Premium Pomerol 2018

The gorgeous Château Evangile

Quite consistent, too.

by Panos Kakaviatos for

26 April 2019

Pomerol was excellent in 2018. Akin in consistency to Saint Julien. Especially cooler terroirs, with more clay and less sun, or at least those wines made with especially careful winemaking, succeeded best. And where it did succeed, it counts among the very best that Pomerol has done. Not necessarily “the best” but certainly up there. Already, many of my most favorite wines from barrel for the 2018 vintage come from Pomerol.

As always, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. And if underlined, too, a potential wine nirvana!

Château Beauregard – Assessed at the press tastings of the UGCB, this blend of 75% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, at 14% alcohol and with a 3.77 pH has a certain imposing aspect as if the dry hot season comes across with somewhat tougher tannins. Time in glass reveals mid palate juiciness however. In a word, it is somewhat tight, but should loosen up with barrel aging. Similar reaction at Pomerol Seduction. 91-93+

Château Le Bon Pasteur – The nose is fresh, so bravo! Rich, yet not over done, with fine, mid palate sap. I like the finish, as it does not come across as too drying. This reminds me a bit of the delectable 1998 Bon Pasteur, at least that is the vintage that popped in my head. 92-94

Château Bourgneuf – The nose is a bit reticent and the palate somewhat closed as well. Not sure here, as the tannin is there, but kind of imposing without being hard. Note withheld for now, as I think that I need to re-taste!

Château La Cabanne – The nose from this barrel sample seemed a bit nondescript, but the palate displays ripe fruit and elegance, and shows how much better this estate has been in recent years. The tannins end just a bit hard, but that is what barrel aging is for, so I look forward to tasting from bottle ! 91-93

Château Certan de May – Initial “glucose sweetness”, even on the attack, but the Cabernet freshness (25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) kicks in, with crushed mint on the nose, with a fresh and rather bright aspect for the vintage countering an initial “sweet” impression. This is a lovely wine! It shows both nuance and grip – and keep in mind that the barrel aging will soften it further. 92-94+ Read More

Leave a Comment

Stalwart Sauternes 2018

Challenging vintage, but some nice wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 April 2019

A horrific hailstorm reduced yields for some estates to near nothing, if not nothing. I recall writing this news story about the harvest in Sauternes and Barsac for Decanter last year: including Château Guiraud’s announcement that it would only make dry white wine in 2018, because of the devastating hail. Yquem did not present any sample for the vintage to taste. And if the hail missed, widespread mildew earlier in the year reduced yields (by one-third, for example, at Château Raymond-Lafon).

No Guiraud this year …

It looked pretty awful initially during the harvest period, because no botrytis was forthcoming, what with all the dry and hot weather. Indeed, while the dry Indian summer was beneficial for reds – generally speaking, as this, too, was a bit more complicated – it was nerve wracking for Sauternes producers who did not see the development of the famous Noble Rot that makes their wines famous.

So it all seems pretty dark, no? Well, not really. Read More

Leave a Comment

Saint Julien the Consistent …

… and consistently delicious in 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 April 2019

This famous Médoc appellation often tends to be the most consistent in any given vintage, and all the more in 2018. The more extreme alcohol levels and lower acidities of Saint Estèphe are not found here. A series of wines combines elegance, tannic edge, and suave palates. Sure, the tannins in some are almost too intense, and they are going to be long-term cellar wines especially. But certain estates “rose above the vintage” to make truly superb wines of “Bordeaux balance”.

Overall favorites include Léoville Las Cases, Beychevelle and Gruaud Larose.

But most all communicate pure fruit and even floral aromas. This appellation is indeed a 2018 “sweet spot”, more so than in most vintages.

As usual, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, potential wine nirvana (these are, after all, barrel samples).

Château Beychevelle – Floral, violet and ripe fruit. The palate shows finesse-filled density and tannic edge, but always overlaid by such a suave and smooth veneer, that is not “modern sheen” but just refined. A lovely wine with lift and freshness on the long finish. The best Beychevelle that I can recall ever trying from barrel. Bravo! 94-96

Château Branaire Ducru – Potential bargain alert for a cru classé, as Liv-Ex already has determined. Much like neighbor Beychevelle, this estate is all floral and fruit-driven aromatically. The palate is clean, crisp and tasty, with elegance and subtle opulence ending with a long finish. I like the prototypical Saint Julien elegance. 93-95

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – This blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and includes a whopping 95 index of tannin. The pH is a healthy 3.7, so one has an impression of freshness, even if the tannins come across more imposing than refined. Indeed, as the estate’s own literature goes for this vintage: “powerful and elegant structure”. I would say that the elegance comes more on the finish, so give this time. There are layers of ripe, dark fruit, with some graphite aspects and violet floral on the finish. In the end, the strong tannins really need time to settle, and I caught myself writing “more Old School tough as nails” here… Long finish, of course. 94-96 Read More

Leave a Comment

Pauillac 2018 from barrel

 Suave, tannic and sometimes extraordinary

by Panos Kakaviatos for

26 April 2019

Just about as consistent as Saint Julien, Pauillac included many great wines from barrel. I suppose you could say that that is self explanatory, seeing that Pauillac boasts no less than three of five official “first growths” from the ballyhooed 1855 classification. And sure, all three kick 2018 ass.

But as several insiders and friends told me: you get the feeling for some wines of rather powerful tannins that will need time to relax. For some, 2018 may be a modern version of 1986. Considering that Mouton Rothschild for example got “100 points” from Robert Parker, that is not a bad thing at all. I can see why it made the Liv-Ex Top 10 list for the 2018 en primeur survey.

Another style one encounters, on occasion, is a certain headiness, where one can notice a bit of warmth from the high alcohol. Generally speaking, Most Pauillacs are simply great. But words like “best ever” to me at least are all so much hype.

I prefer to taste these from bottle again, before attempting to make such “heady” pronouncements. 😉

As usual, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, then potential wine nirvana!

Château d’Armailhac – Clean and ripe fruit on the nose. The palate is smooth and even lacy, although the tannins are somewhat imposing on the finish. Hey! Ever hear of slow oxidation via barrel aging? That’s the purpose of oak aging, not to impose über vanilla notes on fruit from Bordeaux 😉. So, good job! 92-94 Read More

Leave a Comment

Bordeaux dry whites 2018

Challenging vintage, but some fine wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for

26 April 2019

The dry whites generally lack the panache and remarkable balance of the 2017 vintage and – for that matter – the zingy energy in 2014, 2010 and 2008, where acidities lent more vivacity. In this challenging vintage, vintners picked earlier or harvested grapes from colder soils with less solar exposure to retain freshness.

Depending on terroir, some preferred Semillon grapes, while others preferred Sauvignon Blanc. As with the reds, aggressive mildew spread in vineyards in the first part of the growing season, and a hailstorm struck Blaye, Sauternes, Graves (where many whites are crafted) and southern Médoc regions (where few dry whites are crafted), significantly affecting yields at some estates.

Humble Bordeaux AOC wines performed better than expected

Maybe it is counterintuitive, but some wines from so called lesser regions, with colder soils, and less optimal ripening exposures, retained a certain energy. At least that was my experience tasting scores of humble Bordeaux AOC whites from 2018. Some wines there that only reach about 12.5% alcohol in an average vintage obtained up to 13.5 in 2018, but the cold soils retained enough acidity to bring about some good whites with body and enough energy: and the prices will be interesting.

Take for example a wine called Bordeaux Revolution, pictured above, which exhibits lovely brightness, and a nose of ripe, juicy expressions of morning grapefruit. Bravo to David Hohnen of Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, who vinified this wine in its first year of production for the vintage 2018. Only £9 suggested retail in the UK market, but not yet officially listed. My detailed notes on this wine, and many other dry white Bordeaux AOCs from 2018, will be published in a later edition of Decanter this year. Meantime, my tasting notes from many of the “upper echelon” appellations below…

Among top whites tasted?

Domaine de Chevalier, Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux, Les Charmes Godard  Read More

Leave a Comment