A few words from the team at Château Pape Clément on the 2019 vintage.
How would you define the 2019 growing season in a few words?
Winter 2018-2019 saw a chilly January which gave way to a much warmer month of February, and some very high peak temperatures. Indeed, the warm weather continued well into March, warming the soil and causing the buds to break early. June the 21st saw a turning point, with the summer heat finally setting in and allowing growth to get up to speed.
The warm weather in the early phases of grape development means the plant can start to synthesise its crucial polyphenols early. The heat lasted until a period of showers on the 26 and 27 July, which gave a much-needed boost to the ripening cycle and evened out development across the different plots. Thanks to this sustained heat, our white grapes began their aromatic development earlier than usual, and the red grapes built up high levels of anthocyanins. This was complemented by regular rainfall from mid-September onwards, which weakened the skins and took the sugar content in the grapes down a little.
Can you tell us about the harvesting conditions this year?
Both white and red grapes were harvested under perfect conditions, paving the way for an historic vintage. The grapes soaked up the sun all summer long, keeping them in flawless health.
The whites were picked from the 30th of August to the 13th of September. The hot, sunny summer quickly ramped up the grapes’ sugar content, while a welcome dose of acidity brought a remarkable sense of balance. Harvest times were carefully adjusted to get the very best of the fruit and maintain a level of freshness, despite the early autumn heat.
The reds were harvested from the 18th of September to the 11th of October. Ripening was aided by showers at the end of August, allowing the sugar levels to rise gradually, the skins to soften and fruit-forward aromas to appear right from the earliest ripeness tests. The clement weather held throughout the harvest, allowing each plot to reach its full potential. Indeed, there can be no doubt that 2019 will be one of this young century’s greatest vintages.
Based on the specific climatic conditions of 2019 did you have to modify any of the winemaking?
With the whites, the challenge for this promising vintage was to preserve the fresh fruit aromas while adding a level of tension to the rich body. Our main focus here was to maintain the balance of sugar and acidity, so we scrupulously tracked the pressing cycles. By leaving behind the last of the juice (too high in polyphenols), we were able to respect the fruit and reveal a delicate stratum of wood.In red, the beautifully ripe skins demanded care and attention during the extraction process, to ensure we did not lose the fine tannins of the vintage. The rich fruit character of these wines reflects the excellent ripening conditions, with dominant notes of forest fruits and violet flowers. Thanks to the baritone tannins and the depth and elegance of the vintage, these will be wines worth ageing.
Can you tell us about the specific blend you used for the 2019 vintage?
At Château Pape Clément, blending is both a tradition and an art. This is a crucial time for the creation of a historic vintage, and when done well allows the inherent qualities of each grape and each vineyard to shine through. This year, like many before it, this delicate task was entrusted to the steady hands of master oenologist Michel Rolland.
Château Pape Clément red has expressive aromas of forest fruits, dominated by blackberry and blackcurrant. With a little air, the full complexity of the aromas bursts forth with notes of toasted spices, violet and iris. The wine is smooth and velvety on the palate, and the finish is long with a good freshness, bringing a remarkable finesse to the blend.
The white opens with complex grapefruit and lemon zest aromas. Once allowed to breathe, however, exotic notes of passion fruit and lychee come to the fore. The rich, elegant opulence on the palate is supported by exceptional freshness, bringing deep mineral and saline notes to the blend.
Read the full report: Bordeaux 2019 A Vintage Preview