It’s always difficult to generalise about the wines in St Emilion, such are the complexities of terroir and the variations of winemaking and viticultural approaches. Still, I think it’s pretty safe to say that 2020 is another exciting vintage here in the heart of the right bank. In terms of the broader overview, alcohols are down slightly on the heady numbers in 2019, and it feels as if there is greater freshness in the 2020s than in the last couple of years. These wines feel well balanced and delicious in this vintage, with attractive textures and supple creamy tannins. On the best limestone and clay-limestone terroirs the wines are fabulous. The summer was dry, and conditions were even drier here than on the left bank. Some properties on sandier soils may have run into trouble with vine stress but generally I was very impressed by the wines here at this early stage. The following post contains notes on forty châteaux. It’s slightly less comprehensive than usual and I hope to fill in some of the gaps with further tastings over the coming months.
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé’
The Nicolas Thienpont range looks excellent in 2020. The jewels in the line up here are Château Pavie Macquin and Château Larcis Ducasse, two super impressive St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé. Stylistically these are always chalk and cheese. The former is usually super powerful and bold, the latter is as pure and beautiful as St Emilion gets. The emphasis of Nicolas Thienpont and his son Cyrille, along with winemaking colleague David Suire, is always on the purity of expression of the terroir and not on turbocharged hijinks in the cellar. It is a shame that this team are no longer involved with making Château Beauséjour [HDL], but that’s another story. In the Côtes de Francs, the well-known Château Puygueraud looks very good and their Castillon, Château Alcée, is knockout [as are a number of wines in this appellation in 2020].
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.
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.