The 2019 vintage is by some seen as the greatest since 1865. That’s quite a few years ago, and while The Winehog is old, he cannot quite recall the 1865 vintage. In truth, my vinous memory only goes back to 1929!
There is, however, no doubt that 2019 is a great vintage; perhaps even the greatest vintage I have ever tasted young.
This plaudit applies to the reds; the whites are somewhat more uneven. And let’s face it: While it is a great year, it is not a perfect year.
Me and alcohol
Greater maturity caused by global warming is causing alcohol levels to rise. This is a fact of life, and while producers try and time the harvest for lower alcohol, this is only one part of the equation. Phenolic ripeness and acidity should have at least equal weight in the winegrower’s harvest decisions.
There are quite a few 2019s with high alcohol content. Some carry the alcoholic load better than others, which as a result struggle with balance. I am not a fan of high alcohol, and in some wines the impact is worse than in others. A Montrachet can carry more weight than a Bourgogne Blanc.
This should always be viewed in context with yields and vinification style, as astringency can often be boosted by excessive yields and high alcohol. That being said, my rating of high-alcohol cuvées can sometimes be a bit harsh. Grumpy old men do grump.
Tendencies and thoughts
During my tastings of the 2019s, I have noticed a correlation between alcohol levels and the viticutural methods employed.
It appears biodynamically farmed vines in some cases gave wines that were lower in alcohol – or rather, displaying a more “normal” level of alcohol. This still with fine phenolic ripeness and a perhaps even better acidity.
This may be due to a more advanced canopy management being employed at these estates, hence creating more shade over the fruiting branches.
Clearly, this is speculation. But I think biodynamic producers, or producers with advanced canopy management, might well have an advantage in the 2019 vintage.