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Bordeaux 2019: Château Laroque

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Château Laroque has produced another sophisticated wine in 2019. It is less coquettish than the 2018 here, but it is super refined with greater classicism and definition. There are layers of ripe fruit on the palate which has a savoury twist. It is quietly terrific. It marks the fifth vintage for director David Suire, who is taking this well-positioned historic property from strength to strength. I’m not quite sure how he manages it. He also has a hand-in Château Beauséjour and Château Larcis Ducasse with Nicolas Thienpont. A busy man clearly. His dedication at Laroque is certainly paying off. This 2019 is another great buy for the savvy consumer of Bordeaux.

The position of the vineyards at Laroque, at some of the highest elevations in the St Emilion appellation, give the property a cooler aspect. This makes the site particularly suited to Merlot, although there are small plantings of Cabernet Franc on the terraces with a more southerly exposure. The large size of the property, with 61 hectares under vine, gives a multitude of aspects and soil types. The 2019 growing season was quite precocious after a warm winter and bud break was 10 days earlier than usual. Later spring, fresh weather returned, such that flowering was only 5-6 days early when it arrived. It took place in conditions that were a little wet, which caused Suire some anxiety. Their parcels of Merlot that flowered later, lost up to 30% of their crop and overall this led to a 15% smaller harvest across the estate.

Between the start of summer and the start of autumn conditions were dry and sunny, occasionally very hot in late June and late July, but otherwise not too hot. This goes someway to understanding how the wines have retained freshness. “There was almost no rainfall between mid-July and mid-September,” David Suire explained over Zoom. “We were hoping for rain before picking, otherwise this drought could have been a big problem for us. It was the first time in twenty years I was happy to see rain before the harvest!” This allowed potential alcohols to come down from 15.5% to 14.5%. Cool nights helped retain acidity and pH was also good. The pH was lower than 2018 and 2017, more in line with 2016. The tannins on the clay and limestone soils were very fine and fully mature.

Suire is also happy, in some senses, that the cancellation of primeurs has led to the 2019s being tasted by the press and trade two months later than usual. “2019 is a vintage that has shown a slow ageing process this year, probably because of its balance and acidity. Back in March there was almost an austerity to the wines. Clearly it is a vintage that can be compared to 2016. The soil speaks a lot in the wine. We have more raciness.” It was certainly very convincing for me and it will be interesting to see this 2019 set against the 2018 over time.

The follow notes were taken in June from a sample sent by Château Laroque. As ever the notes are more important than the numbers. Interestingly the wine was released at a very reasonable price for the quality.

Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2019

Deep and saturated look; beautiful fruit on the nose; super refined; lovely plummy Merlot tones; nicely ripe but not at all overripe; another beauty here to rival the coquettish 2018; this is layered and lovely stuff; savoury tones on the palate; mid weight and more; simply wonderful balance and purity; top stuff again here from David Suire at the helm since the 2015 vintage. This ’19 is in a great double act with the ’18. This is a quietly terrific 2019. [61ha, 97% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 43hl/ha, 44% selected for grand vin, 14.5% alc, pH 3.44]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2025-2040. 94-95+

Map of Laroque showing the different vineyard parcels & aspects

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