5 Wines To Zero In On at This Weekend’s Bordeaux Release

It's another stellar year, but they don't come cheap—so here's a cheat sheet to get the goods without going bust.

It’s become a trope, but it’s sorta true that there aren’t any “bad” Bordeaux years anymore, as there were in the 1980s and 1990s. Winemaking techniques have become too sophisticated, and there’s too much riding on the Bordeaux harvest to let it be “bad.”

But even within this truism, there are years that are better, when the climate co-operated and the winemakers were blessed with excellent raw material to ply their craft with. By all accounts 2020—being released at the BCL this weekend—is one of those better years. We had a chance to preview the vintage, tasting everything from the $50 Haut Medoc Giscours to the $1,600 Chateau Margaux and here’s a quick guide to the bottles that balance some semblance of value with that signature-blend elegance, finesse and ageability that only Bordeaux can deliver.

Blanc de Lynch Bages, $90

White Bordeaux is such a gift. It has vitality, texture, ageability and while it ain’t inexpensive, when you compare it to France’s other bold name white—Burgundy—it definitely looks like a bargain. Really, almost all of the offerings have something to recommend them: if cost were no object I’d buy my beloved Domaine de Chevalier, which, even at $225, is vintage in and vintage out one of the great deals in Bordeaux.

But let’s keep it a bit more real and go with the quite-rare Lynch Bages Blanc. It comes from a legendary Paulliac house whose red goes for a cool $300, so it’s a label that will impress (fine, shoot me for caring that my $100 wine impresses people), but it’s priced at two-thirds less. By comparison, Pape Clement’s white costs more than their red, as does Haut Brion’s. But economics aside, this is a wonderful gateway wine for those new to White Bordeaux. It’s quite modern, so the Sauvignon Blanc is quite forward and juicy, the Semillon offers some body and texture and the Muscadelle some flinty, salty notes. This is a label that is on the move.

Chateau d’Armailhac, $120

This is another of my fave sleepers. It’s owned by its famous neighbour Mouton Rothschild (which is going for $1,500 a bottle for 2020), it’s a classified fifth growth, and has—again apologies for my baseness—a really nice label. To be clear, I haven’t tasted the 2020, but the reviews are really solid across the board, including those from stingy reviewers like Decanter. They recount praise for one of this Chateau’s great strengths—it’s classicism. That means you get a wine that’s a bit leaner (probably a good thing long-term in this vintage) with some clear graphite notes, some tannic grip and very present acidity. Good Claret, as the Brits would say.

Chateau Poujeaux, $70

Whenever someone serves me Poujeaux, I’m immediately won over by their pursuit of taste in the absence of a trust fund. This Chateaux has been a solid performer for the past 20+ years and while the price has crept up—ideally this would be a $54, as it is in Ontario, but it’s still not gone crazy like some of its other skill set.

This year is the best in a while—it’s not quite as refined as some, but refinement can almost be a problem at this price point because it’s done by softening what makes the Left Bank great. Here we’re pretty full throttle—quite ripe and reasonably tannic, a wine that you need to chew a bit. But it rewards dark fruit, leather and tar mixed together in a wonderful, character-driven blend.

Chateau Meyney, $75

And as much as I love the Poujeaux, if you can by Meyney for only $5 more, you are morally compelled to do so. It’s St Estephe breeding (you can still say things like this in Bordeaux) outpaces the Poujeaux’s Moulis-en-Medoc such that the person who serves your Meyney just might have a trust fund they’re really embarrassed about. Again, I have not tasted this vintage, but by the reviews it seems like it offers more refinement and more chance of mid-to-long ageability, with a muscular backbone of dense, dark fruit. You should make long-term friends with this Chateau.

Chateau Phelan Segur, $110

This might be the most complete “value” wine I tasted, and I see that eye roll when I say value after “$110.” But everything is in place here, and you’ll feel like Lydia Tar looking out at your perfect orchestra of winemaking organized in front of you. Its nose is fresh, yet complex with layers of notes from violets to spice to a dash of dry earth. In the mouth, it’s both tannic enough to know it means business, but polished and refined that you don’t have to bite through it. All capped off by a wonderful, elegant long finish. A real achievement here. And bonus fun fact: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, known for his discerning taste, drinks a bottle of Phelan Segur at the end of Hannibal.