Bordeaux 2019

Bordeaux 2019
What a difference a month makes! At this time in May it was very uncertain that there was even going to be a 2019 En Primeur campaign this year. The ravages and fears of Covid 19, the lock down situation in most of the world, the uncertainties of Hong Kong Democracy, Trump’s America and the UK.’s Brexit and looming economic downturn led many people to question whether this was really the best time to launch another Bordeaux vintage.

And then… Château Lafite Rothschild announced that it was going to release soon at a considerably reduced price (just over 15%), Neal Martin, one of the world’s top Bordeaux wine critics launched a call for samples, word was out that the 2019 was a fabulous vintage, and the game was on. After weeks of dire warnings, the alacrity with which the 2019 En Primeur has taken off is amazing, if not to say marginally chaotic as us wine merchants struggle to keep up with each day’s releases. The success of the 2019 campaign has taken us all a little by surprise.

Yes, those of us who produce wine in Bordeaux knew from the start that we had another great vintage on hand. In some regions such as the northern Médoc or the plateau of Pomerol, word was out during the harvest. The colours were deep violet or crimson; the aromas were heady, perfumed, floral and expressive; the alcohol levels were high but so also was the acidity. The wines’ impressive classic tannin structure was tempered by both these two factors.

The growing season had thrown quite a lot in our way: a mild, dry winter was followed by a cold and rainy Spring, with late frost menacing the vineyards on at least two occasions. When the Summer arrived, the weather became hot and dry, sometimes to the extreme. Just when we began to worry about drought, cool nights arrived and intermittent rain which were perfect for grape ripening and for preserving the freshness in the grapes. The rain saved us several times during the Summer and during the harvest this year: the grapes with their small, tight berries began to swell; their skins became polished and refined. As harvest began, Autumn arrived with rolling fogs that cleared to reveal Indian summer days. The harvest was drawn out as never before; the grapes’ perfect health and the oceanic mists kept everything in check so parcel, by parcel, with no stress, the vines could be picked.

And what about the wines? Dark colours; small berries; lovely concentration of polyphenols (deep colours and silky tannins); no herbaceous aromas because the hot summer led to the drop in pyrazine; an abiding freshness; healthy grapes and above all a wonderful ripe richness. There are variations of course: the great terroirs made great wines. The lesser terroirs made attractive, forward, simple, juicy wines. Time and again when Alexander and I tasted the wines during the second week of June, producers used the words “Power and Finesse”, “Elegance and Ripeness”, “Energetic Vibrance”, “Blue Velvet”, “Charming Generosity” “Classic Modernity”. Highly emotive and descriptive words which conjure up the happiness that this vintage has given to the Bordeaux producers and will give to wine lovers for decades to come. As comparisons are being made with 2010, 2016 and 2018, this vintage’s freshness in spite of its high alcohol will be the key to the 2019 vintage.

Finally, before we leave you to read our tasting notes* for the 90 or more wines that we offer En Primeur, we should talk about prices. Thankfully, the Bordeaux growers have listened to the markets and taken stock of the global situation caused by Covid 19. Prices are in general down by 15% to 30% on last year and are now at a level where the wine trade and wine consumers can find much to enjoy in this rather eccentric vintage which is being released during extraordinary times.

As always, Jacques, Alexander and myself are here to give you advice and share our experiences of making and tasting the 2019s with you. Enjoy the wines, have fun making your choices and above all take good care this summer as we begin to enjoy more liberty and sunshine.


Fiona Morrison M.W.
June 2020

*Just to clarify this year’s tasting notes, we have added the initials at the end of every note so that you know by whom they have been written. FM stands for Fiona Morrison and ADR refers to Alexander De Raeymaeker.
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