tirsdag 30. juni 2020

2019 Primeur Saved by the rain, twice!

Bordeaux saved by the rain, that must be a typo? Well, 2019 was hot. Very hot. And dry. Amongst the driest summers. It was cold in January, then unusually warm in February, Haut-Bailly saw 28 degrees at one point. Budbreak here was already late March. Then frost in April and again early May. May was unusually cold and that put the vintage back to a more normal track. Very dry summer and all the rain in the exceedingly hot July fell on one day. Both at Haut-Bailly and Cos d’Estournel the date and amount were seen as more or less perfect timing, and it is about two hours drive between the two properties, telling you that this wasn’t a local phenomenon. August hot and dry and then rain just before harvest got the plants going just before hydric stress would have set in and risking grapes turning to raisins. Not often Bordeaux is saved by rain. And especially not twice. 

As we all now know, 2020 is turning out to be a quite different year for most of us than we planned. I left France and Burgundy just twelve hours before the borders closed and was supposed to visit both Burgundy again, Loire and Bordeaux over the next few weeks. That did not happen. My almost three weeks planned for primeurs this year was spent in lockdown, mostly in my garden. As cancellations of appointments started to come in, a sad feeling entered. 2004 was the first vintage I tasted primeur, albeit only forty wines or so, but it has become a part of life. 

Then requests for samples started to arrive quickly after that and at first, I said no, I was unsure how they travelled. And knowing Norwegian customs who are slow beyond comparison, I knew this would be a stretch. Then other critics around the globe started receiving samples, and I thought, well, if the samples travel so well to Hong Kong or California, then surely, they should travel without much trouble to Norway as well. And most have. But by then some producers didn’t want to send samples anymore due to summer heat, but nearly 250 samples have reached me to date, and even as I am writing this I have been contacted by one more producer who want me to taste, so there will be at least another one and a half week or two or so of samples arriving. Some brakeage, some were no-one knows were the samples are, some have been returned, I have no idea why, and many more arriving. That has been the quite different atmosphere of this primeurs. 

The good thing is that it is much calmer. No stress with a timetable that would make a State visit look like a holiday, were you try to look calm and poised between running to your rental car that mostly see 5000 RPM’s and running into next visit, take four deep breaths and then try looking calm and poised again. Now, it is sitting down, Spotify, going back and forth between samples, sometimes testing different glasses, every wine gets more time, which is a good thing. I have had several opening and getting much more scented than what one usually finds during this marathon that primeurs is. But I miss the discussions face to face with winemakers and owners, also the small talks in the car park or around the table with fellow critics or negociants or importers, you miss the vibe and the buzz. 

So, 2019, hot or not? Well, it was hot. There were some record temperatures recorded in France and at Haut-Bailly they recorded an unofficial 52 degrees amongst the vines in a part of the vineyard. Yes, it was in the sun, but that is hot. And there is definitely a ripeness in these wines, some on a new level that might not even shine through in their 2009’s. So, if you are a lover of brighter more classic styles, you really need to find comments from palates you trust, because there are some surprisingly ripe wines out there. Surprising, because there are also some restrained ones that shows an atypical grace giving the ripeness. 

I have only tasted a quarter of the wines I did last year, and I lack many names on the list, so this is not complete. Especially Pomerol, from the rather few I have tasted, I would be reluctant to buy if a palate you trust have not tasted. The ones I have tasted have all been noticeably big, sweet and rich for who they are. Merlot can go wild with such heat and water stress was or nearly was an issue. If big isn’t better for you, I would tread carefully while buying. I am not saying they are big, I do not know, but this is a vintage were they easily can be. And it seems the estates mostly sent samples to a select number of critics that many would argue like this style more than others. Just a thought. 

Saint-Emilion has sent me quite a bit of samples and here there are big wines, but most have been very aware of it and been able to handle the fruit well. Not going overboard. Even some of the riper locations have an energy to them. But alcohol is high, the wines are ripe and very fruit driven. Tannins this year is mostly silky. Troplong Mondot clocking in at 15% even if you do not really notice it, the new more precise style here really helps drinkability, and I don’t know how they find red berries flavours with such ripeness, but they do. A very fine wine indeed, even with such ripeness levels. 

Angelus is utterly amazing, but it is also easy to forget how much Cabernet Franc they use. 40% this year, and that gives an epic nose, and this might be the greatest ever from here. I said that last year as well, but 2019 seems to be even more complex, even more scented, even longer finish. So far, the only potential perfect score from me this vintage. Valandraud is also continuing their exuberant but restrained style of the last few vintages, and another sexy vintage, but lacks some of the glamour of the last two vintages. It may also be my sample. But see quite consistent notes. Saint-Emilion this vintage, almost across the board is restrained flamboyance. 

Fronsac shows very well again, and with the bargain prices here, what not to love? And this is a vintage showing very well in areas not so well known to many consumers. Ripeness was never an issue in 2019, restraining ripeness was. Meaning even cooler vineyards that sometimes make lean and even rustic wines made fine and ripe wines. Fronsac has beautiful terroir many places, so this is not amongst those, here the self esteem seems to be growing year in and year out, and why shouldn’t it? Wine press loves their efforts, and most consumers who try them love them as well. But Castillon, M[c1] édoc, parts of Graves, Lalande de Pomerol and the Satellites of Saint-Emilion as well as the different Côtes appelatons have a newfound concentration meaning many of these are the best wines ever from each estate. These properties cannot normally afford to throw away 30 percent of the crop, or declassify it into a second label, because they hardly make money on the first label. When the entire crop is fully ripe, all of a sudden, the wine has what is often lacking. 

2019 as 2009 was, a vintage where you will find it difficult to really find bad wines from lesser known estates. At least from what I have tried. If the styles I have found in these regions is representative, this is an excellent vintage for everyday Bordeaux. But that also makes the top estates prone to overripens. Remember classified properties tend to sit on the warmest land. Spring frost shows why some properties tend to make better wines that usual, spring frost follows the classifications, not without fault, but it indicates. And therefore, I again stress that you find a voice you trust before buying primeur. There might be styles you may not love if you like me, need freshness. 

I would have loved to taste more Left Bank, but I also decided that I am not going to ask every single one out there to send me samples. 250 samples have already been somewhat chaotic at times, imagine if I was to receive the 1000, I tasted for primeurs last year. I have selected a few that I specifically wanted to taste as they have been key the last few years to understand the vintage, and happily most shipped. And I have said yes to everyone that want me to taste. It is also interesting to see who appreciate the 20 plus years I have put into Bordeaux and the more than 15.000 bottles I have tasted from the region. I know I don’t have readerships like some of the bigger publications, but I also know my readers tend not to agree with some of these, so I think we as a whole fill in the different parts of the market. 

I will taste these wines eventually, and in the economic climate we are facing over the next few years, I think these wines even at reduced price will be easy to get. It will be very surprising if prices go up, most of the wines still cost more or less the same of the last few vintages as when released, and you can still get everything. No need to rush things. I am not planning any trips before November, and that is if Covid-19 do not blossom up again. So might be a while. 

Back to left bank, from what I have tasted from Saint-Estephe, wow, these wines are singing. Cos d’Estournel is continuing in their very precise style that we have now seen in a few vintages and the estate that I have found too big in some years are now consistently amongst my favorites. The whites are also superb! Goulée is the best ever, even if that is Medoc. Lafon-Rochet is also singing, this estate has also shown a new level the last few vintages and it will be interesting to taste the rest when time is ripe for it. Also, lesser known estates I have tasted has been singing. Not seen any notes on Montrose, so maybe they did not ship to anyone? I do not know. Some critics are in Bordeaux, especially the French ones and Yves Beck that was locked down there, but not sure if they have tasted it either. Likely to be epic. After the massive Calon Segur last year, I do not know what to believe from there. Meyney and Phelan Segur should be nice. This commune seems to be a star this vintage. 

Not that many tasted from Pauillac, Fonbadet delivers and Pichon Baron is superb. The second labels as well, they are more exuberant and unusually flamboyant this vintage, almost as if you have Mouton in the glass. Exotic spices, beautiful wines. It might be even better than my already extremely high score, as this shipment got a bit of a rough handling, one bottle broke. Griffons and Tornelles are amongst the best ever, so is Pibran. Saint-Julien I have hardly tasted so I am not commenting on this commune. Margaux is also thin on my list, Siran showing beautifully and Deyrem Valentin also showing well. Not really tasted enough to have an idea of the vintage here. Mayne Lalande in Listrac was beautiful, seems the sometimes-formidable structure there has been tamed this vintage. 

As we go down to Pessac-Leognan and Graves, more samples has arrived, and I am still waiting for some more. Here the vintages seem warm, the whites are bigger (not tasted any white Pessac’s yet) and more fruit driven than usual, more tropical and the acidity is lower. On some wines that is a plus, as they can be a bit almost austere sometimes, but if you are an acid freak, these may be to rich for you. I really enjoyed them, but I can see that some may lack some tension. The red show rich and ripe fruit and again restrain was important, especially on warmer vineyards and Merlot that easily hit 15% alcohol or even higher. I would love to wait a bit further to give a better description here as some samples have been delayed, but at least I got to taste Haut-Bailly with Veronique Sanders, Director of Haut-Bailly just before I write this. Wonderful wines. Again, a beautiful mix of richness but also restraint. 

Not tasted many Sauternes, but there are some on the way. The three I have tasted are amongst the best they have made, rich and opulent yet with tension. Can’t wait for the rest of the samples to arrive. 

2019 seems so far to be a vintage with a lot going for it, some estates have made their best wines to date. Again, in the tasting with Veronique Sanders, we talked about how 2009 is already ten years old, it feels like yesterday, but how the precision over the past ten years have increased noticeably in the wines. With ever more cellars are getting finished, built to suit the vineyards and grape varieties, not just to hold the crop, the wines from Bordeaux will for sure see even more precision and finesse over the years to come. 2019 as 2009 will have many beauties that you may not have heard about, but there will also be richer and bigger wines in a style that is not for everyone. I have read some American comments that it has the ripeness and alcohol levels that makes it safe to buy, meaning for the younger generation, and Sommelier that wants more tension, you need to research every wine. 

As a young Christian Moueix has been quoted saying in Napa Valley several decades ago, overripeness hides terroir. 2019 is one of the warmest vintages ever, and amongst the driest. That can be incredibly good. But it may not be what you prefer. I will update with new tasting notes as the wines arrive from now on. Thank you to all producers that has sent samples, much appreciated.Especially all who trust in me in Saint-Emilion. Nearly one fourth of the samples come form Saint-Emilion!


Ingen kommentarer:

Legg inn en kommentar