Clos Cantenac 2019

The wine shows a deep dense velvety black in colour with a vibrant and appealing structure and a nose of rich, ripe fruits with further hints of black cherry and cassis enhanced by dark fruited fragrances and a touch of sweet spice. The elegance and finesse of the wine is further supported by a complex register of lush, fresh berry flavours, coffee bean, mocha and subtle soft grilled new oak notes. On the palate it displays a luscious fine fruit attack with a succulent crunchy florality, waves of dark plums and chocolate that spreads generously across the mouth with intensity and leads to a sleek graphite like finish. It is a wine of classic structure and a touch of mystique that promises well for the future.

Drink: 2023-2035

Vineyard: 3.0 hectares overall

Grape variety: 100% Merlot

Harvesting: 100% by hand, 16th-22nd and 26th September

Winemaking: Saignée, cold maceration (7-8°C) for 7 days to develop fruit aromas. Alcoholic fermentation (25°C) for 5 days with regular pumping over. Post-fermentation macerating (28-29°C) for 15-20 days, due to the exceptional fruit quality. Malo-lactic fermentation in oak barrels.

Ageing: Aged in New Oak and 90% 2nd and 3rd year Oak for 12months

Alcohol by volume: 14%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 8,000 bottles

In the 20 years I have been in Bordeaux there has not been two identical vintages despite all of the technological advancements and the significant investments in new wineries. It is still a question of how man and the vines respond to the weather that determines the quality and quantity.

However whilst 2019 was a very good to excellent vintage, it wasn’t at all straight forward with heat waves, a drought and a rainy finish in late September, but we also enjoyed a long, dry summer and harvest with just enough rain and none of the disasters like the late spring frost of 2017 or the mildew that some growers experienced in 2018.

Bud break was in early April but the month was considerably wetter and slightly colder although with about average rainfall. There was a frost alert in mid-April with some localised damage and then again in early May but it resulted in nothing like the scale of the damage caused in late April 2017.

However, the growing season got off to a slow start with a cool May, but it then warmed up considerably for the start of flowering just as we approached the first glorious weekend of June.

Some vineyards flowered successfully over these few days but then with intermittent rain over the next week or so, it cooled down considerably with the result that many bunches had uneven fruit set, with ‘coulure’ and ‘millerandage’ which is unformed and variable or undersized berries respectively. The impact appeared very varied from one zone or area to another with some vineyards were completely unaffected, whilst others had uneven bunches from one row or even one plant to the next.

Once the flowering was out of the way, the fruit grew in fine weather, becoming hot and sunny from the end of the month and throughout a very warm July. Temperatures reached a stifling 40ºC on 23rd July and many of the vines shut down although thankfully, heavy rain then fell on the Friday 26th but only lasted two days.

The July heat wave did not impact the fruit negatively as the grapes had only just formed and were yet to change colour but then came more hot weather in the second half of August, which lasted well into September but the chillier nights and early mornings proved to be ideal for the development of the fruit.

Harvest at Clos Cantenac started on the 11th September for the rosé and was completed in just 3 hectic days of hand picking with wonderful results.

We then continued with one days picking of Merlot on 16th September but then the fine weather came to an abrupt halt on Sunday 22nd September and we had 35mm of heavy rain over the next few days.

However, the rain at the end of September had actually brought some much welcomed refreshment for the vines and so when it then cleared, we had fine conditions from 26th September until 12th October which allowed us to complete the Merlot and Cabernets more or less at our leisure, although we were finished by early October.

In conclusion the best recent Bordeaux vintages, such as 2009, 2010 and 2016 also had just enough rain (but not too much) although in 2019 also had a lot of rain early in the year as well as a wet spring, so the vines were able to cope well with the dry summer through to September.

Overall it will be characterised as a dry growing season with most of the rain falling at the end of September, but then rainfall tells only one part of the story as the vines also need sunshine and the fruit cool nights to contrast with hot days.

Instantly displays commendable breeding on the nose thanks to its detailed scents of black cherries mingling with pressed iris and allspice. The palate feels cohesive and prioritizes elegance over horsepower. This is the finest Clos Cantenac that I have encountered from barrel.”

Neal Martin / VINOUS