2019 Bordeaux from Bottle: The Two Towers


Left Bank: Saint-Estèphe | Pauillac | Saint-Julien | Margaux | Pessac-Léognan & Graves | Satellites | Sauternes

Right Bank: Pomerol | Saint-Émilion | Satellites

Ever since the 2020 vintage was in the books, maybe even before, Bordeaux was buzzing with talk of a magnificent trilogy. The three consecutive vintages spanning 2018 through 2020 were spoken of in reverential, glowing terms that evoked mystical images of the “Lord of the Rings” or perhaps the grandeur of “Star Wars”. Now that the 2019s are in bottle, it’s time to take a look at the middle vintage in this collection, I mean trilogy, of three harvests that will surely be the center of much discussion for years to come. This article covers the main appellations of the Left and Right Banks. We will be adding wines from satellite appellations plus Sauternes in about a week's time.

Two years ago, in my article 2019 Bordeaux: A Long, Strange Trip, I wrote “I tasted phenomenal wines in every appellation, although there are some places that appear to have done exceptionally well, such as the north of Pauillac and into Saint-Estèphe on the Left Bank.” My tastings of the 2019s in bottle confirm that impression. Two thousand-nineteen is unquestionably a Left Bank vintage. That’s not to say there aren’t profound wines on the Right Bank; there most certainly are. But looking at things globally after tasting more than 800 wines, 2019 is simply stronger on the Left Bank than on the Right. 

Henri Lurton (left) and Estate Manager Christophe Capdeville (right) at Brane-Cantenac, one of the stars of the Left Bank in 2019.

I won’t repeat a breakdown of the growing season, as that has not changed over the last two years. Readers might want to revisit my en primeur report and/or check out Neal Martin’s recent article, Omne Trium Perfectum: Bordeaux 2019s in Bottle, for all the details. In short, after a very hot and dry summer, late season rains were welcomed in the Médoc, where parched Cabernets were happy to get some water. The sweet spot, in my view, is in Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac, where so many wines are exceptional to profound, at all levels in the hierarchy of terroirs. Quality is superb moving south into Saint-Julien and then Margaux, but maybe just a touch less impressive overall. Pessac-Léognan also looks very, very good. Many of the second wines (often shown en primeur on the Left Bank but less frequently on the Right) are fabulous. Overall, 2019 is an extremely high-quality and consistent vintage on Bordeaux’s Left Bank. 

Over on the Right Bank, where Merlot features more heavily, the heat of the vintage and late season rains were penalizing for some sites and wines. There are exceptions, and they are notable. But they are to be found in either top terroirs and/or in wines that have important components of Cabernets. Quality becomes more variable moving down the hierarchy and into the satellite appellations. A number of wines are disjointed, while others show signs of evolution that are not typical at this stage. The second wines are often less interesting than they are on the Left Bank. 

Cheval Blanc by night.

2019 Bordeaux: Blow by Blow


Stars: Montrose, Calon Ségur, Cos d’Estournel, Lafon-Rochet

Sleepers: Haut-Marbuzet, Lafitte-CarcassetLe Boscq, Lilian Ladouys, Meyney, Tour des Termes

If there is one appellation to focus on in 2019, it is Saint-Estèphe. The wines are just brilliant, at all levels. Montrose is epic. I tasted it twice and was left speechless both times. Magnificent. Calon Ségur and Cos d’Estournel aren’t too far behind. Both are heady and opulent, but not excessively so. Lafon-Rochet continues to impress as the most elegant, the most Pauillac-like wine in the appellation. I loved Phélan Ségur in barrel, but it is just a bit less impressive in bottle. Perhaps it is just coming together post-bottling. We will see. 

It would be a real shame to just stop there, though, as there are so many superb Saint-Estèphes in 2019. How about Haut-Marbuzet? Just fabulous and one of the best editions I can remember tasting. Don’t miss it. Lafitte-Carcasset, Le Boscq, Lilian Ladouys, Meyney and Tour de Termes are all around $25 a bottle or less. Are you kidding? Bordeaux gets bashed a lot. Sometimes deservedly so. But these wines are insane values to stock up on.


Stars: Lynch Bages, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Sleepers: Fonbadet, Haut-Bages Libéral, Clerc Milon

Yes, Latour, Mouton and Lafite are all exceptional. But do you really need me to tell you that? The wine of the vintage – and perhaps of the entire Left Bank – is Lynch Bages. It was truly profound on two separate occasions. Mouton Rothschild deserves a mention; it is especially fine, as is Le Petit Mouton. Moving south, Pichon-Baron and Pichon Comtesse are neck and neck. Both are striking. Once again, I was impressed with Grand Puy Ducasse, which has to be one of the most improved wines in Bordeaux over these last few years.  

Fonbadet is probably the most charming, sensual Pauillac. Haut-Bages Libéral is another wine I don’t hear a lot about. The 2019 is positively stellar. Clerc Milon isn’t exactly a bargain, but it is exceptionally fine. 

Estate Manager Nicolas Glumineau has presided over a number of stellar vintages at Pichon Comtesse, including the fabulous 2019.


Stars: Ducru-BeaucaillouLéoville Barton, Léoville-Las CasesLéoville-Poyferré

Sleepers: Branaire-Ducru, LagrangeLangoa-Barton

Saint-Julien is full of highlights. I was especially taken with Bruno Borie’s wines at Ducru-Beaucaillou. Two thousand-nineteen was the year Ducru sent their barrel samples in test tubes. While I recognize that format might be useful for some purposes, it is an abomination for serious critical tasting. The Ducru 2019s were all very hard, but from bottle, the wines are rich, heady and sensual. A superb Léoville-Poyferré is no longer a surprise given where Sara Lecompte Cuvelier has taken her family’s wines in recent years. I also loved the Barton family’s wines. Léoville Barton is a textbook example of Saint-Julien and claret. Langoa-Barton has a little extra mid-palate richness that makes it especially compelling. Anthony Barton was one of the first Bordeaux proprietors I met, many, many years ago. His legacy will live for quite some time in his stellar 2019s. Like Langoa, Branaire-Ducru benefits from a bit more juiciness. It is every bit as impressive as it was from barrel. I was quite taken with Lagrange, which is especially fine. Last but certainly not least is Léoville-Las Cases. Over the last handful of years, Las Cases has become less stern and more opulent in its youth than in the past. Perhaps for that reason, the 2019 is a bit surprising in its reticence today.  

A few wines are perplexing though. Perhaps I have just had bad luck, but I expected more from Beychevelle. Gloria is good, but not the overachiever it can be.


Stars: Château Margaux, Palmer, Rauzan-Ségla, Brane-CantenacPrieuré-Lichine, Ferrière, Giscours, Malescot St. Exupéry, Durfort-Vivens

Sleepers: La Gurgue, LabégorcePaveil de Luze, La Tour de Bessan, La Tour de Mons 

Margaux is jammed with great wines in 2019. Château Margaux is sublime. Palmer and Rauzan-Ségla are just behind. The list of under-the-radar gems is long. Brane-Cantenac is another example of what Bordeaux does so well. The 2019 is relatively easy to find, very attractively priced and set to deliver many years of exceptional drinking. Prieuré-Lichine is in my view the most under-the-radar wine in Margaux. Stephane Derenoncourt and his team continue to do brilliant work here. Ferrière, Giscours and Malescot St. Exupéry are all magnificent. Gonzague Lurton added three new wines at Durfort-Vivens, a young-vines blend and two parcellaire selections, all of which are well worth checking out. 

La Gurgue and Labégorce are two very fine mid-tier offerings, the former more classic and the latter a bit more exuberant in style. Readers on a budget will want to add Paveil de Luze, Tour de Bessan and Tour de Mons to their shopping lists. All three are superb.


Stars: Haut-Brion, Haut-Brion Blanc, La Mission Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-BrionSmith Haut Lafitte (Red), Pape Clément (Red)Domaine de Chevalier (Red), Haut-Bailly

Sleepers: Le Petit Smith Haut Lafitte (Red), Larrivet Haut-Brion (Red), La Garde, Clos Floridène

The 2019s from Pessac-Léognan were impressive en primeur. They are equally as compelling today as finished wines. The stars are the stars. Yes, Haut-Brion and La Miss are great. The reds and whites from those two properties are all terrific. I loved the Domaine de Chevalier (Red), a wine that lives in the shadow of the Blanc, but that really deserves more attention. The entire range at Smith Haut Lafitte is so impressive. The Grand Vins (red and white) get most of the attention, but the second wines are nearly as compelling, including the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Le Petit Smith Haut Lafitte (note the slightly modified new name). Guillaume Pouthier presented a stunning Carmes Haut-Brion. Carmes might very well be the single most exciting wine in Bordeaux today. Pape Clément, once a full-throttle powerhouse, now offers an exotic mix of richness and vibrancy that is so alluring. Haut-Bailly is one of the most forbiddingly tannic wines in the appellation.

Larrivet Haut-Brion is a gorgeous under the radar wine, in both colors. Readers on a budget will find much to admire in La Garde and Clos Floridène, both in Graves. The whites are more variable. Some have terrific energy, others show the effects of the very hot, dry summer.

Sisters Constance and Noémi Durantou with long time cellarmaster Olivier Gautrat on a rainy day at L'Eglis-Clinet. The entire range of 2019s is stellar.

The Right Bank


Stars: La Fleur-Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, L’Eglise-Clinet, Lafleur, La Conseillante, Le Pin, Petrus

Sleepers: BourgneufFeytit-Clinet, Beauregard, Clos l'Eglise, Clos Vieux Taillefer

La Fleur-Pétrus might be the single most impressive wine in Pomerol in 2019, because its greatness is a bit unexpected given how it showed from barrel. Although La Fleur-Pétrus does not have the power of Trotanoy or the opulence of Hosanna, the other two crown jewels in the Moueix stable, it is the most elegant of the three. Vieux Château Certan, L’Eglise-Clinet, Lafleur, La Conseillante, Petrus and Le Pin are magnificent wines that represent the pinnacle of what was possible in 2019. Take your pick, if you can. Lafleur, with its high percentage of Cabernet Franc (known locally as Bouchet) is the most backward of the top wines in Pomerol.

There is plenty to Pomerol beyond the famous names. Bourgneuf continues to be an under the radar gem. The 2019 is a bit more opulent than most recent vintages, but it retains that classic sense of structure that is so appealing. Feytit-Clinet shows the more virile side of the appellation off to great effect. Beauregard and Clos l'Eglise will appeal to readers who enjoy more forward styles while Clos Vieux Taillefer is a good example of the more finessed side of the appellation. Lastly, I would be absolutely delighted to find the second wines of Vieux Château Certan or L'Eglise-Clinet in my glass!

Blandine de Brier Manoncourt and Frédéric Faye in the new cellars at Figeac. I was equally impressed with Madame Manoncourt‘s perfect Italian.


Stars: Cheval BlancFigeacAusone, Canon, ValandraudLarcis DucasseL'IfTroplong Mondot

SleepersLes Grandes MuraillesMillery, de Pressac, Laroque, Tour Saint Christophe

The talk of the town in Saint-Émilion is new classement, or ranking of properties, scheduled to be published later this year. Readers will find plenty of information on the internet, along with many points of view. My opinion is pretty simple: Any classification of properties that considers factors other than wine quality (such as hospitality facilities for example) can’t be taken seriously. Let’s look at the wines. Saint-Émilion is a large appellation and there are a ton of highlights.

Cheval Blanc and Figeac share a rich history. Both wines are utterly profound in 2019. The interplay of Cabernet Franc (and some Sauvignon) in Cheval and Franc and Sauvignon more equally in Figeac is just magical. Franc plays a leading role in Ausone, another stellar Saint-Émilion in 2019. At Canon, it’s all about site, site and site, such a critical factor in 2019 on the Right Bank. Valandraud is a wine of daring, a great wine from Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud, visionaries who recognized the potential of a terroir that had previously not been highly regarded. It is a brash Saint-Émilion that enters a room full of aristocrats and proclaims: “I belong here.” It sure does. At the other end of the spectrum Larcis Ducasse is all class, all sophistication. Larcis may very well be the most pedigreed Saint-Émilion that is still under the radar. Troplong Mondot impresses with its purity of its new style driven by Managing Director Aymeric de Gironde and consulting winemaker Thomas Duclos. Just down the road, Cyrille Thienpont made another brilliant wine at L’If.

Les Grandes Murailles, Laroque and Millery are Saint-Émilions that emphasize finesse over power, although they all have gorgeous fruit presence in 2019. Pressac remains one of the most distinctive wines in the appellation, and yet I rarely see it talked about. Tour Saint Christophe offers remarkable value in today’s world. There are some disappointments, though. L'Évangile, Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse and Bélair-Monange are less impressive from bottle than they were from barrel. 

One last note: I have yet to taste Pavie and the Perse family’s range of wines. They preferred to show the 2019 a bit later this year, and my samples are stuck in Customs somewhere. We will post reviews for those wines as soon as possible.

I tasted all the wines in this article during a ten-day trip to Bordeaux in December 2021, followed by several additional days of tastings in our New York offices.

© 2022, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.

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