Petit Cantenac 2019

The wine shows deep red in colour and is marked by its beautiful Cabernet character with fresh and lush rich notes of black plums, cassis, raspberry, figs, and fine leather with hints of ginger, spice and soft vanillary new oak. On the palate, it is full-bodied with firm but carefully weighted tannins on the entry that become more defined as the wine lingers in the mouth, with dense savoury characters leading towards a rounded, supple, blackberry, mocha and plum finish that displays good restraint and poise. It is a delicious and pleasing wine with a firm satisfying freshness, forward in style, but with fine soft tannins and an easy aromatic evolution that spreads neatly right across the palate.

Drink: 2022-2028

Vineyard: 3.0 hectares overall

Grape variety: 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Harvest: 100% by hand on 16th, 22nd, 26th September and 7th October.

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 20% New Oak and 80% 2nd and 3rd year Oak for 12months

Alcohol by volume: 14.0%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 20,000 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.

Dense velvety red with purple rim, beautiful naturally concentrated nose of black fruits and spice, autumn berries; fine ripeness on the palate, youthful tannins still present, black fruits dominate with the finish lifted and elegant.”

Steven Spurrier