About to taste at Vieux Chateau Certan, one of this year’s wines of the vintage!
All you need to know about Bordeaux’s 2018 vintage in a nutshell
- A “climate change-influenced vintage” with one of the wettest Springs on record followed by one of the hottest and driest Summers and early Autumns.
- There were severe mildew problems in the early Summer which caused significantly lower yields in certain chateaux, specifically those which work organically or biodynamically in the vineyards (without chemical sprays).
- The hot, dry summer and reduced crop of grapes on the vines produced smaller grapes than usual with thicker skins. Colour depth, fruit concentration and tannin levels are as a result very high in 2018, meaning that the best wines have long/very long bottle ageing potential.
- The tannins are usually however so silky and smooth and the fruit so sexy, floral and hedonistic that the wines will also be deliciously approachable young!
- Despite the warm, sunny days during August –October, night time temperatures were cool, which has given the wines important freshness and balance.
- The vintage was extremely successful for later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes, which benefitted from the perfect weather conditions in September and October.
- Picking took place across Bordeaux in ideal conditions, so the grapes could be picked at optimum ripeness levels.
- The wines are medium to full bodied with alcohol levels averaging 14% in the Medoc and 14.5% in the Right Bank.
- The most consistently excellent appellations were St Estephe, St Julien and Pauillac, where there are many superb wines from the most famous chateaux but also some great value buys from lesser chateaux.
- The best chateaux of Margaux, Pomerol and St Emilion also produced fantastic wines, but quality in these appellations was much more varied.
- Dry white wines and sweet Sauternes are full of exotic fruit flavours in 2018, but often lack a little freshness and acidity; these are not “must buys” en primeur.
Important note about pricing this vintage
I did not offer a single wine en primeur from last year’s 2017 Bordeaux vintage because I felt that the release prices were too high relative to the good, but never great, quality of the wines. You will be able to buy almost every Bordeaux 2017 wine when they are physically released in bottle next year at around the same price as they were sold this time last year en primeur; I have no doubt about this!
There has to be a good reason to invest your cash 2 years before you receive the wines. A wine’s en primeur price should be fair and competitive versus older vintages of a similar quality currently available on the market. And the quality of that wine should be so good that you feel you really need to secure a case or two en primeur, just in case the wine is not easily available at its original release price when it is available in bottle in 2 years’ time.
It is very likely that many 2018s will again be released at high or very high prices, as has become the norm in Bordeaux over the past 10 years. Quite simply, I will try only to recommend to you wines which I believe are fairly priced, and which in my opinion are of fantastic quality for their price.
Otherwise, why buy en primeur?!
My Top Tips from Bordeaux 2018 vintage
Please note that I am usually quite conservative with my wine ratings. This is the first vintage I have awarded any wine a perfect 100/100 points, and this year there are 3 of them!
My top 3 wines of the vintage
Pontet Canet, Pauillac – 100pts
Ausone, St Emilion – 100pts
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol – 100pts
10 very close runners up
Palmer, Margaux – 99pts
Latour, Pauillac (not available en primeur) – 99pts
Pichon Lalande, Pauillac – 98pts
Leoville Las Cases, St Julien – 98pts
Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac – 98pts
Calon Segur, St Estephe – 97pts
Montrose, St Estephe – 97pts
Ducru Beaucaillou, St Julien – 97pts
Chateau Margaux, Margaux – 97pts
Figeac, St Emilion – 97pts
My 10 best value buys of the vintage under CHF50/bt
Capbern, St Estephe – 93.5pts
Croix De Beaucaillou, St Julien – 93pts
Reserve De La Comtesse, Pauillac – 93pts
Tronquoy Lalande, St Estephe – 93pts
Villars, Fronsac – 93pts
Bellevue St Emilion – 93pts
Meyney, St Estephe – 92.5pts
De Fonbel, St Emilion – 92pts
Fonplegade, St Emilion – 92pts
Pedesclaux, Pauillac – 92pts
5 Up and coming stars of excellent quality and potential
La Clotte, St Emillion – 94pts
Durfort Vivens, Margaux – 94pts
Rochebelle, St Emilion – 94pts
La Marzelle, St Emilion – 93pts
Mazeyres, Pomerol – 92pts