Fine Fronsac and more 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

7 May 2019

In a very good vintage, you can find economically priced wines, and 2018 is no exception. Once again, many Fronsacs assessed at the always well organized Grand Cercle tastings – this year at the lovely Château La Dauphine – proved yet again the quality of this appellation. As I have written in other media, including Somm Journal in the United States, Fronsac is an appellation for savvy wine consumers. The price tags still lag behind quality, and you can obtain wines from Fronsac that are better than many a Saint Emilion from more humble terroir, as Saint Emilion obviously has greater name recognition.

But readers should also look out for other so called satellite appellations on the Right Bank as well as Bordeaux AOC wines. Although I did not taste too many of the more humble Bordeaux AOCs from 2018, I will do so next year and draft a detailed report on these (along with the Bordeaux Superieurs) in Decanter in 2020.

These more humble estates are not part of the en primeur buying process, so there is no rush. I am sure however that consumers will find economically priced quality from increasingly improving producers here.


Château Dalem – This is quite inviting and warm, and smooth in tannic expression. A pleasure to drink, without being soupy. This has more grip than the wine below. 91-93 Read More

Leave a Comment

Graves and Pessac-Léognan 2018 (reds)

Noteworthy vintage

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 April 2019

The hotter gravely soils of this famous appellation may have been too … gravelly and hot for the vintage. Here is a case where the question of 2016 is quite relevant. In some cases, I do think that 2016 may be a better vintage than 2018, as it seems to have more aromatic freshness. But let us not quibble: many wines in 2018 are potentially great, including the two that tie for “first place”: Château Les Carmes Haut Brion, pictured above, and Château La Mission Haut Brion.

Bravo to Château Bouscaut for a fine 2018 red.

Château Chantegrive (AOC Graves) – This has weight and power and yet not heavy handed. Still, I wonder if it could have used just a bit more freshness à la 2016. 90-92

Château Ferrande (AOC Graves) – Lovely ripe nose, one of the best in memory en primeur from this estate. There is ripe fruit, and a certain austerity that augurs well – not a drying sort. Just a certain tannic edge that one would hope to have from such a young not yet bottled barrel sample. Nice. 91-93

Château Rahoul (AOC Graves) – This also shows a ripe dark fruit aspect on the nose. Licorice. Quite a hefty expression of Graves to be sure, but remaining a Bordeaux. There is some alcohol however seeping through, so the danger is that you may end up thinking that you are drinking a Napa Valley Cab , which is not a bad thing per se, but you are – you know – in the Gironde area.

Château Bouscaut – This is showing some fine sap and mid palate juice. There is dry extract galore, ripe tannins and plenty of satiny fruit. Smooth. Nice job! 92-94

Château Carbonnieux – The nose is somewhat cranberry when compared to Bouscaut tasted just before. The palate shows off some fine ripe tannin. There is a fresh iodine aspect that could be due to earlier picking here? Not bad. Give it time in bottle. 91-93 Read More

Leave a Comment

Médoc/Haut-Médoc/Moulis/Listrac: 2018 from barrel

by Panos Kakaviatos for

26 April 2019

Some lovely wines from the northern Médoc in 2018. A huge pity for the absence of the great Château La Lagune, as hail devastated the vineyards in 2018.

I was able to taste the others that made wine in 2018, with oenologist Christophe Coupez in Pauillac (we had a nice lunch at the Saint Julien restaurant, pictured). I also tasted with the UGCB, the negociant Joanne and the Grand Cercle. I am sorry to have missed Sociando Mallet, which did make wine, but will try it later this year …

Three top wines from this series that pop in my head as I write this? Château Lanessan, Château de Lamarque and Château Belgrave!

As usual, wines in bold I like in particular. When red and bold, even more. And if underlined, too, a potential wine nirvana.

Listrac Medoc AOC 

Château Clarke – Nose is deep ripe and dark fruit. Brownie and plum. The tannins are velvety yet somewhat imposing as this is a high tannin vintage. The palate is full bodied, not the most layered or complex, but with density and just a touch of headiness. 91-93 Read More

Leave a Comment

Margaux 2018 from barrel

by Panos Kakaviatos for

26 April 2019 

As a vast appellation, Margaux can be heterogenous in quality. 2018 is no exception. In many ways, however, it resembles the successful 2015 vintage. I feel that the acidity was slightly better in 2015, but the best wines from 2018 from Margaux are great. On the other hand, as I noted in my introduction, I may have over-estimated perhaps 2015 and under-estimated 2016, for the freshness of this latter vintage. In any case, some of my favorites from this vintage are in Margaux. As usual, wines in bold, I like in particular. When red and bold, even more. And if underlined, too, a potential wine nirvana – to be confirmed from bottle!

Château Angludet – Tasted at the press gathering of the UGCB, there is a certain plant vegetal on the nose. But I like the freshness on the palate, and do not mind the plant aspect which gets more floral. This is Margaux, n’est-ce pas? 90-92

Château Brane Cantenac – An enveloping floral aromatic profile. Indeed, floral aromatic intensity! Very “Brane” in a ripe vintage, and it reminds me of their superb 2010. The palate may not be quite as bold as in that vintage, but I like the nuance and relatively soft, elegant tannin, all enveloping the ripe fruit and juiciness, too. Now, that is very Margaux. At the UGCB tasting. 94-96

Château Cantenac Brown – More understated than the Brane above, this has however a refined chocolate powder aspect. I like the elegance overall, with lots of nuanced sheen. The preceding wine shows more dimension however. In any case, soft spoken and refined Margaux. And what’s not to like! Time in glass brings out more floral. Barrel aging will fill it out. At the UGCB tasting. 93-95

Château Dauzac – A bit too much modern sheen, with evident oak derived aromatics. The palate has structure and density, but it lacks enough Margaux charm that is so much more evident in the preceding wine, for example. Time in bottle … 90-92

Château Desmirail – I think clients of this wine really like oak staves. The palate is better and in fact the best in recent years, but the finish dries a bit from oak derived tannin. There is potential here… but not realized this year. 87-90 Read More


Wild n’ Crazy Saint Estèphe 2018?

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 April 2019

Saint Estèphe is an appellation that tends to thrive in hot and arid summers. Take for examples the torrid heat of the 2003 vintage. The cooler soils underneath gravel in Saint Estèphe seemed to counter the extreme weather better than any other Bordeaux appellation of note. Many tasters would agree just how well Château Montrose, for example, handled that vintage. Such was also the case in 2009, although 2009 is (far) more balanced than 2003. And such is the case again, in 2018.

On the other hand, in 2018, I have never seen such high alcohol levels from some of these wines, along with quite low acidities, yet high tannin levels.

Some are pointing out that the density of ripe fruit is just fine, that the dry extract of the wines will make them just fine for long term aging. More important – oenologist Thomas Duclos points out – the aromatic freshness is there. But I have heard enough over the years that high levels of pH combined with high alcohol is not necessarily ideal. After all, Bordeaux wants to sell you these wines! At issue here is the type of balance. Do you want a balanced wine at near 15% alcohol, or a balanced wine at near 13% alcohol. Should it matter? These are the questions I ponder late at night whilst sipping on 43% alcohol single malt.

In any case, I am using a wider range of scores for some of these preliminary barrel assessments. Nevertheless, all wines below are at least red and bold on my informal color coordinated in bold or not rating scale. As you can recall, wines I like in particular are in bold, even more in red and bold, and if underlined, too, a potential wine nirvana.

What makes this vintage – again as expressed in my introduction for “hedonists and intellectuals” – is how Saint Estèphe’s so-called Super Seconds handled 2018.

“We are using less new oak this year,” remarks Dominique Arangoits of Château Cos d’Estournel, as Bloomberg wine writer and author Elin McCoy takes notes.

On one level, Château Cos d’Estournel, the famous estate known for its Indian style pagoda architecture, tried to make the vintage as “classical” as possible. Indeed, the aging will be done with less new oak, so as to avoid the high alcohol wine (14.4%) from leaching too much new oak tannin, as there is already quite enough from the grapes themselves (the tannic index is about 80 at Cos). Also, the blend includes more grapes from vines grown on the deeper clay soils of the estate than usual, so as to maintain as much freshness as possible, remarked technical director Dominique Arangoits. On another level, Château Montrose seemed more to “embrace” the vintage’s extraordinary characteristics.  Read More

1 Comment