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Bordeaux 2019 at Two Years: Sauternes & Barsac

Bordeaux 2019 at Two Years: Sauternes & Barsac

No vintage report is complete without a look at Sauternes, although putting together a Sauternes instalment to this 2019 Bordeaux report was not plain sailing. During my visit to Bordeaux to taste the 2019s I made appointments at Château d’Yquem, Château Climens and Château Raymond-Lafon. As it turned out, however, the first of this trio were not ready to show the 2019 vintage, only 2018, and at Château Climens Bérénice Lurton had to cancel my appointment at the last moment due to illness, so in the end I only one of my scheduled visits yielded a tasting note. All the other wines I tasted came courtesy of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, or through the receipt of samples.

Before I report on the wines, I should first take a look back at the vintage. Sauternes and Barsac did not have quite the same experience as other regions in 2019, with more extensive rain in July, which in the warm conditions prompted an attack of acid rot. Thereafter things improved, and the drier weather facilitated a good clean up in the vineyards, but that clean up involved – for some, at least – discarding the majority of their crop. Jean-Pierre Meslier at Château Raymond-Lafon told me he lost 60% of the harvest at this time. Others fared worse, with the team at Château Nairac throwing in the towel completely; presumably they spent the rest of the year crossing their fingers for better luck in 2020.

The conditions for botrytis were a long time coming, and the most important phase of picking did not get underway until mid-October, when rain followed by a heat wave prompted noble rot and the requisite concentration of the fruit. Although some properties made as many as six passes through the vines, the majority of the blends of the grands vins are built around that mid-October picking. Looking at the top wines the acidity levels tended to be good, despite the warm weather, the concentration holding them up, although as I noted during the primeurs many lesser wines felt rather soft. This tasting, however, focuses on a small number of grands vins, with only a few petits vins included, which gives a rather more focused view of the vintage.

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