Like some other French wine-growing regions, Bordeaux has a great love story with years ending in the number 9. And 2019 continued this tradition relatively well.
Looking at the weather and grape health data, 2019 was easier to manage than 2018, a year marked by rampant mildew. The 2018-2019 winter was very mild. While these conditions generally lead to a premature end of the season, including early harvests, balanced was restored thanks to a cool spring. Bordeaux even had several frost alerts in April and at the start of May. The next challenge for the 2019 vintage was heat. Southwest France experienced very high temperatures at the start of the summer, making the vines susceptible to scorching, but rain appeared at the opportune moment three times: in July, in August and then several showers at the start of September, which brought a freshness and energy to the grapes before harvest.
When looking at the red wines, 2019 joins 2018, 2016 and 2015 to form a string of great vintages, a remarkable series, which is only broken by the slightly less brilliant 2017. What is more, the level of alcohol, which has started to cause problems in Bordeaux where reputation is based on delicacy and elegance, was better suppressed in 2019 than in the other most recent vintages.
On the whole, the red wines offer wonderful levels of ripeness, richness and density, which are all the hallmarks of a legendary vintage. But some winemakers (rather than certain appellations) have produced wines that are too powerful, too alcoholic and containing tannins that are a little harsh. In the best examples, this vintage is very similar to 2009 with its deep colours, its intense black fruit aromas, its ripe, voluptuous palates, and its perfectly smooth tannins. This goes for the Left Bank where Cabernet Sauvignon can deliver superb wines, while the Right Bank, which is best suited to growing Merlot, has continually produced smooth and sensual cuvées. The Right Bank domains that blend precious amounts of Cabernet Franc (or Cabernet Sauvignon) with Merlot are the ones to craft the most balanced wines. For red wines, 2018 will be more suitable for storing for a long time, while 2019, a much more pleasurable vintage, should provide some enjoyment in the more immediate future.
In terms of the dry white wines, Bordeaux rewarded us with what is likely to be a classic vintage in 2019 after a very good 2018. The extremely healthy grapes with their beautifully preserved acidity, despite periods of hot weather, allowed winemakers to craft wines with remarkable balance, combining freshness with a density greater than those seen in previous years.
Sweet wine production was not easy, and the quantities produced were once again very low. The majority of the châteaux picked most of the 2019 vintage in one go (a very rare occurrence in Bordeaux) between 8 and 13 October. A long rainy spell occurred from 14 October which permanently diluted the grapes left on the vines. The wines are sharp, fresh, harmonious, intense but not heavy, reminiscent of the more refined 2015 style.