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.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Valandraud’
For a full analysis of the growing season and my first thoughts on 2017 St Emilion during primeurs week in April 2018 you can click through to the full report here. As is well known, the devastating frosts of April 2017 sealed the fate of some producers in St Emilion entirely. They were a few unable to make wine at all. For others it substantially reduced yields and affected their blends. Some were left unscathed. Nature can be cruel and unfair, though not obviously in an intentional way [just leave that to us!]. Given this, you’d expect there to be considerable variation in quality in St Emilion. Ironically, judging from the wines lined up by the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux last October, the appellation has produced some of the most appealing Bordeaux in the region with a reasonable degree of consistency. The notes below are limited to those who are members of the UGCB so this is a comparatively small snapshot clearly. In this case, a dozen wines. The stand outs for me were Clos Fourtet, Château Figeac, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Valandraud which have all produced superlative St Emilion. Just a notch below these are Château La Gaffelière, Château Troplong Mondot and Château Trotte Vieille who also impressed with complex and satisfying wine.
2017’s a funny old vintage in Bordeaux. It feels to me like this year is the least successful of the past decade, assuming we forget about the washout 2013 vintage. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number wines that are really impressive now that the 2017s are in bottle. Last October’s annual Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in London showed some excellent wines in Pomerol and St Emilion, perhaps more so than in the other communes, but there were fine wines to be found in all the appellations. That said many lacked a bit of charm, seemed somewhat austere and lacked mid-palate concentration. Yes, they are fresh. Yes, the acidity is bright and some have a decent zap about them, but, overall, it’s hardly a vintage that sets the pulse racing. The same couldn’t be said for the experience that the vignerons themselves faced in the early part of the growing season in 2017 when devastating frosts wiped out entire crops in St Emilion and Pomerol and did much damage elsewhere, notably in parts of Pessac-Léognan and the Haut-Médoc. Some properties didn’t make any wine at all. It was certainly a nerve-jangling time for growers. Looked in that light, perhaps we must actually see 2017 as something of a success.
Many delicious wines have been made in St Emilion in 2018. This is a vintage with the most sumptuous, sublime fruit. While the wines do not have the magical balance of 2016 or 2015, with their fresher acidities, on the best terroirs there are a range of wines here that rival 2009 in character for sheer exotic ripeness and joy, but without the evident over-extraction that characterised the appellation a decade ago. Yes, these are wines with plenty of tannin, enviably ripe tannin, and in all but a few cases I would confidently expect the wines to settle by bottling. As in 2009 this will be a vintage that will drink well from the very beginning, but that has the evident structure to last.