How will the First Growths approach their 2020 releases?

By June 7, 2021Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2020
  • Opinion on the 2020 vintage suggests it may not be as strong as 2019 overall. 
  • The scores for the First Growths, however, look to be an exception. 
  • Prices for the First Growths have been trending upwards of late. What might this mean for new release prices? 

The reaction so far 

Critical opinion of the 2020 vintage as a whole is positive. James Suckling said: “After the excellent quality of 2018 and 2019, many may have expected a drop in form for 2020. But it is clear that 2020 represents a third super-quality vintage in a row for the region.” 

Nonetheless, others have said that it does not reach the consistency in quality of 2019. Jane Anson (Decanter) gave the 2020 vintage 4/5 – on a par with 2018, but slightly lower than 2019 and 2016. 

Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (Wine Advocate) highlighted the inconsistent nature of the vintage, saying in her report that it had been an outstanding vintage “for some”. 

Both Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni at Vinous commented on the variable nature of the vintage in their respective reports too. 

Considering the vintage “trio” of 2018-2020, Martin wrote: “Consensus is forming that 2019 may turn out the best. At first glance, 2020 does not match 2019, though the difference is marginal.” 

There is one group of wines that is an exception to this point of view, however. 

First Growths praise 

Every major critic so far has included at least one First Growth among their top-scored wines this vintage. 

Suckling said he was prepared to rate the Haut-Brion a perfect 100 even at this early stage, and that it might be his wine of the vintage. 

Anson said that Château Margaux was her pick of estates on the Left Bank in 2020, and she rated Mouton Rothschild highly. 

James Lawther MW (JancisRobinson.com) meanwhile scored Haut-Brion 18.5 and both Lafite and Margaux, 19 – adding that the latter’s 2020 wine, “definitely has the edge on 2019 and 2018”. 

Haut-Brion was Perrotti-Brown’s top-scoring First Growth (98-100), while Mouton and Margaux were both rated 97-99 and Lafite 96-98. 

Martin rated Margaux as his top First Growth (97-99). The 2020’s score was a small improvement on the rating he gave the 2019 (96-98). The other three Firsts he scored identically to their 2019s, which were also 96-98. 

Galloni meanwhile followed up in his own report with Haut-Brion and Margaux both on 97-99. 

Equal or better 

Early scores, therefore, suggest that the 2020 First Growths are equal in quality to their 2019 counterparts but some may be better?  

Market prices for the First Growths across multiple vintages have been trending upward over the last year. Given the market will look back at comparable vintages when assessing the newest releases, this trend is clearly in the First Growths’ favour. 

As can be seen in the table, all four First Growths that still release En Primeur have seen their 2019s rise in price since last summer; between 6% and 39%.  

Conclusion 

All four First Growths have the luxury of being able to increase their prices this year and still represent good value to the collector. 

Nonetheless, the 2019s have some of the strongest scores of recent vintages and remain competitively priced. A recent post, pointed out that as well as their high scores, some of the 2019 First Growths are the cheapest still available on the market.  

They are, therefore, the yardstick by which the 2020 releases will, most likely, be judged.  

Our Bordeaux En Primeur 2020 page contains everything you need to know about this year’s campaign. You can also sign up for our daily En Primeur email alerts using the form below.