Bordeaux 2018 from barrel: some selections

Bordeaux

Tasted May 10, 2019 by PanosKakaviatos with 640 views

Introduction

Dear readers, my full notes on the vintage from barrel are online at wine-chronicles.com. You can see plenty of photos and some video as well, but the point is that I am not quite as bullish as others about 2018, which I would characterize globally as very good but not great. That is to say that you can find great wines, to be sure. But some appellations like Graves are weaker than others like Pomerol or Saint Julien. It is a fascinating vintage - as you can read on my website - that will demand final judgments once the wines are bottled, hence the importance more so than ever of hyphenated scores. I divide these notes into two flights: one flight of top wines that tend to be pricey, the other flight for wines that promise to have excellent price/quality ratios, with price tags no more than $40 or $50.

Flight 1 - Bargain alerts ! (19 notes)

The great thing about 2018 is that the vintage includes many wines that have excellent price/quality ratios - and across all appellations. These are wines whose prices are unlikely to rise once on the shelves so no rush to buy any futures, but certainly to keep a lookout once they are available in bottle. At least based on the barrel tastings.

Red
2018 Pichon Comtesse Réserve France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
This second wine of the great Pichon Comtesse de Lalande exudes freshness and elegance. Indeed, much of the blend comes from vines planted in 2011, which will be used in later years for the first wine. Alcohol is set at 14% precisely, with high tannin and enough acidity for balance. Bravo! 92-94
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château de Lamarque France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
Has some cassis and plum on the nose. Ripe fruit. This is fine overall, a smooth delivery with a certain tannic edge, albeit supple. I like the palate substance midway through leading to a fresh finish. This is just a very consistent estate in recent years. Bravo ! Tasted at the UGCB. 92-94
Red
2018 Château Moulin Riche France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Bargain alert! This wine was cropped at 43 hectoliters per hectare. It blends 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 17% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. You recall my initial text on 2018 for the extra use of Petit Verdot? Well here another example. I like a certain cedar like freshness to this wine, along with ripe fruit, and spice! A wine to seek in this vintage, with tannin and volume (80 IPT tannin, and 14.1% alcohol with a pH of 3.7). Editing error: I had initially called this a “second wine” to Léoville Poyferré and of course should have known better! Since 2009, Château Moulin Riche has no longer been considered “second wine” to the grand vin Château Léoville Poyferré, which makes sense, as it had been classified Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel in 1932. 92-94
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Corbin St. Émilion Grand Cru France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Has glycerin to be sure. A sweet nose, but with mint, too. The palate is rich and flavorful, with some heady aspects. Overall a rather sumptuous expression, à la 2015. Nice job, but I am not surprised as this estate is quite consistent indeed for good quality. 92-94
Red
2018 Château de Pressac France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
A whopping 36 hectares of prime terroir! The estate takes advantage, too, of the 17% Cabernet Franc and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon planted. The 2018 exhibits a lovely nose, rather fresh, floral and fruit driven. Perhaps the best that I can recall tasting en primeur. There is a touch of that oak derivation on the finish, but not as pronounced as in other vintages. And the alcohol is well integrated. Overall quite smooth. Nice! 92-94+
Red
2018 Château La Serre France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Bargain alert! This seven hectares vineyard plants to 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc excelled in 2018. The wine shows grip and is even driven by dark red and ripe fruit. Sure some oak derived aromas like vanilla, but more as seasoning that dominating. But even that concern dissipates as the palate is so darn smooth. Tasted three times and all very positive. The finish ends a bit tight, but not astringent: a good sign for aging, as there is grip. 92-94+
Red
2018 Château Simard France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion
Another bargain alert! Such succulent fruit here, with nicely managed extractions. After tasting at Château Ausone, as this wine belongs to the same owners, I noticed how many visitors kept taking the free piece of wood with the name “Ausone” that is always offered to people who taste from barrel at the estate, but many Simard wood pieces (perfect for cheese plates) were left behind. I grabbed a Simard! 92-94
Red
2018 Château Lanessan France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
Fresh and sap driven, a lovely wine. Wow, one of the best Lanessans that I have tasted from barrel in a while! 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot, aging 12 months in one third new oak. Buy this! Tasted at the negociant Joanne. 92-94+
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château La Louvière France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Balsamic, black olive, deep red fruit richness and this from a rather classically minded estate. The palate is medium bodied with some austerity on the finish but the mid palate is juicy and there is ripe fruit. Give it time; should be like a 1990 or 2009. 92-94
Red
2018 Les Tourelles de Longueville France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
The 66% Merlot here, with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, really shines in 2018, exhibiting freshness and elegance. A lovely Tourelles! There is indeed “gravity” to the Merlots, but also freshness. Aging just 12 months in 30% new oak, the tannin is à point here, and the aging will refine the wine even more. I would seek this out for its ripe red fruit aspects and notions of wet stone seriousness. Excellent! 91-94
Red
2018 Château Les Trois Croix France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
Really like the refined tannin here, not just soft, but with a certain vigor as well. Three cheers for this one! Even a bit of tobacco like “minerality” here. This gets my nod as the overall favorite Fronsac! 91-94
Red
2018 Château La Prade France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Nice fruit on the nose! The palate is smooth and well defined. Lovely! 90-93
Red
2018 Château Pibran France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Bargain alert! Another late ripening terroir that excelled in the vintage. The blend – at 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Merlot – has slightly more Cabernet than the average as they were “magnificent”, remarked Christian Seely. But the Merlots also were “the best we have seen here”. So, win-win. I think the wine is ripe and delicious and deep. Of course the tannins lack the refinement of Pichon Baron, or even Les Tourelles, but the wine is seductive, and it reminds me of the excellent 2009. 90-93
Red
2018 Château Belle-Vue (Haut-Médoc) France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
Just next to the famous Château Giscours of the Margaux appellation, this wine proved lovely for the vintage, with robust opulence but freshness on the nose as well, nicely balanced. There is ripe Cabernet (48% of the blend) but also loads of expressive Petit Verdot (20%) with the Merlot at 32% lending some smooth tannin. Good mid palate sap here. 91-93+
Red
2018 Château Potensac France, Bordeaux, Médoc
Some 60% went into the first wine to blend 45% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Quite nice indeed, rather rich and yet contained. Very good impression here as the wine has power and some tannic austerity. Now, at just above 14.4% alcohol and a rather low pH of 3.57, the balance is there, but maybe not the same level of pristine love that I had for this in 2016, which I recall coming across just a bit brighter and with less alcohol. But why nitpick? The mid-palate is rich in dark fruit, and there is a lot of wine here overall. The second wine, Chapelle de Potensac, blending 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc is clean and fine and even less expensive. 91-93+
Red
2018 Château Brillette France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Moulis en Médoc
Bargain alert! This is a lovely, elegant wine. And inexpensive wine. Not as large scaled as Poujeaux, but wins on charm and barrel aging will fill it out. Tasted at the negociant Joanne. 91-93
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Laffitte-Carcasset France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Coming from a rather large 40-hectares vineyard, this barrel sample exhibits a lovely nose, fresh red fruit, all in finesse, and the palate is refined if a bit tight, but that is of course to be expected. The blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc is nicely balanced and smooth. Bravo! 90-92+
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Clarke France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc
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
Red
2018 Château de la Rivière France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
Among the more “serious” of the Fronsac wines assessed, as it has a 2009 like appeal with ripe black fruit, but with more grip and structure in evidence. 91-93
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 2 - Top guns! (12 notes)

Not all the selections here from my website are über expensive (sure I include wines like Cheval Blanc and Lafite Rothschild), as I include some really excellent wines - such as GPL, Gruaud Larose and Carmes Haut Brion - which are rather expensive but not just for millionaires. Indeed, Carmes Haut Brion is as I write this available for under $100. The 2016, in bottle, and also a superb wine, is well over $150. So that is an incentive to buy futures (I have already done so).

Red
2018 Château Cheval Blanc France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Sumptuously floral and fresh. A wine of both elegance and (near) decadence. “The densest wine we have made since 2011”, remarked director Pierre Olivier Clouet. The blend of 54% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon has enough acidity for balance. “Early picking helps to maintain that,” he said. Fine freshness and opulence, with black fruit and floral notes, leading to fresh mint and licorice on the lifting, long finish. “The balance comes from (higher) yields”, says Clouet, comparing the 2018 to the Cheval 1990 and 1998, but the 1990 especially makes me think of the 2018. 98-100
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Lafite Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Defies the high alcohol of the vintage at “just 13.3%” and manages pristine balance and opulence. Cool graphite nose. The palate reflects impressive density, freshness, pencil lead and suave finesse, yet also satiny tannins, with a Pauillac edge. A great wine in the making, with 91% Cabernet Sauvignon. Comparisons are being made to the 1959, by experienced tasters who actually know the 1959. 98-100
6 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
2018 Château Lafleur France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Take note that Lafleur cellar master Omri Ram called Cheval Blanc “one of the best wines of the vintage”. But his Lafleur should make any top wine list from 2018 barrel tastings. Lots of hot gravel soils with a bit of clay could make you think that the wine may have been “hotter” in expression, too, but the nose is noble and conveys elegance, iodine, and complexity. Intensity and power, too, yet poised and even tightly knit. I sensed just a touch of warmth on the finish, but just vaguely. What reassures are the fresh, crushed mint aspects to the finish, with good acidity to balance the 14.5% alcohol. In technical terms a pH closer to 3.6, which is lower than many Bordeaux in 2018). A brilliant wine where the Cabernet Franc (54% of the blend) is so fresh and refined. 97-100
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Léoville Las Cases France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
2018 suits this estate, which can seem steelier from barrel in cooler vintages. In a sense it reminded me of the superlative 2009, but perhaps better. At 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot, the alcohol is just under 14.5% with high tannins and aging in 90% new oak. While some estates in 2018 may be cutting back on the new oak or the aging time (Cos d’Estournel), director Pierre Graffeuille may extendtime in barrel to “20 months or maybe more”. Fine Cuban Cigar. Very long on the finish and veritable velvety lift; maybe this surpasses Lafite in some ways. There is such density and yet fine finesse and lift. You get a sense of pure red, crystalline fruit, then tobacco, fine Cuban, and density as well as lift, as the alcohol is buffered by excellent acidity. Indeed, the finish is marked by gorgeous orange peel freshness. “This could shut down, as the tannins are there”, owner Jean Hubert Delon stressed. When talking about 2016, Delon says this “could be like comparing 1959”. . He recalls the aromas of the vat room for the 1959, as a kid smelling that in the cellar, and the 2018 reminds him of that. 97-100
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Vieux Château Certan France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
The wine results from a vintage of “contrast”, remarks owner Alexandre Thienpont. No Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year, as the vineyards were subjected to severe water stress. But water reserves that had built up over the spring enabled most other vines to cope with the stress, Thienpont explained. Certainly the 15% Cabernet Franc, harvested along with that of Cheval Blanc on 9 October (thankfully a bit of rain beginning of October helped to dilute a bit the wines), enhanced the blend with length and “pedigree” he said. The 40 hectoliters per hectare was a more than respectable yield for the vintage, with Merlots ensuring strength and opulence in this wine of 14.4% alcohol and low acidity. Lovely elegance, density and … length. 96-98+
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château La Conseillante France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Diaphanous and elegant, fresh and floral on the nose, and very long on the finish. Here a case where “best ever” or at least “among the best” would apply, surpassing even the magnificent 2016. The tannin index is a whopping 95, but you do not feel it. With acidities higher here than at neighbour Vieux Château Certan, and the alcohol 14%. For the first time, the estate is using amphorae to lessen the influence of oak flavors on the wine, even if these containers account for just 3% of the wine aging. In some ways, the 2018 at this estate most resembles their fresh and elegant 2016, and that is a good thing. Makes me think of Lafite on the Right Bank. Bravo! 96-98+
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Montrose France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Just a bit on the fence given all the superlatives from so many critics... We need to wait for the in-bottle version more than most, because on one level, it is kind of Napa, while on another level, it may turn out to be … a legend. The 2018 low acidity and 14.8% alcohol. It is quite amazing in terms of smooth tannin. I get a sense of balance, but not the same energy as in the 2014 or 2016 vintages. Still, impressive, with silky tannins and polished aspects that work. Again, should we worry about the alcohol level and low acidity? I did get a slight sense of heat on the finish. By comparison, the 2016 at 13.2% alcohol and high acidity comes across more fresh… 94-98!?
6 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Extra reason to pay attention to this wine: it is one of the few futures purchases I have made so far, because the price is sure to go up. Look at pricing for the 2016 now: approaching $200 a bottle. The 2018, proposed for under $100, counts among as arguably the top wine from the rather hot and gravely soils of the famous Pessac-Léognan appellation. Director Guillaume Pouthier pulled out all stops to maintain freshness, fermenting grapes at over 50% whole cluster and not de-leafing, so as to ensure that his grapes were not grilled by the sun. Blending 37% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Merlot, the wine is both delectable and serious, conveying wet stone like “minerality” while being driven by juicy, ripe fruit flavors. The alcohol is somewhat low for the vintage, at 13.75, with excellent acidity to balance that. While on the higher end of the price spectrum for this category, this wine from barrel is more engaging to me than first growth Château Haut Brion, tasted the same day. 95-97
7 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
This is a modern day 1990, so buy it, if the price is not too high. Why? Very smooth and refined, better than the 2009, as the structure is more impressive (I own some 2009s and know). Blending 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot, it is aging in 75% new oak, which is very nicely integrated. There is also quantity at 40 hectoliters per hectare. Fine freshness on the long finish. What is not to like? Bravo! 94-96
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Duhart-Milon France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Director Eric Kohler says that it is “the best we have ever produced”. I am not sure, as the 2016 seems a bit more refined, but it is hard to dispute him. Why? Château Duhart Milon, a later terroir, was rather suited to the vintage, even if the 3.9 pH is “a bit high” Kohler allowed. Still, at 14.1% alcohol, I do get a touch of warmth on the finish. But enough of the bickering. Why is the wine so good from barrel? The blend of 35% Merlot and 65% Cabernet Sauvignon is rather sumptuous, dense and with refined and elegant tannins. The mid palate? Plenty of juice and sap. And, in spite of the high pH, there is a certain aromatic refreshing aspect to the finish. From the UGCB, I even got a certain delicate, Margaux like approach, no doubt due to the refined tannin. 94-96
Red
2018 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Super Second, anyone? In terms of higher end price-quality ratios, this is your ticket. Here we have a tour de force that rivals both Latour and Margaux. Such a smooth Pichon Comtesse, once again proving the cliché that it comes across just as much Saint Julien as Pauillac. It stands out before all other Pauillac wines assessed last week at the UGCB tasting. At once supple and elegant, yet layered and long. What a great performance! Tasted twice again, at the negociant Joanne on 31 March and at the château three days later: sheer elegance, with iodine freshness. Alcohol is 14% precisely with just enough balancing acidity and plenty of tannin. “Many things made me think of 2010,” says director Nicolas Glumineau, as we have not seen such quality of must since the 2010 (when he was at Montrose). Powerful but fresh. Here a case where the 2018 enters legend and may well surpasses the 2016. Oh, and special mention to the second wine, Reserve de la Comtesse, well worth purchasing in 2018! 96-98
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Château Gruaud Larose France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
I like this more than most. At least based on tastings of the UGCB before the official en primeur week. Why? Black olive and tapenade on the nose. Ripe fruit, sure, but also floral aspects, dew and plum, too. The palate shows more depth and density than many others in the appellation. Combined with copious but also velvety smooth tannins, and you have the potential for a modern era 1990 (sans brett) in the making. The barrel aging will do wonders here. 95-97
3 people found this helpful Comment

Closing

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