Bordeaux 2019: our favourites
Author: Max Lalondrelle
With the last releases now firmly behind us, it is a good time for us to reflect on what has been an amazing En Primeur season. Usually, when we are asked about prices by the properties, our response is not numerical but more logical. The answer is simple, the aim of En Primeur is to provide customers with an offer they are unlikely to find in the future. Therefore, the price itself isn’t as relevant as the demand, but they are very much linked. In order for a wine to do well, it has to be priced at a level where customers are comfortable in the knowledge that it is the cheapest point in time that they’ll able to buy the wine. The easiest way to achieve that is for the wine to sell out in minutes across most merchants worldwide.
While in most vintages there are much in demand wines, and others that are less so, 2019 has been unprecedented in that most of the wines released have sold very well. High scores from critics together with an average 21% discount on the previous, equally good vintage has proven to be a great recipe – and proof that En Primeur, when done well, still has relevance in today’s wine world. With this in mind, the selection of wines to follow is not an attempt to “flog” leftover wines, as we don’t have very much – but to highlight some of my favourite wines of the vintage.
I could have spent a long time deliberating and choosing more wines to round up the campaign: this is a rare occasion where there is so much to choose from, and where most wines are delicious and very well priced. This is a vintage to fill the cellar and there are wines at all price points to do this without fear of collapse both in terms of price and quality.
Max’s favourite 2019s
- Château Langoa Barton
Always a bit forgotten as the little brother of the more famous Léoville, Langoa very much punched above its weight in 2019. For me, this is one of the wines of the vintage. If you are just starting to collect wine, this is a great first step on the ladder and won’t disappoint when you open your first bottle in the years to come.
- Château Brane-Cantenac
This Second Growth Margaux has been a favourite of mine for many years. Slightly understated but, from one of the appellation’s best terroirs, it never fails to perform. This year was no exception and I would urge anyone who is serious about collecting wine to get a case of this.
- Château Beau-Séjour Bécot
St Emilion was lost for me following their move to please some famous American critics. But over the past few years, a handful of wineries are starting to emerge, making what St Emilion was born to be. The Bécot family is certainly one of these: the wines are fresh, elegant yet powerful… if this is what St Emilion is moving towards then I am in!
- Château les Carmes Haut-Brion
Sadly this has almost sold out, even at the higher second release price. This is the new darling of Bordeaux. Made by the talented winemaker Guillaume Pouthier, this winery is going from strength to strength and as per the mention in my intro, always offers wines at prices that customers know are the cheapest they’ll ever be. The epitome of what En Primeur is about.
- Château Batailley
One of our customers’ favourites in most En Primeur campaigns, Batailley came out of the block early this year with an incredible price. The Batailley of today is in another league to the Batailley of yesteryear, yet in 2019 it was priced closer to the latter – making it one of the best-value wines of the vintage.
- Château Talbot
Talbot is another classic property which has been favoured in the UK for many decades. After a few years in the shadows, it is now making a comeback under the stewardship of Jean-Michel Laporte, formerly of La Conseillante in Pomerol – top pedigree which I am sure will bear even better results in St Julien.
- Château Troplong Mondot
Whenever I am in the vicinity of St Emilion and I get lost, my North Star is always the St Emilion water tower which can be seen for miles and helps enormously with navigating. Water towers are always at the highest point in an area and in this instance Troplong Mondot’s vineyards surround the tower. They benefit from a range of soils and exposure that is unrivalled in St Emilion. Under new ownership since 2017, I feel progress here has been made at lightning pace and the wines are simply delightful. This is definitely one to watch for the future.
- Château Berliquet
Another St Emilion, but this time on the other side of the village, between Ausone and Canon. This little vineyard, now owned by Chanel, is improving year on year with great investment and 2019 is by far the best wine made at this property. Prices will certainly go up over the next few years, so now is the time to get a bargain before it’s too late.
- Château d’Issan
Issan is always a very steady performer from Margaux, but this year it was one of the stars of our En Primeur tasting. Although we have only tasted barrel samples in the UK, I know from many sources that, together with Château Giscours, these two properties have performed exceptionally this year and possibly made their best ever wines.
- Haut-Bailly II and Croix de Beaucaillou
I have never really believed that second wines of top estates should be release En Primeur, and to this day that is still my view. I think second wines should be released two to three years following the harvest, when they start to drink and can be enjoyed at home or in a restaurant. That said, these two wines took me by surprise this year and I thought would be worth a mention. Both Ducru-Beaucaillou and Haut-Bailly made remarkable wines in 2019 and both are already sold out – but for a fraction of the price of the grand vin, one can really get a glimpse of the elder sibling without spending a fortune. Those who wisely purchase these two will be delighted with the outcome in five to 10 years.