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Renewing an ancestral tradition in the Médoc, in the early 1980s Philippine de Rothschild decided to plant a few acres of the vineyard with white grape varieties.
The sandy, gravelly soil is planted with Sauvignon Blanc (53%), Semillon (35%), Sauvignon Gris (11%) and Muscadelle (1%), with a density of 9,000 vines per hectare. 50% of the wine is matured in new oak barrels. Rich, complex and elegant, Aile d’Argent, despite being produced in very limited quantity, has quickly become a standard-setter for lovers of fine Bordeaux white wines.
Aile d’Argent, a children’s story
Let us read these lines written by Philippine de Rothschild, telling us the story of a name rich in memories.
“Aile d’Argent… Two unusual words that floated up from the depths of time, a link between the past and present, between my father Baron Philippe de Rothschild and myself. When I was a little girl, my father made up a fairy tale for me, the hero of which was a magic teapot. Its incredible adventures enchanted me and beguiled my childhood. The teapot was called Aile d’Argent, Silver Wing.
War broke out and my father was arrested. In prison, from memory, he wrote down the story, which he called Aile d’Argent la Magique (Magical Silver Wing), the title under which it was published by Gallimard in 1947.
Aile d’Argent… I am glad that the words which once inspired my dreams are taking on form and colour again.”
BORDEAUX 2019 VINTAGE
When I was visiting Bordeaux early March, Corona was a threat on the horizon and France has been more concerned by a strike of the air traffic control. However, I was travelling to Bordeaux and had the chance to get some first insights to the 2019 vintage. I was very much looking forward to the “en primeur tastings” which were scheduled for March 26, 2020 but the tastings were cancelled mid-March. Immediately I contacted the different associations and wineries in Bordeaux and asked for samples.
The result was a small number of wines which arrived in Essen before the shutdown of France made shipments rather difficult. These first samples of the vintage 2019 were tasted under pristine conditions to assure a fair and equal assessment of all qualities. In fact, the samples proved right the opinion of some of Bordeaux’ leading figures. Bruno-Eugène Borie from Château Ducru-Beaucaillou sees 2019 in a line with the excellent vintages of 2016, 2010, 2009 und 2005.
Henri Lurton talks about his best vintage, along with 2016, he has ever vinified at Château Brane-Cantenac. Philippe Dhalluin from Château Mouton-Rothschild asses the vintage as rich and abundant in quality and also in quantity. After some smaller crops they came back to an average production.
Emmanuel Cruse from Château d’Issan sees that 2019 has a lot in common with 2016 yet preserving more freshness. It is a very good vintage but appearing at a very difficult time on the market. In fact, the start of this vintage was very positive. Enough precipitations during winter were retained by soils like chalk and clay. Vineyards on these water retaining soils had a huge advantage in the future growing period. With exception of a wet June, the vintage has taken advantage of a rather dry climatic condition, which prevented diseases in the vineyards to a huge extend. No chance for powdery or downy mildew. Even the heat waves were not really harming the vines as rain set in, always at the last moment but still early enough to prevent massive water stress and a slow-down of the maturity. The late physiological maturity brought a lot of alcohol, but the wines show more freshness as in the previous years.
Fabien Teitgen, Winemaker of Smith-Haut-Lafitte relates this freshness to the good acidity “due to cool night temperatures during the ripening period”. This fact is also good news for white wines. „They are the big surprise “, says Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier.
At Château Coutet in Barsac, Philippe and Aline Baly were harvesting in three passes with a total of 19 harvesting days. They judge the conditions as rather ideal: “These climatic conditions have generated a harvest whose quality is indisputably present.” Same samples made their way to Essen and I have tasted them. Some more samples are announced and will hopefully arrive during the current week. There will be a weekly update of my tasting notes, whenever samples will arrive.
Unfortunately, 2019 arrives in a difficult time, the Corona virus puts the world in fear and makes trade more and more difficult. Trade berries and new customs duties create a difficult frame for this vintage. However, we should not forget one thing: there are wonderful 2019s waiting for us, wines with ageing potential and charm which will survive every crisis.