In our view, Margaux failed to live up to expectations. The feminine floral tones were marred by extraction errors in many wines. Ripeness masked the finer points and clumsy tannins brought scores down. Ferrière showed beautifully however with generous blueberry notes under lifted floral tones and a persistent fine finish. Labégorce was sweet with beautiful tannin structure, great density and a polished finish. Prieuré-Lichine continued to impress us with a slightly closed nose being embraced by succulent lively mid palate fruit and a long ethereal finish. Siran was fresh with blueberry tones and great concentration showing promise for the future. For those who managed their extraction with care, the wines certainly suggest that age will be kind.
As with the 2017 vintage, Saint-Julien seems to have shone again. A higher percentage of the wines tasted scored over 17 points (worthy of mention in this report) with Beychevelle, Branaire-Ducru, Gloria and Talbot showing great expression and excellent integration of acid and tannin in a concentrated and powerful core. Beychevelle and Branaire showed elegance, Gloria classic finesse and Talbot the customary darker tones. Léoville-Barton again played a blinder with such polish and finesse retained under the watchful eye of Eric Boissonet. We still can’t believe that this wine doesn’t receive more acclaim. Langoa Barton held steady with the hallmark open expression and approachable honesty, a wine that will be drinking well earlier than others from this commune.
The ‘hall of kings’ did not disappoint. Mouton was as ever an epiphany of concentrated polish and finesse, not a foot put wrong. More closed at this stage than the ’17 but certainly a sleeping beauty that could well rival the longevity of 2005 and 2010. D’Armailhac and Clerc Milon both showed tremendous scope with Clerc Milon showing greater expression against the slightly closed d’Armailhac with it’s strong, yet supple tannins binding the concentrated dark, dark fruit to the finish. Grand-Puy-Lacoste showed tremendous depth and integration of tannins, the self assured style seems to mature with each vintage. Haut-Bages Libéral was concentrated and supple with generous black fruit driving the structured finish. Lynch-Bages is closed, grippy, not particularly inviting at the moment. A leather bound savoury edge shows promise on the long finish. But there is a dryness to the concentration that beggars the question of true excellence. Lynch Moussas is gentle with spicy blackcurrant tones and an open generosity showing opposing generosity to it’s neighbour. Pichon Baron enlists fragrant blueberry tones to soften the concentrated dark finish with evolving herbal notes piquing interest at the finish. Pichon Comtesse is brooding and mineral, her blackcurrant richness lends some breadth to a restrictive concentrated finish.
Seems to have shed some of its tough restraint. The power was there, but the ripeness of the 18 vintage gave the wines great life and expression. Cos Labory offered generous baked plum notes. Lafon-Rochet showed great definition and a mineral core that carries a smokey finesse to a long concentrated finish. Ormes de Pez, always great value was almost floral in its expression and tamed the tannic grip with immense concentration and succulent fruit interest on the finish.
Marc Perrin of Château Carbonnieux spoke about the heat that the vines endured during the first 3 weeks of September. Very hot days meant that yields were reduced even further, having been adversely affected by frost then mildew early on in the season. Carbonnieux brought in just 30hl/ha, their lowest production in 30 years. This was exemplified in their red with great concentration and a supple ripe black fruited finish. The red of the commune this year has to be that of Domaine de Chevalier with a divine graphite led smokey expression, intense mineral depth and refined compact finish. Quite the wine! There were recurrences of slightly dirty (brett) notes in a number of the wines. A direct result of the high pH’s that this warm vintage produced. Latour-Martillac showed a generous damson hinted plump palate with a lifted richness suggestive of an earlier drinking example. Leather tones, vegetal notes and a lack of acid pepper many of our notes, hallmarks of a hot summer.
The whites are ripe. Tropical notes with an exotic edge showed the ripeness of the vintage with Picque Caillou. La Louvière was high toned and expressive with a minerality that tamed the ripeness. Cabonnieux managed to find the right balance with a textured stone fruit mid palate and a mineral back bone lending structure to a delicate but persistent finish.
HAUT-MÉDOC, MEDOC, LISTRAC & MOULIS
More often than not, a dark slightly unforgiving expression of fruit comes from the Haut-Médoc. The warmth of 2018 has however allowed many of these Chateaux to produce wines of a softer style. Silky, textural and soft, words not normally associated with here meant that wines like Camensac and Coufran showed great concentration and expression of fruit, with Coufran giving great definition and mineral tones on the finish. From Listrac, Fourcas Dupré had subtle concentration with a trace of cigar box and cedar emerging showing greater sophistication than expected at this level. In Moulis Mauvesin Barton continues to show promise with Melanie Barton-Sartorius making steady progress with the winemaking here.
SAUTERNES AND BARSAC
Botrytis came late this year. The warm summer left some wines with a riper less linear structure. Exotic notes with an open appeal can be expected. Doisy Daene offered layers of fruit salad and spice, integrated and long on the finish. Doisy-Védrines is exceptionally ripe with 132g/l of sugar and 13.5% abv. The botrytis influence here is more concentrated with very tight apricot tones lingering on the finish. Lafaurie-Peyraguey is intensely aromatic this year with lemon blossom and apricot sitting behind an intensely citric nose. Suduiraut (100% semillon) seemed to thrive in the heat with a waxy lemon tinged, beeswax expression. A decent zing of acid elevated the lime blossom scent on the finish.