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Bordeaux En Primeur 2018: The Goldielocks Vintage

“Not too little, not too much…just right.”

The global wine-trade descends upon Bordeaux every April, armed with the familiar cliché, “Can you compare this to another vintage?” 2018 is a unique vintage, Bordeaux has rarely, if ever, seen such extremes of cold and rain during the first half of the year, followed by a seemingly endless summer and idyllic autumn.

In a region so often defined by the weather, particularly during harvest, the playing field this year is relatively even. Conditions were largely similar for each appellation throughout the year, bar the unlucky few who were touched by hail in May. It’s a vintage of belief and philosophy, particularly for those practicing organic and/or biodynamic viticulture. The mildew pressure caused them catastrophic loss during flowering, with Ch. Palmer and Ch. Pontet-Canet losing approximately three quarters of their crops.

For those who arrived at the business end of the season with their grapes intact, they were presented with the rare opportunity to craft a wine according to their exact specifications. With so much potential in the grapes, there was the risk of harvesting too early and sacrificing maturity in search of freshness, or to work the wines too hard in the cellar and bruise the wines with brutish tannins.

At best, these wines are bespoke, the chateaux who know their terroirs intimately have been able to craft wines of rare precision, verve, and complexity. Freed from the worries of weather at harvest time, individual plots were picked at the perfect points, and the resulting wines have been coaxed into barrel with gentle hands and sympathetic techniques. We’ve heard Bordeaux described as ‘The Silicon Valley’ of the winemaking world, and at its best in this vintage Bordeaux is leading the world in terms of technology of winemaking and the quality that is translated into the bottle. Nowhere else in the world can make fine wine of this quality on this scale. Many of our favourite producers have got things just right, and in a vintage like 2018 that makes for plenty to get excited about.

The 2018 growing season in brief
A very wet start, with some of the highest levels of winter rainfall since 2000.

Cold and wet conditions led to delayed budbreak in early April, with high levels of mildew pressure during flowering and through to mid-July.

Spring frosts at the end of May, most problematic in the southern Medoc and the northern Right Bank.

A hot and sunny summer, second only to 2005. Average temperature of 29C during July and August, with practically no rainfall.

Excellent conditions for ripening, and a relatively early harvest from mid-September to mid-October. Perfect conditions enabled chateau to pick at their preferred moment with no weather pressure.

Small berries, with thick skins and relatively little juice. High phenolics, full-flavoured and tannic. Relatively high potential alcohol and moderate acidity.

The wines
A sunny, dry vintage from July onwards, but with so much rain during the first half of the year the vines were able to cope. The best terroirs act like sponge, drawing water in and releasing it when needed. Fruit has fully ripened, but often without too much of the exotic characters of vintages like 2003, 2009, and 2015.

The work in the vineyard during the season, and the dates of picking are key to making the most of the potential quality of the grapes. Bordeaux’s maritime climate often makes harvest a fraught affair, with the vigneron gambling against the weather in the pursuit of ripeness. The fine weather during end of summer and Autumn enabled chateaux to pick over a broad window. The best wines are those where individual plots have been picked at their ideal ripeness, often over a period of three weeks or more.

Once the grapes were safely ensconced in the winery, the key phrase for the vintage is lightness of touch. With so much potential in the grapes in terms of sugar, potential alcohol, and tannins, it was vitally important that they were not worked too hard. Extractions were undertaken as gently as possible, often with shorter maceration times, and with minimal pigeage and remontage.

St. Estephe
We had high hopes for St. Estephe, our gut-feeling was that the clay soils of the northernmost outpost of the Medoc would have excelled in 2018, and we were not disappointed. The appellation is led by the Three Muskateers of Calon-Segur, Cos d’Estournel, and Montrose. Our team were split on their favourite, be it the Athos of Calon, the Aramis of Cos, or the Porthos of Montrose. What is clear is that these will be three wines for the ages. Ormes de Pez from the team at Lynch-Bages have followed their 2016 with another very strong vintage. One of our strongest quality/value picks is Lafon-Rochet, Basile Tesseron and his team have made what is potentially their best vintage to date.

Pauillac
The giant of the Medoc is imperious in 2018, with its three First Growths all on the kind of form that results in an ineffable dusting of magic in the best vintages. So often reticent in its early stages, Lafite’s quality could not be restrained, whilst Mouton was firing on all cylinders, showing the qualities that bestowed them with a clutch of perfect 100 point scores in 2016. We won’t see Latour 2018 for quite a few years yet, but it’s a belter. Lynch-Bages, Pichon Baron, and Pichon Lalande have all crafted wines that can give the First Growths a run for their money. It’s tempting to dismiss value as an oxymoron in Pauillac, but Grand Puy Lacoste and Pedesclaux both beautifully illustrate how strong the old and the new schools are in 2018.

Margaux
Margaux’s eponymous First Growth is on breath-taking form, their relentless pursuit of quality sees only 36% of their production making it into the Grand Vin in 2018. It’s a wine that tastes more of Ch. Margaux than of the vintage, which is particularly impressive in such a solar year. Rauzan-Segla is on a remarkable hot streak of vintages since 2015, and their 2018 may be the best wine of that illustrious quartet. Brane-Cantenac have also bounced back with a sleek and silky 2018 that is amongst the most refined wines of the vintage. Palmer will unfortunately be difficult to come by due to the ravages of mildew early in the season, but their unprecedented low yields have resulted in a wine of immense depth and brooding concentration. Ch. D’Issan was another firm favourite amongst the Jeroboams’ team, likely to compete with du Tertre as our quality/value pick from Margaux.

St.Julien
Consistency in St. Julien is aided by its relatively small scale and the collaborative approach of the appellation to viticulture. When it’s good, it tends to be very good. Spoiler alert: It’s very good indeed in 2018. The charge is led by an outstanding Leoville Las-Cases, which is knocking on the door of the First Growths. We were blown away by the quality at Leoville-Poyferre, and Leoville-Barton is almost equally as good.

Pessac-Leognan & Graves
Haut-Brion is unsurprisingly the star of the show, beautifully balanced and mineral-soaked, revealing the full potential of its terroir and gripping persistently on the finish. There is plenty to enjoy across the appellation, and hopefully at prices that represent particularly good value in the context of the vintage. Pape-Clement have further refined and dialled back their style, producing a wine that won’t immediately seduce with charm, but will be sure to age gracefully in the cellar. Smith-Haut-Lafitte is on rather more flamboyant form, and our favourite wine of the appellation is a joyous Domaine de Chevalier that punches well above its weight. In a more difficult vintage for the dry white wines, it’s best to stick to the classics – Pape Clement Blanc, Smith-Haut-Lafite Blanc, and Domaine de Chevalier Blanc are all worthy of a place in the cellar.

Pomerol
It would probably be quicker to list what isn’t good in Pomerol on 2018, last Wednesday was one of the best days of tasting we can remember. From Le Pin to VCC, via Lafleur, L’Eglise Clinet and La Conseillante, these are all wines that we’d love to have in the cellar. Clinet and a re-vitalised Beaureguard are likely to be the quality/value picks of Pomerol.

St. Emilion
We approached St. Emilion somewhat tentatively, wondering how the most inconsistent of appellations with have coped with the potential alcohol levels and the temptation to over-extract. Happily, many of the wines are a revelation, with the biggest shock going to Grand Cru Classe “A” Angelus. Beautifully pared back, less oak, and a much fresher style, it’s a beautiful wine in 2018. The unanimous favourite of the team was Figeac, once again displaying the kind of form that should hopefully make it a shoe in for promotion to the “A” team in 2022. The final word must go to Ausone, whose 2018 is the kind of sky-scraping monument that stops you in your tracks and renders tasting notes irrelevant. It’s brilliant.

Sauternes
As is so often the case in the best red vintages, conditions were more challenging in Sauternes. For those who survived the twin attacks of mildew and hail, there was a huge gap between the physical ripeness of the grapes towards the end of August and the actual onset of botrytis mid-October. Low acids can be a concern, but the best wines are showing a lovely fresh fruit sweetness that is very appealing. We particularly enjoyed Coutet and Suduiraut, which would be our two picks for the cellar.

Other appellations
We had a sneaking suspicion that some of the top clay terroirs of the northern Medoc would produce something special in this vintage, and we were proved right with Ch. Potensac and Ch. Chasse-Spleen. Both have produced potentially their best ever wines and are a must have in bottles and large formats. On the Right Bank, the satellite wines of Denis Durantou are on their usual fine form, and we were delighted by the quality of Lalande-de-Pomerol’s Bel-Air at our tasting with Edouard Moueix. Tasting at Lafleur is always the highlight of any Primeur week, and their Fronsac property Grand Village has bounced back from frost last year with wines that seem to have found an extra gear.

What happens next
We expect the campaign to start relatively quickly, and it is likely that the wines of Sauternes and many of the Petits Chateaux will be released in April. May typically sees a more sporadic release schedule, largely due to the assemblage of French public holidays and the Bordeaux wine fair Vinexpo. It is likely that the peak of the campaign will occur in the last two weeks of May and perhaps into the first week of June.

Below is a full list of the Bordeaux En Primeur 2018 wine list. The prices will be updated live as they become available. If you would prefer to download a PDF version of the list you can do so by clicking here.

Name Case Size Colour Case Price JS Score
Chateau Capbern St Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £95 92-93
Chateau Meyney, St Estephe 6 x Bottle Red TBC 95-96
Chateau Les Ormes de Pez, Cru Grand Bourgeois, St. Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £125 93-94
Marquis de Calon, St. Estephe 6 x Bottle Red TBC 91-92
Chateau Phelan Segur, Cru Bourgeois St. Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £212 95-96
Chateau Lafon Rochet, 4th Growth St. Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £192 93-94
La Dame de Montrose, St. Estephe, 2nd Wine of Chateau Montrose 6 x Bottle Red £186 95-96
Les Pagodes de Cos, St. Estephe, 2nd Wine of Chateau Cos d’Estournel 6 x Bottle Red £215 94-95
Chateau Calon Segur, 3rd Growth St. Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £432 97-98
Chateau Montrose, 2nd Growth St. Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £782 98-99
Chateau Cos d’Estournel, 2nd Growth, St Estephe 6 x Bottle Red £888 98-99
Echo de Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 2nd Wine of Chateau Lynch Bages 6 x Bottle Red £744 93-94
Reserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac, 2nd Wine of Chateau Pichon Comtesse Lalande 6 x Bottle Red £198 93-94
Chateau Pedesclaux, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red TBC 96-97
Chateau Haut Batailley, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £260 94-95
Chateau Batailley, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £204 94-95
Chateau d’Armailhac, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £210 93-94
Chateau Clerc Milon, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £366 95-96
Chateau Duhart Milon, 4th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £327 95-96
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £366 94-95
Chateau Pontet Canet, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £520 97-98
Chateau Lynch Bages, 5th Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £534 97-98
Chateau Baron Pichon Longueville, 2nd Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £702 97-98
Chateau Pichon Comtesse Lalande, 2nd Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £828 98-99
Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red TBC 97-98
Carruades de Chateau Lafite, Pauillac, 6 x Bottle Red £1090 95-96
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1st Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red TBC 100
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1st Growth Pauillac 6 x Bottle Red £2990 99-100
Chateau Lalande Borie, St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red TBC 92-93
Chateau Moulin Riche, 2nd Wine of Chateau Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red TBC 92-93
Chateau Gloria, Cru Bourgeois St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £174 93-94
Chateau Langoa Barton, 3rd Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £218 93-94
La Croix de Beaucaillou, 2nd Wine of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £201 94-95
Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases, St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £239 92-93
Clos du Marquis, St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £232 94-95
Chateau Lagrange, 3rd Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £210 93-94
Chateau Talbot, 4th Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £259 94-95
Chateau Saint Pierre, St Julien 6 x Bottle Red £253 93-94
Chateau Branaire Ducru, 4th Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £231 95-96
Chateau Gruaud Larose, 2nd Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £335 95-96
Chateau Leoville Barton, 2nd Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £379 95-96
Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2nd Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £408 97-98
Chateau Beychevelle, 4th Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £360 93-94
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 2nd Growth St Julien 6 x Bottle Red £864 98-99
Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2nd Growth St. Julien 6 x Bottle Red £1086 99-100
Chateau du Tertre, 5th Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Chateau Labegorce, Cru Bourgeois Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Chateau Marquis d’Alesme, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £190 94-95
Chateau Prieure Lichine, 4th Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Chateau Dufort-Vivens, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 96-97
Chateau Giscours, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 96-97
Chateau Cantenac Brown, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Chateau Brane Cantenac, 2nd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 95-96
Chateau Malescot St. Exupery, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £246 97-98
Chateau Kirwan, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 92-93
Chateau d’Issan, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £282 95-96
Chateau Lascombes, 2nd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Chateau Rauzan Segla, 2nd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £450 99-100
Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux, Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £894 95-96
Chateau Palmer, 3rd Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £1446 94-95
Chateau Margaux, 1st Growth Margaux 6 x Bottle Red £2556 99-100
Chateau Potensac, Cru Grand Bourgeois Medoc 6 x Bottle Red £108 93-94
2018 Chateau Sociando Mallet, Cru Bourgeois Haut Medoc
6 x Bottle Red £145 94-95
Chateau Cantemerle, 5th Growth Haut Medoc 6 x Bottle Red £108 94-95
Chateau Chasse Spleen, Cru Exceptionnel Moulis 6 x Bottle Red TBC
Chateau Malartic Lagraviere, Cru Classe Pessac Leognan 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle Red £325 99-100
Chateau Carmes Haut Brion, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle Red £414 97-98
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Pessac-Leognan 6 x Bottle Red £489 98-99
Chateau Haut Bailly, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle Red £522 97-98
Chateau Pape Clement, Rouge, Cru Classe Pessac Leognan 6 x Bottle Red £397 97-98
La Chapelle de la Mission Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Le Clarence de Haut Brion Pessac-Leognan 6 x Bottle Red £610 94-95
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle Red £894 97-98
Chateau Haut Brion, 1st Growth Graves 6 x Bottle Red £2,556 98-99
Chateau de Fonbel, St Emilion Grand Cru 6 x Bottle Red TBC 91-92
Chateau Saintayme, St Emilion Grand Cru 6 x Bottle Red TBC 92-93
Chateau Barde Haut, Grand Cru St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 95-96
Chateau Quinault l’Enclos Grand Cru Classe St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Chateau La Dominique, Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 95-96
Chateau Monbousquet, Grand Cru St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Chateau Beausejour Becot, Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £276 95-96
Chateau La Gaffeliere, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £309 95-96
Le Carillon de l’Angelus, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Chateau Larcis-Ducasse St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe 6 x Bottle Red £297 97-98
Chateau Pavie Macquin, Grand Cru Classe St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £316 97-98
Chateau Beausejour-Duffau, St. Emilion Premier Grand Cru 6 x Bottle Red £556 99-100
Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, Grand Cru Classe St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £350 94-95
Chateau Canon, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 98-99
Chateau Trottevieille, 1er Grand Cru Classe, St Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 98-99
Chateau Peby Faugeres, Grand Cru St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 98-99
Chateau Clos Fourtet, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 96-97
Chateau Troplong Mondot, Grand Cru Classe St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £459 97-98
Chateau Pavie Decesse, Grand Cru St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £544 97-98
Chateau Belair-Monange, St Emilion Grand Cru 6 x Bottle Red £720 98-99
Petit Cheval, St Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 93-94
Chapelle d’Ausone, St. Emilion Grand Cru 6 x Bottle Red £875 94-95
Chateau Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £1086 98-99
Chateau Tertre-Roteboeuf Grand Cru St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £790
Chateau Valandraud, Grand Cru St Emilion 6 x Bottle Red TBC 97-98
Chateau Bellevue Mondotte, Grand Cru St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £616 96-97
Chateau Pavie, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £1,752 98-99
Chateau l’Angelus, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £1,530 99-100
Chateau Cheval Blanc, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £3294 98-99
Chateau Ausone, Premier Grand Cru Classe, St. Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £3040 99-100
2018 Chateau Laroque, Grand Cru Classe, St Emilion 6 x Bottle Red £105 98-99
La Petite Eglise, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £182 93-94
Chateau Lafleur Gazin, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Chateau Gazin, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 94-95
Clos l’Eglise, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £390 96-97
Les Pensees de Lafleur, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 95-96
Chateau Feytit-Clinet, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £295 95-96
Chateau Clinet, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £385 95-96
Chateau Certan de May, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £520 95-96
Chateau Le Gay, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £522 97-98
Chateau la Conseillante, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £1008 97-98
Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 98-99
Chateau l’Eglise Clinet, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 99-100
Chateau La Fleur Petrus, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £995 97-98
Chateau La Violette, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £1,296 95-96
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 99-100
Chateau Lafleur, Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 100
Chateau Grand Village, Bordeaux Superieur 6 x Bottle Red TBC 91-92
Chateau Les Cruzelles, Lalande-de-Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red £105 91-92
Chateau La Chenade, Lalande de Pomerol 6 x Bottle Red TBC 92-93
Chateau La Montlandrie Cotes de Castillon 6 x Bottle Red £87 92-93
Domaine De Cambes, Cotes de Bourg 6 x Bottle Red £185
Chateau Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg 6 x Bottle Red £260
Chateau Grand Village Blanc, Bordeaux Superieur 6 x Bottle White TBC 91-92
Les Champs Libres AOC Bordeaux 6 x Bottle White TBC 93-94
Blanc de Lynch Bages, Bordeaux AOP 6 x Bottle White £175 92-93
Chateau Malartic Lagraviere Blanc, Pessac Leognan 6 x Bottle White TBC 95-96
Aile d’Argent Blanc de Chateau Mouton Rothschild 6 x Bottle White £360 93-94
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle White £430 97-98
La Clarte de Haut Brion Blanc, Pessac-Leognan 6 x Bottle White £360 94-95
Cos d’Estournel Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc 6 x Bottle White £888 97-98
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, Cru Classe Pessac Leognan 6 x Bottle White TBC 97-98
Chateau Pape Clement Blanc, Cru Classe Pessac Leognan 6 x Bottle White £593 98-99
Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux, Bordeaux Blanc 6 x Bottle White TBC 97-98
Chateau La Mission Haut- Brion Blanc, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle White £2835 97-98
Chateau Haut Brion Blanc, Cru Classe Graves 6 x Bottle White £3550 95-96
Chateau Coutet, Premier Cru Classe Barsac 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC 91-92
Chateau Doisy-Daene, 2nd Growth Barsac 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC 93-94
Chateau Guiraud, 1st Growth Sauternes 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC
Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey, 1st Growth Sauternes 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC 96-97
Chateau Suduiraut, Premier Cru Classe Sauternes 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC 97-98
Chateau Rieussec, Premier Cru Classe Sauternes 6 x Bottle Dessert £90 93-94
Chateau Climens, Premier Cru Classe Barsac 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC
L’Extravagant, Chateau Doisy-Daene, Barsac 6 x Bottle Dessert TBC