Bordeaux 2019: what the critics are saying
Author: Sophie Thorpe
VINOUS – NEAL MARTIN
Neal Martin’s report was among the last – but most anticipated – report to be released. Tasting samples in his garden shed, he valued the chance that the unusual circumstances brought to revisit samples over the course of a day – and the chance to linger a little longer over his assessment than he might otherwise be able to. Despite the early release of some wines, he deliberately held off to publish a complete report, offering an overall assessment of the vintage.
He declares it an “excellent” vintage, feeling it sits alongside the best vintages of the century – 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2016 – feeling it sits “a notch below the 2016s”, which is nevertheless “a great place to be”. The wines he suggest offer more elegance than 2018, and he foretells a more storied future. Amongst the top estates, he found amazing quality, with more variable results lower down the ranks. He feels 2019 is characterised by an aromatic lift, a creaminess in texture, remarkable purity and fine tannins. Alcohol levels are a bit higher than he’d like, but “deftly disguised”. Key to the vintage for Neal Martin is the acidity – bringing “freshness and tension”. Like other critics, he praised the move in the winery towards freshness, fruit and less extraction.
Neal Martin’s highlights: Cos d’Estournel, Calon-Ségur, Lafon-Rochet, Meyney, Pichon-Lalande, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothschild, Lynch-Bages, Ducru Beaucaillou, Léoville-Las Cases and Le Petit Lion, Léoville-Poyferré, Gloria, Saint-Pierre, Léoville-Barton, Langoa-Barton, Lagrange, Branaire-Ducru, Margaux, Cantenac-Brown, Giscours, Brane-Cantenac, Domaine de Chevalier, La Louvière, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Malartic-Lagravière, Smith Haut-Lafitte, Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Haut-Bailly, Poujeaux, l’Eglise-Clinet, Trotanoy, La Fleur-Pétrus, La Conseillante, l’Evangile, Clinet, Troplong-Mondot, Bellevue-Mondotte, Figeac, Angélus, Quintus, Suduiraut
Read Neal Martin’s full report here (available to Vinous subscribers only)
VINOUS – ANTONIO GALLONI
Vinous is rare in having two critics assessing Bordeaux En Primeur. Antonio Galloni is enthusiastic about 2019, feeling it’s an “outstanding vintage”. For him, it’s the balance that defines the wines – they are ripe with high tannins but surprising freshness. He suggests that the northern reaches of Pauillac and St Estèphe particularly excelled, but has found “phenomenal wines in every appellation”. He argues that 2019 is a combination of 2009, 2010 and 2014 in terms of character. He is keen to emphasise that hasn’t been able to taste as widely as normal, but echoes Neal in praising the value of being able to revisit samples over the course of a day (or more). He did however note that he didn’t get to taste the wines from each commune together, therefore making it harder to put each wine in its own context. Despite these challenges, he declares 2019 “a superb vintage that falls just short of being truly epic”, and emphasises the value to be found in lesser appellations.
Antonio Galloni’s highlights: Calon-Ségur, Cos d’Estournel, Phélan-Ségur, Lafon-Rochet, Le Boscq, Lilian Ladouys, Meyney, Lynch-Bages, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Pontet-Canet, Pichon Baron, Grand Puy Ducasse, Duhart Milon, Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville-Barton, Langoa Barton, Léoville Las Cases, Branaire-Ducru, Gloria, Saint-Pierre, Margaux, Giscours, Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte, Pape Clément, Domaine de Chevalier, La Conseillante, l’Église-Clinet, Hosanna, Feytit-Clinet, Angélus, Figeac, Clos Fourtet, La Gaffelière, Larcis Ducasse, L’If, Troplong Mondot, Valandraud, Laroque
Read Antonio Galloni’s full report here (available to Vinous subscribers only)
Prompted by the early and rapid releases, Jeb Dunnuck published a first part of his report (the second is due to go live any day now). This first offering is only a brief overview with his topline thoughts, and further detail to follow in part two, but he believes 2019 is “a beautiful, incredibly high-quality vintage” that sits among the century’s greats. He feels the wines offer “beautiful ripeness and relatively sunny, full-bodied characters”. He compares it to a combination of 2009 and 2010, or possibly 2015 and 2016, quoting Lafite’s technical director Eric Kohler describing it as “classic yet modern”.
Read the first part of Jeb Dunnuck’s review here (tasting notes available only to subscribers)
WINE ADVOCATE – LISA PERROTTI-BROWN MW
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW released notes as and when wines came out, “flash reviews” as they called them. Her full report was eager to defend this, feeling that they were important to staying true to the Wine Advocate’s primary purpose as a wine buyer’s guide, even if these couldn’t offer the context she would have liked.
Overall, she feels that the Bordelais were keen to make it seem like an easy vintage – which she argues it was in comparison to the frost-ridden 2017 and mildewed 2018, but not necessarily as effortless as they suggested. She emphasised that spring rains were key to helping vines survive the summer heat spikes, and late rains in September were essential for relieving stress in the Cabernet. Like Neal Martin, she emphasised the softer touch in the winery, with less extraction, has produced more approachable wines. She also highlights the freshness of the vintage. Contrary to others she felt that the unusual circumstances allowed her to sample wines from different properties side by side, rather than tasting them solo at each château. She feels 2019 is “an outstanding vintage”, defined by their energy and minerality – but doesn’t find the inconsistency others did, and feels that vineyard work was key to success. The wines will, she argues, be approachable young but nevertheless have “staying power”.
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW’s highlights: Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Baron, Ducru Beaucaillou, Figeac, Troplong-Mondot, Lilian Ladouys, Meyney, Laroque, Margaux, Vieux Château Certan, Haut-Bailly, Pichon Lalande
Read Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW’s full report here (available to subscribers only)
DECANTER – JANE ANSON
Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent and author of Inside Bordeaux, Jane Anson is based in the region, giving her better access to samples than most other critics. She tasted more wines than ever before – close to 1,000 she estimates – and, since published her early thoughts in April, her opinion of the vintage has only improved. There were decent yields, and the wines offer good ageing potential. Like Neal Martin, she feels there is great consistency at the best estates, but less so below the top tier. She notes some trends: the rise of Malbec in blends, more whites being made and the positive move toward sustainability across the region. She believes it’s a successful year and that, at their best, the 2019 wines fall just behind those of 2010 or 2016.
Jane Anson’s highlights: Latour, l’Evangile, Lafleur, l’Eglise Clinet, Pétrus, Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Pichon Lalande, Ducru Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases, Margaux, Palmer, Montrose, Cos d’Estournel, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau Lagarosse, Batailley, Phélan Ségur, Pédésclaux, Gloria, Dame de Montrose, Saintayme
Read Jane Anson’s full report here (available only to subscribers)
James Suckling was one of the first to publish his report, having tasted jet-freighted samples in his bar in Hong Kong. He is as enthusiastic as ever, finding “outstanding quality, from simple Bordeaux to Cru Classé”. The wines, for him, are classical Bordeaux with “sleek tannins and pure fruit character” and that the vintage is strong across the board, not favouring a particular Bank or grape over the other. He compares it to 2018, 2016 and 2015 in style. They are, he says, “all just really good quality wines”.
James Suckling’s highlights: Cos d’Estournel, d’Issan, Malartic Lagravière, Pape Clément, Phélan-Ségur, Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Trottevieille, Domaine de Chevalier, Batailley, Calon-Ségur, Feytit-Clinet, Beau-Site, Guiraud, Laroque, Lascombes, Le Bosq, Lynch-Moussas, Pédesclaux
Read James Suckling’s full report here (notes and scores available to subscribers only)
JANCISROBINSON.COM – JAMES LAWTHER MW
Jancis Robinson has been vocal about En Primeur this year, feeling that “Now Is Not The Time” as well as being concerned about the fragility of samples couriered across the Channel.
As a result, she turned down the offer of any samples being sent over to her in the UK. In lieu of this, James Lawther MW – based in Bordeaux – has acted as their correspondent, tasting at the properties. He finds it “a warm, ripe vintage with deep colours, engaging fruit, good depth and plentiful but suave tannins”. He compares it to 2015 or 2018, but emphasises that the wines’ freshness sets the vintage apart. While alcohol levels are on the high side, he agrees with Neal Martin that they don’t stand out – nor do the plentiful tannins, that are “silky and smooth”.
He is another to emphasise the change in winemaking, with less extraction and less oak (lower levels of toast or new barrels) – which he feels supports the terroir expression found in the wines this year. He found that the quality of the Cabernet really stands out in 2019, with Pauillac and St Julien excelling, while Pomerol just outdoes St Emilion on the Right Bank, while he finds the whites “appetising… smooth and full but long and invigorating with citrus and floral aromatics”.
James Lawther MW’s highlights: Léoville Las Cases, Lafite, Palmer, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Lafleur, Figeac, Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Vieux Château Certan, Montrose, Le Pin, Léoville Poyferré, Angélus, Pichon Lalande, Léoville Barton, Pétrus, Trotanoy, Cheval Blanc, Pichon Baron, Calon Ségur, Cos d’Estournel
Read James Lawther’s summary report here (available only to subscribers)