Bordeaux 2019 Vintage

By Guy Collins

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.

Saturnalia Data Sheds Light on Bordeaux 2020 Vintage

Bordeaux vineyards in early Spring. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Satellite and ground station data gathered by Saturnalia, a service developed by Ticinum Aerospace, a spin-off company of the University of Pavia in northern Italy, is shedding fresh light in great detail on precipitation and other climatic details of the Bordeaux 2020 vintage in comparison to its predecessors.

While the broad profile of the weather during the 2020 vintage has been well-documented already, featuring primarily a period of drought from mid-June to mid-August in what was otherwise an unusually wet year, Saturnalia data drills down into conditions not only in each appellations, but also individual vineyards. The project has received funding from the European Space Agency.

The Bordeaux 2020 vintage was the wettest in recent years, with temperatures similar to 2019 from June to August and cooler toward the end of the season, according to Saturnalia. The right bank also suffered significant hailstorms in April. Its analysis is attracting attention in the London wine trade, with Liv-ex citing it in a recent report.

Remarkably, according to Saturnalia data, 2020 was actually wetter than 2013, which went down in the record books as a cool, wet vintage that produced lower-priced wines and was overshadowed by the three that succeeded it, in particular the highly successful 2015 and 2016 vintages. The key difference this time round was the summer drought.

“What is peculiar to 2020, and very similar to 2015, is that for about two months, from mid-June to nearly mid-August (the first significant rain arrived around the 10th to 12th of August in 2020) the vines experienced a prolonged period of drought,” Saturnalia said.

In Margaux temperatures were higher than average at the start of the growing season, reverting to the norm in the second part, according to Saturnalia. While there was “extensive water stress,” late rains should have helped keep grapes balanced. It described the conditions around the vintage in the appellation as showing “unique behavior.”

In Saint Julien, where estates include Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Chateau Leoville Barton, Chateau Leoville Poyferre and Chateau Beychevelle, temperatures were among the three hottest since 2013, especially early in the growing season, while late rains should have prevented severe water stress, Saturnalia said. It said 2020 for Saint Julien should be “very positive.”

Further north in Pauillac, where first growths Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour are to be found, as well as Chateau Pichon Baron, Chateau Pichon Comtesse, Chateau Pontet Canet and Chateau Lynch Bages, Saturnalia again described the 2020 vintage as “unique, with moderate water stress.” Non-extreme temperatures and rain in September helped keep grapes in balance, with temperatures also among the three hottest since 2013.

In Saint-Estephe, the northern-most appellation for classified growths and home to second-growths Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose, Saturnalia described the 2020 vintage as “not as different from 2018 in terms of total stress,” although wetter than recent years.

Meanwhile in the Pessac-Leognan appellation to the south of the city, vineyards were less affected by thunderstorms in late August, so the grapes are expected to be “even more balanced,” Saturnalia said.

On the right bank of the Dordogne, conditions in Pomerol were characterized by “non-extreme temperatures” while in Saint Emilion Saturnalia said it expected “good quality” even though hailstorms in April and water stress posed challenges.

Rainfall in Bordeaux totaled 1,244 millimeters in 2020, the highest compared with the preceding five years and higher than the 1,102 recorded in 2013, according to Saturnalia. However rainfall during the critical period from June 15 to July 30 was lower than the preceding four years, including the banner 2016 vintage.

Bordeaux Share of Liv-ex Trade Rises to 40.5%, Led by Mouton ’10

By Guy Collins

Bordeaux’s share of the London-based online wine market Liv-ex rose to 40.5% in the week ended Nov. 19, only the second time in the past 10 weeks that it has risen above 40%, according to Liv-ex’s Talking Trade blog.

Bordeaux’s 2010 and 2015 vintages led trade by value for the region, according to Liv-ex, while the cheaper 2017 vintage led by volume.

The top-selling Bordeaux on Liv-ex during the week in terms of share of trade by value was the 2010 vintage of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, which traded at 5,706 pounds ($7,599) per 12-bottle case in bond, according to Liv-ex.

A sample bottle of the Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2016 vintage at the estate. Photo: Guy Collins

Lafite ’16 Approaches Record Level on Liv-ex

By Guy Collins

The 2016 vintage of Chateau Lafite Rothschild traded at 6,240 pounds ($8,296) per 12-bottle case in bond on the London-based Liv-ex wine market during the week ended Nov. 5, its second-highest level on the secondary market since release and the highest for the past two years, according to the Liv-ex Talking Trade blog.

It was the top-traded wine of the first week of November on the exchange, Liv-ex said.

The blend for Lafite’s 2016 vintage was 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot, with the estate’s website saying grapes were able to reach “exceptional levels of maturity” following a cool June and then a hot, very dry summer.

Vines at Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac. Photo: Guy Collins

Latour Offers 2009 Vintage From Chateau, HDH Says

Chateau Latour, a Bordeaux first-growth estate in Pauillac, has made an offer of more wine from its 2009 vintage direct from its own cellars, according to an email from Chicago-based merchant Hart Davis Hart Wine Co.

HDH Wine is pricing it at $3,705 per three-bottle case, or $2,470 per magnum, it said.

According to Liv-ex data on Cellar-Watch.com, Latour 2009 traded at 10,500 pounds ($13,640) per 12-bottle case in bond in July 2013, before falling as low as 8,200 pounds in January 2016, then recovering back to 10,500 pounds in January 2017 and slipping back again to 9,000 pounds in June 2020. It has fallen 1.1% over the past 12 months, according to the data.

Chateau Latour. Photo: Guy Collins

Pichon Comtesse 2019 Points to Future of Estate

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Photo: Guy Collins

The 2019 vintage of Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande points the way to the style of wine the Pauillac estate is developing as it transforms its vineyard and benefits from its new winery, and represents a major step in a multi-year programme along that path, according to Managing Director Nicolas Glumineau.

“First, it’s our best vintage for a very, very long time,” he said in an interview earlier this summer. “2016 was good, ’10 was good too. ’19 is unique. It has everything in terms of what we look for to define the future of Pichon Comtesse.”

The blend was 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc, with no Petit Verdot. “I want to prove we can have 70-75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5-10% Cabernet Franc and still have refined tannins,” Glumineau said.

While the estate, neighboring Chateau Latour and Chateau Pichon Baron, covers 92 hectares (227 acres), only 72 hectares are currently under vine, as a major replanting operation is under way. “It’s a huge project,” Glumineau said. “Since 2012 we have pulled out three hectares of vines every year” and then left the ground fallow for another three. The proportion of vines planted is now 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.

“We are designing the future of the vineyard,” he said. “From 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, we’re increasing to 65-70%. From 40% Merlot, we’re going down to 25%.” The Cabernet Franc will stay around 7-8% and Petit Verdot around 2-3%, he said. “In this fantastic area where we can make great wines, Pichon Comtesse has always had a unique personality.”

About 50% of the harvest currently goes into the main, or “grand”, wine and 50% into the second wine, La Reserve de la Comtesse, and that’s a ratio that Glumineau is also intending to change. “In three to five years, we’ll start to have more grand vin,” he said, boosting the ratio to 60:40 or even two-thirds to one-third. Current production is about 300,000 bottles, split evenly between the main and second wine. In future years the aim is to boost total production to between 350,000 and 400,000 bottles, he said.

The new winery, which was inaugurated with the 2013 vintage, is making a major contribution to the transformation of the estate, and just had its remaining 12 wooden tanks replaced with conical stainless steel vats.

The winery with the wooden tanks that have been removed. Photo: Guy Collins

The 2019 vintage went on sale in June at 104.40 euros ($124) a bottle ex-negociant , down 20.8% from its 2018 release price, according to London-based online wine market Liv-ex. That compared with its 2018 release price of 132 euros, Liv-ex said.

Glumineau said the estate sold between 80% and 85% of its production of both the grand vin and the second wine, with the very strong demand as soon as the wine became available. “We were sold out after a couple of hours,” he said. “The demand coming from the U.S. and U.K. was huge.”

Commenting on the amount released, he said “it’s probably a lot, but this en primeur campaign is definitely effective. The more you sell, the more powerful is your brand.”

He also said that there is a balancing act in pitching the offer at the right level. “Pricing has to be fair,” he said. “All the distribution chain has to earn money.”

Vieux Chateau Certan ’19 on Sale at 168 Euros, Down 20% on 2018, Liv-ex Says

Vieux Chateau Certan, a wine estate in the Pomerol appellation of Bordeaux, put its 2019 wine on sale at 168 euros ($189) a bottle ex-negociant in bond, down 20% from its 2018 release price, according to London-based online wine market Liv-ex.

That compared with its 2018 release price of 210 euros, Liv-ex said. 

Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol. Photo: Guy Collins

Christie’s to Hold Auctions in Hong Kong, Geneva, London, New York in July

Christie’s International plans to hold live wine auctions in Hong Kong on July 12, Geneva on July 21 and London on July 28, according to an emailed statement from the auction house. 

It also plans to hold an online sale in New York running from July 16 to July 31, it said.

Bottles up for sale range from a 1775 Madeira to Bordeaux 2015, Christie’s said. The New York on line sale will feature wines from the cellar of California-based collector Benjamin Ichinose.

Christie’s International, New York. Photo: Guy Collins

Troplong Mondot ’18 on Sale at 60 Euros, Down 19.4% From 2018, Liv-ex Says

Chateau Troplong Mondot, a wine estate in the Saint Emilion appellation of Bordeaux neighboring Chateau Latour, put its 2019 wine on sale at 60 euros ($68) a bottle ex-negociant in bond, down 19.4% from its 2018 release price, according to London-based online wine market Liv-ex.

That compared with its 2018 release price of 74.40 euros, Liv-ex said. 

Carmes Haut Brion ’19 on Sale at 64.80 Euros, Down 6.1% From 2018, Liv-ex Says

Les Carmes Haut Brion, a close neighbor in Pessac-Leognan of Bordeaux first-growth wine estate Chateau Haut Brion, put its 2019 wine on sale at 64.80 euros ($73) a bottle ex-negociant in bond, down 6.1% from its 2018 release price, according to London-based online wine market Liv-ex.

That compared with its 2018 release price of 69 euros, Liv-ex said. 

La Fleur Petrus ’19 on Sale at £1,660 a Case, Down 16.6% From ’18, Liv-ex Says

Chateau La Fleur Petrus, a wine estate in the Pomerol appellation of Bordeaux, put its 2019 wine on sale at 160 euros ($180) a bottle ex-negociant in bond, according to London-based online wine market Liv-ex.

It was being offered at 1,660 pounds ($2,079) per 12-bottle case in bond in the international market, down 16.6% from the 2018 opening price of 1,990 pounds, Liv-ex said. 

Chateau La Fleur Petrus, Pomerol. Photo: Guy Collins