2020 Bordeaux En Primeur Report – Episode 4 – Cos d’Estournel & Family

2020 Bordeaux En Primeur Report

Episode 4 – Cos d’Estournel & Family

2020 Château Cos d’Estournel (2ème Cru Saint-Estèphe)

62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot

55% new oak

13.46% alc

39 hl/ha

3.90 pH

80 IPT

When you peruse the statistics above you will notice that the standout ‘stat’ is the alcohol level – a full 1% lower than the ‘perfect’ (in my eyes) 2018 vintage.  I love ‘lower alcohol’ (this should really read ‘classical alcohol’) level vintages and the Left Bank wines in 2020 seem, on the whole, to live in among the 13s and this is very exciting indeed.  There is always a little more drama on the palate with keenly refreshing vintages, and especially with Cabernet-dominant wines, and while this wine is 13.5% alcohol, the tannin index still manages to register a powerful 80-score.  So, before tasting, I was hoping for a fascinating and uniquely Cos-style interpretation of this challenging 2020 vintage.  I am thrilled to report that this wine sings in the glass and it gives me everything and more that I was hoping for.  Commanding and precise, this is a phenomenal performance with tenderness balanced by impressive timbre.  With a classically dimensioned, medium-weight frame and, dare I say it, a pitch and intensity akin to an elite Barolo (by that I mean pinpoint accurate tannins and epic acidity weighted perfectly for a medium-weight, not blockbuster wine), this is a stunning wine which is midnight black in colour, but fabulously lifted and expressive on the palate.  This wine’s silhouette and ethereal nature seem like it has jumped back in a time machine to the forties or fifties, its clarity of fruit is very much a wine of the modern era. Minutes after tasting this wine I still found myself marvelling at the power to weight ratio while my taste buds were still resonating from the noble Cabernet theme and exquisite freshness of the tannins which is a signature of great Cos vintages.  19+/20

2020 Pagodes de Cos (2nd wine of Cos d’Estournel)

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

30% new oak

13.28% alc

39 hl/ha

68 IPT

I am rather impressed with Pagodes in 2020 given that it seems like it is, in almost every way imaginable, a scaled-down version of its parent wine.  I know that the traditional sense of a second wine is precisely this, but in the modern era of Bordeaux many, if not all, second wines are very different creatures indeed, having purposefully different characters and fulfilling very different roles within their respective portfolios.  Pagodes has never seemingly strayed too far from the arms of Cos d’Estournel – it is not safe out there in the wild world and why would any wine want to go it alone if you had Cos as your parent?  In 2020, it seems that Pagodes is inextricably entwined in the arms of its family.   Of course, this is a tender, refreshing and enthusiastic wine with a forward air and pliable fruit tones.  There is the trademark 2020 freshness on the finish, bringing a snap of acidity to add a ‘full stop’ to the end of this wine’s sentence.  But there are also genuine Cos traits here with luxurious hints of oak and occasional profound black fruit puddles which you can jump into or step over.  This is a lighter, more compact fellow but it is every bit as expressive as legions of ‘first wines’ in this vintage and for that reason, I hope that you manage to taste this wine one day.  Wine writers use the prefix ‘mini-’ far too often and rather sloppily if you ask me, but in 2020, Pagodes is, genuinely, a mini-Cos.  17.5+/20

2020 Goulée by Cos d’Estournel (Médoc)

90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

20% new oak

13.17% alc

46 hL/ha

65 IPT

3.94 pH

Harvested between 11th – 24th September

Heavily influenced by Merlot, and weighing in at a tender 13.2% alcohol, Goulée is a vinous anomaly in terms of both flavour and silhouette in this vintage.  Slender and silky, perfumed and beguilingly discreet, this is a charming creation with such freshness and verve on its finish that it takes your breath away.  Red-fruited, with plum and cherry notes leading the way on the nose and palate, and then suddenly arrestingly clean and crisp, this is a delicious, forward-drinking wine with ample lust for life and a lip-smacking bounce on its finish.  17/20

2020 Cos d’Estournel Blanc (Cos d’Estournel)

66% Sauvignon Blanc, 34% Semillon

8% new oak

14% alc


24 hL/ha

Harvested between 31st August – 10th September

It is clear that this wine is becoming a favourite in the Cos portfolio because as every year passes the tension and the finesse on offer is gradually ratcheted up.  From out of nowhere this is now one of the most enjoyable whites in the Left Bank and it sits outside of the vast ocean of white Graves (and Pessac-Léognan) wines because its fruit is more tender and less keenly oaky.  This means that in shape and size it is more comparable to the top wines from the Loire as opposed to those from Bordeaux.  Generous, refined, pure and impeccably balanced this is a hauntingly delicious wine.  18+/20

2020 Pagodes de Cos Blanc (Cos d’Estournel)

90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon

8% new oak


24 hL/ha


Harvested between 31st August – 10th September

There is more finesse and control here than I have seen in this wine before and it is not too pushed or forced either.  This is a delightful Pagodes Blanc and while I am sure that more people will drink this young, as they should, there is plenty of class here and so it will make it to the medium-term with ease.  I expect that there will be even more excitement to come.  17/20

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.