Château Cos d’Estournel has been making wine of first growth quality for years, but the period of ownership under Michel Reybier has coincided with a dramatic shift in ambition and overall quality. And not just in the main wine. Pagodes de Cos, the second label, in recent years is now better than many vintages of the grand vin itself in the 1990s. Yet, while there has been a string of impressive wines here in the last few vintages – 2014, 2015 and 2016 are all exciting editions of Cos – 2018 is a real marvel. I reckon it is possibly the finest wine made in the last decade at the estate. And, in what is a truly remarkable vintage for St Estèphe, Cos might actually just pip the extraordinary wines also made in this year at Château Calon-Ségur and Château Montrose.
Bordeaux 2018 reaches its hedonistic heights in the northern Haut-Médoc, and no more so than in St Estèphe. At Château Calon Ségur one of the most remarkable wines has been made. This property has had a very impressive run here over the last decade. That said, the 2018 is a legend in the making. The fruit is spectacular, the style is sublime and the wine is voluptuous. For me it was the most memorable wine [amongst many] during primeurs back in April. Not surprisingly word quickly got out. The wine was the most expensive Calon released en primeur and it is now offered at a price higher than any other vintage in the past decade. I guess for a Bordeaux that has first growth unambiguously stamped all over it, and considering the world’s screaming eagles, maybe £1000 a case could still be considered a snip.
In one sense Thomas Duroux hasn’t much to show from the 2018 vintage. The effects of rot that tore through Château Palmer’s vineyards in early July led to two-thirds of the crop being entirely lost. The biodynamics practiced here left the vineyards even more exposed to the vagaries of a growing season that was biblically wet in its first half. Yet the remainder of the harvest, a meagre 11 hectolitres per hectare, produced an elixir. It is what Thomas describes analytically, but also qualitatively, as Palmer’s “most powerful wine ever.” If the entire growing season was a “a terrifying experience” for Duroux, Palmer has certainly ended up making one of its most remarkable wines ever.
A dozen wines from Lalande de Pomerol tasted earlier in the year certainly show how the appellation has captured the lush fruit qualities of the vintage. Once again, plenty of sweet, ripe and unctuously styled fruit is on display here. There was a little overextraction evident in some cases, but you would imagine that most of the wines will settle during elévage. The missing ingredient here is really acidity. 2018 will give a lot of pleasure for sure, but, as in St Emilion and Pomerol, the vintage lacks the appetizing vibrancy of 2015 and 2016 with their emphasis on freshness and texture. That said there is a lot to enjoy in these wines. Undoubtedly they will give plenty of pleasure at comparatively modest prices.
This year a shortage of time only allowed me the opportunity to taste eleven wines from Pomerol that were shown at the Grand Cercle event in April, along with a few others with Jean-Luc Thunevin. In May I had the opportunity to taste Château Gazin, which was wonderfully pure and strong. Overall, it’s been difficult to draw firm conclusions on such a small sample, but the wines I’ve tasted from Pomerol certainly show plenty of joyful, ripe fruit and considerable style. The wines were generally low in acidity. Again, as in St Emilion, to me they didn’t have the delightful tension of the 2015 and 2016 vintages, with 2018 seemingly much more akin to 2009 in style. If there is a flaw, it is that the wines lack acidity. That said, many will provide immediately pleasure and this doesn’t feel like a vintage that will need much time in bottle.
Many delicious wines have been made in St Emilion in 2018. This is a vintage with the most sumptuous, sublime fruit. While the wines do not have the magical balance of 2016 or 2015, with their fresher acidities, on the best terroirs there are a range of wines here that rival 2009 in character for sheer exotic ripeness and joy, but without the evident over-extraction that characterised the appellation a decade ago. Yes, these are wines with plenty of tannin, enviably ripe tannin, and in all but a few cases I would confidently expect the wines to settle by bottling. As in 2009 this will be a vintage that will drink well from the very beginning, but that has the evident structure to last.