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Posted: Thursday, 25 June 2020 16:58

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John Salvi MW revisits Bordeaux 2019 En Primeur

June 25: An earlier Article on En Primeur 2019, one of the first ones in the segment, by our Bordeaux resident specialist John Salvi Master of Wine, was admittedly too critical and harsh and he revisits and revises it because he has been persuaded that his earlier, long and detailed analysis of the 2019 vintage in Bordeaux was too severe on the Red Wines and did not give them sufficient credit or analyse their quality and merit

I am a cynic, this I freely admit, and I have a tendency to discount a lot of the reports by the châteaux themselves.  After all, it is their job to sell as much of their wines as they can and at the highest price possible.  It is therefore understandable if they lavish extravagant praise on their wine and if they use a touch of extravaganza and hyperbole. 

Their reports are very much a marketing tool and most buyers take them with a pinch of salt.  However, one producer who I trust implicitly, Bruno Borie, the owner of Château Ducru Beaucaillou, wrote to me to say that he disagreed with my evaluation in delWine and invited me to please come and taste his 2019 wines to see for myself how fine the quality was.  I shall do so with pleasure and be happy to eat my words when the promised quality is in the glass.

However, when the critics, particularly the knowledgeable, respected and honest critics such as James Lawther MW, Bordeaux-based contributor to Decanter for 20 years and a Judge at DWWA 2020, heap praise upon the wines, they must be taken seriously.  Many of these critics have said how fine the wine is and how in many cases it is better than the much praised 2018.  Rich, concentrated, long, balanced, elegant, full-fruited and harmonious are some of the adjectives used.  

I must bow to a mass of superior judgement and admit, with pleasure, that there are some GREAT wines, not simply good or very good as I wrote in my earlier report.  This, despite their not fulfilling the 5 criteria for GREAT WINE as promulgated by the late Denis Dubourdieu and quoted by the Bordeaux University of Oenology. 

So yes, I did not give sufficient praise to the 2019 Red Bordeaux, I am sorry, and I hereby amend my opinions.  Some wines are magnificent and Château Haut Brion is sublime, and is a good example, as I am sure will be Château Ducru Beaucaillou when I taste it. 

Many make the point that wines made from grapes picked before the rains are less good than those whose grapes were picked after, but I do not think it is as simple as that!  

Price still critical

In spite of the quality, the market is difficult and the price is critical.  On average the wines have come onto the market at 22% lower than the 2018, some more, some less (Château Cheval Blanc -25%, Château Mouton Rothschild -31%).  This makes them extremely attractive and I was very happy to receive a note from my old friend Sebastian Payne of the Wine Society that the company was “selling pots of 2019”.

However, the pandemic has turned the market upside down, the cancellation of the “En Primeurs” has deprived buyers of the opportunity to taste before buying, the tax imposed by the USA has discouraged a number of buyers, the anti-corruption campaign in China has reduced purchases and in the UK many do not have the funds to buy as much as they might wish to. 

All these problems bring us back to what I have already said, “the price must be so attractive that the wines are irresistible.  Bruno Borie was right, and I was wrong.  In the final analysis great wines at splendid prices will always find a market, however difficult the circumstances, and I wish them well.

For my earlier Article on the 2019 vintage, please visit: En Primeur: Primer on Bordeaux Vintage 2019

John Salvi Master of Wine

John Salvi is a Master of Wine for 50 years with 60 years of active working experience in wine industry in various capacities. UK Born wine expert is a qualified oenologist and lives in the heart of the Medoc, and writes regularly for delWine. Some of his closer friends are the local Châteaux owners, which gave him an opportunity to talk to many of them freely and regularly and also taste a few 2019 wines before shutdown, for this Article of extreme global importance, given that due to the Cancellation of En Primeur this month due to Covid-19, not many experts have written about the 2019 vintage. He shares his experiences of travels in the wine world, but weather conditions and how they shape each Bordeaux vintage has been his forte and he writes every year for delWine on the previous vintage-editor.

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