Bordeaux 2018: Where does reality in bottle meet hype from barrel?

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

24 January 2021

From barrel, I had characterized 2018 Bordeaux as a vintage for “Hedonists and Intellectuals”. Over the course of the last few months, including several visits to Bordeaux during official lockdowns in France, I tasted 2018s on location, after recent bottling. Some bottles had been sent to me to Strasbourg, but it was great to go on location and taste when I could.

Then again, the advantage to having bottles delivered is that you can spend more time with each wine… I may request that for 2020.

My intro to the vintage as published in Wine-Searcher.com last month – here the link – posed the question whether the reality in bottle meets the hype from barrel, and to some extent it does.

Thanks for reading that text before you go to my tasting notes. Suffice to say, the term “great” often has been used to describe each new dry and hot vintage in Bordeaux, but – as ever – the devil is in the details.

Based on my tastings, many wines from the less-hyped 2019 vintage should surpass the 2018 vintage for lovers of cooler balances, even if alcohol levels are not so different. 2018 may win in terms of density, but 2019 seems to convey more subtlety, overall. Certainly 2016 is the vintage par excellence for lovers of cooler balances, of which I count myself.

How will 2016, 2018 and 2019 compare down the road?

Having said that, 2018 has many a gorgeous gem and some excellent wines with excellent price/quality ratios (although 2019 may prove the most interesting in terms of pricing), and I have purchased some 2018 vintage wines as a result, including, for higher end purchasing, Château Canon, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Léoville Las Cases. Read More

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Right Bank Satellites 2018

Mostly Castillon: some excellent, affordable wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

24 January 2021

Many less heralded appellations from the Right Bank with cooler clay and/or limestone soils excelled in 2018. But I did not get to too many of them. We can start with Montagne Saint Emilion and Jean-Claude Berrouet, whose name resonates in the wine world as one of its greats, thanks in large part to his many years crafting Petrus in Pomerol. In Montagne Saint Emilion, owns Château Vieux Château Saint-André, which he had purchased in 1979 as well as Château Samion (Lalande de Pomerol), in 1982. His son Jeff took over in 2002, and I have visited several times, always impressed by the freshness and refinement of both wines, which never fell prey to the exaggerated modern era on the Right Bank. Old Merlot vines, 40 years old in Montagne and 50 years old in Lalande de Pomerol, match with excellent clay soils. Vinifications preserve fruit freshness, and tannins are carefully extracted without excess, before the wine ages twelve months. In 2019, the Berrouets acquired two new estates: Château Bonneau, 6 hectares in Montagne-Saint-Émilion and Château Hyon La Fleur, 2.5 hectares in Saint-Christophe-des-Barde (Saint-Émilion).

Jeff and Jean-Claude Berrouet at Vieux Château Saint André

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Sauternes and Barsac 2018

Saved by the October (Botrytis) Bell  

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

24 January 2021

Readers may recall that a hailstorm reduced yields for some estates to near nothing, if not nothing. Château Guiraud for example had announced that it would only make dry white wine in 2018, because of the devastating hail.

As for the growing season, the botrytis only showed up very late. Following some passerillage (raisining) in September, October rains “just saved” the vintage, as Jean-Pierre Meslier of Château Raymond Lafon said. In any case, the same problem that that affects dry whites in 2018 applies to some late harvest “stickies”, as well: not enough acidity. But several estates proved their savvy – and I am not sure how – by making well balanced, spicy and exciting wines.

Mask on: Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu of Château Doisy-Daëne at the blind tasting of whites from Sauternes and Barsac

Before getting to Château d’Yquem, where I enjoyed lunch with Jane Anson and Yohan Castaing, we tasted other classified growths blind at Château Doisy Daëne in Barsac, in a cozy tasting room. Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu poured many wines for us, on behalf of fellow producers. As with other producers, October rains brought the bulk of the botrytis. “We had fear because of the real lack of botrytis” Finally by October, rains brought it. “Yes some passerillage” and “very doré”, he said. “The grapes were very healthy, so sorting was less essential”. Some estates, such as Château Climens and Château de Fargues produced little or no wine because of the hail. These were tasted blind, so the notes are more or less spontaneous. It would be useful to taste again and over a longer period of time, but first impressions count!  Read More

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Pomerol 2018

Some stellar, some not as much 

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

24 January 2021

Some very good to great wines, but in some cases, I could not help but detect the ether of the vintage in some. Top wines – from Trotanoy and Pétrus, to Petit Village and Gazin – have deep clays that kept things fresh. One finds seductive tannins with much impressive density. Others seem powerful, which is a very good sign for aging. The density of the best Pomerols is superior to densities from 2016 or 2019. For example that of Petit Village is a good example of a very successful 2018 Pomerol. I tasted the wines of Moueix with Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and others – including Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, Evangile and La Conseillante, at the estates. At La Conseillante, Jane Anson and I tasted the estates that make up the group Pomerol Seduction. And I tasted Petit Village (and again Beauregard) at home while discussing the vintage via ZOOM. Alas, I did not get a chance to re-taste Lafleur or Eglise Clinet. Tasting notes in alphabetical order.

Château Beauregard – The rear view from this estate, in featured image here, proves its name. Although with some sandy, hot gravel soils, the estate crafted excellent wine in 2018. The cooler clays helped as did the fine Cabernet Franc, making up 30% of the blend. And I have the feeling that general manager Vincent Priou – who calls 2018 the best vintage ever at this estate – and his team had a Midas Touch. Indeed the density and tannic edge and power impress. The wine maintains a certain “imposing aspect” that I got from barrel, but in a good way without austerity or drying tannins. And there is lovely mid palate juiciness and cool wintergreen mint aromatic aspects. Aged in 50% new oak, the wine clocks in at 14.05% alcohol, although the label indicates 14.5, no doubt for US tax authorities. 94+ Read More

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Various Médocs 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

24 January 2021

Here we have a “catch-all” review of Médoc wines, given COVID19 restrictions to taste from bottle. Tasting notes of course vary, as much ground is covered, from inland Moulis and Listrac, to Haut-Médoc wines that “see the river”, such as Sociando Mallet. Among the 1855 Classified Growths, tasted blind at Château Belgrave, two bottles came across a bit iffy, so I have reserved my notes and hope to re-taste them from bottle again at a later date. As with other areas in 2018, cooler soils helped to buffer vintage heat, but you sometimes get raisin or heady aspects. 

Médoc/Haut Médoc/Listrac/Moulis – In alphabetical order (with some updates coming)

As usual, if in bold, I liked especially. If red and bold, even more.

Château Agassac (AOC Haut Médoc) – This wine, tasted in Strasbourg along with the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels, exudes tasty ripe fruit, although you get some raisin like aspects, coming from the heat of the vintage. 90

Château Arnauld (AOC Haut Médoc) – This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot is a reliably good Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel and it does not fail to please in 2018, with plenty of brambly fruit, a refined expression and just delicious. Clocks in at 14% alcohol. 92+

Château Belgrave (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted blind. This has fresh fruit primary aspects on the nose that seduce. Smooth and nuanced and juicy. More than delivers the goods. A top Haut Médoc in 2018. Bravo! 94

Château Belle-Vue (AOC Haut Médoc) – One of the top among the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel wines tasted non-blind in Strasbourg, with subtle floral and ripe red and dark fruit aromas. Extra care for superb selection both in the vineyard and in the vat room: important in 2018. The nearly 20% Petit Verdot lends spice and structure, 54% Merlot succulence, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon more structure and body. There is 1% Carmenere, but I will not pretend to detect it  J. What I like about this wine is classicism in a rich hot vintage, coming from the southern Médoc to boot, just near the Margaux appellation. The balance at close to 13.5% alcohol is agreeably fresh for the vintage, but the wine also has density and fine length, with pleasing, Indian Tonic like bitterness. 93 Read More

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