Bordeaux 2018: what the critics are saying
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Vinous – Antonio Galloni
“The best 2018s are positively stunning. I don’t see the consistency of 2016, for example, but 2018 offers a tremendous amount of choice for the consumer, from everyday gems to the rarest of collectibles… The best 2018s are aromatically intense, deep, dark wines that beautifully marry fruit intensity with structure.”
Galloni emphasises that this is a vintage that could only have been made now – when producers are equipped with smaller tanks, when the trends towards freshness, away from new oak and over-extraction were key in this potentially massive vintage.
He identifies St Estèphe as a stand-out commune – “the best and most consistent vintage here since 2014”; Pauillac “is littered with superb wines, across all price points”; “St Julien is another star in 2018”; while Margaux and Pessac-Léognan are more varied. “Pomerol is one of the real sweet spots in 2018,” and, while he points out St Emilion is so large that it’s difficult to make generalisations, “some of the most profound 2018s emerge from [its] pristine vineyards”.
Antonio Galloni’s highlights: Cos d’Estournel, Calon Ségur, Montrose, Lafon-Rochet, Phélan Ségur, Meyney, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pichon Lalande, Pontet-Canet, Pichon Baron, Lynch-Bages, Branaire-Ducru, Léoville Las Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville Poyferré, Gloria, Giscours, Margaux, Palmer, Rauzan-Ségla, Durfort-Vivens, Brane-Cantenac, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clément, Haut-Bailly. Pétrus, La Conseillante, L’Eglise-Clinet, Feytit-Clinet, La Fleur-Pétrus, L’Evangile, Trotanoy, Angélus, Ausone, Beau-Séjour Bécot, Cheval Blanc, Clos Fourtet, Figeac, Larcis Ducasse, La Gaffelière, Troplong-Mondot, Canon, Pavie
NB Robert Parker’s protégé and now Vinous contributor Neal Martin isn’t scoring the wines at this point in time for health reasons, however he is expected to taste the 2018s in September.
“Bordeaux has another incredible vintage on their hands… the 2018s are ripe, sexy wines loaded with fruit and texture, yet they also display a remarkable freshness and purity (as well as singular characters) that make the vintage so special,” writes Jeb Dunnuck.
He is quick to point out – as we and the other critics do – that 2018 doesn’t offer the same consistency in style as, for example, 2016. That said, “while there are dramatic differences in wine styles (between regions and even neighboring estates)… bad wines are few and far between.” The key, as far as he is concerned, is that producers had the freedom to pick when they wanted, and therefore make the style of wine that suited them, meaning that “the style of the wines spans from fresh and lively to powerful and opulent”.
Jeb Dunnuck’s highlights: Leoville Las Cases, Pavie, Calon Ségur, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Angélus, Cheval Blanc, La Conseillante, Cos d’Estournel, Haut-Bailly, Montrose, Pavie Macquin, Pichon Baron, Clinet, Domaine de Chevalier
Wine Advocate – Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
“2018 was a vintage that favored the agile, those willing to go the extra mile and who have the hyper focus to cope with fast-paced developments. Those possessing the blind faith of a risk taker.”
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW emphasises that 2018 is an extreme vintage, producing wines with big tannins, high alcohols, low acids, with a lot of fruit, power and density. “At the very peak of quality, the 2018s are mind-blowingly incredible. In this upper realm, terroir signatures marry with the character of this vintage to produce wines that speak of both place and time,” she writes. However, she also points out that this is a vintage where quality varies widely across the region, and although she doesn’t feel there are “bad” wines, she does suggest that there are some “meh” wines. As such, “2018 is a vintage where some critical advice will deliver you safely from a lot of trial-and-error disappointments and, ultimately, save you money.”
As Jeb Dunnuck highlighted, the days of Claret that needed decades in the cellar are behind us. Perrotti-Brown emphasises that main of the best wines – offering “rich, already flamboyant fruit and beautifully plush tannins with seamless acidity” – will be approachable early; but “the very best 2018s will be very long lived indeed. Superlatives such as Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Léoville Las Cases, Haut-Brion, Petrus and Lafleur will likely be getting their second wind in 50 to 75 years.”
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW’s highlights: Rauzan-Ségla, Figeac, Duhart-Milon, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Léoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande, Haut-Brion, Pétrus, Lafleur, Trotanoy, La Conseillante, Margaux, Ausone, Pavie, Bélair-Monange, Canon
The ever-enthusiastic James starts his report thus: “2018 is an exceptional year for Bordeaux. It is a unique vintage not only because of its hellish grape growing season but because it created wonderful wines with a beautiful depth of ripe fruit and polished, strong tannins. These wines have an impressive underlying freshness despite one of the warmest and driest late summers and harvests on record.”
Unlike other critics, he believes it to offer excellent consistency, with “excellent quality wines across the board from the simplest Bordeaux to the great names”. He believes that the variations are stylistic rather than qualitative – between earlier-picked fresher and later-picked richer wines, as well as those that saw different levels of extraction in the winery.
“Regardless of how they were made, the majority of the 2018 reds in my tastings were beautifully structured with ripe fruit and potent tannins, yet there is an impressive drinkability to them.”
James Suckling’s highlights: Lafleur, Pétrus, Mouton Rothschild, Rauzan-Ségla, Léoville Las Cases, Domaine de Chevalier, Canon, Cheval Blanc, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Montrose, Pavie, Figeac, Larcis Ducasse