2020 Bordeaux En Primeur Report – Episode 10 – Domaine Clarence Dillon (Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Quintus)

2020 Bordeaux En Primeur Report

Episode 10 – Domaine Clarence Dillon (Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Quintus)


2020 Château Haut-Brion Rouge, 1er Cru Pessac-Léognan

42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17.5% Cabernet Franc

Estimated alcohol 15%

Harvested between 7th – 29th September

It seems extraordinary that I am sitting at my dining room table in Battersea, London while tasting the 2020 En Primeur wines this year as opposed to standing in the various amazing Châteaux listed in this Report.  Tasting at Haut-Brion or La Mission Haut-Brion (the EP tastings are held at one or the other) is always a magnificent treat.  These are stunning backdrops to tasting the family of Domaine Clarence Dillon wines and it sets the scenes magnificently for the flavours found in these legendary wines.  So, while I type these notes, in my house, in southwest London, there is none of the grandeur and pomp associated with tasting with HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg and Jean-Philippe Delmas, and yet, strangely, this does not matter one iota because this wine does not need anyone setting the scene nor does it require a regal backdrop.  That is because 2020 Haut-Brion is so characterful and composed and so phenomenally self-confident and also multifaceted, that it could be tasted on Mars and it would still look drop-dead gorgeous.  There is staggeringly complexity here built on extremely firm foundations and with the power comes unexpected grace and levity.  I cannot remember tasting a wine with such force and splendour which finishes with this degree of freshness and calm.  19.5+/20

2020 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan (2nd wine of Haut-Brion)

60.1% Merlot, 31.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.7% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Petit Verdot

Estimated alcohol 15.2%

Harvested from 7th – 19th September

As a ‘second wine’, this is a monumental creation.  As a standalone Pessac-Léognan red it is one of the finest of the vintage.  But what I like most about 2020 Le Clarence is that it shows a completely different flavour, shape, texture, timbre and finish than its parent and this means that it is not one wine or the other which is the choice in this vintage – it is both.  They are both absolutely unmissable.  Dwelling on the red fruit side of the spectrum, Le Clarence has a Le Musigny quality about it and this is the first time I have ever written this sentence about a claret!  As you may be able to tell, I love the complexity here and yet I must underline that you cannot even think about opening a bottle for twenty years.  This is a slow burn Le Clarence and it is about as delectable and collectable as it gets.  18.5+/20

2020 Château La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge, Pessac-Léognan

48.6% Merlot, 43.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.2% Cabernet Franc

Estimated alcohol 14.7%

Harvested between 7th – 29th September

Wow, this is a wonderful wine with an approachable, heart-warming welcome on the nose, albeit augmented by some rather delicious oak perfumes and a juicy, ripe, free-flowing palate and then, suddenly, an immovable wall of tannin and acidity is assembled across the centre of the palate and the ripe fruit shuts down and firm astringency swarms onto the palate.  While this might sound somewhat brutal, this wine balances immense pleasure with the kind of delicious ‘pain’ on which great wines are built.  I tasted this wine ten times over three days and it grew and unfurled a little more on every visit to the bottle.  This is a spectacular La Mission and it has decadence and luxury embedded in its core and around this hedonistic central flavour, regal tones emanate protected by stunningly noble tannins.  19+/20

2020 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan (2nd wine of La Mission Haut-Brion)

44.7% Merlot, 55.3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Estimated alcohol 14.3%

Harvested between 7th – 29th September

The nose is far more open and floral than I expected and while I am aware one cannot smell texture, there is a kindly, open, silky nature to the perfume.  The palate follows up this cordial theme with a generous, open and expressive flavour and it already seems well integrated and balanced.  The tannins are feisty, as always, but they are more than compensated but the open and gregarious fruit notes on the mid-palate.  There is discreet tension here and this brings a refreshing nature to the finish, but there is nothing dry or closed about the experience and this makes it one of the most forward La Chapelles in recent years.  17.5/20

2020 Château Quintus, Grand Cru Saint-Émilion (from the Domaine Clarence Dillon portfolio)

62.5% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Franc

15.4% alc

Like the second wine, Le Dragon, this is a monolithic wine with a stern character and a pleasant violet-themed perfume.  The fruit is calm, dry and centred but there is little obvious exoticism or flair.  A touch closed and firm, with a powerful core of alcohol under the bonnet, I imagine that we will need to wait for a decade for this wine to begin to open up and soften out and the oak, while not too pungent, is certainly preventing more fragrant tones from expressing themselves.  Tense but worth waiting for, this is a fascinating wine and one which will be sure to evolve slowly and with determination.  17.5+/20

2020 Le Dragon de Quintus, Saint-Émilion (2nd wine of Quintus)

84.7% Merlot, 15.3% Cabernet Franc

15.3% alc

This is a powerful and assertive Dragon and the tannin and acidity on the finish make the palate stand to attention with their abrupt stance and firm flavours.  The nose is graceful and violet-scented and the palate is sleek and cool so, all in all, this is a successful Dragon with a serious attitude and a power-packed core, and it will age well for a second wine, giving us at least a decade and more of pleasure.  17+/20


2020 Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan

71.4% Sauvignon Blanc, 28.6% Semillon

Estimated alcohol 13.9%

Harvested between 20th – 27th September

This is yet another epic performance from Haut-Brion Blanc and the flesh and depth here is astounding.  It is held firmly in place by a bodice of the finest quality oak and yet I can see the silkiness and succulence of the fruit through this diaphanous outer layer and it is ravishing.  There is no white wine in the world like Haut-Brion Blanc and the gravitas and tension here is heart-stopping.  The length rolls on for minutes while the citrus, ozone, herb, lanolin and white stone fruit details eddy and flow across the palate.  For the briefest of moments it flashes some of its remarkable flesh and then as quickly as a seductive nuance is met, it disappears behind a mineral-soaked layer of impenetrable calm.  Sheer heaven from start to finish, I adore this vintage and it is likely to be the longest-lived dry white wine of 2020.  19.5+/20

2020 Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan

54.7% Sauvignon Blanc, 45.3% Semillon

Estimated alcohol 13.8%

Harvested between 19th – 28th August

This is a stunning wine with a rich, layered palate and a super-long, savoury, salty finish.  The oak is sensational and it only adds to the exotic citrus flavours found in this wine.  The finish is keen and raspy with bright acidity and considerable structure.  Super-youthful and with a long way to go, which will involve adding more obvious weight and texture to the framework as the commanding acidity senesces, this is a tremendous effort from La Mission.  Already spellbinding, goodness only knows what will happen in the future when this wine finally unpacks all of its myriad qualities.  18.5+/20

2020 La Clarté de Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan (from the Domaine Clarence Dillon Portfolio)

74.8% Semillon, 25.2% Sauvignon Blanc

Estimated alcohol 13.4%

Harvested between 19th – 28th August

La Clarté de Haut-Brion is the white wine made from both Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion and in the 2020 vintage it has been given a new bottle design to express its exceptional dual ancestry.  This is a spicy wine with ginger and white pepper sprinkled throughout the experience and it makes it a more fascinating and involving creation than I have seen before.   The depth and scale of flavour is fascinating, too, because it appears, on the one hand, to be quite refreshing and nubile, however, there are moments of great depth, too.  There is a lot of evolution ahead of La Clarté and I anticipate it building in mid-palate weight and filling out, too, on the nose and finish.  This is a delicious wine and I imagine it will start to blossom in or around its 10th birthday.  17.5+/20

Scores – I have attached my scores out of 20 for each wine.  If a score has no ‘+’, this indicates a wine that is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm. One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.   A ‘?’ means that I am unsure about an element within the wine – this will be explained in my note.