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?
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Cantemerle’
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?
It is a tribute to the dedication of the top estates in the Haut-Médoc that so many respectable wines have been made in 2017. In some cases that might also be a little of the luck of the draw. Some properties will have been less frost-affected than others because the best sites are often those that also offer some degree of frost protection by virtue of geography or aspect. Others will have made wine by sheer force of effort and wherewithal. Château La Tour Carnet, for example, lost well over 70% of their crop due to frosts. The very respectable red they have ended up producing has also been underwritten by the resources of owner Bernard Magrez. Smaller, less well financed properties, would have probably faired less successfully in the circumstances. Of the eight wines shown last autumn by the UGCB, Château Belgrave and Château Cantemerle led the pack. These are really stylish and complete wines which show a lot of flair. For the moment Château La Lagune shows less well. Though it has considerable purity, it felt a little sulky, but I would expect this wine to eventually find its stride. Excellent wines have been produced by Château Beaumont and Château Citran and both will offer good value. Château La Tour Carnet and Château Coufran are also good.
Last year 2015 was wildly heralded. The wines had beauty. The year produced wonderful wine on the right bank, but the picture was a little muddier on the left. Bordeaux 2016 brings greater homogeneity. Excellence is achieved at all levels and in all appellations for the reds. In the Médoc and the Haut-Médoc, the qualitative heights to which the wines soar are remarkable. In that sense it is undoubtedly a great Cabernet year. With the possible exception of 2014 in St Estèphe and 2015 in Margaux, 2016 should probably be seen as the best vintage on the left bank since 2010. But what is particularly exciting about 2016 is that in a great many cases it is a far easier vintage to understand than 2010 at this young stage. The alcohols are significantly lower and the tannins, which are up there with 2010 [and in a few cases even more considerable], seem much more succulent and textured. There is freshness too – and the aromatics are beautiful. The vintage also excels in St Emilion, Pomerol and in Pessac-Léognan. Cabernet Franc has done extremely well, but so too has Merlot. There are exceptions. Firstly the vines struggled with the drought on the lighter soils and in younger plots. Secondly, the hot and dry conditions were not always favourable to some of Bordeaux’s dry whites, the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc in particular. Yet for the reds I came away from many of the tastings during primeurs with the same excitement as I had back in 2009 and 2010. 2016 is potentially great and concludes a trilogy of fascinating vintages for the region.