My thoughts, so far, on the 2019 Bordeaux En Primeur Campaign
Coronavirus has hit the world in an indiscriminate and deadly manner and while I am certain that wine is not at the top of everyone’s list of concerns, for us, in the wine trade, it is extraordinary to say the least, that we have experienced a year without a Bordeaux En Primeur tasting week. Always one of my favourite weeks in the wine trade calendar, it takes a special sort of discipline to drive nearly a thousand kilometres, on one’s own, from Château to Château, while writing somewhere between 25000 and 30000 words on several hundred wines in a mere five days. The logistics involved alone are mindboggling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Visiting the Châteaux, meeting the winemakers and getting closer to the wines than at any other time of the year is a privilege and it is also a challenge. I do my best to communicate the very essence of each and every vintage to my readers while giving them detailed, and hopefully interesting, tasting notes and score to devour. This can only be done in context, in Bordeaux, with fresh barrel samples and with the Bordelais on hand to answer questions.
The Primeurs Degustation week in early April was, not surprisingly, postponed, and then later cancelled and, while other schemes are apparently afoot to get the wines in front of the various commentators worldwide, I cannot see any point in tasting these wines outside of the region itself.
Well-meaning Châteaux have been emailing and phoning me every day asking if they can send over samples for me to taste, with or without Zoom accompaniment. The thought of muddling through DHL parcel after DHL parcel, of shaken-up, stale, barrel samples does not appeal to me and it is not fair on the wines. I have declined everyone’s kind offers and reassured them that I will return to Bordeaux, when it is safe, to taste the wines as normal. I appreciate that my Report will be ‘late’ but so be it. The responses to me declining the chance to taste barrel samples at my home in Battersea have been unanimously supportive. One of the replies today said, ‘It would indeed be much more pleasant to see you in person to present the 2019 wines to you properly’.
I was hoping that the entire 2019 EP Campaign would be abandoned this year and we could reconvene in 2021 and taste these 2019s, in bottle, not barrel, and then this could form the start of a new era for Bordeaux annual releases. This horrible virus could have been the excuse that the region needed to kick this outdated and increasingly irrelevant ‘buying opportunity’ into the long grass, once and for all. UK wine merchants will now be told that they have to sell (expensive) wines that they won’t be overly familiar with while the world is teetering on the edge of ‘the largest recession in living memory’. This is nothing short of bananas. Bordeaux ought to be looking to inject confidence and dynamism into this beleaguered initiative rather than handing the undertaker the final few nails for this particular coffin.
So, you will have to wait until France opens up and the Châteaux are happy to see me in order to read my Report, but I can assure you it will be done properly and with as much enthusiasm and respect as always.