Bordeaux 2019 En Primeur (and the gossip so far)

by Charles Lea


Word has been seeping out that the 2019 vintage in Bordeaux is a good one. Not ‘the vintage of the century’ again, but better than 2018, and continuing the long run of successful vintage that Bordeaux has enjoyed, both in terms of quantity and quality. By all accounts expect fully ripe wines with satiny textures, polished tannins, good acidity and ‘classicism’.

‘The consensus among the courtiers and the winemakers is at a very high level with some superb wines. Probably not quite at the level of the 2016’s (the Holy Grail) but superior to the 2015s, especially in Northern Médoc which has the bonus of fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon’ according to one négociant report, while another has spoken of some difficulties through the year which has led to  a considerable disparity between great terroir and the less good.

Everyone in the wine trade is asking themselves – and everyone else – what should happen about the marketing of Bordeaux En Primeur 2019? The messages coming out of Bordeaux are confused at best, with some chateaux apparently keen to send out half-bottle samples to merchants and ‘go it alone’, while the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux put out a statement saying that they want to try to arrange tastings in various cities around the world and would like a campaign over June and July.

The UK trade has reacted to this with scepticism. It seems to be logistically complicated and not good timing, and would not allow for an assessment of the wines in proper conditions.

In normal years when we go to Bordeaux to assess the vintage, we are there for a week, and taste all the important wines at the chateaux, at general tastings of each appellation put on by the UGCB, as well as at tastings organised by individual Bordeaux merchants. This means that we see most wines three or four times (with multiple tasters tasting each one) and our assessments therefore cover several samples. This rigour is clearly not possible away from Bordeaux.

Some Chateaux are obviously keen to sell their wine and are appreciative of the cashflow, while some of the top brands will be obsessing about market position and price achievable because prices over the last twenty years have made them so rich that they do not really have an issue with cash. Unsurprisingly, the result is some confusion – we will have to see where it leads.

For those interested in further discussion on this subject, there is no shortage on Jancis Robinson’s website (but you will have to be a subscriber to read some of it).

Hot Gossip – Lafite and Mouton to lead charge?

Three initiatives have now (12th May) been ‘confirmed’. The first, from a chateau-owning négociant arranging to send out sample half-bottles to importer customers to be tasted in four Zoom presentations on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th of June. The UGCB is still going ahead with tastings in cities with the dates likely to be in early June.

Meanwhile Lafite and Mouton are apparently planning to do their own tastings at the end of May or in early June, with a release in the first two weeks of June, which will really set the campaign in motion, but there may well be releases before the UGC London tastings have been conducted. Some chateaux seem to think that the starting gun should be following the Bordeaux tastings for the négociants of the Place (i.e. the Bordeaux merchants) which are scheduled for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of June. In any case if the two Rothschild properties do release in June, it will force the hand of others and there may be an ugly FOMO scramble.

Pricing is the key (as usual) and will determine the take-up of wines for which there is little direct tasting information. If they get it right, these wines, which are likely to be released early in small volumes, may prove to be a good buy. It seems to us that the more chaotic and rushed it is, the better the pricing will have to be to engage your interest.

In the meantime we will endeavour to keep you up-to-date with developments and if you would like you can register interest.

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