Bordeaux 2019 Primeurs: St Estèphe
Perhaps the most accessible of all the Médoc communes, with its array of trustworthy cru bourgeois estates, I always look forward to exploring what St Estèphe has produced in the latest vintage. While we should look to the small handful of grand cru classé estates that are dotted across the appellation, just five in total, to produce something of note in any vintage, in a favourable year such as 2019 it is almost guaranteed that hidden among the huge troupe of cru bourgeois wines in St Estèphe will be some of the best value wines of the Médoc.
There is a subtly different terroir to that found in the communes to the south; the great tors of gravel here are just as significant as they are around Pauillac and St Julien, but here they are complemented by clay, and underpinned by a bed of locally significant limestone. The climate differs too, being a little further north, and the vineyards are more exposed on the peninsula than their peers. These are two of the reasons why, presumably, the appellation of St Estèphe can buck the trend, as it did a few years ago, in 2014, when it produced wines of much greater distinction than could be found at many addresses up and down the left bank.
There is no bucking the trend in the 2019 vintage, though, and for that we should be pleased. Indeed, the appellation seems to have slipped into something of a groove in this vintage, yielding a rich seam of successful wines. They typify the left-bank style in 2019, with deep colours and an expressive fragrance, confident and perfumed with primary Cabernet Sauvignon aromas. As indeed, having already reviewed the weather through the vintage, they should. With the grapes able to take their time to ripen in the warm and largely dry conditions at the end of the growing season, all the left-bank varieties performed well, but aided in the final moments by the late-September rains the Cabernets in particular seem to have come out of it with a particularly impressive expression.
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