As many of you know I was extremely lucky to have been invited to help out in the cellars of Pomerol legend Le Pin for the 2018 vintage...a once in a lifetime experience I believe I called it. Well after a number of begging emails, Fiona and Jacques Thienpont very kindly accepted my request to return – so it will be a twice in a lifetime experience instead.
I had not set foot in a winery during vintage for a good 18 years prior to last year but the 2018 vintage reignited the hunger for destemming and remontage, washing down and specific gravity readings. The atmosphere and excitement around a region when harvest finally starts is intoxicating to say the least.
So onto vintage 2019... my early thoughts and impressions... Bordeaux experienced a prolonged period of dry weather and spikes of heat running up to the vendange; although the grapes were looking extremely healthy and were ripening well there were a few nervous growers worried about berry shrivel and over concentration, leading to low acidity and lacking freshness. The game started, with rain predicted towards the end of September: do you pick before the rain and hope that the terroir and winter/spring rains maintained enough moisture to keep freshness to balance the sweetness or do you wait and allow the rain to reinvigorate the vines? This might mean some dilution, but it might be a very good thing indeed. And that is the choice of each Chateau, and their own preferences and feelings.
It is way too early to say who judged it to perfection, but having had the opportunity to taste a few either side of the rain I would say 2019 is looking good in many ways - but I believe we cannot yet judge who takes the top marks for nailing their picking dates.
Here at Le Pin, the unusual amount of iron oxide crasse de fer in the soil, which you can see by the orange pebbles that lie on the topsoil which contribute greatly towards drainage, allowed Fiona and Jacques the confidence to wait for rain to refresh the vines - and more importantly the fruit. They picked after a little of the rain had fallen and Fiona strongly believes that the rain was massively welcomed and has helped the vintage without question.
The other tricky point of picking prior to the rain was the temperatures of the fruit arriving at the winery from the vineyard. In 30 degree days, the fruit could be hitting the sorting tables and destemming machines at high 20’s, which is not ideal... That said I was lucky enough to visit a good friend, Marielle, le Grand Fromage at La Conseillante, who did pick pre-rain - but will come back to that another day along with her thoughts on 2019.
We have to date picked all the Merlot at Le Pin, with a few rows of Cabernet Franc to come in later this week. This never makes the Grand Vin but it is always interesting to watch its progress.
I will continue to share thoughts and pictures of the ferments and pump-overs from within the winery through our Instagram and will expand further on the progression of the vintage as it goes along.
Please do drop through any questions to the office and I will try and find time to answer them for you.