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.
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.
The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index of the Bordeaux Left-Bank First-Growth wines ended 2019 down 4.3%, a greater decline than the broader Liv-ex Bordeaux 500 Index and also the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100, which includes wines from other regions, both of which fell 3.0%, according to Liv-ex’s January market report.
The Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 fell 4.2% and the Liv-ex Fine Wine Investables fell 3.0% over the same period, it said.
Bordeaux’s share of the Liv-ex market fell to 48.8% in December from 52.9% in November, while Burgundy’s share rose to 22.9% from 13.5%, it said.
Burgundy accounted for 16.6% of Liv-ex trade in the week to Jan. 9, up from 14.0% the previous week, as the focus of the fine wine world turned towards this month’s trade tastings of the 2018 vintage from the region, according to Liv-ex’s Talking Trade report.
Italian wines also gained in market share, more than doubling to 13.7% from 6.4%, while Bordeaux’s share shrank to 60.3% from 65.8% and Champagne’s to 3.3% from 8.9%, according to Liv-ex.
The most traded Bordeaux vintage was the 2009, followed by the 2010 and 2008. Most traded Bordeaux wines by value on the online exchange were Chateau Haut-Brion 2009 at 5,800 pounds ($7,570) per 12-bottle case in bond, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 2009 at 4,200 pounds a case and Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2009 at 8,256 pounds a case, according to Liv-ex.