THE 2018 VINTAGE IN BORDEAUX

What a year!

By Aymeric de Clouet 
(Originally written in French)

2018 is the year of all "super-relative". Because after three intensive days of tasting, the impression left by the 2018 vintage is very mixed. A few failures, some pearls but not many, a success of the Médoc except a part of Margaux, heterogeneity on the right bank, poor white Graves and reds rather good, all this makes me say that the year 2018  is the year of the taster.

Because it has been a long time since we had so many differences within the appellations, except for Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe, the moist climate of July disrupted the vegetative cycle and caused a real proliferation of mildew, fortunately, fought by the conventional growers, unfortunately, catastrophic for organic ones.

Merlot having particularly suffered, while Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot resisted rather better, some areas also have atypical assemblages. The essential remains the intrinsic quality of the wine, the ways to make a good wine being multiple.

Let's start with Pomerol: 3 tastings, some excellent wines but always the same (Gazin, La Conseillante), pleasant surprises (Nénin, La Fleur de Gay) and a spectacular wine: Certan de May. Some disappointments too: Petit-Village, Beauregard.

Still, on the right bank, the Ausone galaxy is doing well, but we can see that the year was difficult: Moulin St-Georges is a great success, Ausone and La Chapelle hold their rank. At Cheval Blanc, the Petit Cheval is not very exciting, but Quinault L'Enclos remains a safe bet, and Cheval-Blanc is successful. As for Angelus, we could not taste it. There was a sense of welcome before. We still remain in Saint-Émilion and meet a series of successes: Yon-Figeac, Villemaurine, Ripeau, St-Georges-Cote-Pavie, Grand-Corbin-Despagne, very good wines that will undoubtedly be at reasonable prices. Finally, among the first Grands Crus Classés, Clos-Fourtet and Figeac dominate widely. Canon almost reaches them at the top.

Let's cross the Garonne, and here we are in Léognan. This is the kingdom of Bordeaux white. Unfortunately, this will not be the case this year, the few successes (Carbonnieux, Olivier, Latour-Martillac and especially Domaine de Chevalier) do not compensate for wines where pineapple is more present than a grape. Who will say all the harm that the excess of Sauvignon blanc and oak casks make to Bordeaux white? Well, I devote myself ... The reds are more attractive, with significant successes like the Châteaux already mentioned, as well as Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Picque-Caillou, still no Haut-Bailly at Union des Grands Crus, it is the Angelus of the left bank. However, in Haut-Brion, which would have reasons to be snobbish, the reception is always great. The whites suffer from the vintage, as they do everywhere, except the marvellous Clarté which is the blend of all Sémillon parcels of the two castles, probably: 80% of the final wine! Result: it's terrific. Also, it does not taste like exotic fruits. As for the reds, the two second wines do the job, well done and charming, a little stronger for Clarence, and the Château Haut-Brion is doing very well, but the Mission disappoints a little. We can only be disappointed by what we really like.

Let us leave Pessac and the family memories attached to it, and go boldly to the far north: Saint-Estèphe! Calon-Segur, one of the most impressive progressions of recent years, gives us three excellent wines, Montrose stays at the top, and Cos-d'Estournel rises again, after some uninteresting vintages (all in search of power, nothing for wine). However, why persist in producing a white wine that is flat and without grace? Please stop and move on! In Saint-Estèphe, there are also a pretty good Cos-Labory, a very good Phélan-Ségur, and an especially fantastic Lafon-Rochet. If the Gods make fun of men, it is indeed in 2018 that they did it, following the renunciation of this Château to the dogma of Biodynamics, and the dumpers of manure that it received in the press and on the social networks: little harvest for organic or biodynamic wines, and an extraordinary wine for Lafon-Rochet, the renegade.

Moving on again and making the fifty meters that separate us from Pauillac. Ah! The beautiful vineyard here! Spared by troubles, except at Pontet-Canet, it unveils a pleasant litany of successful wines, among which we will choose in particular Pichon-Baron, Clerc-Milon, as usual, Duhart-Milon, whose new style has flourished in 2018, Lafite-Rothschild, the best in a long time, and Mouton-Rothschild, perhaps the best wine of the Medoc (I could not taste Latour, by my fault only). In short, this year the Rothschilds owned the left bank.

In Saint-Julien, often the most homogeneous vintage, good classical wines, of which I especially mention Branaire-Ducru, Lagrange and Gruaud-Larose, for me the best, in its fantastic regularity for ten years. I will stop saying it; they will raise prices.

For Château Margaux, it will be harder. Harder to say the (my) truth. What everyone whispers, not daring to write it, but it is a service we give to producers not to wax their boots permanently. Château Margaux does not make us dream anymore! I speak of the great wine. Of this magical wine which, since 1978, makes us touch perfection. This wine, which in 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986 has produced wines worth of history, but also in 1996, 1998, even in 1999 ... and again 2005, 2010 ... and today it is still good, but it lacks that extra soul that his cellar masters gave him. Move to Palmer: little wine (10 hl/ha), but sublime, which will be worth its weight in solid gold. Durfort-Vivens, which experienced the same problems, is good, as well as Rauzan-Ségla, Malescot-St-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, but the most impressive is Siran, not a Cru Classé in 1855 but whose quality is mostly at this level.

Conclusion: an exciting vintage for the amateur, to put in his cellar absolutely, but a careful selection is required.

The short selection:

High priced                            
Mouton-Rothschild                       
Lafite-Rothschild                       
Ausone                                
Palmer                                
Cheval-Blanc                            
Haut-Brion                            

Fairly priced (hopefully)       
Lafon-Rochet      
Gruaud-Larose                  
Certan de May
Siran
Moulin-Saint-Georges
Figeac
Clerc-Milon
Clos-Fourtet
Smith-Haut-Lafitte
Duhart-Milon
Blason de l’Évangile
Quinault-L’Enclos