This year one of the opportunities of having samples sent to you is the extra time you can spend tasting them. There are benefits. Rocking up to a château, tasting for fifteen minutes and speeding off to the next property can get a bit Formula One. The grower spends all year making their wine and you make notes in a few minutes with one eye on the clock to keep on track for the next appointment. In primeurs week what else can you do? You want to taste as much as you can but have a finite time to do it. This year samples have turned up at my front door steadily over a couple of months. Yes, it has taken me longer to work my way through the wines and come to an overview this way. There is also a risk that samples won’t be as impressive as when tasted in situ, and there is the chance of spoilage in transport. But being able to taste a wine over a two or three-hour period, I feel confident in the conclusions I am able to draw about the individual wines this year, despite not being able to travel to Bordeaux. Zoom and other video conferencing have allowed winemakers to fill in the gaps in a less hurried way, too.
I think this extra scrutiny is particularly true of my tasting of wines organised by the Grand Cercle, the organisation that represents many producers in the region. Usually I plough my way through over one-hundred plus wines from Grand Cercle members over the course of a weekend in late March or early April with other journalists. This also includes a few breaks during the day to drop in to St Emilion to taste wines with other growers directly. The Grand Cercle tastings, usually held in right bank properties [most recently at Château La Dauphine in Fronsac] are super well organised and you can taste a lot of wine quickly. The event they held in Bordeaux this year I couldn’t make [with travel to France only recently permitted from the UK]. Instead, the Grand Cercle sent many of the wines I usually taste to London and I’ve really benefitted from having more time to consider them during my tastings at home.
Adding these notes to others that I’ve done from properties on the right and left bank, I can now say that 2019 overall is a very good to excellent vintage for the reds. There are many outstanding wines and certain properties rival [some case even eclipse] wines made in 2016, 2015, 2010 and 2009. 2019 also emerges as a very different beast to 2018. The latter is a more exotic vintage but 2019 delivers much more classical wine, albeit with large volumes of fruit, ripe tannin and high alcohol. Price wise too, many properties have released at significant discounts to 2018, and the en primeur campaign has been seen as a success.
The vintage is not as homogenous overall as 2016, however. For me overall that vintage still retains the top spot for the wines of Bordeaux in the past decade. This is partly because the 2019 growing season was actually not that straightforward. While it was hot and sunny, it was exceptionally dry between 21st June and 21st September. The drought during the summer did cause some problems for a minority. Certain terroirs seemed to struggle. In some cases I sensed that grapes were harvested that were perhaps not quite phenolically ripe, owing to the lack of rain [which didn’t arrive significantly until late September]. The dry conditions had left tannins insufficiently developed, even if alcohol levels were at 14% degrees and above.
Still, for the majority 2019 is a wonderful vintage. Despite the drought, there were important [and essential] short periods of rain in July and August. These lent just enough moisture for many properties to ripen their crops successfully. The saving grace for many, in the end, was the late September rain, and grapes coming in after this period definitely benefitted from this moisture, which allowed the tannins to soften and supple up.
At the ‘generic’ Bordeaux Supérieux level I tasted many good wines. They display plenty of ripe and generous fruit. Amongst wines sent by Le Grand Cercle, Château Sainte Barbe stood out. It was a beauty. Reignac also showed well with lots of attractive fruit as did Château Fleur Haut Gaussens. Amongst the Côtes de Bordeaux especially there are some exciting wines. In Castillon, Château d’Aiguilhe, Château Ampélia and Clos Puy Arnaud look exceptional. In Blaye, Château Haut-Bertinerie impressed and Château Reynon in Cadillac looks good.
The following wines were air freighted to the UK by the Grand Cercle on behalf of their members with the Château d’Aiguilhe sample sent by Stephan von Neipperg. All the wines were tasted soon after arrival. I hope you find the notes useful. I’ll include notes on white wines made by some of these properties [there are quite a few] in a a later post which will cover Bordeaux white wine. Next up Fronsac in 2019.
Balthus, Bordeaux Supérieux, 2019
Mid depth; chocolate; little savoury edge to the aromatics and the palate; drier than some; herbs; olive; some menthol; dusty tannins and dry on the finish. Earthy and savoury style that feels a little pushed relative to the fruit. [100% Merlot]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2026. 84-85
Château Fleur Haut Gaussens, Bordeaux Supérieux, 2019
Mid depth; vibrant purple at edge; lifted red fruits and strawberry jam; pretty and quite jolly; lifted; tighter on the palate; quite sappy palate; gutsy; strawberry and chocolate on the finish. Nice extraction. Elegant label. [85% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2028. 85-87
Grand vin de Reignac, Bordeaux Supérieux, 2019
Deep and dark; earthy red at edge; soft red fruit aromas; full; some strawberry; later plums; nice positive impression on the palate; some life and zap; soft palate; full; easy and ready to drink. Quite complete; some chocolate on the finish. Good effort and good Bordeaux. [Blend Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2027 86-88+
Château Penin, Les Cailloux, Bordeaux Supérieux, 2019
Mid depth; deep at core; glossy in the glass; legs; prunes and stewed fruits; wet rock notes too; dark fruits and chocolate on the palate; lacks a little vigour; full enough and an enjoyable mouthful with some oak/barrel influence but lacks some zippy freshness. [100% Merlot]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2027. 85-86
Château Sainte Barbe, Bordeaux Supérieux, 2019
Mid depth; feels fresh aromatically; savoury edge; menthol and spice too; some blackcurrants; nice lift; some ink; attractive and savoury Bordeaux on the nose; some spice; nice entry on the palate; blackcurrants; wine gums; quite polished; very complete. Like this! Nice texture to the tannins and blackcurrant fruit on the finish. Very good effort! [Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2027. 88-90
Côtes de Bordeaux
Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux
Château Haut-Bertinerie, Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Deeply coloured; colour tight to edge; has gloss and life; legs; quite jammy blackcurrants and plums; verges towards the prunes; sweet ripe fruit and some mocha; some schist notes and inky menthol tones; very full; lots of ripe extract and matter; this is ambitious and full; lots here; plenty of inky fruit but the tannins are ripe and the palate works in a moderately extracted way; the extraction is actually held in check; mocha notes on the finish. Warm too. High pH low acid style. Works. [60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2023-2030. 88-90
Cadillac – Côtes de Bordeaux
Château Reynon, Cadillac – Côtes de Bordeaux , 2019
Deep at centre; red purple at edge; ripe Merlot and savoury tones; attractive and moreish; some satin quality; like this; has purity; fresh palate; quite gutsy; plenty of matter; some dry extract too; dry finish. Will fill out. [67.5% Merlot, 17.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2023-2027. 87-88+
Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux
Château d’Aiguilhe, Castillon, Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Mid depth but glossy looking in the glass; legs; mineral; sturdy; not giving anything away initially; cherry notes on further aeration; some eaux de vie and schist; opens up in the glass; more Morello cherry; freshness; stone fruits; still quite pent up at present; nice entry on the palate; still holding back a bit; palate a little closed but structure and extract present; freshness on the end and finishes well. An hour later this really opened up displaying ripe cherry and plum tones alongside some wild strawberries [great Bergman film]. Shows its usual delicacy and freshness with lots of perfumed fruit and a zappy finish. [88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 56 hl/ha, harvest 19 Sept – 5 Oct, 35 day cuvaison and 30% gets new oak]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2023-2040. 91-93
Château Ampélia, Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Glossy looking; deep at centre; purple red at edge; warm; lifted red fruits; some spice and schist; redcurrant; some wild strawberry; feels positive; some liquorice notes later; some plums and black fruits; good; full palate; plenty of texture and some freshness here; positive on the palate; nice fruit and tannins; some chocolate on the finish. Quite complete. Full of extract and flavour. Inky finish with wet rock and schist notes. Well done! [80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2023-2033. 90-91+
Château Côte Montpezat, Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Mid depth; deep at core; ripe and satin fruit; soft; ripe Merlot; stalky red fruits and some leafy tones; some schist; like the purity; wet rocks; spicy; schist wine; very mineral and limestone; has nice texture on the palate; not over extracted actually a lightness of touch; later a savoury edge; some olives; palate a little on the taut side; lacks a bit of phenolic ripeness possibly or texture to the tannins. Quite sappy finish. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2023-2030. 86-87
Château de Laussac, Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; light sweet satiny fruit on the nose; some red fruits; strawberry hints; some schist notes; certain elegance; soft initial entry; quite mineral palate; some spices; taut finish currently; mid weight; some spice; while not tannic or dry on the finish still a fraction hard. Should fill out. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2028. 86-87
Château de Laussac, Cuvee Sasha, Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; little more ripe plum fruit on the nose; still the schist notes and wet rock; little eau de vie; sweet fruit on the palate; some cherry; mid weight; some black fruits; tannins feel a little pinched again and a little dryness here; correct and good fruit in the middle but a little narrow on the finish. Hopefully will round out. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2022-2028. 86-88
Clos Puy Arnaud, Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Dark looking; opaque at centre; fully and very inky; black fruits; dark chocolate tones; mocha; some spice; density apparent; evidently serious effort; inky; sweet fruit; nice mouthful; lots of fruit here; more ripe plums, spices and dark chocolate; but the tannins are nicely handled and this is not at all dry; lacks a bit of variation on the palate perhaps but a boatload of fruit; inky; soft tannins on the finish. Very full of matter and extract; mouth-filling. Mocha notes on the finish. Very good though. [70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2024-2035. 91-92+
Tags: Balthus, Bdx19, Blaye, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2019, Bordeaux Supérieur, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cadillac, Castillon, Chateau Ampélia, Chateau Côte Montpezat, Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Chateau de Laussac, Château Fleur Haut Gaussens, Chateau Haut Bertinerie, Château Penin, Chateau Reynon, Château Sainte Barbe, Clos Puy Arnaud, Côtes de Bordeaux, Cuvee Sasha, Grand vin de Reignac, Merlot, vin, wine