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Bordeaux 2019 at Two Years: Pessac-Léognan, Red

Bordeaux 2019 at Two Years: Pessac-Léognan, Red

In this, the first of two instalments in which I put the 2019 vintage in Pessac-Léognan under the microscope, I begin with the reds. I report here on 35 wines from this appellation, and as is the norm at the end I also tag on all the wines I tasted from the broader Graves appellation, bringing the total number of wines reported on here up to 45.

My sequence of visits in Pessac-Léognan always calls for a little urban driving, given that a tasting of the wines of Domaine Clarence Dillon – either at Château La Mission Haut-Brion or Château Haut-Brion – is an essential stop on any Bordeaux schedule. It is often the first visit of the day, and this time it was the very first visit I made during my trip to the region. Having spent the night holed up in a railway hotel I tumbled out of bed and trotted down to the station to collect my hire car as soon as the desk opened, the process for which was completed in what felt like a matter of minutes. Indeed, it took longer to scrape the ice from the car’s windscreen, the temperature having dropped to well below zero overnight. But then I was underway, and fifteen minutes later I was in the tasting room at Château La Mission Haut-Brion. It was the start of a long day of tasting during which I gradually arrived later, and then later, and then even later, for my appointments (sorry everybody!).

At first glance the 2019 vintage is not one that would offer the vineyards of Pessac-Léognan and Graves any great advantage. The soils here are varied, but in many cases are gravelly, sometimes turning to lighter materials, finer gravels and silty soils, although there are little streaks of clay-limestone here and there. And unlike the vineyards further north, where Cabernet Sauvignon rules (well, it does on the very top estates, overlooking the Gironde), here Merlot often plays a larger part, which can make things difficult in warmer vintages. This is why the many right-bank properties who favour Cabernet Franc (and in some cases even have a few rows of Cabernet Sauvignon) alongside the Merlot did so well this year (although variety and terroir are interlinked and, to be fair, working exclusively with Merlot didn’t hold back Château Trotanoy). In addition many domaines here exist in an urban or semi-urban environment, adding further climatic challenges in warmer vintages.

And yet, despite all this, for the red wines at least, this is a vintage in which in which the Pessac-Léognan appellation has done very well indeed.

Bordeaux 2019

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