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Bordeaux 2018

vintage report Bordeaux 2018

A Roller Coaster Vintage

There were no magic micro-climates in 2018. This simple analysis of the vintage is the same from St Estephe to Castillon. This is one of the great turn-around stories, from despair to elation, but it was anything but straightforward. Nicolas Audebert from Rauzan Segla and Canon coined it the ‘Grand Huit’, or a rollercoaster. Even when summer arrived, this brought its own challenges. Water stress is necessary to make great red wines, however, those without clay subsoils were at risk of hydric stress and the dangers of blocked maturity.

After a natural crop thinning by virtue of mildew, the vines were not carrying an abundance of fruit. Most vignerons didn’t do much in the way of green harvests and many did minimal canopy thinning. What was on the vine was very healthy with thick skins and wonderful potential.

2018 Releases

17 June 2019 “Incredible”

We’ve become accustomed to astonishing wines at VCC. Our expectations keep getting higher and higher, and Alexandre and Guillaume duly surpass themselves. The 2018 is a magnificent effort with all the glorious high-toned aromatic detail we would expect from VCC as well as a huge, intense core of fruit. This is a dense, concentrated wine and yet it maintains a great sense of energy and freshness. Texturally glorious, the fruit is silken and the tannins envelope the palate like a cashmere cardigan. It is decadent and resolute in equal measure. The critics are suitably effusive too, with potential 100 point scores from The Wine Advocate and James Suckling. There’s no doubting, this is a very special Vieux Chateau Certan – we just wish there was more to go around.

14 June 2019 A true masterpiece

Since Pierre-Olivier Clouet became the Technical Director at Cheval Blanc, a seamless run of great wines has ensued. He has a bold, but quite simple vision utilizing the breadth and diversity of the terroirs at Cheval Blanc to develop complexity in the wine. The blending process is staggeringly intricate, but Pierre-Olivier and his team have mastered this art and are responsible for the finest sequence of wines this great chateau has ever produced. In an illustrious history, 2018 is without doubt the pinnacle of their achievements. Along with Lafleur, it was our selection of the Right Bank and arguably of the whole vintage. It is a breath-taking wine, a wine of nobility and grace. It reveals itself demurely; there’s nothing extravagant or pretentious, it is effortless and calm, yet there is such complexity and depth. Detailed nuances flicker and delight the palate, while majestic tannins support the full kaleidoscopic intricacy of this glorious wine. It’s a wine that defies comprehension. It is both cerebral and hedonistic, high-brow and rather sexy, powerful yet impeccably fluid. There’s no doubt that Cheval Blanc 2018 is a masterpiece that all wine lovers will want to drink many times during their lives.

14 June 2019 Big ambitions

Figeac’s current run of form must rank alongside any period in its exceptionally long history. The past four vintages have been staggeringly good, each leaving the entire Justerinis team grasping for superlatives. When we were there in January we saw the enormous hole in the ground that will someday rise into a magnificent, state of the art winery. Frederic Faye and his team have big ambitions, and they almost certainly have an eye on the forthcoming St Emilion classification (2022). Figeac along with Canon must be in pole position for an upgrade to Premier Grand Cru Classe ‘A’ – their inclusion in the ‘A’ club alongside Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angelus and Pavie would be entirely justified. Returning to January, we re-tasted the outstanding 2016. It was a joy: complex, ethereal, gently powerful. Fast forward to April and we were back with the 2018 in our glasses. If anything this is even more impressive. It is one of the stand out wines of the Right Bank, a wine of extraordinary purity, stupendous complexity and beautiful detail. Figeac is a unique style produced from a unique right bank terroir; a most distinctive wine that on current form is one of the most exciting and energising wines being made in Bordeaux. On this evidence, it is more than deserving of promotion.

13 June 2019 Saving the best ‘til last

It seems that the stars have aligned for the new team at Lafite. This was apparent as we tasted through Duhart Milon and Carruades de Lafite. When we arrived at the astonishing Grand Vin, it became obvious that 2018 was destined to be one of the all-time greats from this venerable First Growth. At the first impression we were struck by the reserved nobility of the bouquet. With aeration it slowly unfurled revealing complex aromas of minerals, flowers and decadent fruits. If anything the palate was even more compelling. Swathes of gorgeously textured black fruit coated the mouth. There’s a slight firmness and austerity that is befitting of a wine of this class – it’s an aristocratic giant yet it remained compact, precise and focussed. Lisa Perrotti-Brown sums up the stupendous finish superbly. “The finish goes on, and on, and on. If this wine doesn’t get Bordeaux lovers hearts' racing, nothing will.” It is fully deserving of all the accolades it has received and can now add the crown of Justerinis’ best wine on the left bank to that list!

13 June 2019 Right Bank Royalty

We are in the final furlong now and the pace is quickening… Out in the lead is the mighty Ausone with a hattrick of potential 100 point scores. Ausone’s terroir is considered by many to be the best in Bordeaux, and under the expert management of Alain and Pauline Vauthier, the Chateau’s reputation has risen to dizzying heights. The 2018 is a masterpiece. This is amongst the most complex and multifaceted wines of the vintage and must rank as one of the greatest Ausones ever produced. Due to very limited production, Ausone will be on allocation. Please submit your requests via your Account Manager.

07 June 2019 Bordeaux 2018: The wines of Christian Moueix

The Moueix family is inextricably linked to the success of Pomerol. Their vision and endeavour coupled with their ability to locate and secure great terroirs has led to the creation of the most enviable portfolio on the Right Bank. Perhaps their brightest jewel is the mighty La Fleur Petrus. Since the adoption of the vines from Providence and Guillot, this has become the largest cru on the plateau of Pomerol. And if anyone thought that blending these terroirs might in some way detract, they’d be sorely mistaken. La Fleur Petrus continues to go from strength to strength. The 2018 is a sensational, grand-scale, classical Pomerol with a huge beating heart of rich fruit and a perpetual and highly nuanced finish.

05 June 2019 “A magnificent monster of a Montrose!”

Lisa Perrotti-Brown sums this up rather aptly - this is a monster of a Montrose, possibly the most concentrated and massive example we have ever tasted from this great second growth. It is a sort of hybrid of the massive 2010 and the ultra-refined, super-sleek, ethereal 2016. When we met with Hervé Berland in late January the team had just finished blending and there was an air of confidence that they had something very special on their hands. Their only regret was that yields were a paltry 25 hl/ha. This is a magnificent wine, possibly the most profound and long-term wine of the whole vintage. We were blown away by the concentration and the quite epic tannins – we were literally tasting this all the way to Cos d’Estournel. An absolutely sensational Montrose!

05 June 2019 Bordeaux 2018: La Mission Haut Brion

An “Extraordinary wine” – Lisa Perrotti-Brown

04 June 2019 The Red Baron

The Pichons are two of the most iconic Chateaux of Pauillac. Inevitably people will make comparisons, and in recent vintages, we have fallen for the allure of the Comtesse. However, the Baron is up for a dogfight. Christian Seely and the AXA Millesimes team have pulled out all the stops with their magnificent 2018. The Justerinis’ team, just like Lisa Perrotti-Brown, couldn’t choose a favourite. This is an immensely powerful, concentrated wine, bursting with a core of dark berries. It doesn’t have the finesse and aromatic charms of the Comtesse, but it makes up for this with waves of luxurious, velvety fruit. In the past we have criticised Baron for being too dense and lacking vitality – this effort is pitch-perfect – the fruit is vibrant and although concentrated, there is no sense of excess or heaviness. The tannin management is also superb. Pure fruits and mineral notes grip the palate with authority and give this a complex and long finish. There’s no doubt this is a hugely impressive Pichon Baron!

04 June 2019 Bordeaux 2018: Cos d’Estournel

Forget everything you thought you knew about Cos d’Estournel. Aymeric de Gironde, the previous General Director, plotted a new course for this second growth Chateau during his short tenure. The new regime, under the guidance of owner Michel Reybier and winemaker Dominique Arangoïts have the wind firmly in their sails. Some might say they have perfected this new style. This completes a hattrick of potentially perfect scores from The Wine Advocate, and for us it is clearly the most complete and convincing example to date. Ethereal, detailed, full of verve, it is a beautifully judged effort, brimming with bright fruit, yet measured and refined. The post-Parker style of Cos is attracting many admirers. One can emphatically say that Cos d’Estournel is back where is ought to be, as one of the leading ‘Super Seconds’ and one of the most sought-after wines of Bordeaux.

03 June 2019 “Simply breath-taking”

This is possibly the finest expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from the magical 2018 vintage. Jean-Hubert Delon’s superb clos, adjoining the vines of Chateau Latour, produces exceptionally pure, refined wines with an extraordinary ability to age gracefully for decades. The 2018 has been described by James Suckling as “2016 plus, plus”. It certainly convinced us. There is such effortless power combined with unerring grace. It’s a faultless style; a wine that will appeal to the purists and connoisseurs. Leoville Las Cases is in an elite group along with the likes of Lafite, Latour and Montrose, having produced one of the most profound and exciting wines of the Medoc.

29 May 2019 A monumental Lynch Bages

Anyone who has visited the village of Bages in the last couple of years would be forgiven for thinking that the Cazes family was in the construction business. There have been a lot of cranes rising from Lynch Bages and now the most enormous edifice has emerged on top of the gravel croups. This impressive structure will be a state-of-the-art wine-making facility, which will ensure and bolster Lynch’s already exceptional reputation as one of the leading lights in Pauillac.

28 May 2019 Regime Change

As we wrote last year, it’s all change at Troplong Mondot. The new owners have appointed Aymeric de Gironde (formally of Cos d’Estournel and Pichon Longueville), who has in turn employed the services of the talented Mr Thomas Duclos. Monsieur Duclos’ philosophy of early harvesting and gentle extractions has already made neighbouring Chateau Canon one of the must-have wines of the right bank. It’s only a matter of time before Troplong is mentioned in the same breath. This unique terroir, above the Cote Pavie, is famed for powerful, brooding wines. With Thomas’ delicate touch, they are also discovering a freshness, intensity and charm. There’s only one direction this Chateau is going…

24 May 2019 A Sensational Brane Cantenac

It's easy to lose track of wine’s essential role in the pursuit of the highest possible scores. Namely, fine wine is there to give pleasure, and if there is one region capable of producing the most seductive, pleasurable wines in the world, then it must surely be Bordeaux. As we’ve said many times now, the 2018 vintage has produced scores of wines that will seduce and mesmerise drinkers for many years to come, but Brane Cantenac stands head and shoulders above the others as one such sensational example. In our minds, this is one of the most charming, joyous and delightful wines of the vintage. There is a sumptuousness to the fruit and a glorious texture that coats the palate with sweet berry fruit, whilst notes of rose petals and violets delight the nose. It is deep yet light and vibrant, framed by effortless filigree tannins. Forget scores for a moment, “this is absolutely delicious,” in the words of our esteemed Buying Director. What more can you ask for?!

23 May 2019 The Greatest

We seem to live in a world of superlatives. When every wine that is released is the best or most profound – one can become a little bit cynical. However, when someone as well respected as Olivier Bernard suggests that his 2018 is the “greatest” wine he has ever produced at Domaine de Chevalier, you take note! We had already tasted and reached the same conclusion before we exchanged views. This is one seriously impressive wine: deeply concentrated, with swathes of effortless fruit, wrapped in grand scale, yet caressing tannins that finish with sumptuous, bright fruit. It’s exquisitely constructed, and for us, eclipses the likes of the 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016. Greatest? Without hesitation - this is not to be missed!

23 May 2019 “Seduction in a glass” – Lisa Perrotti-Brown

Nicolas Audebert coined the phrase the “Grand Huit”, the big eight or the rollercoaster. A clever play on words that appositely sums up the sentiments of vignerons and the style of the vintage. As ever, there is a refreshing honesty from the Canon, Rauzan and Berliquet team – this after all, was a vintage with tumultuous ups and downs that ultimately ended in elation.

22 May 2019 A “Fabulous” Leoville Barton

We agree wholeheartedly. This is a grand scale, muscular Leoville Barton, built in the mould of all the greats produced from this noble Second Growth vineyard. The 2018 vintage has provided power, concentration and tannins in abundance, however, all these components have been united into a cohesive, balanced and very impressive wine. Make no mistake, this is a proper vin de garde, a wine that will last for decades and will require considerable patience, but the virtuous will be rewarded with something spectacular.

10 May 2019 Bordeaux 2018: Duhart Milon, Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac, Palmer, Gloria

There’s been a last-minute dash to release before the half time break in the campaign that is Vinexpo. This morning, both Milons, Clerc and Duhart have hit the market. We are unequivocal fans. Duhart has been in the doldrums recently, however, Jean-Guillaume Prats and the new team at Lafite have produced one of the most impressive Duhart Milons we can recall. It is an extremely serious and stylish Pauillac, made in the Lafite mould. Lisa Perrotti-Brown describes it as “the densest, most opulent Duhart I have tasted!”

07 May 2019 Bordeaux 2018: Beychevelle and many others…

It could be the first signs of Brexit jeopardising the old Entente Cordiale; Beychevelle did the unthinkable and released on the May Day Bank Holiday! A snub to the Brits or poor diary management, we don’t know, we don’t care, we just love the wines. Since the inaugural vintage in the impressive new winery, Beychevelle hasn’t put a step out of place. The 2018 is possibly the most striking of the lot. This is super-impressive, bringing together a more complex and concentrated core of fruit with a detailed tannic structure, without losing any of the old Beychevelle ease and charm. There are just a few cases left…

03 May 2019 Playing catch up

Yesterday was dominated by the release of Chateau Lafleur and the other Guinaudeau wines, however, there were a few significant releases that also deserve a mention. So, here’s a quick round-up to bring us up to date.

24 April 2019 Top values from two Right Bank legends

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to drink wines produced by wine-making royalty. Today, both Denis Durantou of Chateau L’Eglise Clinet and Alain Vauthier of Chateau Ausone have released their entry level wines. If L’Eglise Clinet and Ausone are their Grand Cru terroirs, the likes of La Chenade, Saintayme, Les Cruzelles, Montlandrie, Fonbel and Moulin St Georges are their village or Premier Cru vineyards. These wines benefit from all of Denis’ and Alain’s technical knowhow, wine-making flair and expertise, built up over the decades.

16 April 2019 And they're off!

It’s so early it seems like a false start, but Chateau Angelus has become the first major release of the 2018 campaign. As the front runner, Angelus is claiming the spotlight, even if some spectators still aren’t even in the stands yet. And if that weren’t enough of a shock, the 2018 is released on to the market at 1530GBP per 6; 10% less than the 2017. This is welcome news from one of St Emilion’s Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) vineyards.

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Bordeaux 2018 at Justerini & Brooks