Bordeaux 2020 Primeurs: Margaux
My journey into Margaux this year was a fascinating one. Regular readers will know I have found Margaux to be, when tasted over many years, the most variable of the four ‘big name’ left-bank appellations, with a little lack of consistency compared to its three neighbours to the north. This probably reflects the more disparate and slightly sprawling nature of the appellation, which is spread over five communes, with a number of châteaux located on lesser terroirs some distance from the Gironde. When it gets it right, though – like it did in 1983, 2010 and 2015, to name three examples – it really gets it right. While I am not at all sure I would rank 2020 directly alongside those vintages, I am happy to report that this appellation has turned out some great wines in the 2020 vintage, a handful of which seemed truly exciting.
It is also a year of noteworthy change this year. Not like Pauillac, where senior staff at Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA have been hopping on and off the career ladder. Here in Margaux the change pertains to the land, specifically at Château d’Issan, where for the first time the blend of the grand vin is not based exclusively on fruit picked from the vineyard within the ancient Clos d’Issan.
For as long as I have known the estate and its wines, the grand vin has been a blend of exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, sourced from the slightly higher land within the clos. Early in 2020, however, a slice of vineyard situated directing between Château d’Issan and Château Margaux came up for sale; the proprietor was unwell, and keen to sell to another local family rather than (I suppose) a faceless business, conglomerate or insurance group. The deal was done, thereby expanding the vineyard beyond the confines of the clos, but perhaps more significantly also giving Emmanuel and his team access to plantings of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and even a little Malbec, bringing a new look to the Château d’Issan blend this year.
So Margaux has put on a strong show in 2020, with some very good wines, and one or two that are quite thrilling.