Tasting the Rothschild 2019s
A handful of us were lucky enough to be invited to Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire this week to taste the new 2019 releases from the Rothschild family – both Lafite and Mouton. This stunning property was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s to house his art collection – and most importantly to throw epic parties. We were entertained by the Baron’s namesake, the younger Ferdinand, who has been resident at the family home on the estate during the lockdown. Tough gig. The tasting was a carefully arranged meeting all social distancing requirements and the wines lived up to the stunning venue.
Here are some general thoughts on what was for many of us the first taste of the 2019 vintage.
The tech specs would tell you this was a hot year and as such one could expect to find wines akin to 2003, with lots of ripe fruit and occasional holes where overheating and lack of water halted phenolic ripening. On this showing, whilst you get the sense of sun from the beautiful plush ripeness of the fruit characters, the wines are far more complete than the mere numbers suggest. The light rain at harvest was exactly the right amount to bring welcome freshness without any dilution. Best of all, the current winemaking style prevalent in Bordeaux which favours a return to freshness and minerality over power and extraction is suited perfectly to the vintage; the tannins are ripe but present; the fruit is generous and expressive but nimble and pure; the acidity is delightful, giving an overall sense of freshness that was a real, and delightful, surprise. The wines we tasted were very good indeed, some truly excellent, and this gives us great hope for the style and quality of the vintage overall.
An interesting point to raise, which we did with Mouton’s winemaker Philippe Dhaullin via Zoom over lunch, was whether the openness of the wines was due to our tasting them 8 weeks on from the usual EP tasting, or the style of the vintage. Philippe explained how pleasantly surprised he had been at how open the wines were right from the beginning, crediting that vital late rain with refreshing the intense fruit and slightly lowering the alcohol – without compromising intensity.
Duhart Milon 2019
Almost like a finished sample on the nose – very complete already. The rich fruit characters of the ripe year are there but without any burnt or caramel notes. Tannins are soft but very present, giving precision when aligned with the surprising freshness. It’s a pretty complete wine without holes from overripening and lack of phenolic ripeness. Generous and harmonious. 92-93pts BI
Carruades de Lafite 2019
Quite challenging at first with oak still very prevalent. Fruit is very red and bright underneath the fine tannins, which carry quite a lot more savoury and dark fruit characters. It’s a little under/over for me at the moment, a little awkward. NB it improved just with 15 minutes in the glass and the harder edges softened out – gives more confidence that it will be a strong Carruades. 92-93 pts BI
Lafite Rothschild 2019
Energy energy energy! This doesn’t feel like a hot year wine at all. Very complete and layered with the sensation of millefeuille - slices of freshness between each layer of ripe fruit. Brilliant precision and purity, bringing a surprising brightness to the party. For some reason I wrote ‘like a great jazz band playing all night with dancers between each set’ whatever that means. A seriously great wine. 97-99+ pts BI
Zoom call with Jean-Sebastien at DBR confirms that for the first time in 3 years there is a ‘complete’ harvest at L’Evangile – 3 times the volume of 2018 and 2017! Also includes the addition of a tiny amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, planted on clay soils near the Pomerol Town Hall. This brings freshness and purity at lower alcohol than their Merlots. Reticent and tight at first. A touch of caramel and spice on the nose and fruit is coiled up. Rolls like a marble in the mouth, seamless but with structure – the most elegantly texture L’Evangile I can recall. Then boom, the palate rumbles like thunder, with waves of fruit and freshness starting small then building up to a crescendo. Deft, nimble, super elegant… it dances. 96-9+ pts BI
Welcome home! This is comfortingly ‘Mouton’: fine, precise, elegant, polished. Already quite mature on the nose – not really like a barrel sample – it shows early notes of truffle and gravel within its fabulous structure and juicy, ripe fruit. In fact it is the freshness that carries this, surprising again in what appears at first glance to be a ‘hot vintage’. The late harvest rains really have worked magical wonders without diluting the power. 93-94 pts BI
Clerc Milon 2019
Powerful, round and generous. The palate has more definite structure than the D’Armailhac, with powerful tannins that carry great freshness and a sense of energy and tension into the long finish. There is a long term future for this wine, without doubt. 93-95+ pts BI
Petit Mouton 2019
Classically hedonistic Petit Mouton with mocha and coffee notes layered over intense blackcurrant. This is no flash in the pan though – there is a big structure, with tannins almost like 2018, and pulses of bright, acidity-driven energy. This is a deftly handled, if opulent, wine which carries its bravado with style. 94-95 pts BI
Mouton Rothschild 2019
“This is Mouton” – showy, ripe, fresh, a textbook glass of Pauillac Cabernet. The style of 2019 is linear rather than broad, running on acidity not power. The texture dances but carries loads of pixelated blackcurrant fruit. Surprisingly open but in no way looking at a short life thanks to its perfect harmony and fruit intensity. This is an athletic Mouton, not burly in any way; a Mouton for our times. 97-99+ pts BI
Read our Bordeaux En Primeur Vintage Report HERE