2019 Bordeaux En Primeur - Week 2 Update

By Gavin Smith

Jun 4th, 2020

A huge week of releases from Bordeaux, so much so that the campaign is looking like its going to be a quick one - blink and you might miss it! With so many releases this week including some of the biggest names in any campaign - Chateau Palmer on Monday, Chateau Cos d’Estournel on Wednesday and Chateau Lafite on Friday - we thought a recap on what you might have missed would be necessary. We also provide an update on our recent week of tastings with the Chateaux including Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lynch Bages.

Huge release from one of the wines of the vintage from Chateau Lafite Rothschild

We have also now tasted well over one hundred of the top wines from the vintage, from both the Left Bank, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, including the First Growths of Margaux, Lafite and Mouton Rothschild which paints an extraordinary picture of the vintage. There are a plethora of fantastically detailed wines which carry both a density from their concentration of fruit, a finesse from the refined, resolved tannins and in the top examples a breathtaking freshness and energy too. The wines that manage to find the equilibrium between these elements in 2019 have made some incredible wines. These are wines that carry a level of power and finesse, you can only find in high quality Bordeaux in top vintages.

We have had the fortune of tasting many of the wines one-to-one with the winemakers through “virtual” online tastings, providing additional insights into their vintages and how the wines are progressing. With over one hundred of our own tasting notes now completed and shortly to be uploaded to our website we have a much clearer picture of the vintage.

Chateau Palmer, one of the first to release their 2019

The Left Bank

Quality wise there is a level of consistency across the board that is becoming more and more typical in Bordeaux. Top examples of more approachable, open-knit wines are less ambitious in their extraction, opting for balance and finesse and clarity of fruit over power, whilst retaining a sense of place. The more complex top Margaux retain a beautiful lifted florality, lovely fleshy fruit and silky, yet long, entrancing tannin chains that bring depth to the wines yet remain markedly supple.

All the wines on the Left Bank have been remarkably easy to taste and certainly a marking point for the vintage – tannins are fully resolved bringing a sense of finesse to the vintage. Being two months on, compared to the normal En Primeur tannins it was suggested to me by Jean-Charles Cazes (Chateau Lynch Bages) that the wines have already become more integrated to the oak and the wines are more open and easier to taste. He makes a valid point that two months at this stage relates to a third of the total time spent in barrel and therefore does make a noticeable difference. His concern is that people in recent years want to taste the vintage earlier and earlier, whereas the wine is easier and more accurately read with a bit more time. If this is the case, then the insights over the last few weeks have been even more insightful.

The consistency continues throughout the Left Bank and strong typicity of terroir shines through, another sign of quality to the vintage. The top Saint-Julien become slightly sturdier but the resolution of dense tannins remains a signature of the vintage. Top examples have a racy pulse on the palate and fan out on the finish ending with breathless energy.

Cabernet is king in Pauillac and it performs beautifully in 2019. The way Cabernet Sauvignon on Pauillac gravel has the ability to produce such mineral underpinning to the wines and freshness is something so unique and so special and ever more apparent in the 2019 vintage. They are powerful, yet mouthwatering, mineral wines, the top examples exuding a pulsing energy and whilst the tannins are firmer, retain wonderful resolution typical of the vintage. This suppleness is even more present in the wines from Saint-Estephe where tannins can end up too angular and drying. In 2019, the edges are filed down, producing long complex tannins chains and such depth and density on the palate, retaining the fleshy, juicy open knit fruit typical of the appellation in a top vintage. Fruit ripeness is not a concern for the vintage but retention of freshness is key. The wines that achieve that are spectacular.

Fantastic Chateau Bellefont-Belcier Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe in 2019

The Right Bank

Saint-Emilion continues to be the most inconsistent of the top appellations in Bordeaux but more in terms of style than quality. From the ethereal to the bombastic the appellation has the ability to produce wines across the spectrum and this is still very much the case in 2019. Whilst many people tend to prefer one side or the other in terms style, in 2019 the more bombastic wines that we've tasted seem to suffer less from over extraction than in the past warm vintages such as 2015 and how vignerons are now approaching merlot seems to be providing better balance. They are big wines, and alcohol is abundant here but even some of the most bombastic wines have fantastic detail, concentration and balance too. However, there are a few disappointments and identifying the style and body of each chateaux is worth noting prior to purchase. The ethereal wines of Saint-Emilion remain a minority and clearly the balance to achieve this is riskier than the more bombastic style, but those that manage it, make the most captivating wines anywhere in Bordeaux.

Pomerol wines are more consistent in quality and style compared with Saint-Emilion, which has been a running trend for some time. Rich, generous, powerful wines and even at the lower price points there are plenty of wines showing strong terroir typicity, rich in earthy, ferrous, savouriness and a dense compact energy at the centre of the wine. They are opulent, dense and the top examples retain poise and an energetic pulse. Pomerol is on a roll of fabulous vintages and this certainly continues in 2019. For an appellation that comes with a premium price tag, there does remain a few top value buys in the appellation that are exceptional in 2019.

Top 2019 from Chateau L'Evangile, Pomerol

Top Releases you may have missed this week

Click on each of the links below for full critic score reviews and availability:

Chateau Lafite, Pauillac

Carruades de Lafite, Pauillac

Chateau L’Evangile, Pomerol

Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Pessac Leognan

Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Pessac Leognan

Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, St Emilion Grand Cru

Chateau Belfont Belcier, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe

Chateau Palmer, Margaux

Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux

Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Saint Estephe

Chateau Laroque, St Emillion Grand Cru Classe

Chateau Croix de Labrie, Saint Emilion

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