Friday, May 10, 2019

2018 Bordeaux - a perplexing vintage that just might be the best since '82 and '59?

Fascinating. What do you think when you know (1) the 2018 Bordeaux wines are high-alcohol, high-tannin, and low-acid, from a "hellish" vintage (meaning stark contrasts of too cold/wet and too hot); but (2) the critics say the wines don't taste that way at all, and are magnificent, perhaps on par with '82 and '59? I confess I can't make much sense of it unless #2 is pure marketing lies, which is very unlikely given the fine reputations of the critics. But this points up the complexities of appreciating fine wines. Wine chemistry is amazingly complicated.

This is an email to me from Philip Bohorfoush:

The 2018 Bordeaux en primeur has begun and the vintage is receiving tremendous accolades.  James Suckling calls the 2018 “an exceptional vintage” and Antonio Galloni comments “the best 2018s are positively stunning.”  2018 is a dark fruited vintage with intense, concentrated fruit, great freshness, and significant tannins.
James Suckling
  • “Most people agree that it is a great year and can be compared in quality to recent excellent years such as 2016 and 2015. I think it could turn out to be an all-time great, similar to 2010, 2009 and 1989 or even such classics as 1982 or 1959.”

The finest wines are beginning to release.  I have included a table below with our top choices and their scores from James Suckling, The Wine Advocate, and Antonio Galloni. 
If you would like me to make sure you see the new releases first including first tranche pricing, please let me know.  Also, please feel free to reply with your wish list for ease. 
Many thanks!
James Suckling: 2018 Bordeaux – An exceptional vintage
  • It is a unique vintage for Bordeaux not only because of its hellish grape growing season but because it created wonderful wines with a beautiful depth of ripe fruit and polished, strong tannins. These wines have an impressive underlying freshness despite one of the warmest and driest late summers and harvests on record.”
  • The majority of the 2018 reds in my tastings were beautifully structured with ripe fruit and potent tannins, yet there is an impressive drinkability to them, which is a great sign of quality.
  • I remember the first vintage I tasted from barrel as a young wine critic in Bordeaux – the legendary 1982 – and the wines were so good to taste from barrel that I drank some for lunch with the likes of Alexis Lichine, Hughes Lawton, Daniel Lawton, and Anthony Barton. In fact, I drank some 2018 L’Évangile with lunch last week!”

Antonio Galloni: 2018 Bordeaux – Back in Black
  • “As for the wines, the best 2018s are positively stunning. I don’t see the consistency of 2016, for example, but 2018 offers a tremendous amount of choice for the consumer, from everyday gems to the rarest of collectibles.
  • One of the most fascinating aspects of the 2018s is that, with a few exceptions, the wines do not taste at all like what the analyses look like on paper. The numbers show wines with high alcohol, off the chart tannin and, in most cases, low acidities. It may seem hard to believe, but the wines don’t taste like that all.
  • The best 2018s are aromatically intense, deep, dark wines that beautifully marry fruit intensity with structure.
  • The intense ripeness of 2018 notwithstanding, there is a very clear and conscious move to harvest earlier than in the past, which is resulting in wines of greater freshness. Extractions are generally gentler, while the impact of new oak has come down markedly in many wines. Terra cotta amphoras, casks and other fermentation/aging vessels that are not traditional in Bordeaux are present in an ever-growing number of cellars. I am seeing an increase in trials with whole clusters in fermentation, another technique that is not at all common here.
Saint-Estèphe is one of the unquestioned overachievers in 2018, the best and most consistent vintage here since 2014. So many wines are brilliant. Cos d’Estournel and Calon Ségur, in particular, are extraordinary. Montrose and Lafon-Rochet aren’t too far behind.
Pichon-ComtessePontet-Canet and Latour are the most exciting wines in 2018, while Grand Puy LacostePichon Baron and Lynch Bages are just behind.
Saint-Julien is another star in 2018. Granted, the appellation is small, quality is often fairly homogenous. Nevertheless, I was deeply impressed with what I tasted. Léoville Las Cases and Ducru-Beaucaillou are off the charts
Margaux is arguably the appellation on the Left Bank with the widest separation of quality and style of wines. Yields were especially impacted at properties that farm biodynamically. Rauzan-SéglaPalmer and Durfort-Vivens all boast off the chart unctuousness and concentration, while wines like GiscoursCantenac-Brown and Brane-Cantenac are more gently shaped by the growing season. Château Margaux turned out a brilliant performance across all three of their wines.
Pessac-Léognan is one of the most variable appellations in 2018. Among the reds, Les Carmes Haut-BrionDomaine de ChevalierHaut BaillyPape ClémentMalartic Lagravière and Haut Nouchet are among the highlights. Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion are less exciting than they usually are, while Smith Haut-Lafitte (Rouge) was not well put together on both occasions I saw it.
Pomerol is one of the real sweet spots in 2018. Petrus has never been so sensual, inviting and arrestingly beautiful from barrel. Lafleur is utterly magnificent, as are TrotanoyLa Fleur-PétrusLa Conseillante and many others. Vieux Château Certan is deeply intriguing for many reasons, including the high percentage of Cabernet Franc relative to the recent past, but it remains a somewhat enigmatic wine at this stage.”
Moreover, the stylistic shift under way to make wines with more freshness and energy than in the past is heavily centered around Saint-Émilion. Specifically, I am thinking about Troplong-Mondot, Canon and Beauséjour Bécot, Figeac, Millery and Le Prieuré are all wines that emphasize finesse over power. Experiments with large casks at Angélus are fascinating and yet another example of how much things are in a state of evolution in Bordeaux.  Cheval Blanc is another star…the 2018 Cheval is sensual, creamy and incredibly inviting.”

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