Before you are swamped in Bordeaux En Primeur releases from the 2020 vintage, I want to highlight one particular wine that is anything but a mainstream release.
Last year we released the 2019 Château L’Hermitage-Lescours, a wine I described as one of the bargains of the vintage and a wine that Neal Martin termed a ‘hidden gem’ and ‘an out of the blue stunner’ with a score of 93-95 points. All good plaudits, as I am sure you will agree. Well, it sold incredibly well on these endorsements but also on account of its remarkably reasonable price point of £110 per 6 bottle case in bond. Frankly, such a sum seldom gets you a particularly interesting wine in Bordeaux, and certainly not of this quality. I am pleased to say that the wine from this tiny 3.4 hectare property is now exclusive to Atlas in the UK. I can confirm that the 2020 is equally impressive, perhaps chiming with the comments of Jane Anson on Decanter’s website last week, when she suggested that there would be great value to be found in outlying vineyard areas on the right bank, on account of how well the 2020 vintage suited Merlot. The price has unsurprisingly stepped up a bit, that was inevitable, but it is by no means lofty, nor beyond justified given the quality. It remains one of the bargains of the vintage to my mind.
It proved quite a challenge to access a sample of L’Hermitage-Lescours last year; I knew very little of the property aside from the fact that in 2018 it was purchased by Owen Hong, who runs a wine club in China. On account of the COVID-19 situation, I am yet to visit this estate, situated a couple of kilometres to the south-west of St. Emilion in the commune of Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens, which approaches the twisting route of the Dordogne as it heads south. Saint-Sulpice is also home to the Perse family’s Château Monbousquet, which might rank as the highest profile Château in the area, though that wine is certainly not one that I rate at all. It remains high on my agenda to visit Château L’Hermitage-Lescours when we are next able to do so.
The investment brought about by the new owner has had a significant impact on the quality of the winemaking - there appears to have been progression to greater refinement at this estate, judging by the notes from various critics in recent years. The winemaker has remained the same, but he now has the facilities to deliver far higher quality as is evidenced by the 2019, and now the impressive 2020.
2020 was an intriguing vintage from a weather perspective, with a hot, dry summer following a wet yet warm spring. For Merlot, it has proven to be a very fine vintage, notably where there is clay in the terroir, which is able to sustain the vines through periods of drought. So far, from what I have tasted, Merlot is going to be the key attraction this vintage and particularly where the ripeness is allied to freshness. Indeed, that is what strikes me most about L’Hermitage-Lescours, the balance is reminiscent of the wines of Châteaux much further up the pecking order. That is no mean feat given this is an outlying, relatively unknown St.Emilion estate. Simply put, there is a touch of magic about this wine and the 2020 has a touch more roundness and generosity than the 2019, while retaining the same sense of poise that turned my head the first time. I think you will gather this comes highly recommended.