Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Revisited

France, Bordeaux

Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Revisited

Energy is the perfect word to describe the style of Bordeaux’s 2019 vintage. Compared to 2018, the flavors are remarkably bright and refreshing—like crunching into ripe but not overripe fruit. And yet, these are also wines with gravitas, weight, and jaw-dropping intensity.

Energy

My first taste of the Bordeaux 2019 vintage was from my cellar office in Napa. It was spring 2020, and we were nearly three months into the pandemic lockdown. Fed-ex, DHL, and UPS trucks arrived daily, delivering a seemingly endless stream of samples boxes from Bordeaux. I was opening and tasting at a furious speed, anxious to capture the potentially fragile barrel samples at their best. But I knew this vintage was exceptional from the moment I started tasting. The intense and expressive wines revealed opulent fruit from the get-go, much like the 2009s. Yet they were also surprisingly stable. Very few samples were oxidized or volatile, and many remained fresh for days. (By comparison, I could not say the same of the 2020s, which were also first tasted from my cellar office.) 

Yes, I already produced a 2019 Bordeaux in-bottle report one year ago. This is a critical fresh look at the wines one year on. Why? It helps to better gauge how the wines are aging and to consider the consistency of the vintage, especially in the context of the years that followed. 

Most of the reviews in this report are based on a tasting performed in January this year with the Southwold group. What makes the annual Southwold tasting special is that the wines are served blind. The group includes a representative from just about every major fine wine merchant in London and two other well-respected wine critics. The cost of shipping the samples from Bordeaux is split among the group members, and the tasting is hosted at the offices of Farr Vintners in London. Tasting blind this way is an eye-opening endeavor, highlighting some great wines that may have previously been missed and others that couldn’t keep their promises. This said, we taste fast at Southwold, and sometimes bottles just don’t show their best. Therefore, if I taste a wine at Southwold that is far off my previous impressions, I look to taste it again before publishing the report. That’s why I’m a bit slower than others to publish my Southwold notes, but I think it is only fair to the wine. Thus, this report is not based entirely on my impressions from Southwold.

An in-depth overview of the 2019 vintage can be read here.

Energy is the perfect word to describe the style of the 2019 vintage. Compared to 2018, the flavors are remarkably bright and refreshing—like crunching into ripe but not overripe fruit. And yet, these are also wines with gravitas, weight, and jaw-dropping intensity. The juxtaposition between alcohols (on the high side), vibrant fruit profiles, higher acids, and lower pHs (for the most part) gives the best 2019s this real sense of energy in the mouth. Its style is like a vortex of contrasts, creating a fantastic sense of harmony on the palate. 2019 delivers fresh black, blue, and red fruits with floral accents and minerality galore. The red wines of the Right Bank and Pessac-Léognan are more varied in styles than those of the Médoc. There are a few more opulent, spice-bomb 2018 styles among the 2019 Merlot-based wines. Still, you can also find Right Bank wines of incredible freshness, elegance, and finesse, particularly those from vineyards situated on limestone and clay.

The big takeaways from this tasting are:

 

1) 2019 is one of the most consistent vintages in Bordeaux in the 21st Century. The quality is incredibly reliable from top to bottom, in the same vein as 2016 and 2009.

 

2) The wines are aging slower than other recent great vintages. The 2019 fruit profiles had barely budged from where they were when I tasted the newly bottled wines a year previous. That is not to say they are not delicious in youth. The tannins are generally plush, there is plenty of balancing acidity, and the fruit is generous. However, many of the 2019s are starting to shut down aromatically, which can rob you of that next-level experience if you broach the wine too soon. I adjusted the anticipated drinking windows of all the wines I tasted.

 

3) Of the recent magic trio of Bordeaux vintages – 2018, 2019, and 2020 – 2019 provides more hits at the uppermost pinnacles of greatness. The more I taste this vintage, the more wines I find that knocked it out of the park.

 

That is not to say every 2019 wine I tasted performed the same or better than my last largescale tastings. On the contrary, there were many wines I had to take down a peg or two (or more). As always, this was not without careful consideration. In most cases, the downgraded wines weren’t showing the layers or stamina they had promised in their first flushes of youth.

 

Focusing on the positives, the following wines showed particularly well and moved up a notch or two (or more). The eagle-eyed will quickly spot a new 100-pointer: Château Canon. When I tasted it blind at Southwold, I gave it a 20/20. I recently tasted it at the Château, and my note was the same. For interest’s sake, this renders the 2019 vintage with more 100-pointers than 2018 or 2020 but less than 2016.

A Selection of My Favorite Up Graded 2019s (in no particular order):

 

Canon

Gracia

Dauzac

Pichon-Baron

Angludet

Capbern

La Fleur de Gay

Malartic-Lagraviere

Cantemerle

Chasse-Spleen

Paveil de Luxe

Kirwan

Pavillon Rouge

Segla

Marquis de Calon

Calon Segur

Phelan Segur

Lafon Rochet

Leoville Barton

Lagrange

Grand-Puy-Lacoste

–
Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photography by Johan Berglund

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