The Bordeaux 2018 primeur tastings. You can’t have missed it. Like every year, the first week of April saw wine professionals from the world over rushing to the Bordeaux region to taste the new vintage, still in the process of being made. We recap on our favourites.
The 2018 vintage in Bordeaux
First things first, let’s talk about the weather. The climate was rather problematic last year, starting off with a mild and rainy winter, causing a late budburst. The spring was marked by an unprecedented succession of days of heavy rainfall: this constant humidity at once caused a great deal of mildew and allowed the soils to store water – much-needed for the months to come. The weather was gloomy during the flowering season and finally, summer arrived, bringing with it hot and sunny weather all the way through to harvest season, causing just the right amount of hydric stress during maturation up until the harvest. These conditions allowed the grapes to ripen properly and left a window of opportunity for the harvests, allowing winemakers a fair amount of freedom. The season then, despite getting off to a bad start, ended in almost perfect conditions.
The 2018 vintage can thus be defined as a true “winemaker’s vintage”, in as much as their choice of harvest date and vinification methods are the determining factors in their wines. Generally speaking, châteaux with clay-limestone soils have an advantage over those with mostly sandy soils.
This vintage offers a classic profile, in a rich, warm style, though the best domains will have retained a certain freshness and good balance in their wines. There is a lovely ripeness in the fruits – with greater purity and radiance with organic and biodynamic domains – a high level of alcohol and lots of tannins, and fleshy, dense substance.
We took part in the tasting of Saint-Emilion’s Grands Crus Classés at the Clos des Jacobins. On the whole, the level was good, albeit a little inconsistent. With a mild and rainy winter, then a hot, sunny August, the weather was propitious, despite pressure from mildew. The wines were nicely dense, with lots of powerful yet refined tannins. The wines are balanced, with a powerful, warm and ‘sunny’ style, although quality varies; with some wines, sometimes the tannins were a little too tough and/or lacked in freshness. On the other hand, certain estates – Figeac or Cheval Blanc for instance – have produced a simply sublime 2018.
Château Figeac: a dazzling vintage
Château Figeac witnessed the same weather as the entire region in 2018, but while it saw a lot of rainfall at the start of the year, it was spared from the storms that hit other vineyards in the appellation. The early flowering was followed by a beautiful summer, helped along by the cool nights. After harvesting 10 days earlier than usual, the 2018 was vinified in specially renovated cellars.
Raised in 100% new barrels, the 2018 is a model of precision and finesse. On the palate, the wine is refined and elegant, with concentrated yet light aromas, delicate hints of graphite and fruit picked at perfect ripeness. The texture is fleshy and velvety. The balance is perfect between acidity, vibrancy and power; between the finesse of the tannins and the structure. What’s more, this marvelously expressive wine grows in power as you taste it, culminating in a precise, freshness-filled finish. Splendid.
Our favourites of the wines tasted:
Black fruits on the nose, powerful and dense on the palate, with good depth.
Delightful nose of ripe fruits. Dense, powerful and concentrated on the palate.
Aromas of forest fruits and forest floor. Direct and balanced on the palate, with a nice freshness.
A lovely surprise in St Emilion. Suave, with a focus on the purity and maturity of the fruit (blueberry, blackcurrant), very fine tannins, remarkable balance
Clos Fourtet’s sister estate. Great finesse, elegance and velvety texture.
A wine produced biodynamically, matured in 50% new barrels – a proportion that he is reducing every year. A texture that caresses the palate and delicately delicious aromas of fruit picked at perfect maturity.
Delicate nose. On the palate, mineral, lightly metallic notes which give way to powerful, ripe juice. Supported by a nice tannic structure, balanced.
Other favourites: Pavie-Macquin, La Gaffelière, Clos Fourtet , Lucia, Sanctus, La Tour Figeac.
Château Cheval Blanc: dizzying heights
The 2018 at Château Cheval Blanc, much like elsewhere, was characterised by outbreaks of mildew, which attacked the property’s 39 hectares and 52 parcels. The harvests were spread between the 10th September and 11th October.
- Cheval Blanc (Merlot 54%, Cabernet Franc 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 6%)
A very charming wine, racy, voluptuous wine. Unforgettable. Precise and complex on the nose, with lovely fresh fruit (raspberry, blueberry, cherry), notes of violet. Very velvety substance (lots of tannins, very refined), light and dense at once; with depth and precision and perfect balance; superb length on the palate. Already delicious now but promises to age very, very well.
- Petit Cheval (70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc)
Fruity (cherry) on the nose, with notes of cocoa. Elegant and unctuous on the palate, with depth and lovely tannins. An excellent wine.
- Quinault L’Enclos (Merlot 71,5%, Cabernet Franc 14,5%, Cabernet Sauvignon (14%)
Delicious nose of red and black fruits with floral notes. Full-bodied, frank and powerful on the nose. Nice length, with a sapid finish.
We didn’t have the time to do an in-depth tasting of the appellation’s wines, however, here are some of our favourites:
Château La Conseillante
Here, a strikingly warm and damp spring followed a wet winter, which the terroir of Merlot did not appreciate at all. At La Conseillante, like elsewhere, the 2018 vintage required the team to be doubly alert. A few days before the harvest, the wind dried out the grapes, allowing them to become even more concentrated. This concentration is exactly what makes their 2018 so special; in fact, extractions were carried out so as to temper the dense power of the grapes. This energy and power is tangible upon tasting; the wine impressed us even at this early stage. This wine will need plenty of time to soften, but oh my, when it does…
Supple and gentle on the palate. Refined, melted tannins, supple texture and vibrant fruit. Nice acidity.
The weather conditions were not kind to this sandy terroir. The 2018 was vinified with a few stems, to bring freshness to the whole. The wine has a nice acidity, sweetness and fresh finish.
A wine with powerful structure supported by present tannins. Vibrant on the palate, with a lovely freshness.
Other favourites: Clos Vieux Taillefer, Château Saint-Pierre de Corbian
Satellite appellations of Saint-Emilion
- Château Canon-Pécresse (Canon-Fronsac)
Despite the capricious weather, the limestone-dominated subsoil resisted to the spring’s incessant rainfall. Moreover, this well-ventilated terroir allowed to limit the impact of mildew.
The wine has a lot of finesse and freshness. Elegant tannins which structure the wine without dominating it.
- Château Clarisse (Puisseguin Saint-Emilion)
A wine with a nice level of intensity and dense structure. Elegant.
- Domaine de l’A (Castillon-Côtes-de-Bordeaux)
(75% M |25% CF)
Fine aromas of ripe fruits. Dense texture on the palate, elegant, with nicely ripe fruit and tannins which lend structure to the whole. A long, lightly spiced finish.