Predictably Bordeaux cross town traffic did for our punctual start on day four but the time allowed musings on whether it would be Haut Brion or La Mission that took the laurels this year. A question made all the more difficult by a stunning line up of wines at Domaine Clarence Dillon.
La Chapelle de La Mission and Clarence Haut Brion are succulent, ripe and charming. Both wines demonstrating the consummate skill the winemaking team employed to manage the challenges of the vintage and both are worthy additions to the cellar. La Mission Haut Brion is vivacious, with filigree tannins, perfect balance and a haunting finish. It is a great wine.
However, where La Mission glides, Haut Brion soars. It is a towering achievement. Unquestionably one of the wines of the vintage, even at this early stage it effortlessly sits in the pantheon of great Bordeaux.
Haut Bailly have fashioned an intense, arresting set of wines. They managed to escape the worst of the hail storm of May 26th and the grand vin is a brooding wine of great depth. The newly monikered Haut Bailly II, formally La Parde de Haut Bailly, is ripe and succulent, while Château Le Pape is charming and will make for good earlier drinking.
Tasting with Daniel Cathiard at Smith Haut Lafitte was enlightening; they too faced their travails but the wines are plush and luxurious. The whites in particular are seductive and offer a great deal of pleasure already.
Having survived a deluge ourselves on the way to the UGC tasting at Château Carbonnieux, there was a marked difference between those chateaux that had handled the vinification with a gentle but sure touch and those where tannins were prominent and the balance not quite what it could be. It is a feature of 2018, that the best wines have fine, silken tannins that weave seamlessly with the succulent fruit. Both Domaine de Chevalier wines are a knockout and absolutely merit a place in the cellar, the red in particular. Larrivet Haut Brion has produced a pair of charming wines, equally Château Olivier wines are worth seeking out.
Lunch at Domaine de Chevalier could merit a chapter on itself. Olivier and Anne Bernard put on an incredibly generous spread, which coincidentally matched a good few waistlines after an imprudent number of visits to the risotto aux truffes, 2009 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc from imperial aided the digestion.
The afternoon featured a visit to Château Les Carmes Haut Brion, a property that has seen quality leap forward in recent years. Diligent vineyard management and patient winemaking the reasons for the marked improvement. The 2018 is rich and concentrated, with fine, sweet tannins and wonderful refreshing succulence. Production is only around 3500 cases, so if you can find a case, grab it.
Much like the other Bordeaux appellations in 2018, the Graves & Pessac Léognan regions have produced wines across the qualitative spectrum but undoubtedly there are some superb examples which will give great pleasure for years to come.