“Every year I say it’s very good, but this year it’s true”
This was the tongue-in-cheek quote of a hectic week of zoom tasting, from a Haut-Medoc chateau owner whose modesty we’ll spare. Bordeaux’s fondness for five vintages of the decade per ten years is well known, and they have definitely toned down the hype in recent years. Indeed, they seem almost embarrassed by the quality they have achieved in some instances in 2019. Almost!
What has also been impressive is the willingness to change and adapt to current circumstances. Bordeaux of old peered suspiciously at each other over manicured hedges, but we were able to taste almost a hundred wines this week due to an impressive collaborative effort to coordinate shipment of samples and present their wines over the internet. Had we been dealing with another 2013 vintage, I suspect they might have kept the wine in the cellars. Bordeaux wants people to taste and discover these wines, and there is a lot of pleasure to be found in many of these 2019s.
Several themes recurred from our tastings:
“Like 2009 in that you can enjoy the wines early but they will age.” [that’s quite the statement for anyone who has had the pleasure of their 100 point 2009]
Veronique Sanders, Haut-Bailly
“The power and seduction of 2015 and the length and terroir expression of 2016”
Florence Cathiard, Smith Haut Lafitte
“Vins de table – wines you can drink and enjoy at the dinner table, the second glass tastes better than the first”
Olivier Bernard, Domaine de Chevalier
“By capturing the delicacy and maturity at the right stage, these wines will have a long and happy life”
Alexander van der Beek, du Tertre and Giscours
Before the campaign started, Hubert de Bouard of Ch. Angelus said that this was, “An opportunity for consumers to fall in love with Bordeaux again.” The quality is there, and where we have seen price reductions this week that is a reflection of the global economy, not an admission of lack of quality. Indeed, several owners have muttered that they don’t really want to reduce their pricing because they feel the quality is something special. There is also the tacit admission that in some cases pricing had got out of hand, and a correction was needed. Global crises have provided great buying opportunities in Bordeaux before, 2008 being the best example.
We have now tasted from every major region in Bordeaux, at pricing ranging from the First Growths over £400 to Cru Bourgeois under £20. 2019 appears to be a good to very good vintage – It perhaps lacks the extra stardust of a 2010 or 2016, but it is at the level of or superior to 2009, 2015 and 2018 in some cases.
It has been a busy week of releases, with Pontet Canet, Palmer and Cos d’Estournel leading the way. Friday’s release of Lafite Rothschild has set the tone for Mouton to follow on Tuesday next week and Haut-Brion on Thursday. We also have a busy Monday that has a St Julien focus, with Beychevelle and Leoville Poyferre the highlights.
For us, the peaks of quality so far have been St Estephe and Pauillac on the Left Bank, the cooler gravel and clay based soils really have excelled in what was a long and warm growing season. Beautiful weather from mid-August through to October allowed harvest to occur at the exact moment the property preferred. Winemaking in general has become ever more refined, Bordeaux has never made better wines than today and many of the best wines are those where a delicate touch has allowed the natural quality of the grapes to come though into the barrel. We have tasted some wines that are overworked and extracted, with high alcohols, but these are relatively few. On the Right Bank, Pomerol is at a high level across the board, helped by being relatively small in area. The larger St Emilion appellation has produced its best wines on its finest limestone terroirs, it appears to be a vintage where the best terroirs and the best winemakers have produced optimal results.
2019 is a vintage that should offer relatively instant gratification – at lower levels they will be opened and enjoyed upon delivery, whilst the grander wines will be approachable in 8-10 years. The very best will offer 20-40 years of evolution in the cellar.
Martin Tickle – Fine Wine Buyer
2019 Bordeaux En Primeur releases will be added daily. As always allocation is limited however if there is a particular release you are interested in and do not see it listed, please contact your Jeroboams account manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavor to source it for you.