudière – Medium-bodied, soft, polished, forward, fruity and fun, this lighter-styled, red berry charmer with its cocoa accent in the finish should be ready to drink on release. 85-87 Pts
2020 dIssan – The first vintage to include 5 Bordeaux varietals in the blend starts out with violets, wet earth, spice, cherries, espresso and currants on the nose. From there the wine is fresh, energetic, elegant and complex. Full-bodied, silky, long and intense, with the essence of minerality paired with spice and fruit in the finish. This will age and evolve for at least 2-3 decades. Produced from a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. 94-96 Pts
2020 dIssan Blasson d’Issan – Supple, silky, fresh, medium-bodied and forward, this open charmer is on the floral side with ample sweet, ripe red fruits as well. Vivacious and refined, this is going to be great on release. Enjoy this while waiting for the Grand Vin to develop. 90-92 Pts
2020 Kirwan – With a gorgeous depth of color, licorice, tobacco leaf, boysenberry, black plum, espresso and floral nuances come to the surface easily. Silky, refined, sweet and vibrant, the fruit lingers on the palate all the way through to the earth, spice and cocoa packed finish. This is already quite expressive and should be just great with 6 years or so of aging. 92-94 Pts
2020 La Tour de Bessan – Fresh, soft, sweet and pure, the wine is medium-bodied, energetic and floral with ample, juicy red fruits and savory herbs on the palate and in the finish. This shows a fabulous Margaux character and it sells for a song. This is a solid value wine from the Margaux appellation. 89-91 Pts
2020 La Tour de Mons – Deep in color, the wine shows its bouquet of black currants, smoke, licorice, wet earth and oak notes easily. Lush, fleshy, ripe, and round, the fruit is fleshy, sweet and richly textured, finishing with loads of ripe blackberry notes on the mid-palate and finish. Clearly, this is a step up in class since the new owners took over. 91-93 Pts
2020 Labegorce – Deeply colored, the wine pops with cigar box, truffle, cedar, currants, licorice and spice on the nose. Full-bodied, rich, lush, intense, long and energetic, the round, attention-seeking finish lingers with its layers of ripe, fresh, showy, blackberries and chocolate notes. Today, it is hard to find a better wine for the money in the ever-increasingly expensive Margaux appellation. Give it 5-7 years in the cellar and enjoy it over the following two decades. 93-95 Pts
2020 Lascombes – Full-bodied, round, lush, rich and polished, the fruit is ripe, sweet and intense. But there is a strong oak component in the finish that is going to need time to integrate. 90-92 Pts
2020 Le Coteau – Medium-bodied, soft, polished, bright, and juicy, with a crisp core of fresh, currants, cedar and tobacco leaf on the nose and energetic palate. 89-91 Pts
2020 Malescot St. Exupery – Incredibly dark in color, the nose jumps with smoked currants, burning embers, singed cherries, spice and flowers. The wine is plush, dense, full-bodied and rich, with layers of polished, velvety dark red fruits that coat and soothe your palate, finishing with dark chocolate, sweet plums, licorice and espresso. Give this at least 8 or more years in the cellar and the wine is going to really start to show. 95-97 Pts
2020 Malleret Margaux – Medium-bodied, with a touch of oak, flowers and dark red fruits on the nose. Earthy, round, soft, sweet and forward, this will be quite easy to enjoy in its youth. 88-90 Pts
2020 Chateau Margaux – The purity of the fruit in the nose is striking. From there you move to notes of allspice, tobacco, roses, truffle, smoke, roasted plums, cherries and currants. Incredibly sensuous, silky and fresh, the fruit literally coats your palate with layers of velvet and silk textured berries. Intensely concentrated, weightless and effortless to drink, the wine seamlessly glides across your senses and holds with you for at least 60 seconds. This is a prodigious vintage of Chateau Margaux. The product of an early vintage, picking took place September 10 to September, 30. Yields were 36 hectoliters per hectare, with the Grand Vin produced from only 36% of the crop. The wine blends 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, 13.5% ABV, 3.68 Ph. 98-100 Pts
2020 Chateau Margaux Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux – Right off the bat you find an array of flowers before moving on to the ripe, red berries, dark pit fruits, black plums and earthy nuances. Refined, elegant, soft and supple, there is freshness and purity to the fruits, along with length and precision on the palate, making this a contender for the finest vintage of Pavillon Rouge that has been produced yet. Give this 5-7 years of age and enjoy it over the following 15 years or so. The wine was made from blending 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2 Cabernet Franc. 94-96 Pts
2020 Marojallia – Richly colored, the wine shows an oaky edge on the nose and palate. Full-bodied, round, plush, fleshy and polished, the wine finishes with chocolate and ripe blackberries in the endnote. 90-92 Pts
2020 Marojallia Clos Margalaine – Dark in color, the wine shows a savory, earthy, tobacco, oak, and blackberry nose. Soft, round and fruity, with an herbal, peppery edge to the finish, you can enjoy this on release. 87-89 Pts
2020 Marquis dAlesme – Violets, lilacs, cherry pipe tobacco, plums, currants, spice and blackberry aromatics fill the perfume. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, round, juicy, fresh and rich, with layers of perfectly ripe, silky, plums, cherries, currants, espresso and spice. The luxurious, rich finish hits all the right notes as it lingers on your palate. 94-96 Pts
2020 Marquis de Terme – A beautiful display of violets, roses, cherry blossoms, espresso, plums, black cherry and cocoa come to the surface with little effort. Silky, soft and polished, medium/full-bodied, with a finish that delivers layer after layer of chocolate-covered dark red, plush fruits. 93-95 Pts
2020 Monbrison – Fresh plums, spice, smoke and a touch of espresso come together to form the core of this wine. Medium-bodied, soft, silky and fresh, with a supple, creamy, refined, red berry finish. This is the finest example of Monbrison I’ve tasted in ages. 89-91 Pts
2020 Paveil de Luze – Coffee bean, licorice, bitter cocoa, plums and blackberries crowd the nose. Medium-bodied, soft, elegant and refined, with a forward character. You can enjoy this on the young side due to all its sweet fruits and silky tannins. Or you can age it for 3-5 years and it will be even better. 91-93 Pts
2020 Prieure-Lichine – Dark garnet with purple around the edges, the wine pops with spearmint, vanilla, spice, black, red and blue fruit on the nose. Plush, soft and silky, round and full-bodied, the layers of ripe, polished fruits that coat your palate do not want to quit. This is a solid vintage for Preiure Lichine. 93-95 Pts
2020 Rauzan Segla – Incredibly dark in color, the wine explodes with violets, boysenberry, cigar box, graphite, blackberry, plum, black cherry, toasty oak and spice. Full-bodied, with a fabulous depth of flavor, energy, purity and refinement, the wine is long, intense and silky. The finish, with its velvet-drenched layers of fruits, entices you to take another sip, simply because it is that good. The finish holds for close to 50 seconds, leaving you with a wealth of expansive fruit, espresso and dark cocoa. The wine blends 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, 13.5% ABV, pH 3.74. The harvest took place September 8 – September 29. 97-99 Pts
2020 Segla – Just picked flowers and dark red fruits create the core of this supple textured wine. Medium-bodied, soft, elegant, fresh and already a pleasure to taste, the wine ends with sweet, silky, polished, dark red fruits. Segla is not sold En Primeur. So savvy shoppers need to look for this as soon as it is released as not much is made. 90-92 Pts
2020 Rauzan-Gassies – With a beautiful, deep hue, the wine pops with its floral, dark pit fruit, espresso, smoke, licorice and spice perfume. On the palate, the wine is rich, full and with a solid depth of flavor, finishing with layers of concentrated, silky, lusciously textured black, red and blue fruits. Clearly, this is a big step up from previous vintages. From what I’ve tasted, you have to go back to 1928 to taste a wine from Rauzan Gassies this good. 91-93 Pts
2020 Siran – Incense, spice, oak, licorice, spearmint, smoke and red fruits peek through the perfume with ease. From there, the wine is plush and polished round and supple with layers of sweet, ripe fruits, spice and earthy nuances. Give this 7-8 years of cellaring and pop a cork on the best value in the Margaux appellation today. 92-94 Pts
2020 Tayac – Medium-bodied, soft, round, silky and polished, the fruits are fresh, fragrant and supple, finishing with a touch of cocoa, lift and elegant tannins. 90-92
2020 Tayac Or Norme – Lush, ripe, round, rich and polished, with loads of dark sweet, fruits, toasty oak and blackberries, this is a rich, fat, lusciously styled Margaux that will drink well early and should age for 20-25 years with ease. 91-92 Pts
2020 du Tertre – Following the initial shot of espresso you find flowers, wet earth, forest floor and dark red fruits. Medium/full-bodied, fresh and juicy, with a spicy edge to the creamy soft, sweet fruits in the finish. 90-92 Pts
The next article about 2020 Bordeaux focuses on the red and white from 2020 Pessac Leognan, followed by Haut Medoc, Listrac and Moulis wines with tasting notes, ratings and more before moving to the Right Bank.