No-one expected much of this year’s Bordeaux en primeur campaign. What with the looming uncertainty of Brexit on the cards, a market that was steadily losing interest due to the high prices and questionable quality of the 2018 vintage, and a virulent pandemic sweeping the globe, many didn’t expect it to happen at all. 

What resulted was, contrary to all expectations, an unprecedented success. A process that usually takes months was over in all of 4 weeks – a whirlwind of activity that took place whilst most of the world was confined to their homes. 

The generous price cuts offered by all the big Bordeaux names was a welcome surprise to consumers in all corners of the globe, and was undoubtedly the key driver of the campaign’s success. Many knew that 2019 had produced a solid crop of wines, possibly even better than the 2018s, which gave rise to considerable uncertainty about this year’s prices. 

It was an opportunity for Bordeaux to make a statement – to shine in the midst of so much gloom, doom and chaos on the global political scene – and luckily, they managed to pull it off. 

Pontet-Canet and Palmer were released early with cuts of 31% on their 2018 prices. Over the following weeks it became clear that the trend was one of cuts – some bigger, some smaller, but cuts nonetheless. Mouton Rothschild was in such demand with its 30% price cut that it crashed Liv-ex’s platform on the morning of its release.

Overall, prices dropped 21% on the previous year and critical consensus was much more reliably in favour, with parallels drawn between the outstanding 2016 and 2009 vintages. 

With the price cuts came demand and, due to the increasingly lower volumes being released by most chateaux, the result was the creation of a real sense of pace and urgency to buy that had been waning or absent from previous years’ campaigns. 

In their glowing report on the campaign, Liv-ex congratulated the Bordelais for grabbing the market’s attention in a time of great uncertainty and considerable financial stress, and titled the report ‘The Magic Is Back’. 

Let’s hope that, rather than it being a one-off freakish success, the Bordelais take note of the positive market response and set a much-needed trend for future en primeur campaigns. 

Robert Parker’s top 20 Bordeaux 2019 wines 

Wine Advocate’s full report “France, Bordeaux: 2019 En Primeur Report – The Miracle Vintage” is available to subscribers via their website. Here is a list of the Top 20 highest scoring 2019s taken from the report. 

2019 Figeac – “This is a simply stunning, seemingly effortless, beautifully harmonious expression of the vineyard and the vintage—bravo!” 

2019 L’Eglise Clinet – “The 2019 L’Eglise Clinet has a powerfully fragrant nose…the palate is an exercise in poise and precision, possessing remarkably well-defined, bright, energetic black fruit…And if all that isn’t enough, it is also fantastically delicious.”

2019 La Mission Haut-Brion – “The full-bodied palate is densely laden with layers of black fruit, earth and floral-laced flavors, framed by exquisitely ripe, finely grained tannins and compelling freshness…. This is already a prodigious wine of indisputable beauty.”

2019 Mouton Rothschild – “The medium-bodied palate shimmers with energy, featuring tightly wound layers of black fruits, exotic spices and mineral notions…finishing with epic length and perfume. This year’s profound expression is without doubt a legend in the making.”

2019 Pontet-Canet “The 2019 Pontet-Canet has the most gorgeous, lifted perfume of lilacs, dark chocolate, Morello cherries and rosehip tea…. A real head-turner, this beauty is absolutely going to steal your heart!”

2019 Château Margaux – “The medium-bodied palate quivers with energy, emitting loads of mineral sparks, featuring bold freshness and fantastically ripe, finely grained tannins to support the delicate, perfumed layers…. The juxtaposition between the acidity and the richness in this Château Margaux is just extraordinary!”

2019 Ducru-Beaucaillou – “The palate is a tightly wound coil poised to spring out with layer upon layer of minerals, rich black fruits and floral notes, framed by very firm, exquisitely ripe tannins and electric freshness.”

2019 Pavie – “Quaking with latent power and shimmering with a kaleidoscope of electric flavors, this could only be Pavie.”

2019 Pichon-Longueville Baron – “This is an absolutely beguiling expression that is classic Pauillac, and yet it is Pauillac like no other.”

2019 Vieux Château Certan – “The acidity here is absolutely seamless, and the finish explodes into an array of mineral sparks. Be prepared to fall head over heels for this one.”

2019 Cos d’Estournel – “This wine so beautifully, clearly captures the juxtaposition between the periods of dry heat and those hallelujah moments of refreshing rain—the hallmarks of this great vintage. It’s a vinous masterpiece in the making.” 

2019 Haut-Brion – “Given time, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it goes atomic and eventually takes top place for the vintage.”

2019 Léoville Las Cases – “It appears to be holding just that little bit extra back right now. I have to call it as I see it today, but I wouldn’t be surprised if when I come back to taste this from bottle, it shows me all that and a lot more.

2019 Angélus – “The intensity on the palate builds from delicate, beguiling nuances with ethereal weight to a full-on fireworks display of flavor sparks, framed by fantastic freshness.”

2019 Haut-Bailly – “The palate is achingly elegant, showing off perfumed black fruit layers with a firm frame of very fine-grained, silt-like tannins and seamless freshness… Just magic.”

2019 La Mondotte – “The medium to full-bodied palate is an exercise in poise and sophistication, featuring the most exquisitely ripe, velvety tannins and amazing freshness, beautifully countering the intense blue and black fruit layers.”

2019 Lafite Rothschild – “And yet, the tannins here are unmistakably Lafite, featuring all the tannic grace, finesse and densely pixilated poise fans will expect. What an exciting paradox for the palate—bravo!”

2019 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – “It sails out of the glass with a stunning array of Black Forest cake, warm cassis and wild blueberries scents with underlying hints of Morello cherries, redcurrant jelly, pencil shavings, menthol and aniseed with a touch of charcoal.”

2019 Trotanoy – “The medium to full-bodied palate reveals a heart-thumping interplay between profoundly rich black fruit and an incredible array of mineral and floral sparks.”
2019 Haut-Brion Blanc – “The medium to full-bodied palate has a seducing hint of oiliness texturing the intense citrus and chalky layers, lifted by bold freshness and finishing with incredible length and perfume. Just stunning.”