Yesterday, I joined the team and had the pleasure to taste some samples of Bordeaux 2018 for the very first time and get my first impression of the vintage. There has been much hype surrounding this vintage so it was great to finally get my teeth into the wines and create a strong “hit list” for my clients!
First up Ch Léoville Las Cases. Their 2018 was very intense, tight as a drum – however the underlining power was clearly there. Evidently this is a very intellectual Las Cases which will require a long time in the cellar. A very polished wine with a bright future ahead of it. Las Cases is a clear front runner for my wine of the day! In fact the stable at Las Cases was very complete and produced some stunning wines.
Next, a visit to Ch Léoville Poyferre to taste three wines, Ch Le Crock first which was showing really well, Ch Moulin Riche was slightly reserved and finally the very flamboyant Poyferre – this is a stunning crowd pleaser – I will be buying large formats of this wine for my own cellar!
We jetted across the appellation to Ducru Beaucaillou. First up was Lalande Borie, which is nice and plump, although it’s very rich it is backed up with good freshness. A lovely surprise. Croix Beaucaillou has a little bit of spiciness from the Petit Verdot – this vintage is very nice for Croix. Ch Ducru Beaucaillou (my wine of the day alongside Las Cases) is a class act! It has stunning aromatics with outstanding concentration. This is very intense without being too heavy. It has a blend of richness, ripeness and sweetness but it’s all kept in check.
Next, a visit to Ch d’Issan to see Emmanuel Cruse. Blason d’Issan is very elegant, very much in the mould of Margaux. Ch d’Issan itself is pure, mineral and very long with plenty of lift on the finish. The precision of the Merlot fruit is offering a great attack on the palate. It moves to become more profound thanks to the Cabernet in this great vintage, reminiscent of 2016. A top buy!
It was sad not to see Thibault Pontallier at Ch Margaux but I hear he is doing great things with Pont des Arts. I’m sure he would be very happy with the quality of the 2018. It is remarkably concentrated, textured and silky. The wines power is not, however, overwhelming and helps to considerably lengthen the aromatics and structure on the finish. This Margaux should feature in your cellar!
A very informative tasting with Chris Myer (Export Manager) at Ch Palmer was up next. Chris and Jacques who retired at the end of last year after 40 years as vineyard manager could not remember having ever seen such incredibly favourable conditions for the development of mildew in his entire career. It really is amazing what they have created considering the adversity of the vintage. A powerful and seductive wine! I am afraid there won’t be any Alter Ego to offer this year.
Lunch at Ch Rauzan Ségla was followed by a succession of tastings by which you can sample many of the top chateaux under one roof. Highlights included a variety of the top names from St Julien including Ch Léoville Barton, Ch Langoa Barton, Ch Talbot, Ch Branaire Ducru, Ch Leoville Poyferre and Ch Beychevelle.
The key to understanding 2018 is that it’s not the homogeneous vintage we all expected. The quality is varied, there are some really outstanding wines along with some wines where the weather did not allow the phenolic ripeness to fully mature in the skins – this was due to the inclement weather from January until July.
Already we are seriously impressed with the vintage at hand. 2018 is far as I can tell a good year and it seems chateaux had to work quite hard to make a great wine. My old mentor Gavin Quinney of Ch Bauduc sent me his short synopsis of the vintage and I couldn’t agree more… “I’m halfway through tasting the vintage and it’s clear to me that this is a top vintage. The debate is probably how it stacks up against the brilliant 2016s and, in the case of Margaux and Saint-Emilion, the 2015s – because ‘15 was a top vintage for those appellations. 2016 was probably more consistent and the wines had more freshness due to the slightly cooler harvest period. In 2018, after the famously wet spring, we had three months of almost continuous sunny weather and very little rain, all the way from early July to the first days of October. In other words, the entire ripening period and right through the harvest. For the top wines, it’s almost a question of emotion. For Bordeaux lovers who want top quality at an almost affordable price, I think my preferred appellation for consistency would be Saint-Julien. Lots to admire elsewhere too, especially Margaux and Saint Emilion. Yet to taste most of the leading Pomerols and Pauillacs though.” You will be able to read more from Gavin Quinney.
Stay tuned for more updates from Charlie Whittington as we hit the Right Bank on day three to taste Ch l’Evangile, Petrus, Ch Beauregard, Vieux Chateau Certain, Le Pin & L’if, Ch Cheval Blanc, Ch La Conseillante, Ch Figeac, Ch Canon, Ch Ausone, Ch Tertre Roteboeuf and finally Ch l’Eglise Clinet.