UNBELIEVEABLE! AFTER 2015, 2016 AND 2018, IT LOOKS LIKE 2019 IS SHAPING UP TO BE AN EXCEPTIONAL VINTAGE!
Perfect Cabernet Sauvignon! Domaine de Chevalier in October 2019. I did taste the grapes - yummy!
Let me say that and it's my honest opinion based on experiencing 20 harvests between 1985 and 2019 - 2019 vintage's looking no less than incredibly promising.
Despite somewhat rainy and cold spring resulting in occasionally spread-out of coulure and millerandage, there were no really violent outbursts from weather Gods through spring and summer. Flowering went more or less free of problems, only affected a little bit by continous rain in the end of it. Then followed a very dry summer and well-needed rain in the end of July, which started ripening process for real.
Rains in mid September came at perfect time and helped to separate seeds from pulp in already very concentrated grapes, diluted sugar content meaning less alcohol and tightened skins. Rains were especially advantageous for Cabernet Sauvignon. Leaf thinning was not really used that much because winemakers didn't want to risk getting grapes burnt. Neither green harvest was widespread in 2019. The amount of grapes brought in will be normal for Bordeaux in 2019.
It'll be a vintage of different styles and characters as winemakers have broken the rules of harvesting dates and harvested either early or late. The normal order for who did harvest first and who harvested late was not valid in 2019!
Some winemakers were afraid of getting too much alcohol in grapes, so they harvested early, some harvested late, to get right balance in the grapes. Also different soils reacted differently in 2019 and winemakers had to adjust themselves to that. Global warming guilty of that?
During my recent trip in Bordeaux between 7th and 12th October, I tasted a lot of fresh grape juice at different properties, mostly Merlot before and after alcoholic fermentation, and it promised a great deal. Lot of sugar and rich juice with fat and big tannin. Almost black colour after one day's maceration in vat! IPT= Index Polyphenol Totale in grapes was really high in 2019, 80 or more, meaning high quantities of tannin. I believe this combined with ripeness of the grapes, will make the vintage fascinating to watch and taste.
For the most part in Medoc harvest was over by mid October. On the Right Bank, majority of properties have grapes in the cellar. In Pessac-Leognan, most properties have finished harvest before mid October.
I have no doubt that 2019 will be an excellent vintage, possibly as equally stunning as 2010, 2016 and 2018, but of different character however. We have to wait until January 2020 when malolactic fermentation is over and quality of tannin to be discovered, before there is a clear view of 2019 in red.
White dry wines are rumoured to be of very fine quality with much better acidity than in 2018 and 2016, while harvest of grapes in Sauternes & Barsac is still going on (mid-October), but first reports say that 2019 will be similar in quality of 2017.
At the time of my visity, the harvest at Valandraud has just started.
I asked to taste 2017s but line-up didn't have many wines due to frost in the spring.
As every year, visit at Tertre Roteboeuf and talking to Francois Mitjavile was one of the highlights of my trip. This time our schedules allowed us to have plenty of time to talk and taste. I haave known this winemaker genius since 1988.
The incredible ting is is, that I discovered this time a few things more about how he makes his wine. I knew before, that he uses all grapes during vinification to obtain as many flavours as possible. The new info was that all vin de presse and vin de lie goes into Grand Vin and Francois Mitjavile says that this gives the flavour of roses to the wine. Nothing goes to waste at Tertre Roteboeuf!!
I kindly asked Francois to taste 2018, 2017 and 2016 of both Tertre Roteboeuf and Roc de Cambes. Tertre Roteboeuf 2018 and 2018 were two touch downs, wonderful wines with unique style. 2018 was stronger while 2016 was more noble. 99-100p respective 99p. 2017 was a bit scaled down, still refined and sophisticated. Bottled in mid September 2019. 96p. 2018 Roc de Cambes was strong and powerful. full of ripe cherries. 94p. 2016 Roc de Cambes was similar and will battle with 2018 to become the best RdC ever produced. 2017 Roc de Cambes was lighter and less intense. Still splendid wine. 92p.
There was also time to taste 2019 grape juice which was very aromatic, gentle, delicate and noble. Lot of promises.
L'Envers du Decor
I returned to Saint-Emilion for lunch and tried my luck at L'Envers du Decor. This restaurant was purchased in February 2017 by Perse family from Francois de Ligneris who owned Chateau Soutard until 2006. Perse family owns nearby Hostellerie de Plaisance (app. 50 meters from L'Envers du Decor). Normally it's fullly booked but I was lucky that particular day because it'd several tables vacant. I wasn't disappointed, Quick service, really tasty food (3 course menu for 32 Euros.) and a very attractive and tasty Lalande de Pomerol wine, 2009 Haut Goujon to accompany the food.
As last year in October, I found my way to this property again. I met Veronique Corporandy, the winemaker there and sister property Soutard at the other side of the road. Cabernet Franc (8th October) was being harvested and looked/tasted magnifique. She was very happy and optimistic that 2019 would be as exceptional as 2018. I tasted some vats with Merlot after alcoholic fermentation and they were very promising with high sugars and fat tannin.
Croix de Labrie
I arrived late afternoon amid workers celebrations of finished harvest, Gerbaude, and had a very quick tasting of 2017s, which were in bottle since June.
Quinault L'Enclos was strong, spicy, meaty, good complexity and balance, persistent finish. 90p. Petit Cheval (48% CF + 52% Merlot) also show some muscles with more complexity and stronger finish than Quinault. 92p. Cheval Blanc, which lost 1/3 of potential grapes due to frost in April 2017, resulting in yield per ha reaching 21 hl, showed more power, concentration and length, than in April 2018 from barrel. Impressive. 96p.
After tasting I tried to catch a taxi or Uber to come back to LIbourne, but with no luck. So I'd to walk and when I reached Petit Village, a car stopped close to me and somebody well-known to me offered a ride to Libourne. Who was she? - Mme Dominique Vayron from Bourgneuf! Pure telepatie.
I talked to him during the months of September and October and he was very exicited about the prospect of 2019. He's never before seen so high ITP in his wines. He brought grapes in at properties he owns and rents in favourable conditions, and he expects 2019 to be at least at same quality level as 2018 or maybe even better!
La Commanderie, Haut Chaigneau and La Sergue
While tasting many wines at Grand Cercle in April this year, I discovered La Commanderie in Pomerol, which impressed me a lot and was rewarded by rating 92-93p from me. Then I met the owners since 2013, Melody and Andrew Kuk, at Gala Dinner for Vinexpo hosted by Chateau Soutard in May 2019. They were very happy to hear about my rating of 2018 La Commanderie.
During my usual harvest trip to Bordeaux in October 2019 I wanted to visit this property and taste recent vintages. As Kuk couple, who nomally is present at La Commanderie during harvest, didn't want to travel from Hong Kong this year because of unstable political situation, I was contacted by Pascal Chatonnet, consulting oenologist here and many places abroad. He helped Kuk couple to buy La Commanderie and is consulting oenologist here.
You will find La Commanderie when you enter village of Catusseau and turn right after passing Nenin and before wine laboratory of Dany & Michel Roland. This property is really well-equipped with modern installations. Kuk couple has really invested a lot of money in La Commanderie.
This property is 5.80 ha, sandy clay with some gravel and crasse de fer (iron dirt) in the subsoil, vines are on average 46 years old, grapes are hand pickedand sorted manually, mechanically and optically, cold maceration for 5-7 days, malolactic fermentation in 100% new barrels and maturing in app. 70% new barrels for 13-16 months.
I tasted 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 vintages.
2015 - 72% Merlot + 28% Cabernet Franc.
2016 - 93% Merlot + 7% Cabernet Franc.
2017 - 90% Merlot + 10% Cabernet Franc.
2018 - 91% Merlot + 9% Cabernet Franc. Yield only 25hl/ha! I was impressed by this wine during Grand Cercle tasting in April 2019 and it showed even better in October 2019. 93p.
Quick vist and retasting 2018, which was as thrilling as in April 2019. 98p. Alexandre Thienpont expects 2019 to be an awesome vintage, maybe as exciting as 2018 and 2016. He told me that rains shortly after mid September really did bring balance in the grapes, diluted sugar/alcohol and made the phenolic ripeness finish its job perfectly!
After VCC I went to Le Pin and had meeting with Jacques Thienpont. Can't believe I met this guy by accident 34 years ago in 1985.
Arrived there in the morning and harvest of Cabernet sauvignon was still going on. We began at the upper floor of the cellar tasting some Merlot 2019 from different plots tgether with Geraldine Marquay Santier and Romain Ducolomb, Beychevelle's technical director since 2012. It was incredibly interesting and you could taste lot of promises.
Beychevelle has in all 80 different parcels (plots) of their grape varietes, so it's really a big work to find the right parcels and after right blend for Grand Vin when time comes.
Cabernet Sauvignon coming in at Beychevelle. Notice the big bunches of grapes.
Afterwards, it was time to taste 2017 and 2016 Beychevelle. 2017 was an elegant wine with finesse, splendid complexity and persitent finish., 50% Cabernet Sauvignon + 45% Merlot + 5% Petit Verdot + 1% Cabernet Franc. 13.4% alcohol. 2016 behaved like noble aristocrat with great complexity, silkiness and sophisticated touch. 47% CS + 47% M + 5% PV + 1% CF. Fabulous effort.
When we arrived, ther workers were cleaning of the equipment after harvest finished few days earlier. Seguin's cellarmaster, Xavier, let us taste some samples of 2019, which promised a lot by having lot of sugar and fat tannin. He told us, that he considered 2019 to be hotter year than 2018 and that Merlot was simply perfect in 2019 while Cabernet Sauvignon less so. After losing 100% potential grapes to frost in 2017, they're very happy at Seguin to have another excellent vintage following 2018, safe in the cellar.
Domaine de Chevalier
Les Carmes Haut Brion
We, my friend from Bordeaux Alex Rychlewski and myself, arrived at the property with great expectation concerning what Guillaume Pouthier would have to say about new vintage baby, 2019.
As the day was his birthday, I brought a box of Danish chocolate from Løgismose.
We started our visit with tasting of recently bottled 2017 Grand Vind. ¤0% whole bunches used during maceration, aged in 75% new barrels, 15% 2 years old foudres and 10% amphoras. Creamy, very aromatic, excellent grained tannin, fruity and with silky texture, elegance and fruity finish. Great, great quality and style.
Afterwards, we had a very interesting lecture as he spoke to us about what he seeks in the wine and what is important for him to have in the wine.
3. Typicity of the place (terroir)
4. Capacity of aging.
It was a very interesting lecture.
Then we were allowed to taste 3 different samples of 2019 from 2 weeks harvest.
1. Cp 7. 70% Merlot + 30% Cabernet Franc - very creamy and tasty.
2. Cp 3. 70% Cabernet Franc + 30% Merlot - coming from 90 years old vines - dense, creamy, very flavourful and concentrated.
3. Cp 5 . 30% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot - big freshness, Cabernet Sauvignon had slighty degradated flavours, thick and dense, big exquisite tannin.
2019 vintage will be really something spectacular, be sure of that!!
My Bordeaux friend, Alex Rychlewski, listening carefully to Guillaume Pouthier speech