April 4th 2019
There’s genuine excitement surrounding St Emilion and Pomerol this year. To get to this though, nothing was plain sailing. A very wet spring resulting in an attack of mildew during flowering caused many a headache. Thankfully the incredible uninterrupted period of sunshine that occurred from June through to harvest time, 1136 hrs without a drop of rain, (a 50 yr record) put things right. Anyone who employed meticulous work in the vineyard to counteract the mildew has been rewarded with some perfectly balanced, powerful wines that will draw comparisons with some of the top 2009s.
With barely a croissant digested, we arrived for our 8.30am appointment at Jean-Pierre Moeuix in Libourne. This cracking stable boasted some terrific examples of the potential highs of 2018. There was lovely elegance, perfect integrated tannins and great purity and concentration of fruit to many of the wines that we tasted here. Notable successes, Ch Le Serre (St Emilion), Ch Plince (Pomerol), Ch Hosanna (Pomerol), Ch Trotanoy (Pomerol), Ch La Fleur-Petrus (Pomerol)
Next to Ch Beauregard, host of the Pomerol UGC with 20 or so chateaux under their roof. There are some clear successes from this appellation. Ch Clinet, Ch Beauregard and Ch Gazin were joyous. Ch Rouget isn’t one that I’ve always gravitated towards, however their recent purchase of a 1 hectare plot adjacent to La Fleur Petrus has been planted solely with Cabernet Franc to provide additional freshness in warm vintages. With global warming very much at the forefront of growers’ mindsets, this looks to be a prudent and progressive move. A delicious example of a Pomerol 2018.
Ch L’Evangile having lost its entire Cabernet Franc crop to frost last year has been able In 2018 to return to normal 20% inclusion which has played an important role in adding freshness to the rich, textural qualities that L’Evangile exudes. The 2nd wine, Blason is delicious too and will be worth buying if the price is right.
Vieux Ch Certan, a multidimensional layered wine that is hugely refined. Deep red fruits and violet mark an incredible wine of poise and balance. It will clearly be one of the wines of the vintage in 2018. Plenty of smiles from the team here!
Le Pin, as always, a cracking visit for the team is followed in hot pursuit by one of my absolute favs, Ch Cheval Blanc which is a regal offering this year. Hugely complex and refined from start to finish and unsurprisingly one of the top St Emilions that we’ll taste from this vintage.
La Conseillante is scintillating this year, but I’m unashamedly a huge fan of this chateaux having never had a poor bottle. Exuding it’s trademark freshness, the concentrated core of fruit is simply gorgeous and laden with violet, raspberry, and cream scents and encompassed by a firm palate. Just delicious. (You can watch a short video with Marielle Cazaux, Estate Manager of La Conseillante, about the 2018 vintage here.)
A lot of renovation work is happening at Ch Figeac but that hasn’t impacted in the slightest on the quality here. In 2018 they have really knocked it out of the park. This is a wine of sublime textural quality, with finely integrated tannins and freshness. It will surely be regarded as one the leading right bankers of the vintage, and rightly so.
Dodging the sharp showers circling around St Emilion, a visit to Ch Canon is always one to savour. Canon has nailed it completely in 2018. A wine of exquisite balance combining density and concentration of fruit with the finest tannins imaginable. Again the freshness here has given the wine lovely lift and elegance. Worth noting that Croix Canon, the 2nd wine, will be one to seek out for its immediate seductive appeal.
The St Emilion UGC produced its standard mix of quality ranging from worked styles (which I won’t expose!) to the crowd pleasing dense and creamy texture that has become the signature of the likes of Pavie Maquin. Larcis Ducasse, La Tour Figeac, Canon La Gaffeliere & Clos Fourtet will find favour with buyers looking for well made wines that are great representations of the vintage in St Emilion.
Ch Angelus, in its first year of full organic certification, managed the problems of mildew by the only means available; preempting its onset and attacking it in advance. The resulting wine is stunning. Sleek, succulent and stylish it exhibits the ripeness, flesh and character of Angelus yet is enveloped in a fine tannic structure with plenty of acidity keeping things in check. Worth noting that the 2nd wine, Carillon d’Angelus was delightful in a more approachable style.
We loved Ch Ausone, one of St Emilion’s premier growers. High toned red fruit scents lead to a deeply complex and silk laden palate with gorgeous elegance propping up the finish. From the same stable Ch Moulin st Georges is an absolute masterpiece and will be a bargain buy come release. La Clotte is also worthy of mention and once its tannins have unwound themselves, will reward immensely.
Troplong Mondot has undergone a massive transformation since the arrival of Aymeric de Gironde from Cos d’Estournel in 2017. The days of highly extracted Troplong Mondots are now long gone. Earlier harvesting and a more natural approach have resulted in an unforced style of winemaking that has allowed the wine to truly express itself. The 2018 is layered and complex and put simply, is drop dead gorgeous. Less new oak has benefited the wine allowing the freshness from a more terroir driven approach to come to the fore. This will definitely be one to watch over the coming years.
Finally to round things off in impressive style, L’Eglise-Clinet. Managing mildew is something that Denis Durantou has to manage each year so 2018 is nothing out the ordinary here. Meticulous attention to detail is Denis’ mantra. The 2018 is nothing short of breathtaking with its deep concentration of pure fruits offset by seamless tannins and the freshness of the vintage keeping things in check. With Vinous’ Antonio Galloni joining us towards the end it will be interesting to hear his take on what is surely one of the top Pomerols of the vintage. From the more entry level wines, look out for Les Cruzelles, Montlandrie and Petite Eglise, which all of us in the trade religiously reserve for our own cellars each year. Bargain buys with serious pedigree.
That’s day 3 on the right bank folks! Some mesmeric wines from Pomerol and St Emilion that will headline the 2018 Bordeaux vintage come release time from May.