Bordeaux 2018 - The Wine Advocate scores are in

Bordeaux 2018 - The Wine Advocate scores are in

Wednesday 24th April 2019
by Tom Jenkins

Many will remember waiting enthusiastically for the Wine Advocate to drop through the letterbox, or for a poor resolution scan to be emailed from the States, via Bordeaux. The age of the internet has made distribution more equitable and efficient, but maybe some of the romance and thrill has ebbed away. 

Anyway, enough nostalgia, the scores are in and it’s fair to say that Lisa Perrotti-Brown is a big fan. Her report echoes our thoughts on this magical vintage – extreme peaks and a bit of mediocrity. It’s a fascinating read. For those who do not subscribe, we have quoted some of the most salient bits below. We have also listed the 12 potential 100 point wines.

‘In this vintage of extremes, a producer undaunted by flirting with disaster and with a bit of luck on his/her side could well have sailed over the finish line to glory with all the flair and panache of Alain Prost. Or they could have cartwheeled down the track, combusting into a ball of flames. 2018 offers us the thrill of victory for a number of wineries, the agony of defeat for a few and a whole lot of also-rans…

At the very peak of quality, the 2018s are mind-blowingly incredible. In this upper realm, terroir signatures marry with the characters of this vintage to produce wines that speak of both place and time. Qualitatively, there are a good number of red wines across Bordeaux that potentially nailed it in 2018.

The greatest successes in 2018 came from properties that focused first and foremost on achieving tannin and flavor ripeness. Given the hot, dry conditions, this was a challenge on freer-draining soils (deep gravels and sandy soils), for younger vines and for vines carrying hefty crop loads. As the heat and dry conditions continued right into October in 2018, vine blockage (shutdown) and berry shrivel ensued in some places. I know this because I can taste it in some of the wines. Vines that struggled produced tannins that are slightly chewy, bitter and therefore not completely ripe. Shriveled berries that were not discarded on the sorting tables produced wines that have prune or raisin-like characters, which in and of themselves are not “bad,” but they tend to run within a far narrower band of flavors at the tail end of the flavor-ripeness bell curve.

In the highest-quality 2018 reds, phenolic ripeness was achieved beautifully. The quality of the tannins can be stunning across all red varieties. Many winemakers were purring about a “cashmere-like” texture, which is an accurate term for some top wines. Equally exciting is the sheer spectrum of flavor compounds. We’re mainly looking at black and blue fruit characters (not so much red fruit), but with a lot of floral, mineral and savory nuances in the most complex wines. Higher alcohols of 14% to 14.5% are nicely offset by the mid-palate density of the superlatives as well as mineral, dried herbs and floral sparks, which go some ways to boosting the soft background acids and injecting seamless freshness. And so, it is the plush tannins rather than the acidity that tends to pave and extend the finish of the best 2018 wines. 

A handful of properties have made the highest-quality wines this year that I have ever tasted from those estates.’