The hallmarks of the 2019 vintage are harmony, balance and freshness, and it take its place alongside 2018 and 2020 in a trilogy of greatness. But it’s also part of a string of high-quality years – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 – that’s never been seen in the region’s history till now. It was, writes James Suckling, an awesome decade.
Wine producers in Bordeaux are saying that the 2019 is always great: great from the barrel, great from the bottle and great from the cellar. Whether it turns out to be as exceptional in quality as other years that made open and beautiful wines after bottling, such as 1982, 1990, 2009, and 2015, remains to be seen, but the 2019 delivers some fantastic wines, both white and red.
“I love the vintage because it was always, always delicious,” Eric Kohler, the technical director of Château Lafite-Rothschild and Duhart Milon, said during a Zoom-interview tasting his 2019 wines. The Lafite 2019 is one of the wines of the vintage. “The fruit was delicious before the harvest. The juice was delicious before the vinification, during the vinification, after malolactic and at the beginning of ageing. This vintage always had a great harmony, a perfect balance and freshness. It has an incredible concentration but no aggressivity at all.”
Harmony, balance and freshness are definitely the hallmarks of the 2019 after tasting and rating almost 1,500 Bordeaux from the vintage. The reds in general have a cool fruit character, despite the hot grape-growing season, and they also show fine, integrated tannins and bright finishes. They were extremely aromatic and perfumed from the outset, with complexity in fruit and soil-derived nuances such as flowers, wet earth, mushrooms and bark.
The top dry whites are surprisingly reserved and creamy in texture, with attractive ripe fruit character and tensioned acidity. The HautBrion white, for example, is an incredible wine with superb structure and depth. Sweet wines were less successful, due to a limited amount of botrytis development in the vineyards, but Sauternes and Barsac made some attractive wines for early drinking.
“With the 2019 we’ve managed overall to have reds with beautiful maturity yet with a certain freshness,” said Edouard Moueix, who made terrific wines at Belair-Monange, La Fleur Pétrus and Trotanoy. “That’s the great element of 2019.”
Moueix prefers the 2019 to the 2018, because the wines have a more subtle character and are “less violent” in nature. I agree, though the 2018s are also very impressive because of their warmer, more flamboyant and powerful style. But it’s the 2019 that I prefer. When I taste the 2019s, I had some o the same feelings of tasting the 2015s and 2009s from barrel and bottle. I remember the 1990s and 1982s in the same light. They all gave wonderful pleasure in their youth and aged incredibly well.Philippe Bascaules, the managing director of Château Margaux, another reference red for 2019, said he remembers “the charm of the 1990, the 1996” when he drinks the 2019s. “But it’s not the same wine. We can’t compare it, really,” he said. “I wasn’t there, but I heard that some people had the same feeling [with the 2019] as the 1982.”
It’s impressive to think that 2019 is part of a trilogy of top vintages – 2018, 2019 and 2020. But it’s also part of a string of high-quality years that’s never been seen in the history of the region: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (some major frost but many excellent wines made), 2018, 2019 and 2020. It was a great decade.
I haven’t deeply analysed our wine ratings, but I have a slight preference for the Right Bank, particularly Pomerol, in 2019. The wines have the opulence of the 2015s, but the freshness and tension of 2016. My tasting team and I loved so many wines from the district – from lesser-known estates on sandy soils to the great names on the clay knoll such as Lafleur, La Conseillante and Vieux Château Certan.
L’Église Clinet was also fantastic. St Émilion was almost as exciting. And it seems as if you can buy across the board in the district. The two stars were the great estates of the area: Ausone and Cheval Blanc. Both received perfect scores. In fact, I’ve never tasted a young Cheval Blanc like the 2019. Its depth and structure are incredible.
“You see the impact of the freshness and the acidity [in tasting the 2019 Cheval Blanc],” said Pierre-Olivier Clouet, the technical director of Cheval Blanc. “It’s rare in some wine to have the volume, the depth, the density and the power, plus the freshness, the acidity and the delicacy.”
This doesn’t mean that Pessac-Leognan or the Médoc didn’t make some great and many outstanding wines. For example, Haut-Brion arguably made the red wine of the vintage with its incredibly complex and complete structure and depth. In fact, all the first growths I tasted were perfect wines, highlighting the fabulous quality of the vintage.
The bottom line is that 2019 produced hundreds of outstanding quality wines that were rated in this report. And some amazing bottles were also produced. It’s a vintage that made outstanding wines that will please you today and in the future for decades to come.
Top-scoring Bordeaux Wines
Below are the Bordeaux 2019 wines rated 100 points by the tasting team at jamessuckling.com
CHÂTEAU AUSONE 2019
Like a bouquet of fresh flowers on the nose, as well as blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants. Sandalwood, too. Full-bodied with incredibly polished tannins that have the texture of the finest velvet.
CHÂTEAU CHEVAL BLANC ST.-EMILION 2019
Blackcurrants, cassis, graphite and earth on the nose, then changing to roses, violets and berries. Full-bodied with incredible energy of fine tannins and lively acidity.
CHÂTEAU HAUT-BRION PESSAC-LÉOGNAN 2019
The black cassis comes out of the glass, together with iodine, sandalwood and subtle moss and wet-bark undertones, then turning to violets. It’s full of superbly complex, ethereal character and mouth-feel, one of the wines of the vintage.
CHÂTEAU HAUT-BRION PESSAC-LÉOGNAN BLANC 2019
Full-bodied and dense with a creamy, phenolic texture that lasts for minutes at the end. Reserved, compact and intense, and holding back for the future.
CHÂTEAU L’ÉGLISE CLINET POMEROL 2019
This is amazingly perfumed with amazing aromas of fresh violets and pink roses. Blackberries and dark fruit. It’s full-bodied with fantastic structure and tannins. Yet, it’s weightless and so beautiful.
CHÂTEAU LAFITE ROTHSCHILD PAUILLAC 2019
So much sweet tobacco, Spanish cedar, dried flowers, dark mushrooms and roses. Really aromatic. This is so polished and very powerful, yet ethereal and refined at the same time.
CHÂTEAU LAFLEUR POMEROL 2019
This is crazy on the nose with crushed stones and violets really rising above the glass, together with iodine, seaweed and ink. Spellbinding. Full-bodied, yet so tight and reserved, with a fine cashmere-like texture and endless length and energy.
CHÂTEAU MARGAUX MARGAUX 2019
Amazing aromas of crushed stones and wet soil with fresh mushrooms, then going on to violets and other flowers. The finesse of the tannins is exceptional, like raw silk and changing all the time.
This story first appeared on Prestige Hong Kong.