Bordeaux vintage 2018 primeur

06. April 2019 Deutsch



2018 - winners & losers of climate change




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appellations
St.-Estèphe
Pauillac
St. Julien
Margaux
Pessac-Léognan
St.-Émilion
Pomerol

wines from the Médoc
wines from Pessac-Léognan
wines from Pomerol / St.-Émilion
all prices net ex negoçiant / Bordeaux


Left bank - Médoc


The left bank appellations of the Médoc in the north-west of the city of Bordeaux are closest to the Atlantic Ocean and are exposed to the maritime climate of the coast. This area is mostly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with only small parts of Merlot. As the weather conditions in 2018 were very similar in all Bordeaux appellations even on the right bank, the factor of the grape variety was more important. The long dry and hot summer period was extremely beneficial for the Cabernets while Merlot was suffering. The Cabernets found just perfect conditions to gain full and extraordinary ripeness developing high levels of tannins, acidity and natural sugar. The beautiful weather continued to be stable until the end of October which was instrumental for a very late harvest and the option for the producers to wait for the very last day to achieve optimal ripeness of the massive tannins.

Unfortunately, the extreme mildew in May and June lowered yields significantly and for some producers drastically. Fighting mildew was a huge challenge especially for producers certified biodynamic. Almost all wines show a deep purple to black color and an extraordinary concentration. Differences in the glass mostly come from terroir and adoption of the vinification process to cope with the extreme tannin, acidity and sugar levels. Many producers made a good wine true to the vintage, the best made wines true to their terroir and Château characteristics.


St.-Estèphe



Château Montrose 2018, among the best wines of the vintage.

The most northern of all classified Château is Calon-Ségur. Since the acquisition by French insurance group Suravenir Assurances every detail has been turned upside down. Massive investments in vineyards, cellar and buildings pay off more and more. Since 2014 Calon-Ségur is one of the upcoming super-stars in the Médoc. Their 2018 vintage is a prime example. The wine has a glorios and fresh fruit, a beautiful silky texture and is not overpowered at all, almost a feminine wine for the vintage. The next huge success for Calon-Ségur.

And it is not far away to the next super star winery, Château Montrose. Since some years the complete renovation of the Château is paying off with a stunning precision and quality of the wines that already challenge the Premier Cru level. And the Montrose 2018 reconfirms the ambition. This is a wine of super delicious, explosive fruit, balance, elegance and freshness. And no doubt, this wine is one of our contenders for the title wine of the vintage. In 2018 not quite on this high level the 2018 Cos d'Estournel still is a beautiful wine with ripe fruit and freshness. The long finish though lacks a bit of delicate, sweet fruit.


Pauillac



Château Mouton Rothschild 2018, a huge super classic Mouton for many decades to come.

The three premier crus alone make the appellation Pauillac a sweet spot of Bordeaux. The title of the best 2018 premier cru for our taste goes to the fascinating wine of Mouton Rothschild. It is very rare to taste a Mouton as classic as the 2018 with all its power, density and bright fruit complemented with just the right dose of delicious herbs. If you want to explore the true character of Mouton Rothschild, you should start with this vintage. Mouton at its best!

Lafite Rothschild presented a fruity but very elegant wine, but despite all greatness lacking the Lafite magic. To compensate they also presented the most likely best Carruades vintage and for sure the best Clerc Milon vintage in decades. Not for their elegance but sheer power and concentration famous are the wines of Château Latour. The bold 2018 vintage characteristics were not perfect for Latour in this respect. The young Latour 2018 is still a tannin monster but shows a fine fruit and balance already. If you can wait some decades this wine will certainly shine but it’s a long wait for sure. During the primeurs tastings Latour also presented a new release of the 2008 vintage. The brownish wine seemed to be a bit exhausted already and showed intense tertiary aromas. Maybe the 2nd release came a bit too late.

Neighbor of Latour Pichon Comtesse de Lalande was not showing its full potential either. Meanwhile the style of the wines here has dramatically changed away from soft, fleshy and aromatic Merlot style to a masculine Cabernet style. On the palate the 2018 Lalande is tannic, spicy and shows licorice instead of seductive fruit. Far better is the wine from neighbor over the street Pichon Baron, a wine that really gets better and better every year but is still true to its tight and edgy characteristics while young. The Baron 2018 is a huge, fat, fleshy wine with a fine juicy finish and will have a long life. A must-have for every fan of the “Baron style”.

Château Pontet-Canet, direct opposite of Mouton Rothschild knew how to make a fantastic wine in 2018. A huge success for “PC” showing a wine of intense, fresh and very juicy fruit with no weakness anywhere. Fantastic multi-layered finish. The only downside here are the very low yields due to mildew but PC stuck to their biodynamic principles. Bravo! Not far from PC the new winery building of Château Lynch-Bages emerges from the ground and leaves the visitor speechless due to the sheer dimensions. The primeurs tasings had been moved to Château Haut-Batailley. The LB 2018 was still not ready to be tasted, did not open at all with a dry finish and lacking fruit. We are sure this will not happen again in the new winery, a new landmark of Bordeaux wine.


St.-Julien



After the outstanding 2016 the next stunning Léoville Las Cases with delicious sweet fruit and impressive freshness and balance.

The wines of the Saint-Julien appellation merit a huge reputation even without a flagship premier cru producer. At the top of the game is always Château Léoville Las Cases, neighboring famous Château Latour. The wines from Saint-Julien are more approachable and rounder compared to the northern Pauillac wines. Las Cases presented another stunning wine after the legendary 2016 and a great 2017. Despite a massive concentration this LLC 2018 feels unbelievably lightweight on the palate. A marvelously integrated acid carries this fruity and fleshy wine into a long and spectacular finish with chocolate and sweet fruit. No doubt, one of the very best Bordeaux wines of the vintage 2018!

Another positive surprise was Château Léoville Barton, just south of Las Cases. A wine so soft and silky but powerful with precise sweet raspberries. The is just a tiny bit of dryness but the wine is in full balance and not at all over extracted. A wonderful Léoville Barton vintage! Château Ducru Beaucaillou, just south of Léoville Barton, is well known for its powerful and dense wines from very ripe fruit. For the 2018 they couldn’t resist to continue to extract but in this case in was too much. The wine is deep black, super concentrated and loaded with ripe cherry notes. Unfortunately, the massive tannins of this wine are more than dominating everything else and let the taster alone with a dry mouthfeel. We were very much surprised with a statement that 2018 is superior to 1961 and we can not confirm it because we have never tried 1961. But we know far better vintages of Ducru Beaucaillou than 2018.

Since the 2017 vintage we’ve included Château Talbot into our program and again for the 2018 vintage it was a positive surprise. The Talbot 2018 is a beautifully balanced wine of sappy fruit, well integrated ripe tannins and acidity. The mouthfeel is very fresh, focused and harmonious. Very delicious finish without any dry tannins.


Margaux



Our wine of the vintage 2018: Château Palmer. One of the very few wines that have class and an emotional dimension on top.

Just a few kilometers south of Saint-Julien the appellation Margaux very often reflects its own micro climate. In 2018 though the differences in weather conditions were rather small. Our Margaux tastings started with Château Palmer, one of the most consistent top performers in recent years. Palmer lost two thirds of its crop due to mildew in 2018 but the remaining grapes were outstanding and could be used to 90% for the Grand Vin. As a consequence, there will be no Alter Ego de Palmer 2018. The 2018 Palmer is a beauty by itself staring with ultra-delicious chocolate aromas in the nose leading to seductive juicy ripe fruit that literally explodes on the palate. Power and super fine elegance lead into a spectacular finish with endless chocolate and fresh sweet cherry aromas. The Palmer 2018 is not a legend like 2015 to get this right but without a doubt it was our wine of the vintage.

And even the famous neighbor Château Margaux was not able to make us change our mind. Still the Margaux 2018 is a great success with class, technical perfection and its characteristic complexity and depth. It is an intellectual wine that needs concentration with a simply gorgeous finish that is not ending to caress. Close to perfection but it lacks this emotional dimension of the very best Margaux vintages that leaves you speechless.

A visit at Château Brane-Cantenac concluded our tastings in the Médoc region. The Château is blessed with one of the most respected terroirs in Bordeaux, the terrasse 4. Unfortunately, the Brane-Cantenac 2018 could not live up to its reputation in 2018 and repeat the great success from 2017. It is a beautiful Wine with juicy fruit and velvety tannins but a harsh and massive acidity is dominating the palate.


Left bank - Pessac-Léognan



One third of the crop lost but the remaining rest was great: Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2018. And in 2018 the red wine was superior to the white!

We just mentioned that weather conditions were pretty much the same all over Bordeaux. Pessac, some 50 km south of Pauillac and south of the city of Bordeaux was no exception. But different to the Médoc tannins were high but not on super record levels. The soil here is similar to the northern Médoc and there is much more Cabernet planted than Merlot. All very good reasons to count Pessac as a part of the left bank.

The clear leader in reputation and quality is Château Haut Brion with its sister Château La Mission Haut Brion across the street. Both produce wines of reference for the entire Bordeaux region year after year. Although their 2018 wines are of excellent quality, too, the top standard of the vintage can be found somewhere else. The Haut Brion 2018 shows seductive aromas of cherries, cassis and chocolate. On the palate is is still pretty much closed and not ready to show its potential. The finish is impressively powerful but can't hide the sheer level of tannins. Very similar, the La Mission Haut Brion is a dense powerhouse but not open yet. In the finish a salty acidity and a delicate juicy fruit try to find balance. Very good potential for both wines but decades away to find harmony.

For the 2018 vintage, a stunning Château Smith Haut Lafitte stole the show. Yields had been reduced due to the mildew problem by one third. What a beautiful chocolate nose complemented by a fine, sweet cherry fruit covered with cocoa powder. This is all wrapped in a dense, powerful and creamy mouthfeel with tannins of pure silk. A very impressive and rewarding wine of power and elegance with a long and multi-layered finish. This is an outstanding 2018 SHL with huge potential and after some years the red wine again is superior to the white from SHL.

The very much hyped Château Haut-Bailly had been hit very hard by the frost in 2017. Weather conditions were much better in 2018 but the wine in our opinion was not at the top of the appellation. The 2018 reached a new historic high level of 14,5% alcohol and develops amazing power and density. The nose is dominated by cherries, alcohol and licorice. On the palate the wine shows less concentration and fruit. The finish is very tannic and lacking sweet fruit to compensate. Maybe this wine was still closed and too young for the primeurs.


Right bank - Saint-Émilion



Fantastic Cabernet Franc in 2018 St.-Émilion wines. Fundamental also for a stunning Ausone 2018.

The best wines from Saint-Émilion appellation took profit from the fantastic quality of the Cabernet Franc grape in 2018. A prime example is Château Ausone that presented the best wine of recent vintages including 2015 and 2016. With extremely elegant cherry flavours the wine seduces with depth and complexity combined with terrific elegance. This is not at all overpowered but in beautiful harmony and very delicate. 60% Cabernet Franc in the blend lead to a spectacular finish, multi-layered, long and of amazing complexity. This is what defines the very best terroirs. Don't get this wrong, Ausone is a special wine but those who love this edgy but super complex style will find one of the best Ausone wines in years.

Famous Château Cheval Blanc is almost always among the very best wines of the right bank. In 2017 this Château lost large parts of its Cabernet Franc in the harsh frost and was hit extremely hard. So everybody was very pleased with the great quality in 2018. The alcohol level of the 2018 Cheval Blanc is at a very high 14,5 % but it is beautifully wrapped with the characteristic chocolate flavours of a ripe Cabernet Franc. The wine is powerful and elegant on the palate and impresses with a long, juicy finish. This is a big straight Bordeaux without dry tannins and without disturbing perfumed aromas. A great 2018 CB.

A direct neighbour to Cheval Blanc is Château Figeac that had significant changes going on in recent years but now is among the new stars in Bordeaux with dramatic improvements in quality. The complete reconstruction of the winery is testimony to the clear goal to close the gap to the Premier Grand Cru Classé A rated producers. Because of the ongoing construction Figeac acquired a temporary winery to vinify the 2018 vintage and the result speaks for itself. The Figeac 2018 is a huge wine with ripe sweet fruit and an impressive transparency and precision despite the sheer power and pressure on the palate. No doubt, since the 2014 vintage Figeac is at the top of the game.

On the southern end of the appellation high on the Mondot hill another huge construction is shaping up at Château Troplong-Mondot. Recently acquired by an insurance company the old buildings are going to be completely replaced by bigger new ones. For the 2018 vintage the team moved vinification to another near by winery making no compromise. The stunning result reflects a complete change in style that started with the 2016 vintage. Gone are the times of the over-extracted bold and super sweet wines. Today Troplong Mondot wines shine with elegance, are seamless and of focussed freshness in order to maintain perfect terroir precision. The 2018 shows lucid color which is a surprise given the concentration of the vintage. The nose is a pure intense cherry that develops beautifully on the palate through a vibrant acid. So much tension on the palate and a shiny finish without losing the seamless cherry aromas. Nothing here reminds to the "old" Troplong Mondot style some called "Sex & Rock'n Roll". Sad for the fans but for sure good for the business.

Close to the little town of Saint-Émilion and on the top of the limestone hill Château Canon is going from success to success in recent years. The Château belongs to the Wertheimer family who also own Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux and famous luxury fashion labels. Huge investments in the past now really pay off. The Canon 2018 was our first wine with distinct strawberry aromas. This is a beautiful wine with intense ripe fruit, edgy but delicate tannins and a lot of power on the palate. A great effort for the vintage but it lacks the magic of the best Canon vintages.

Still closer to the town is one of the most visitor friendly places in Saint-Émilion Château Soutard that regularly produces very good wines at reasonable prices. The 2018 Soutard is a very fine wine of dark ripe fruit with power and a touch of chocolate. The finish is juicy with a polished acidity that adds a delicious freshness.

Yes, we are huge fans of the wines of Tertre Rôteboeuf. In many vintages François Mitjavile defines the reference point on the right bank with his bold extremely fruity wines of class, freshness and elegance. The 2018 barrel sample was quite different to all other wines tasting during the primeurs. A very deep plum nose already indicates a massive concentration that does not please the palate now. The dried fruit flavours are so intense that the wine has a hard time showing anything. Too massive, too much for us.


Right bank - Pomerol



The Le Pin 2018 is for sure among the best vintages of this iconic producer in Pomerol but so different to the classic "Burgundian" Le Pin style.

Pomerol - although the smallest of all top appellations in Bordeaux - has an unmatched number of world class producers and wine qualities. And the 2018 vintage gives great testimony for this fact with some of the vintage's best wines. Lets's start from the top of the list with Le Pin. One should assume that making a wine from 100% Merlot would be a challenge in a perfect Cabernet year, the Le Pin 2018 is an extraordinarily great wine. The nose shows ultra-fine sweet and ripe cherry aromas, the palate a spectacular explosion of delicious fruit, massive power and glorious multi-layered elegance. No, this is not the essence of a Le Pin wine but it is for sure a stunning Bordeaux wine that perfectly brings power, ripeness, concentration and ultra-elegance into the glass. Obwohl 100% Merlot in einem Cabernet Jahrgang eine Herausforderung sein sollte verblüfft der Le Pin mit seinen außerordentlichen Qualitäten. In der Nase eine ultrafeine, süß-reife Kirsche, am Gaumen ein tolles Spektakel an mächtiger Frucht, schierer Kraft und doch grandioser, vielschichtiger Eleganz. Nein, das ist nicht die Essenz von Le Pin, aber dafür ein ganz großer Bordeaux, der von der Kraft, Konzentration und Reife des Jahrgangs perfekt profitiert. Umwerfend schön!

Nicht weit entfernt liegt Château Lafleur, ebenfalls berühmt für seine ultraeleganten Weine mit etwas mehr Grip und Dichte als Le Pin. Und der Lafleur 2018 wird allen Erwartungen gerecht. Wieder herausragende, seidenweiche Eleganz, aufgeladen mit Kraft, Druck und knackiger Frucht. Der Abgang begeistert mit Frische, enormer Saftigkeit und einer fast nicht erfassbaren Komplexität und Länge. Das ist der ganz große Lafleur-Stil, der den Verkoster in seinen Bann schlägt und zu äußerster Konzentration zwingt. Die Dimension des Abgangs ist einfach nur spektakulär. Und wenn man unbedingt etwas kritisieren muss, dann könnte sich in der Mitte am Gaumen der Wein noch stärker öffnen (wie z.B. der Lafleur 2014). Groß!

Nicht weit entfernt liegt Vieux Château Certan, ein weiterer beständiger Anwärter auf den Titel des Wein des Jahres. Und auch hier wird die Erwartung mehr als erfüllt, der VCC 2018 ist von kristallklarer Präzision. Vielleicht einen Tick weniger saftig als gewöhnlich, dafür mit mehr Kraft ausgestattet brilliert er mit dunklen Früchten, die mit Kakaopulver überzogen sind. Der ultralange Abgang ist einfach spektakulär und zeigt wieder etwas Schokolade. Ein toller Wein, der allerdings im eigenen Hause aus anderen Jahrgängen sehr scharfe Konkurrenz hat. Das ist aber Kritik auf höchstem Niveau.

Nach dem in 2017 wetterbedingt sehr speziellen Wein von Château L'Evangile waren wir auf den neuen 2018er sehr gespannt. Dabei geht es immer um die Frage, ob das Geschwistergut, Château Lafite in Pauillac, oder eben L'Evangile besser mit dem Jahrgang zurecht gekommen ist. Und 2018 geht nach unserer Meinung wieder einmal an L'Evangile in Pomerol, ein Fotofinish. Eine tolle Säure verschafft dem Wein eine für den Jahrgang verblüffende Frische und bei aller mächtigen Frucht herrliche Eleganz. Hier wurde extrem sorgsam und schonend extrahiert und das Ergebnis ist ein großer Pomerol. Nachbar Château La Conseillante präsentierte eine noch etwas konzentriertere Version, allerdings ohne zu übertreiben. Der fast schwarze, mächtige Wein zeigt bis in den Abgang eine hohe Intensität mit guter Säurestruktur und ausreichend Frische.






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