A tasting of wines from 2019 put on by the UGCB last November reinforced my impression of the fine quality of this vintage. I majored on the left bank, having covered the right bank more comprehensively during primeurs tastings back in 2020. Looking over my notes, the wines have certainly retreated into their shells since bottling. Many were quite backward and reticent, especially in Pauillac and St Julien. During primeurs, I felt like 2019 was a mythical blend of 2010 and 2009. They had the intensity of the former with the fruit and texture of the latter, with overall finer tannin and less extraction than back then. Right now I’m wondering if 2019 isn’t closer to a modern 2005, that is to say pretty serious, structured and long-term but with sweeter tannin texture than ‘05. Still, this is a generalisation and that comparison is not true in all cases by any means. Not all Pauillacs and St Juliens were backward for example and there were some especially lush wines in Margaux and the Haut-Médoc for instance. So it’s a complex picture. If you’ve tucked into 2019 [like me] there is certainly nothing to worry about, except that you might have to wait a little longer for the wines to open up than we first imagined. I’ll obviously follow up with more detailed posts by appellation, but in the meantime what were the overall highlights?
Hopefully you weren’t holding your breath. The delay in getting Part 2 of my review of the Grands Crus Classés of St Emilion up and published was due to a combination of COVID over the winter break and then the volume of other work in January which blew me off track. Anyhow, finally here is my summary of the second tranche of twenty-one 2018s St Emilion classed growths tasted last September. Again, these are a generally rich and ripe set of wines, some quite precocious, and many already a joyful drink. Alongside these, properties also showed one other vintage. As in my earlier piece, the 2016s really impressed, but so too did many 2017s. So what are the picks?
Way back in early September the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion put on a tasting high up above London at Landing Forty Two in the remarkable Leadenhall Building. The views were impressive. So were many of the wines. Ostensibly it was an opportunity to taste the joyful 2018 vintage, but each producer also offered an additional, older vintage. This was fascinating. For me it also confirmed the superlative quality of the 2016 vintage in St Emilion, but also the quality of some of the rather unsung 2017s. In fact, there were quite a few properties to my mind that performed better in ’17 than they did in ’18 – and that was no mean feat given the challenges of the frost that so badly affected the former vintage. Given that some 45 different chateau were represented at the tasting, I’m dividing my report into two parts. This one contains notes and thoughts on some twenty-four properties [and forty-seven wines], starting with Château Barde-Haut and ending with Château Franc-Mayne [essentially half of them alphabetically].
I was fortunate enough to have bought a reasonable spread of Bordeaux en primeur in 2005. At the time of purchase in 2006 there was a lot of hype surrounding the vintage. At that stage it was being compared to legendary vintages, like 1961. In many ways, it had been the first vintage since 2000 to really shout about in Bordeaux. The 2003 had its admirers of course, Parker amongst them, and that heatwave year made some thrilling wines – but it was also very inconsistent. I didn’t get the chance to taste the 2005s during primeurs, but those that did told me that, whilst it was evidently very promising, it was also somewhat tricky to judge with all the fruit, tannin, oak and acidity. Over the intervening years, I wonder if the vintage has lost some of its lustre, certainly relative to 2009 & 2010? There is an interesting piece from Jancis Robinson here worth a read from a few years back. So now that the vintage is sweet sixteen, just how are some of the wines faring?