Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Report
- By Jacky Blisson MW
- 26 Nov 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 201
The 2019 growing season kept Bordeaux growers on their toes, with unseasonably cold spells early on and record-breaking heatwaves mid-season. 2019 is considered a very good year in Bordeaux, not quite on a par with the highly acclaimed 2015 and 2016 vintages, but still ripe, aromatic, and fresh, with an overall fine tannic structure.
The winter of 2019 was dry and mild. March was also unusually sunny and dry resulting in a slightly earlier than usual bud break in many areas. However, wet and chilly weather returned in April, slowing down growth. Two frost episodes in mid-April and early-May caused minor, localized damage. Overall, spring frost damage was nowhere near the levels seen in the hard-hit 2017 growing season.
Flowering started in late-May/early-June. Cool, rainy weather until late in June extended flowering and led to uneven fruit set in certain areas. The real summer heat began in late-June, with record-breaking heatwaves throughout the month of July. The dry, sunny weather kept disease pressure low. For example, downy mildew, which plagued many of Bordeaux’s vineyards in 2018, was rarely seen in 2019. However, the extended dry period did lead to some heat and hydric stress in certain areas.
Scattered showers from late-July to mid-September punctuated the mainly dry, sunny weather which refreshed the parched vineyard and spurred ripening. Warm, sunny days and cool nights throughout September created near perfect conditions, ripening grapes fully while preserving bright acidity.
The harvest period was quite long, stretching from late-August to mid-October.
Harvesting on the Right Bank and other Merlot-dominant areas, especially in areas known to ripen early (like Pomerol), began mid-September. Smaller berries and thicker skins were observed throughout the vineyard due to the summer heatwaves, with certain vineyards that were picked before the September rainfalls showing a slight lack of phenolic ripeness.
Smaller, thicker-skinned grapes were also observed throughout the Left Bank. The later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon achieved more even phenolic ripeness as it benefited from mid to late-September showers. These showers also helped reduce potential alcohol levels, making 2019 wines slightly lower in alcohol than 2018.
The total yield in Bordeaux was 4.9 million hectolitres, which is just slightly lower than the ten-year average for the region.
Initial Tasting Notes
According to the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (the CIVB), red wine grape varieties cover 89% of Bordeaux’s vineyards. Overall, the 2019 Bordeaux red wines are deeply coloured, ripe, fruity wines with concentrated flavours, an absence of green, vegetal characters, slightly higher than average alcohol, and firm tannins.
Bordeaux expert Jane Anson deems Left Bank 2019 wines “fairly classic in style – less overtly fruit-forward than 2009, 2015 or 2018 – more elegant and concentrated”. She feels that they more closely resemble the 2010 or 2016 vintages in terms of colour intensity and structure but suggests that 2019 wines are slightly less powerful than 2010 or 2016.
Anson indicates that alcohol and acidity levels are slightly higher in 2019 as compared to 2018 Right Bank wines. She calls the 2019 Merlots “very successful, with plenty of berry fruit and plenty of tannins”.
Whites & Dessert Wines
Jane Anson describes the dry white wines of 2019 as aromatic and well balanced, with “lots of definition”, fine acidity levels, and not too much sugar. She singles out the Sémillons as being textured and supple with exotic fruit notes.
Botrytis developed a little later due to the mainly hot, dry summer, but set in fairly quickly and successfully mid-September. Careful sorting was crucial due to some rot after a period of midsummer humidity as well as some early berry shrivel from hydric stress in late August. Jane Anson describes the 2019 Sauternes vintage as low-yielding “but pure, aromatic, and high-quality”.