Inimitable style in a unique vintage
From the 1st to 5th April our Fine Wine team were in Bordeaux tasting their way through the 2018 vintage from barrel. A vintage that has been super-hyped over the last few months, even lauded by some as ‘equal to 2016….’. View all 2018 Bordeaux releases here.
With the Bordeaux marketing machine having worked its magic, Davy’s team arrived in cheerful mood. It wasn’t long though before it was explained that the vintage was very nearly a write-off. A very wet winter followed by an enormously soggy spring led to a strong threat of downy mildew, which can lower yields dramatically and ruin grapes that become infected. This was a particular threat to wineries that follow strict Organic and Biodynamic principles, where the use of fungicides is prohibited. However, all was not lost, and successful flowering in May and June was followed by a wonderful summer with the perfect amount of rain in June and July. Sunny, dry weather followed from July through to October, leading to optimal harvest conditions. Though there are high tannin and alcohol levels across the vintage, where balance has been achieved, this has created some superbly fascinating and unique wines.
However, 2018 is not 2016. Nor is it 2017, or 2015. In fact, it’s nigh impossible to identify a similar vintage for style.
2018 is a roller-coaster that reaches the glorious heights of some of those legendary vintages before it, though like a roller-coaster, there are dips too. There are unmissable and inimitable wines in 2018 and provided they’re priced correctly, it’s a vintage you can get excited about. St. Estèphe seems the front-runner for appellation of the vintage and has produced some impossibly brilliant wines including the best Ch. Calon Segur I’ve ever tasted. Ch. Meyney, Ch. Capbern and Ch. Lafon Rochet will all offer excellent value for money with some of the best wines they’ve ever produced. Over the river in St. Émilion the wines are also showing beautifully, with trademark rich and ripe red fruit beautifully balanced with fresh acidity and silky tannins: Ch. Troplong Mondot, Ch. Figeac, Ch. Berliquiet and Ch. Canon all stand-out. In Graves, Les Carmes Haut Brion and Domaine de Chevalier are superb. Ch. Palmer in Margaux continue their run of first growth beating vintages with a knockout 2018 (though miniscule yields mean it will be a lucky few who are able to become custodians) and in Pauillac and St Julien there are wines to please even the most discerning of Claret connoisseurs: Ch. Lynch Bages; Ch. Leoville Barton; Ch. Beychevelle; Clerc Milon and Pichon Lalande are all at the top of their game.
Trading conditions for Bordeaux have been slow over the last 12 months, seeing very little movement across most of the Liv-Ex indices that chart Bordeaux; a year of consolidation after two strong years for the region. A combination of factors: Brexit & Sterling; a broadening marketplace for fine wine; the rise of Burgundy, as well as mixed performances from individual châteaux within Bordeaux, all contribute.
This last point will be of significance when deciding whether to buy 2018 Bordeaux – this is not a vintage to buy blindly. There are some superstars in 2018 and the key will be identifying these and having the facts at your fingertips to ensure that they are priced fairly, so that it makes sense to buy.
Alongside the best buys of the 2018 vintage (either through quality, price or both) there are other stars rising deserving of your attention – châteaux which have been successfully building their brand through quality over the last few years. We’ve been advocates of St. Émilion’s Clos Fourtet since their superb 2012 and though the liv-Ex index ‘Right-Bank 100’ has underperformed since the Brexit vote, the Clos Fourtet index is up 16%. Other strong performers include Clerc Milon, up 32% and Figeac, up 18%. Whether you’re looking to buy for drinking, investment or a bit of both, it pays to have a feel for which châteaux are currently undervalued.
We’ve noted some highlights below – if these are priced correctly, they will make wonderful additions to the cellar, both for drinking in the near future and over the long term. We can’t include all our favourites here, and we’ll give a view on each release as they become available; if you’re looking for anything in particular, please get in touch.
Ch. Calon Segur
Ch. Lafon Rochet
Ch. Lilian Ladouys
Ch. Clerc Milon
Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste
Ch. Lynch Bages
Ch. Mouton Rothschild
Ch. Pichon Lalande
Ch. Pontet Canet
Ch. Leoville Barton
Ch. Leoville Poyferre
Ch. Brane Cantenac
Ch. Rauzan Segla
Domaine de Chevalier
Ch. Haut Brion
Ch. Les Carmes Haut Brion
Clos des Jacobins
Ch. Pavie Macquin
Ch. Troplong Mondot
For those interested in the details and weather reports, we find the reports written by Gavin Quinney, of Ch. Bauduc, for JancisRobinson.com, the most useful, links to these are provided below:
Over the next few months, Davy’s, along with the rest of the UK Fine Wine trade, will compete for your attention via blogs, social media, telephone calls and what may seem like an infinite amount of emails. Some well-written, some not. If you’d like to receive Davy’s 2018 Bordeaux emails, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
We’d like to keep you informed on all key releases over the coming months: how they are priced against previous vintages; critic’s scores where available; Davy’s notes, but most importantly, Davy’s opinion on whether the wine represents a good addition to one’s cellar. If you’ve any questions or would like to discuss your wish list and requirements, please let us know and we’ll look forward to speaking about the vintage in more depth over the next few weeks.
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