The En-Primeur Insider: First Edition, with Alistair Cooper MW

The arrival of Bordeaux En Primeur is a rare moment in the fine wine calendar. This year to make the process an intimate and unique experience, we have as your guide, Alistair Cooper, a Jancis Robinson wine critic and Master of Wine, who has been invited to taste the 2020 Bordeaux releases from barrel. There is no better resource to getting an exclusive perspective, first-heard insights and what you can expect from this new vintage.

Please find an initial word from Alistair Cooper below and be sure to subscribe for exclusive access to editorial pieces throughout the En-Primeur Campaign.

About the 2020 Vintage

The 2020 vintage in Bordeaux is looking very promising with high (if variable) quality overall. Conditions were not unlike 2018 and 2019, with a relatively mild and wet springtime followed by a long hot and dry summer. One of the caveats is that yields are down by around 10 per cent as a result of mildew, drought and then further heatwaves at harvest time. Without going into depth, quality will vary due to soils across sites and those better equipped to deal with water deficit may produce the finest wines.

Without tasting the 2020 wines it is hard to say definitively, but the inside scoop is that this really could be an excellent year. Potentially we are looking at a ‘better’ vintage than 2019, and almost certainly finer than 2018. It’s just quantities that could be down, meaning getting your hands on these wines as early as possible is the safest bet to secure some potentially cracking wines.


What will happen with pricing remains to be seen, however I am optimistic that prices will be similar to 2019 releases and that is good news for consumers. 2019 saw a significant cut in prices on the 2018’s and the wines sold well. Here’s hoping that this year follows suit. With a vintage such as this, with quality likely to be somewhat heterogeneous it is all the more important to listen to critics and understand where the value and quality really lie.

Given the global COVID situation, gone is the usual fanfare and the annual pilgrimage of critics, merchants and the red trouser brigade to Bordeaux. Instead of welcoming the tasters, the Chatêaux must instead send their samples sparingly to critics. Whilst this isn’t ideal for producers, it is the only way to get those all important scores and vintage appraisal from critics. This means that far fewer people will get to taste and assess the vintage prior to release, with samples being sent sparingly for obvious logistical reasons. This is all a particularly useful benefit to United Cellars and our customers, as I will be one of the few critics tasting the wines.

Tasting & Scoring

As part of the tasting team, I will be heavily involved this year in tasting and scoring the 2020 vintage. We have split the tasting across three members of the team, including Jancis herself, and I will be tasting around 200 wines. That means a pallet of wine will be arriving at my house in the UK to be tasted in my living room – something that is becoming a somewhat regular occurrence!

Looking at some of the wines that I will be tasting, I expect to uncover some absolute gems and wines that offer supreme value for money. We will keep you posted with updates on my tastings, scores and of course my tips for the 2020 vintage. So keep watching for the inside information straight from the horse’s (well, my…) mouth.

Alistair Cooper Master of Wine and Esteemed Critic


- Alistair Cooper,
Master of Wine & Esteemed Critic