A few words from Philippe Castéja, owner of Château Trott Vieille, 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 carried out some light work aerating the soils, which allows humidity and allows the vine to keep accessing freshness. In St Emilion, we are on a limestone plateau very closed from the roc. The roc generates humidity and allows the vine roots to keep accessing water. In the Medoc, there's also some clay stripes that helps the vines.
This is why it is important to work on the vines so their roots go deep enough.
Rainfall was quite localised during veraison in Bordeaux in 2019. Were there any specific climatic episodes that affected veraison?
Veraison happened between 8-9 August. We had some light rain in the next days, which brought some freshness. The terroir has reacted very well and we had a very homogeneous veraison.
How would you define the 2019 growing season in a few words?
Winter was dry and mild; spring was agitated with some rain episodes. Summer was hot and dry.
Were there any events this season that were of particular note?
While we were ahead of the season towards the end of March, flowering only started from mid April. Thanks to a fantastic summer, we had a great harvest. For the Merlot, we could choose the harvesting dates without any weather constraints, harvesting at the best time possible depending on the maturation of the grapes.
The rainy episode towards the end of September was very beneficial for the Cabernet helping them to fully complete their maturation.
Were there any notable weather events that affected the vines this year?
No; it's simply a fantastic millesime; it differs from the others as there was little rain during the vegetative cycle and also a very dry and hot summer.
Based on the specific climatic conditions of 2019 did you have to modify any of the winemaking?
Of course this impacted the vinification but since 2013, we have learnt how to make wine in very hot years. We undertake cool fermentations and limit pump overs
We kept temperatures between 23 and 26° C. We stirred up the lees very lightly so we kept a lot of aromas and fruit; the colour is naturally splendid. We were very careful during the fermentation so the wine would keep its freshness.
Tannins play such a vital and defining role in the quality of Bordeaux red wines. How did you manage tannin extraction in 2019?
Tannins are superb and very subtle. Our vinification is very gentle so the grapes keep their natural sugar richness even with low temperatures. We didn't want to do too much extractions otherwise this would give a dry note to the wine. When we have such beautiful wines, we need to let them express their richness. The structure is present but subtle.
Can you tell us about the specific blend you used for the 2019 vintage?
Merlot 53% / Cabernet Franc 45% / Cabernet Sauvignon 2%
Were there any vintage specific issues or characteristics that affected the blend? How did each of the varieties turn out in 2019?
The assemblage was very straight forward this year. Some vats had such an incredible quality that they had to be part of the blending. This year is very special because both Cabernet and Merlot were exceptional.
How did you work up to final blend?
The final blend is a process of teamwork between Thomas Duclos, Valérie Lavigne and Axel Marchal (consultant oenologists), Christophe Dussutour (technical director), Valerio Mortari (winemaker) and myself. We taste each lot separately and we all propose our blend. We taste several time before taking a decision on the final blend. It's always a very special time as it's the final touch on a new creation and the completion of a full year of work.
What has been the reaction so far to the final blend? And can you describe it for us?
Amazing pleasure of the arrival of a new child in a very difficult period. We were just a few days into confinement and tasting was not easy as we had to be very careful to respect all necessary barriers. And even more astonishing is rediscovering what we have done 6/7 weeks later it is like a miracle the same team met again to taste end of last week with such a true shared pleasure.
What do you feel has had the biggest effect on the final taste profile of the 2019 vintage?
2019 was not a very difficult blend to realise; we always try to respect what our terroir expresses in the style of the vintage. 2019 is a full round and rich year, our wines due to our technique during the vinification are also fresh and have a lot of ripe fruit in the aromas and the taste.
How did each grape variety respond to the climatic conditions of the vintage?
Merlot did very well all along the summer and the quality of the crop is there to prove it, it was more difficult to Cabernet during the summer they suffered more of the heat and berries were small, however the small rain of end September gave to the Cabernet the finishing power to make to be at the arrival of the race.
What is the most distinct element that makes the wines different to other neighbouring Châteaux?
In both our estates our way of cultivating, our follow up work plot by plot means that we bring very top grapes in our vat room. The very cool fermentation which is rather unique. We created this with Denis Dubourdieu at the start of this century and it proves to be the key to fresh drinkable wines of top quality.
How does 2019 compare to other vintages?
2019 recalls different millésimes: 2018, but also some similarities with 2010 and 2009. It has the same climate as 2003.
Read the full report: Bordeaux 2019 A Vintage Preview