Bordeaux 2019 En Primeur
"Two thousand and nineteen is a great vintage. I know. Boring. But my job is to tell it as it is, and that is what it is. It is an excellent vintage." Neal Martin, Vinous.com, Jun 2020
The background to Bordeaux 2019 En Primeur may have been highly unusual, but there is no doubt about the brilliant quality of the wines, nor about the extremely attractive release prices from many top châteaux. Even the most grudging critics of the en primeur system concede that in this year, Bordeaux "got it right".
We usually pride ourselves on taking a view early in the campaign, based on tasting hundreds of wines and speaking directly to winemakers and châteaux owners when we visit the region in April. For obvious reasons, our appreciation of the 2019s has been a movable feast, evolving as each new cask sample arrived at the office.
Our FULL & FINAL BORDEAUX 2019 EN PRIMEUR OFFER now includes all of those wines we particularly recommend; a little over eighty châteaux, including over forty crus classés (around two-thirds of the total) and a further forty cru bourgeois, right bank wines and deuxièmes vins. Hopefully, this puts the enthusiasm of our notes into context! These are in our opinion a selection of the very best wines, from an excellent vintage, from possibly the world's greatest wine region.
2019 harvest in full-swing at Pavie
Growing season & effect on the vintage
The question raised by so many wines we tasted was "how can such an elegant, balanced wine be made in such a warm year?". Early on in the process, we expected each sample to show aromas of prune or fig, or a kind of 'hot' character to the alcohol indicating lack of integration, but on the contrary, sample after sample proved to be fresh and aromatically complex with excellent acidity.
Gradually, with more and more tasting, we have gained a sense of how the weather shaped the vintage. Each year, with advancing technology, analysis of the growing season grows more complex. This year we have even begun to receive reports from a satellite telecommunications company who have branched out into analysis of classic wine regions. More detailed information is available than ever before, both to winemakers and to the trade, so we offer just a summary of the key points.
The early part of the growing season saw far fewer extreme weather events than 2018, with frost damage and mildew far less prevalent, resulting in a clean, healthy crop. This was not a heatwave year in the sense of 2003 (with sustained extreme temperatures without relief) but a year which saw some intense heat spikes, mitigated by a later start to ripening and some very useful rainfall at key times, namely in June, July and just before harvest time.
Record readings on the car dashboard thermometer from last summer may stick in the memory, but in the terms which matter to the vines (i.e. 'average heat accumulation days') 2019 scored lower than 2018. The first of those heat spikes was in June, before ripening had even begun. Add to this the healthiness of the crop and we have a year with wonderful ripeness levels and an aromatic complexity to the fruit which will probably prove to be the defining characteristic of the vintage.
Excellent vintages seem almost miraculously to come in pairs (1995/'96, '2005/'06, 09' &'10, '15/'16) and this is no coincidence. The reproductive cycle of the vine is spread over two years and in a good growing season, the vines will take the opportunity to produce embryonic buds both for the current year and for the next, so potential was already developing during the 2018 growing season.
In 2018, a hot summer was accompanied by low summer rainfall and a reduction in the harvest due to frost and mildew which concentrated the fruit at many properties. Described as a 'winemakers' vintage', the challenge was to handle the fruit to extracts its full (tremendous) potential.
Despite casual similarities with 2018 and although there was less overall rainfall, the conditions in 2019 were just enough rain (as in 2009, '10 and '16) falling at just the right time. Writing for Jancisrobinson.com, Gavin Quinney's prediction in November last year seems pretty spot-on to us:
"Stylistically, based on this, it would be no surprise if 2019 ended up as a mythical blend of 2012, 2014 and 2016, with a little 2015 thrown in. (By that I mean the charm and drinkability of the 2012s, the straightness and classicism of the 2014s, the freshness and fruity appeal of the 2016s, and the warmth of 2015.)"
Rather than the very interventionist approach needed to winemaking in 2018, this was a year in which winemakers needed to decide "when to act and when to do nothing" (Lisa Perotti-Brown MW, The Wine Advocate).
Crop 'sanitation'...not the most glamorous phrase, but an important factor in the fruit purity in the 2019s.
Vintage quality & comparisons
What is harder to say with certainty at this stage is where 2019 sits on the (very subjective and fluid) scale between 'excellent' and 'great'. This was an extraordinarily easy and pleasurable vintage to taste from barrel samples, in contrast to years like 2018 and 2010. For an elegant year, it has an easy charm quite unlike the 2016s at the same stage, but there is also a wonderful aromatic complexity, with fine acidity and tannic structure which points to excellent ageing potential. Jane Anson writes: "I am extremely confident that the best wines have decades ahead of them." - Decanter, June 2020.
Whilst we speculate as to how the wines will develop in bottle, there is, of course, another kind of speculation to factor in, namely price. Alfred Tesseron showed some real leadership when he released Pontet-Canet at 31% below the 2018 release price in late May. Many chateaux subsequently followed a pattern of releases with lower prices, but scores equal to or higher than the 2018s. Amidst uncertainty about exactly how great this vintage is, and about the wider economy, there is at least certainty that these are in many cases the best-priced examples of these wines on the fine wine market and we recommend adding them to your cellar.
Châteaux are listed by commune, with full release notes, tasting notes and scores on our 2019 En Primeur Offer pages. Our selection of Featured Wines highlights wines which we think offer particular value from this excellent vintage. You will also find them in list format, below.
All wines offered subject to availability, quantities in many cases extremely limited.
Prices are ex-VAT per case of 12 bottles, unless otherwise advised. DP = duty-paid ex-London. IB = under bond ex-London.
|Red||2019||Vieux Château Certan||75cl||£1,060 per case of 6||IB|
"A wonderful wine, great depth of black fruit but extremely balanced, lace and s... Read more
"A wonderful wine, great depth of black fruit but extremely balanced, lace and satin. The aromatics open up almost immediately to show raspberry and redcurrant fruits. It's extremely complete; but mainly it just makes you want to enjoy it - no aggression to these tannins. 66% new oak, all the estate's Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes are here (with the 2nd wine 100% Merlot), and it surely helps give this sapidity and flavoursome savoury character. 3.75pH. A yield of 42hl/ha, so a good quantity, around the same as in 2018. Drinking Window 2026 - 2042. 97 points" Jane Anson, Decanter Magazine "The 2019 Vieux Château Certan is deep in colour. It has a fabulous, very intense nose that explodes from the glass with billowing scents of black cherries, freshly shaved black truffles, raspberry and light rose petal aromas. The palate is so sensual and seductive on the entry, its creamy texture irresistible and completely disguising the structure underneath. Interestingly this VCC really comes into its own after 12-hours of opening, revealing more quintessential Pomerol characteristics and more grip on the finish. Alexandre and Guillaume Thienpont fashioned a brilliant follow-up to the glorious 2018. 96-98 points" Neal Martin, Vinous.com "The nose is so beautiful, offering dried flowers, white pepper and other spices. Yet,there’s also bright, blue fruit. Tar, too. Love the depth of fruit here. The wine flows across the palate with so well integrated tannins. You just want to drink it. Glorious. The cabernet in this makes it almost Medoc-like. A blend of 78% merlot, 15% cabernet franc and 7% cabernet sauvignon. 98-99 points" jamessuckling.com "Very deep purple-black in color, the 2019 Vieux Château Certan slowly opens out to reveal a heart-stopping perfume of red roses, kirsch, black raspberries, violets and star anise over a powerful core of plum preserves, blueberry pie and boysenberries plus hints of cardamom, sandalwood and Ceylon tea. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is achingly graceful, featuring tightly wound layers of crunchy blue and black fruits with tannins so ripe and finely grained, you really have to look for them. The acidity here is absolutely seamless, and the finish explodes into an array of mineral sparks. Be prepared to fall head over heals for this one. 97-100 points" Lisa Perotti-Brown, RobertParker.com Close