There is no doubt that 2019 is an excellent vintage in St Emilion. There are many fabulous wines displaying beautiful fruit, concentration and supple tannins. Alcohols are high – fifteen degrees is not uncommon – but many wines still retain surprising freshness. With potentially high tannin levels, the foot has been held off the gas in the cellar by many properties, showing a more nuanced approach to winemaking here than perhaps a decade ago. It shows how the heady days of over-extraction appear to be behind us in the appellation. If 2019 doesn’t quite have the exuberance of 2018, or the heavenly balance of 2016, it could be seen as a hypothetical blend of the two, or a combination of 2009 and 2010, but without the late picking and extractive practices that characterized that period.
Fronsac has made stylish, powerful Bordeaux in 2019. The quality of this appellation is always high and the top properties here have made a thrilling set of wines. Château Dalem is super serious. It is full of plum and blackcurrant fruit and is inky and substantial. Château de la Dauphine is more obviously lush and glossy. The fruit tones are beautiful and the tannins silky. Château La Vieille Cure is really impressive as usual. With its characteristic spicy Cabernet influenced aromatics, it displays great purity and freshness, but also concentration and intensity. Behind these qualitatively, but still providing much joy, are Château de la Rivière and Château Villars. Both are pretty bold, jam-packed with fruit and extract, and have evidently succeeded in the vintage.
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.
Château La Conseillante has made a beautiful wine in 2019. It goes to emphasize just how wonderful this vintage is on the great terroirs of the right bank. It has a boatload of juicy fruit, depth but also remarkable freshness. It is fleshy with a positive finish and the most seductive, sweet tannins. It is a wonderful combination. Although I still have yet to taste many wines from Pomerol in this vintage, La Conseillante looks to be in great shape. Bravo to the Nicolas family and their winemaker Marielle Cazaux. This is finely judged winemaking expressing wonderful terroir.