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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So Satisfying Saint Emilion 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

24 January 2021

The revolution towards freshness continues. Sure some wines recall the oaky tannic obsession of the mid-2000s. Not long ago, I recall tasting the Grand Cru Classés blind with too many wines, too hard, over extracted and/or finishing on drying oak tannins. Had the 2018 vintage happened 10 (or 15) years ago, the tasting would not have been as pleasant. Cooler limestone and deep clay soils proved how good the wine can be in a hot, dry vintage like 2018, when paired with judicious extraction in winemaking. The wines are listed in alphabetical order. Many tasted in Bordeaux, some onsite at Saint Emilion. Just for information, Saint Emilion boasts about 80 “Grand Cru Classés”, not including the “Premiers Grands Crus Classés”.

As usual, if bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. And if underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.

With Cabernet Franc aged in larger vessels, the sensation of oak derivation has been diminished and that is good news!

Château Angélus Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” – In bottle since September, this wine comes across very opulent, as if you had a dollop of fine vintage port in the blend, and yet much tannic edge to leave an impression of structure. lmpressive density! “Since this vintage we changed a bit the aging of some of the Cabernet Franc, and we now age some in foudres (larger, 3,000 liter barrels) rather than in (regular) barrel to reduce oak contact and to preserve more freshness”, remarked Emmanuel Fulchi, cellar master. A good move that has been further developed for the 2019, which is a vintage I prefer, as assessed in a vertical held at the estate. 96

Tasting Château Ausone with owners Pauline and Alain Vauthier, comme à la maison.

Château Ausone Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” * – Pauline Vauthier had opened the bottle at 11 am for the 4:30 pm tasting. Even so, with aromas started discrete if refined: wet stone mingling with violet, clean ripe red and black berry fruit and touches of fresh mint leaf. The power builds on the palate with juicy envelopment, never overbearing and exuding wet limestone freshness, deep and dense, a reflection of the grand terroir of Ausone – just seven hectares of vines – leading to a long finish and a sense of pristine, spherical balance. Loved it from barrel, love it from bottle! The limestone terroir lends needed freshness to the vintage. “We always have a pH of around 3.6”, Vauthier remarked. That certainly ensures freshness. And after about 30 minutes in glass, the nose gets more intense. A top ten wine of the vintage, but be patient and enjoy some of the other excellent Saint Emilion wines crafted by the Vauthier Family as even the excellent second wine needs some 10 years of cellaring before you can think of opening it. 100 Read More

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Saint Estèphe 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

24 January 2021

Fascinating to see – in a blind tasting of the five classified growths – just how impressive Château Montrose turned out to be. I have tasted the wine twice from bottle, once at the estate, once in the blind tasting (held at Château Lafon-Rochet), and although I still think that the 2016 will be better (or the 2019 for that matter, which I had tasted side-by-side), the 2018 Montrose impresses me most among the Saint Estèphes in 2018.

As usual, wines in bold I liked in particular. When red and bold, even more. And when underlined, wine nirvana 😊🍷😍.

Several wines tasted blind, others non blind.

Château Beau Site – Clearly nice this blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot: At once very tasty and agreeable with density and power. Here an example of affordable fine 2018 Bordeaux – at about €20 a bottle in Europe. Tasted at Château Batailley with owner Philippe Casteja, who decided to leave the formal cru bourgeois system, but never mind this wine is still identified as such, and it is a very good wine indeed in 2018. 92

Château Calon Ségur – Tasted blind, this came across about as I had rather expected from barrel, with impressive “amplitude” and mid-palate density. The expressions of ripe dark fruit, spice and mint from the Cabernet Franc are pleasing. But there is a sense that the 100% new oak aging, combined with nearly 15% alcohol, leads to a drying finish in this blend of 65% Cabernet, 17% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Such a high level of alcohol drew much oak derived tannin, and from a classified growth of this calibre, I am left perplexed. Maybe over time, the breed of the terroir will shine through. 2018 was the first vintage ever that the estate arrived at the same level of high alcohol for both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and that is quite astounding. Now the pH at 3.75 is not the highest encountered in this vintage, and just enough acidity balances things, but I would rather go for the 2016 to be sure. Conservative score from yours truly. 93 Read More

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