Our plans to taste the latest releases from Chateau Margaux face to face (at a safe distance!) with the team from the Chateau were thwarted last week by complications with travel for the Bordeaux contingent. We had been heading into London to the Mentzelopoulos family’s Marylebone outpost – Clarette (the wine bar owned by Alexandra Petit Mentzelopoulos). As has been the way with this campaign, a new solution was quickly arranged. Thankfully!
Two days later some freshly pulled samples arrived at L&S towers and a time was set for our online meeting with Aurélien Valance, Margaux’s ‘Directeur Général Adjoint’.
Aurelién explained that they were nervous of this tasting process, and as we learnt with our trip to Waddeson Manor for the Rothschild double-header last week – these serious players really want to be showing the freshest, purest samples possible. They simply want to try and recreate the usual visit we make each year to the chateau, where fresh bottles are drawn each day. Desperate times though, do call for desperate measures and this was the next, ‘next best’ solution!
They feared the Pavillon Blanc would not survive the traumas of international courier delivery and so didn’t send it sadly but we did get the chance to taste the two reds – which are both seriously good in 2019.
For the Margaux team the year was good, if warm. Hitting a new high temperature on the 31st of July with 39.9 degrees! The old vines here coped well with the heat-spikes in June and July and the rains came at just the right times to keep everything healthy. As September pushed on with the August warmth and dryness they were delighted with the 10mm of rain that fell on the 10th. This helped the Merlot that was getting quite ripe and the berries were beginning to dry out, water was welcome. They harvested the Merlot not long after this rain and were finished by the 20th of September. The Merlot element is deeply intense and richly sweet, a similar feel to the 2018.
More rain came after the Merlot was in, but before the Cabernet was harvested. 30mm fell over 4 days, making a considerable difference to the Cabernet grapes that had had just 64mm up to this point since the 21st of June! Initial fears that the grapes might get Botrytis or perhaps get overly diluted were unfounded thankfully and a week later they harvested, from the 1st of October.
The results are awesome, the Cabernet had benefited with a great coolness and restraint brought on by the late rain – giving the cellar team two very different ingredients to work with. Rich and intense Merlot – and cool and poised Cabernet Sauvignon.
We asked Aurelién how they coped with this ‘full on’ fruit – and he explained this year they got even more precise in the cellar. The 100 plots were each dealt with separately and they constantly monitored each vat’s levels of anthocyanins and tannin – to avoid over extraction and manage the maceration perfectly, on a tank by tank basis.
For Aurelién this superb 2019 has a feel akin to the creamy and velvet tannins of their 2009, but with added freshness though and with incredible aromatic complexity more like 1996.
We’re told these fabulous wines will be released on Thursday and remain hopeful the pricing will make them really attractive, as these will be wonderful wines to have in your cellar.