Chateau Quintus, the Saint Emilion Wine estate developed by Domaine Clarence Dillon, expects its 2019 wines to show great homogeneity and overall good quality following an exceptionally hot summer and particularly warm September, according to Estate Manager Francois Capdemourlin.
After a cold spring, when burners had to be lit in the vineyard to ward off frost, there was a “very hot summer for weeks and weeks,” with temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius, according to Capdemourlin. A wetter period in August was followed by scorching September temperatures, which climbed above 30 degrees Celsius and which dried out the grapes, prior to rains on Sept. 22.
“It was a Sunday” in late September when the rain finally came, he recalled at a London tasting of wines on Nov. 27 dating back through the nine-year history of the estate. “We had a big smile. All the berries were losing their juice.”
Quintus achieved yields off between 36 and 37 hectolitres per hectare in 2019, with no disease during the year in the vineyard, according to Capdemourlin.
The unusual heat drove alcohol levels higher, while the late September rains helped to bring them down again to more manageable levels. “We have to adapt to the climate,” Capdemourlin said.
The average age of vines at Quintus is 29 years, with the oldest over 50 years old.
Domaine Clarence Dillon, which owns Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, bought part of what is now Chateau Quintus in 2011 and then added a second neighboring vineyard in 2013 to enlarge the estate.
Quintus cover 28 hectares (70 acres) spread across the limestone ridge near Chateau Angelus and Chateau Canon, with slopes down to the valley giving the vineyard clay and sandy soils as well.
Quintus produces on average 35,000 bottles a year of its main wine, plus another 40,000 bottles a year of its second wine Dragon.
That compares with the 100,000 bottles of first wine Haut-Brion produces from its 50 hectares, and 50,000 bottles of La Mission produced from its 25 hectares.
Growing conditions for the Bordeaux 2019 vintage were very close to optimal, according to University of Bordeaux Associate Professor for Oenology Axel Marchal, speaking on a webinar hosted by Decanter’s Jane Anson.
His comments were reported in a post on the website of London merchant Fine+Rare.
Marchal said that in the best soils four out five conditions were met relating to fruit set, shoot growth, dryness during veraison and favorable harvest weather, with conditions during flowering partially met.
Fine+Rare cited Nicolas Glumineau of Chateau Pichon-Lalande as saying while the Bordeaux 2018 vintage resembled the 2009 because of its opulence and expressiveness, the 2019 was closer to the landmark 2010 ‘with its tension and precision.’
The planned presentation to the wine trade of the 2019 vintage had been planned for the past week but had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bordeaux first-growth wine estate Chateau Latour, owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault, will put its 2012 vintage on sale for the first time this month after withdrawing from the futures market following the 2011 vintage.
The estate made around 10,000 12-bottle cases of the 2012 vintage and plans to release about two-thirds of that quantity, in line with its traditional sales strategy.
The estate also plans to sell its 2014 vintage of second wine Les Forts de Latour and the 2015 vintage of its Pauillac label wine, according to Latour President Frederic Engerer.
“After eight yesrs of frustration from our negociants, we are finally coming back with a full range,” Engerer said at a London tasting of the wines late February. “This is the ideal vintage to start. It’s an important moment at Latour.”
Latour’s main wine and Les Forts will both be sold entirely through the Bordeaux merchant system, known as La Place de Bordeaux, he said. It follows a seven-year period since 2013 when Latour stopped making its most recent vintages available for purchase by the wine trade, taking the view that it was better to sell the wines when they were more mature.
“The release of the 2012 will be the biggest release of wine from Latour since stepping back from en primeur,” Engerer said.
The 2017 vintage of Saint Julien fourth-growth estate Chateau Beychevelle was the most-traded wine on the London-based online market Liv-ex in the past week, as tastings of that year’s wine hosted by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux trade group continued in northern Europe.
Bordeaux producers showing the 2017 vintage met merchants at tastings in Amsterdam on Feb. 17 and Brussels on Feb. 18, and will be at the Prowein fair in Duesseldorf in March.
Beychevelle traded at 698 pounds ($903) per 12-bottle case in bond, up 7% from its May 2018 release price of 650 pounds, according to Liv-ex.
The second most-traded wine of the week was Pessac-Leognan first-growth estate Chateau Haut-Brion 2010, trading at 6,200 pounds a case, down from its 2012 release price of 7,596 pounds.
The third most-traded Bordeaux wine was Pauillac fifth-growth Chateau Pontet-Canet 2016 at 1,000 a case, according to Liv-ex.
Bordeaux’s share of Liv-ex trade rose to 42.8% in the week to Feb. 20 from a low of 38.3% the previous week, and compared with 54.2% in January, Liv-ex said. Burgundy’s share fell to 23.9% from 27.0%, amd compared with 19.1% in January.
Chateau La Tour Figeac, a Saint Emilion wine estate owned by German industrialist Otto Rettenmaier, is shifting the balance of its vineyard more toward cabernet franc and away from merlot following the frost-hit 2017 vintage.
The grand cru wine estate, covering 14.6 hectares (36 acres) near Chateau Figeac, lost around 95% of its harvest in 2017 to a sharp spring frost which blighted many other vineyards in the Bordeaux region, although most less severely.
The wine estate made just 2,000 bottles of wine that year, according to Director Pierre Blois, compared to normal production of closer to 60,000. While 65% of the vineyard is merlot and 35% cabernet franc, damage to the crop in 2017 was so great that the blend was determined essentially by what had survived: eight barrels of cabernet franc and two barrels of merlot.
“I’m smiling now, I wasn’t smiling then” said Blois at a tasting of the 2017 vintage held in Brussels Feb. 18 by Bordeaux wine trade group l’Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. “ You can make very fine wine with cabernet franc.”
Next year La Tour Figeac is converting a one-hectare parcel of vines to cabernet franc from merlot, and has similar plans for more conversion in future years.
Blois said while parts of the vineyard suit merlot, “we want to move toward 50-50.” The land at La Tour Figeac is a mixture of gravel and sand on a clay subsoil.
He also said increasing temperatures in Bordeaux in recent years were helping cabernet franc, which can struggle to ripen in cooler, wetter vintages.
The vineyard was created in 1879 when it was separated out from neighboring Chateau Figeac. It has been owned by the Rettenmaier family since 1973.
Bordeaux fell to a record low 38.3% of trade on the London-based online wine market Liv-ex in the week to Thursday Feb. 13 from 48.8% the previous week and 54.2% in January, according to Liv-ex’s Talking Trade report.
Higher sterling against the euro on the outlook for increased U. K. government spending, the potential for U.S. trade tariffs against the European Union and the effect of the Coronavirus on many aspects of global activity all hit the Bordeaux market, according to Liv-ex.
“Bordeaux wines are popular in Asia, and with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, demand continues to falter,” Liv-ex said.
The most traded Bordeaux wine of the week was Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1996, which changed hands on the Liv-ex merchant-to-merchant market at £8,318 ($10,853) a case of 12 bottles in bond.
The Bordeaux 2019 vintage due to be presented to the wine trade next month is shaping up to be reasonably large in volume and high in quality, according to growers interviewed at a Paris tasting.
Unusually high summer temperatures reaching into the high 30s centigrade or even exceeding 40 degrees were punctuated by rainfall in late July and also late September, bringing relief to the vines. Cool nights on the Pomerol plateau and other higher ground also helped.
While growers agreed the vintage is looking promising, the high temperatures had been some cause for concern. “The vintage was saved twice by the rain,” said Olivier Bernard of Domaine du Chevalier in Pessac-Leognan, south of the city.
“We are very hopeful,” said Benedicte Pinero of Chateau Haut-Bailly at a tasting in Paris on Feb. 4 of the recent 2017 vintage. The estate, owned by the family of the late U.S. banker Robert Wilmers, suffered frost damage to its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in 2017, reducing output, but “in 2019 we had both quality and quantity.”
The Burgundy 2018 vintage was the warmest ever according to available data and produced a bumper white grape crop which “goes down as one of the biggest on record for Chardonnay,” an e-mailed report from London-based wine merchant Justerini & Brooks said.
While yields for Pinot Noir red wines were “broadly speaking a healthy average,” the whites provided “the surprise of the vintage” and resulted in wines that were “incredibly consistent and have fresh fruit profiles,” Justerini said.
The winter of 2017-2018 preceding the growing season was very wet, building up water reservoirs in the soil which helped mitigate the subsequent heat.
Reds were “less consistent,” with the wines “relatively low in acidity and relatively high in alcohol,” ranging from 13% up to 14.5%, according to Justerini.
“The picking window for Pinot Noir was short this year, with levels of sugar, acid and phenolics changing at pace as harvest approached,” Justerini said.
Giles Burke-Gaffney, buying director of Justerini, which has been in the London wine trade since 1749, described the vintage in his report as “as fascinating and enjoyable to taste as it was confounding.”
Burgundy’s share of trading by value on the London-based Liv-ex wine market rose to 25% in the week to Jan. 16 from 17% a week earlier as London tastings of the 2018 vintage hit their stride, according to Liv-ex’s Talking Trade report.
Italy’s share rose to 17% from 14% while Bordeaux’s correspondingly fell to 41% from 60%, it said.
Bordeaux wines from the 2012 vintage seeing active trade included Chateau Angelus, Chateau L’Evangile, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Chateau Canon, Liv-ex said.