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.
Frédéric Faye thinks he has made the best Château Figeac yet in 2019. This is partly because a significant parcel of newly replanted vineyards have just come on stream, now making it into the blend, wine from a plot on enviable terroir that borders neighbour Cheval Blanc. Together with other developments in the vineyard, and also in the cellar, for example increasingly plot by plot vinifications [even intra plot ferments], these collectively have added even greater precision to the wine. This, allied to the 2019 growing season – very dry and sunny but with just the right amount of moisture at the right time – had led to what Faye describes as “200% Figeac.” It is certainly a super impressive 2019. It is polished and pure with super precision, fine extract and the most Rolls-Royce of tannins.
2019 looks like a strong vintage for the properties of Stephan von Neipperg. His right bank estates, headed by La Mondotte and Château Canon-la-Gaffelière have succeeded well. The vintage here reminds me of the freshness and balance of the wines in 2016. La Mondotte has all its usual plush beauty, but there is great depth to this wine. For me it is up there with the very best St Emilion in 2019. Clos de l’Oratoire has produced another excellent wine. It is laden with sumptuous black fruits but also has joy and life. In fact, all these 2019s show freshness across the board. At the trail-blazing Castillon property, Château d’Aiguilhe, another fine red has been produced. It has excellent depth and minerality, alongside a racy Sauvignon Blanc. Over in Pessac-Léognan, Clos Marsalette has deep, earthy blackcurrant tones and produced a full-bodied, candy and pear drop scented white.