There was plenty of ripe fruit on display in the four bottles of St Estèphe shown by the UGCB last October. I was particularly impressed with Château Lafon Rochet [pictured], showing just how this estate is going from strength to strength. Still Cos Labory, Ormes de Pez and de Pez will offer much pleasure. If you wish to look at my original primeurs 2018 notes and detailed analysis of the wines of Cos d’Estournel click here and for Calon-Ségur click here. In the meantime, I hope to add further notes on additional properties from this appellation now that the wines are in bottle.
Alongside St Julien, Pauillac is one of the most consistent appellations in Bordeaux. On the basis of the eleven shown by the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux [UGCB] in October, 2018 is an exciting vintage for Pauillac. The fruit is sweet; the tannins ripe and super soft. Oodles of blackcurrant fruit and cassis gives the taster the classic stamp of the commune but also obviously of a super ripe year. In some ways these 2018s reminded me of the 2009s at a similar stage. Ultimately I think the Pauillac 2019s that follow will pip this vintage in terms of freshness and overall sophistication but, nevertheless, the 2018s are excellent. The vintage has produced enjoyable wines here that will provide pleasure early on yet importantly have the fruit to last. No surprises in the top wines. For me Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Lynch Bages lead the field, with Batailley up there too, continuing its excellent run of fine vintages in this past decade.
I’m very sorry to hear that Sue Glasgow has retired from the wine scene. Sue was synonymous for many in the UK wine trade with fine Bordeaux, doing public relations for the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux [UGCB] in particular and organising their tastings each year. Her swansong event, held in tightly managed, socially distanced conditions at Church House in Westminster last October was a superbly organised tasting. It worked like clockwork. Tasters occupied pretty much every corner of the entire building, each escorted to their individual tables, where waiters in masks and visors poured samples at arms-length. Usually these events are a bit more of a bun fight, but this year it all felt very refined if a little solemn. My only issue was a lack of time. During Primeurs 2018 I’d majored on right bank properties in St Emilion, Pomerol and the Bordeaux Côtes. I did dip in to see some of the stars of the left bank [notably Calon Ségur, Cos, Latour and Palmer] but I’d missed out on tasting St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe in detail. So, with only a few hours to taste at this year’s UGCB event this autumn, I decided to focus on these appellations. First up, St Julien.
This post is taken from tastings earlier in the year and compiles notes and scores on nearly thirty white wines from the 2019 Bordeaux vintage. There were considerable variations in styles, across a variety of terroirs. The hot and dry conditions were a challenge for some producers. Sometimes the structure and body that a warm vintage can bring is at the expense of aromatic complexity. Picking dates are also important. Harvest needs to be early enough to retain sufficient acidity and freshness. The danger of harvesting a little late is the wines can feel fat, low in acidity and lack focus. At the top level in 2019, I was especially impressed with Château Smith Haut Lafitte, which has produced another knockout white in Léognan. Château Pape Clément also impressed in Pessac. At the other end of the compass [geographically speaking] were impressive whites from Château Cos d’Estournel [Cos blanc and Pagodes de Cos], drawn from fruit adjacent to the Gironde in the Médoc. I also enjoyed Jean-Luc Thunevin’s rich Château Valandraud Blanc from vineyards in St Emilion. These were the absolute highlights of the whites I tasted.