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.

Bordeaux Growers Assess Damage as Frost Hits Vines

The River Garonne in Bordeaux. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Severe frost hit Bordeaux vineyards during the night of Tuesday April 6 into Wednesday morning April 7 and over the following 48 hours through to Thursday April 8, according to Bordeaux newspaper Sud Ouest citing local producers.

It was part of a wider cold snap that brought sub-zero temperatures to vineyards across France from Burgundy through Champagne to the Loire and Rhone Valley, according to the Guardian, citing Agence France Presse.

Temperatures fell to as low as between -4C and -6C in parts of the Medoc, according to Sud Ouest, which said some of the earlier-budding Merlot grapes were more vulnerable to the frost than the Cabernet Sauvignon, which develops later.

Vineyards further from the river are more susceptible to frost, which is typically at its worst in the early morning hours. Smudge pots were lit in many vineyards across Bordeaux overnight to attempt to keep temperatures higher.

In Saint Emilion, producers who lit smudge pots included Chateau Figeac and Chateau Larcis-Ducasse, according to photos in Sud Ouest, while similar precautions were taken at Chateau La Conseillante in Pomerol. Temperatures dropped to -4C in Sauternes in the early morning hours of April 7, and helicopters were also used in the region to keep air moving and the temperature up.

While Bordeaux is vulnerable to Spring frosts and suffered from a particularly severe one in late April 2017, there can be considerable variation in the damage suffered by different vineyards, depending very much on factors such as whether vines are on low-lying land, slopes or higher ground, the direction in which they are facing and their proximity to, or distance from, the river.

The extent of damage suffered by individual vineyards is likely to become clearer in coming weeks as the growing season progresses and estates are able to make a more detailed assessment.

Latour From ’61, ’59 and ’45 Vintages in Hart Sale

Chateau Latour. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Bottles of Pauillac first-growth Chateau Latour from the landmark 1961, 1959 and 1945 vintages are going on sale at a Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. auction this month, according to its online catalog.

A single bottle of the 1961 vintage (lot 384), with the wine level described as “very high shoulder” and a nicked label, is estimated to fetch between $3,000 and $4,500, according to Hart. Two bottles of the 1959 (lot 583) carry a combined estimate of between $5,500 and $8,500 while a single bottle of the same vintage (lot 1605) is priced at between $2,800 and $4,200.

A single bottle of Latour 1945 (lot 1), also described as “very high shoulder” and with a bin-soiled label and slightly torn and corroded capsule and a slightly raised cork, carries an estimate of between $2,400 and $3,500.

The Latour website describes the weather in 1945 as being difficult at the start, with significant frosts on May 1 and 2, followed by very favorable conditions throughout the growing season and harvests. “After the war, the vineyard was nothing like what it is today: it had not been replanted, improved or fertilized and suffered from a lack of suitable treatments against various diseases,” according to the website. “At that time, the average yield ranged from 15 to 20 hectoliters per hectare, and this was mainly from old vines that produced comparatively little. Despite a difficult vinification, the resulting 54 barrels of Latour were rich and concentrated.”

1959 was described by Latour as having a warm, wet spring followed by very good weather in July and August, although a little too dry, and a warm, rather dry September. In 1961, May saw fine weather during the day with cold nights, until frost hit on May 29. The vine flowers were frozen and three-quarters of the harvest was lost. July and the first three weeks of August were overcast and cool, but continuous fine weather from Aug. 24 to Sept. 28 enabled the surviving grapes to ripen well. It describes both vintages as “exceptional.”

Latour traces its history back to the 14th century and began to seriously develop as a top-quality vineyard in the early 18th century under Alexandre de Segur, who acquired it, and later his son Nicolas-Alexandre, who Louis XV dubbed “Prince of the Vines.” Descendants of the Segur family continued to own the property until 1962, when it was sold to London-based Pearson, which owned 53% of the shares and Harveys of Bristol, subsequently acquired by Allied Lyons, which owned 25%. In 1989 Allied Lyons bought out Pearson to own 93% of shares, with the other 7% staying with the Segur family. In June 1993 the Allied Lyons majority stake was bought by the current owner, French billionaire Francois Pinault, through his holding company Artemis.

As with sales of all fine old wines, provenance and condition are key and can affect values. The sale is scheduled for Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 in Delaware.

Bordeaux Holds Above 30% of Liv-ex Trading

Chateau Margaux. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Bordeaux remained above 30% of the trading on the Liv-ex online wine market by value for the second consecutive week as the 2018 vintage became physically available, according Liv-ex’s Talking Trade market blog.

While trade for physical Bordeaux 2018 is now greater than that seen during the en primeur period, buyers’ focus remains on the standout 2016, 2015 and 2009 vintages, Liv-ex said.

With Chinese Lunar New Year imminent on Feb. 12, the Year of the Ox is about to start. Since the Zodiac calendar runs on a 12-year cycle, the last Year of the Ox was 2009, boosting interest in that vintage.

The top Bordeaux wines traded by value during the week ended Feb. 4 were Chateau Margaux 2018, at 4,708 pounds ($6,467) per 12-bottle case in bond, and Chateau Valandraud 2016, a Saint Emilion grand cru, at 1,146 pounds a case, Liv-ex said.

Fleur Cardinale Starts Organic Conversion

The rooftops of Saint Emilion. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Chateau Fleur Cardinale, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, is starting a three-year conversion to organic farming and will complete the process by 2024, according to an email from the estate.

The vineyard, which has been owned by the Decoster family since the 2001 vintage, comprises 49 plots spread over about 23.5 hectares (58 acres) in the village of Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse, in the eastern part of the Saint-Emilion appellation, according to the estate’s website. It’s a close neighbor of Chateau Valandraud, which is a Premier Grand Cru Classe B wine.

The average age of vines is 40 years, and it is planted with 76% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Average annual production is 110,000 bottles and the wine spends between 12 and 14 months in new French oak.

Petrus ’89 Sells for HK$375,000 at Sotheby’s

Petrus. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

A 12-bottle lot of Petrus 1989, from the Pomerol appellation of Bordeaux, sold for HK$375,000 ($48,400) at a Sotheby’s online wine sale in Hong Kong which ended Jan. 22, according to the auction house’s website.

A further 12-bottle lot of Petrus 2004 sold for HK$237,500 and 12 bottles of Petrus 1988 for HK$187,500, according to the website.

The Petrus vineyard is 11.4 hectares (28 acres) and situated on a plateau on the highest part of Pomerol, according to the website of London wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd. The topsoil and subsoil are almost all clay, unlike neighboring properties which have mixtures of gravel-sand or clay-sand. 95% of the vineyard is planted with Merlot vines, which are only replaced when they reach 70 years of age, according to Berry Bros.

A 12-bottle lot of Pomerol producer Le Pin’s 2001 vintage sold for HK$275,000 at the same auction. Le Pin is in the nearby village of Catusseau.

Yquem 2008 Shows 40% Gain Since 2016 on Liv-ex

Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

The 2008 vintage of top Sauternes dessert wine producer Chateau d’Yquem traded at 1,862 pounds ($2,552) per 12-bottle case in bond on the London-based Liv-ex online wine exchange, a gain of more than 40% since 2016, according to Liv-ex’s “Talking Trade” market report.

It was the second most traded Bordeaux wine on the exchange in the week ended Jan. 28, after Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2015, and the fourth most traded after Domaine Ponsot, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Cuvee Vieilles Vignes 2018 and Realm Cellars, Napa Valley The Bard 2018, according to Liv-ex.

Yquem’s website describes 2008 as a “year of capricious weather, with alternating hot and cold, including frost in April that did no great harm, but reduced the potential crop.” It says a cold, dry period in September led to slow ripening of the Semillon graped, leading to “great aromatic purity.”

Chateau d’Yquem is owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton, the French luxury goods company, whose chief executive officer is Bernard Arnault, the third wealthiest person in the world, according to forbes.com.

Lafite ’15 Climbs to Three-Year High on Liv-ex

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

The 2015 vintage of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild traded at 5,400 pounds ($7,400) per 12-bottle case in bond on the London-based online wine exchange Liv-ex this month, its highest level for three years, according to Liv-ex’s “Talking Trade” market report.

It also had the highest share of trade by value on the exchange of any Bordeaux wine in the week ended Jan. 28, when Bordeaux’s share of overall trading accounted for 33.6%, Liv-ex said. That was up from 27.3% the previous week, but down from the 2020 share of 42%.

The 2015 vintage of Lafite was a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot, according to the estate website lafite.com, with no Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot. Bud break and flowering were early that year, the summer was hot and water stress high, but rain in August helped the grapes to ripen and harvest conditions were ideal.

Lafite was ranked a first-growth estate in the 1855 Bordeaux left-bank classification, and its wines are typically aged for between 18 and 20 months in 100% new oak barrels. It produces around 16,000 cases a year of its main wine, according to the website.

Liv-ex Bordeaux 500 Gains 3.5% Over Past Year

By Guy Collins

The Liv-ex Bordeaux 500 Index gained 3.5% over the past year, bringing its five-year advance to 34.1%, according to a market blog post from the London-based online wine market.

That was slightly below the 2.0% gain for the broader Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 during 2020, taking its five-year climb to 44.8%. The Bordeaux Legends 40, including older vintages of renowned wine estates, gained 3.7% in 2020 and 38.4% over five years.

Burgundy saw its spectacular recent gains stall, with the Burgundy 150 Index slipping 1.5% last year, although still up 81.9% over five years, according to Liv-ex.

Saint Emilion, one of Bordeaux’s top wine appellations. Photo: Guy Collins

Bottle of Lafite 1865 Fetches $31,070 at Hart Auction

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

An historic bottle of the 1865 vintage of top Bordeaux wine estate Chateau Lafite sold for $31,070 at a Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. auction on Dec. 18 and 19, well above its presale estimate of $11,000 to $17,000, according to an email from the Chicago-based auction house.

The wine was made three years before Baron James de Rothschild bought the first-growth Pauillac estate on Aug. 8, 1868 from the Vanlerberghe family heirs, paying 4.14 million francs, according to the second edition of Charles Cocks’s `Bordeaux et Ses Vins,’ published that same year.

According to Cocks, the 1865 Lafite harvest was bought en primeur in 1866 for 5,000 francs per tonneau, an amount which equates to 900 liters, or 100 12-bottle cases, by Bordeaux merchants Barton & Guestier, Clossmann, Cruse, Eschenauer, Finck and Johnston. It immediately rose to 6,600 francs, and by the summer of 1868 “the little that remained in the Bordeaux market reached a price of 8,000 francs” a tonneau.

The bottle sold at the Hart auction is labeled “Chateau Lafite-Rothschild,” even though it wasn’t in family ownership at the time. It was recorked at the chateau in March 1953, and again in 1986. The bottle was bought by Napa Valley vineyard owner and avid collector Joseph Phelps at a Christie’s auction in London in March 1981 for the equivalent of $1,980 and has remained in his collection until this sale, according to the Hart catalog.

U.S. critic Robert Parker described the wine as “otherworldly” in the fourth edition of his “Bordeaux, The Comprehensive Guide,” with “an extraordinary fragrance, great density, and fabulous intensity of chocolate, herb and cedar-like flavors with a wonderful sweet, inner core of opulent fruit. The finish is long and velvety, with no hard edges.”

Other top Bordeaux in the sale included a full case of Lafite 1948, which also sold for $31,070; 11 bottles of Chateau Latour 1959, which fetched a record $77,675, and 12 bottles of Latour 1962, which sold for $23,900.

Historic Bordeaux on Offer at Hart’s Phelps Sale

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion. Hart Davis Hart has a bottle of its 1918 vintage in its December sale. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Historic bottles of Bordeaux, stretching back to the mid-19th century, are on offer as part of Hart Davis Hart Wine Co.’s auction of the personal estate of Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Phelps, scheduled for Friday.

A single bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1865, recorked in 1953 and 1986 and bought at a Christie’s auction in March 1981, is on sale at an estimated price of between $11,000 and $17,000, according to the Hart online catalog.

The collection also includes a bottle of Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 1918, estimated at between $4,000 and $6,000, a bottle of neighboring Chateau Haut-Brion 1924, at between $1,200 and $1,800, and two bottles of Haut-Brion 1934, at between $1,400 and $2,000, made shortly before U.S. banker Clarence Dillon bought the estate.

Phelps was a major buyer at London wine auctions for his collection, and “the documentation of provenance and storage is truly exceptional,” Marc Smoler, Hart’s senior vice-president for client services, said in a phone interview.

There is also a bottle of Chateau Latour 1929, estimated between $2,400 and $3,500, and two bottles of Latour 1933, estimated between $1,500 and $2,200.