Wednesday Wines – Episode 143 – 2020s from the Dourthe Portfolio
After tasting a large number of very youthful wines of late, it was nice to jump into a flight of juicy 2020s from the Dourthe portfolio, augmented by a couple of impressively structured 2015s.
2020 Château Belgrave, 5ème Cru Classé, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (£28.33, www.millesima.co.uk).
Belgrave has always been one of the trade secrets of the Left Bank. Refined, long, complex, and even throughout, this is a sophisticated 2020, and it brings the ‘classic Bordeaux blend’ (in 2020, it was 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot) to life. Despite the ripe fruit and creamy texture, Belgrave cleverly holds back on new oak, employing 30% new barrels for 12 months. The result is a modern claret with immense respect for its noble location and does its job without attracting a crazy price tag. Here is my En Primeur assessment from April 2021 – ‘Belgrave is such a reliable Château, and in 2020, the fruit is cassis-driven, medium-weight, and refreshing tart on the finish. It is also not too tannic, just lively and classically shaped. What I particularly like, though, is the array of fruit on the nose. There are layers here and complexity, too, and as this wine softens, they will be sure to charm all-comers. Everything this wine promised in the barrel has come true in the bottle, and that is all you can ask for. In addition, I tasted the 2015 Belgrave (£35.00, www.millesima.co.uk). Once again, this is a terrific wine, so I referred back to my EP tasting note: ‘A rich Belgrave with a lot more intensity and a significantly silkier texture than the successful 2014. This shows the continued progress being made here, and the efforts are bearing fruit (literally)! Smooth, long, and succulent, with perfectly judged oak, this is a sumptuous wine’. With a darker core, a little more weight, and some feisty spice and tannins, the 2015 is likely to drink after the 2020, such is the engine under this wine’s bonnet.
2020 Château Le Boscq, Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France (£26.67, www.millesima.co.uk; £26.26, www.laywheeler.com).
Le Boscq looked more tannic in the barrel than it does now that it has been bottled, and this serves to heighten the plush fruit and exotic overtones. This is a delicious wine and another cracking value proposition in 2020. It is very close to drinking, but the Saint-Estèphe foundations give it a rigid backbone, and it will hold tremendously once it is fully open in a year or two.
Interestingly, 2015 Le Boscq (£32.50, www.millesima.co.uk) looked structured, fit, and feisty. My EP note read, ‘Bright and expressive, this is a superb, suave Le Boscq with a fair amount of oak and extract, but it is not out of balance. The finish is a little blunt, but there is muscle here and it suits the style of the wine. Medium-term, this will need five years at least for the tannins to calm and the heat and spice on the palate to temper.’ I have no changes to add because it is travelling down this path with unerring accuracy!
2020 Château Reysson, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (no UK retailers right now).
I wasn’t particularly animated about Reysson out of the barrel because it was pretty straightforward and closed, but it has lost any sense of reluctance, and the Merlot-strong (93%) theme has moved to the front of the palate. Accordingly, this is a red cherry-driven claret with little edge or astringency, and I cannot fault its delivery. Balanced, entertaining, clean, and refreshing, this is a jolly nice drink, and it ought to gain an open-armed audience immediately.
2020 Château Pey La Tour, Réserve du Château, Bordeaux Supérieur, France (no UK retailers yet, but Waitrose stocks the 2019 vintage, £10.69).
I imagine this 2020 vintage will appear in the UK imminently, and I hope that Waitrose rolls on from the 2019 to this glorious 2020 because this wine is tremendous. My En Primeur note said, ‘Pey La Tour nails it again in 2020, and I cannot fault the hearty flavours and the gentle tannins here. This is a complete wine that will provide generous flavours early in its life. Chapeau!’ Now that it has a couple of years under its belt, this wine will most likely become the finest ten quid claret of the year.
2020 Château Rahoul Rouge, Graves, Bordeaux, France (£15.46, www.laywheeler.com).
Lighter-framed than the other wines in this article, 2020 Rahoul Rouge has a minty and earthy edge that makes it a cleansing, energetic style of red wine. While it needs another couple of years to lose its tannin crunch, this will be a lunchtime rouge rather than a dinner-time show-stopper! Interestingly, 2020 Château Rahoul Blanc (no UK retailers right now) looks delicious, and, back in 2021, I noted, ‘in 2020 there is plenty of fruit and character, and the lemon meringue pie notes are enticing and attractive. This finish is neat and clean, too’. I have nothing more to add aside from the fact that this wine is at its peak right now!
2021 Château La Garde Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France (£25.54, www.laywheeler.com).
OK, it was only a year ago that I wrote this En Primeur note, but it still rings true – ‘This is another wine with a slight pine needle feel about it, and this is presumably a combination of oak and the punchy citrus and herb notes found in this excellent vintage. Well-made forward and raspily tangy, this is a good effort for La Garde.’ With a much more expressive core of lime juice fruit than 2020 Rahoul Blanc, this elegant wine seems to tread the line perfectly between Sancerre and Pouilly-Fuissé – this is not a typo!