A few words from Sara Lecompte Cuvelier, managing director of Château Léoville-Poyferré, on the 2019 vintage.
The 2019 growing season was incredibly dry and hot. How did you cope with the drought and heat spikes and other climatic pressures during the growing season?
We undertook early deleafing on both sides of the rows of vines, which helped reduce evapotranspiration. The vines were consequently less stressed and naturally coped with the dry weather conditions. Rainfall came at the right time, in particular, just before harvest. This allowed the Merlot to attain perfect maturity, having slowed down due to the hot and dry conditions of the vintage.
Based on the specific climatic conditions of 2019 did you have to modify any of the winemaking?
The rain just before harvest fattened the grapes a little making them slightly less concentrated than the 2018 vintage. As the bunches were picked in such good health, the pre-fermentation cold macerations lasted 6 days. The average vatting time was 30 days and the malolactic fermentations were carried out without any difficulty.
Tannins play such a vital and defining role in the quality of Bordeaux red wines. How did you manage tannin extraction in 2019?
The extraction potential for tannins in this particular vintage was naturally effortless. Our approach is firstly managed by in house lab testing to give us a guideline for the alcoholic fermentations. Pump overs are then meticulously monitored, per vat in plot selections. For this particular vintage, the pump overs were completely slowed down or stopped once the must had reached a density of 1030 to avoid extracting tannins from the pips.
Can you tell us about the specific blend you used for the 2019 vintage?
The blend is made up of 27% Merlot, 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Whilst the blend is a relatively classic one for Léoville Poyferré concerning the Merlot and Cabernet, we usually have around 5% of Petit Verdot. However, in 2019, one of the plots of Petit Verdot had a higher yield and the grapes did not attain the optimum quality level for the Grand Vin.
How did you work up to final blend?
Several blend tastings are held in February and March with the technical team and proprietors, as well as consultant Michel Rolland. Vinifications being carried out by plot selections, each one is in turn tasted before being blended.
Regardless of how we come to it, we are always seeking to express the intangible; the delicate balance that is offered by the terroir every vintage.
What do you feel has had the biggest effect on the final taste profile of the 2019 vintage?
2019 is a vintage that is defined by a thermal context that is warmer than average.
The temperatures and hours of sunshine from the end of June through to July allowed a good degradation of the vegetal aroma components in the grapes along with an important production of polyphenols. Similarly; 2018 & 2011.
The diurnal range of August and September encouraged the aromatic ripeness (retaining freshness) as well as the accumulation of anthocyanins in the grapes. Similarly; 2018, 2010 & 2009
Hydric stress, although only moderate but present throughout the cycle encouraged the ripeness of polyphenols and the concentration of sugars. Similarly; 2018, 2016 & 2010.
How does 2019 compare to other vintages?
The 2019 vintage combines power and freshness with a creamy unctuosity on the palate which makes it very easy to enjoy – even today! Tasting the wine at this stage reminds us of the 2009 vintage with its sunny characteristics but the drop in temperatures from the beginning of harvest time gives this vintage a freshness in the expression of these aromas.
For the second year running, the climate has offered us time, time to wait to harvest each plot at optimal ripeness. It was also one of the rare years that we were happy to see some rainfall just before harvest!
Read the full report: Bordeaux 2019 A Vintage Preview