Bordeaux 2019 from barrel

The tasting notes!

By Panos Kakaviatos for

29 September 2020

Left Bank: Graves/Pessac-LéognanMédoc/Haut Médoc/Moulis/ListracCru BourgeoisMargauxPauillacSaint EstèpheSaint JulienSauternes

Right Bank and More: Bordeaux and Côtes AOC / Fronsac / Pomerol / Saint Emilion

And because the vintage ends in -9, two handy lists:

9 favorites (price no object): Château Brane Cantenac (Margaux), Clos l’Eglise (Pomerol), Château La Conseillante (Pomerol), Château d’Issan (Margaux), Château Montrose (Saint Estèphe), Château Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac), Petit Mouton (Pauillac), Château Pichon Longueville Baron (Pauillac), Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac)

9 (especially competitively priced) favorites: Clos du Marquis (Saint Julien), Château La Dauphine (Fronsac), Reserve de la Comtesse (Pauillac), Domaine de Chevalier Rouge (Pessac-Léognan) Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac), Château Lagrange (Saint Julien), Château Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac Léognan), Château Sociando Mallet (Haut-Médoc), Château Soutard (Saint Emilion)

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your patience in this COVID19 vintage that took precious time from what we all normally do.

Long overdue and hardly comprehensive, my Bordeaux 2019 barrel sample tasting notes mix top estates and less heralded, from the Left to the Right Bank.

I chose not to have many bottles shipped to Strasbourg, because I felt that one year “less hyped” for Bordeaux is refreshing and could mean a vintage better priced. As things stand now, many discounts (some really good ones), even though back vintages are available for comparable (or even lower) prices and will be sooner ready to drink. But 2019 seems well priced, with less “best-vintage-ever” buzz: Indeed, my impression from what I did taste is positive, as the tasting notes attest.

I did assess top Cru Bourgeois barrel samples from home, about which you can read here, and benefited from a Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. shipment, including Château Mouton Rothschild, to sense how at least one famous First performed from barrel.

Notes also reflect impressions from the Grand Cercle in Bordeaux last month and a trade tasting in Germany from July. Although the June trip to Bordeaux was mainly for a Decanter Magazine article unrelated to 2019 barrel samples, I visited a few properties for on-location vintage comments. Read More

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White Bordeaux: 2014 vintage

With a focus on Château Smith Haut Lafitte

By Panos Kakaviatos for

15 September 2020

Top three 2014 whites from this tasting? Domaine de Chevalier, Château Pape Clément and Château Smith Haut Lafitte 

Last week Decanter Magazine published an article I wrote – subscribers only – about how fine dry white Bordeaux can be, with a focus on the Pessac-Léognan appellation. For that text, I tasted wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintages, as they show some age and because they are so different. Tasting notes in the article focused on 2015 for two reasons: (1) given global climate change, a warmer vintage like 2015 will become more common and (2) it seemed by and large more ready to drink in 2020. For either vintage, one best enjoys quality dry whites not immediately upon release, but at least with five years aging.

Note how Château de Chantegrive (Graves AOC) in 2014 looks more evolved than the 2015, by more than just one year. It was not the only example. Two very different vintages, but interesting tasting results.

Worthy mention on how more humble wines from the Graves region – not just from the more elite Pessac-Léognan – did very well in the tasting I did for the article. Take for example Château de Chantegrive 2015. I served a bottle for friends who regularly drink fine wine, and they were happy: “A five-year-old white Bordeaux?” one almost exclaimed in posing the question. Yes it is, I affirmed. And it costs under $20 a bottle. Read More

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Wine, sea, sun and Blue Fish

Along the Athenian Riviera, among other adventures

Athens log, updates and restaurant recommendations : photos and text by Panos Kakaviatos 

10 September 2020

Dear readers, it has been a while since I last posted in these pages, but I am (finally) putting together the rest of what 2019 Bordeaux barrel sample notes I have, so thanks for waiting just a bit longer. I was also busy getting an article published in Decanter about white Graves wines (for subscribers only) and a text on Assyrtiko to be published in The World of Fine Wine.

My studies to earn a WSET diploma in fine wine continue, thanks to Konstantinos Lazarakis MW here in Athens, where I took a few days off as well. The COVID19 crap has thrown a monkey wrench into many plans, leading to delays in getting this project done. Konstantinos had given me a crash course on Greek wines back in 2013 – over 50 Greek wines red and white – to see how many had much improved (already much more these days). During that tasting, I discovered the brilliant Ovilos for example… And since that tasting, I note that more Greek winemakers are better judging the use of oak especially for red wines and to what extent Assyrtiko has earned its place as a world class dry white wine variety.

Kritikos Taverna

WSET coursework included tasting 12 wines blind and 15-20 non-blind each day for three days. And I realized that I better get the handle on using proper WSET lingo for tasting notes, if I want to pass the exam. I also discovered a superb taverna in the city’s leafy northern suburbs, which must be mentioned before I get to the fish and seafood.

A spot of Pomerol with top Greek meats.

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Dry whites for summer quaffing in or out of quarantine

Some even won “Oscars” this year 😊

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine review online

(This text was published earlier this week in Wine Review Online)

23 July 2020

I sparked a series of comments on Facebook the other day with the line, “Life really is too short to drink average wine.”  Some 100 comments – written or as emoji – reflected how widely that line is open to interpretation.  Some took it to mean that life is too short to drink inexpensive wine.  But the idea popped in my head not after sipping Mouton Rothschild, but, rather, cheap dry white Bordeaux.

Every summer the past several years, the AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur Regional Wine Growers’ Syndicat – also known as Planet Bordeaux – designates “Oscar Awards” for top Bordeaux AOC summer wines.  A jury of international wine writers and critics designate the winners, but COVID-19 concerns this year led to a virtual event.  I joined 19 other judges who received “finalists” out of over 300 applicants in categories often associated with summer quaffing:  AOC Bordeaux Blanc, Bordeaux Rosé, Bordeaux Clairet and Crémant de Bordeaux.  Only 24 wines were chosen as Oscar winners for each category, and here you can get the full results: OSCARS 2019.

My category was dry white Bordeaux, which accounts for just over 10% of total Bordeaux wine production today.  Most wine geeks know that in the mid-20th century, Bordeaux produced far more white than red wine.  Producers then used white grapes to make sweet wine or sold them for distillation.  But a combination of factors – from the popularized “French paradox” that led to more dry red wine consumption, to the power of influential critics like Robert Parker – turned production to favor red over white since then. Read More

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Fine signs for Bordeaux 2019

Let’s start with some top Cru Bourgeois

By Panos Kakaviatos for

15 July 2020

As you may recall, back in May, I dubbed Bordeaux 2019 the COVID19 vintage.

That was not meant to decry quality, but rather to set context. And as I wrote back then, my intention was not to add hype, but take time to taste when I could, as the official tastings in late March and early April had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

As we know, many other things were cancelled, vulnerable people died, including my own mother, and we are still grappling with COVID19 today: in some countries it is still wreaking much havoc.

Unlike some of my fellow writers and tasters, I avoided having hundreds of wines delivered to my home during the quarantine in France. Partly because I felt that so much hype exists already around nearly every vintage of Bordeaux, so why rush to taste this year in the terrible COVID19 situation? I still believe that less hype and a more questionable economy has contributed to welcome lower pricing.

En Primeur campaign “reawakens” demand 

By all accounts, the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign has been going quite well. No doubt you have read plaudits from critics, with many high-90s scores. Liv-Ex, the global marketplace for the wine trade, recently issued a report claiming that the Bordeaux 2019 campaign has “grabbed the market’s attention in a time of great uncertainty and considerable financial stress”. Combining scores of notable critics, “2019 is the highest scoring vintage (on average) of the past 15 years”. So you can sleep tight tonight: you will find plenty of 96-98s and even 98-100s or even “100+” scores and incentives to buy the next “vintage of the century”. When Château Pichon Longueville Baron was released, for example, last month, the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW had such effusive praise to score above a potential 100 points for that wine, initially proposing a range of “97–100+”, concluding: “This is an absolutely beguiling expression that is classic Pauillac and yet it is Pauillac like no other”, as published in this Liv-Ex report from last month. I could expound more on why I think the 100 point scale is generally suffering from inflationary pressure, but that will be the subject of a future text. Suffice to say, the scale no longer reflects its original purpose. An 89 point wine, for example, and as you can read below in my notes, is a darn good score. But now that is considered by too many to be sub par. Basically, the “100 point scale” has been reduced to anything 95 and above to sell wine, many merchants tell me. WTF!
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