There was a slightly mournful note last year in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. The frosts of 2017 had robbed many properties that Jean-Luc consults for on the right bank of much, if not all their crop. This year during primeurs, the mood was jubilant. 2018 is evidently a lovely vintage in St Emilion on the best terroirs. Yes, there might be more noise emanating elsewhere in Bordeaux in 2018 [in St Estèphe especially] but believe me there is an army of seductive reds on the right bank too. As ever there is so much to enjoy in the wines Jean-Luc consultants for and he’s pulled out all the stops in his own wines. Château Valandraud is always pretty remarkable stuff. This year it is a wonder.
The wines of Nicolas Thienpont are always amongst the purest and most impressive I taste each year in Bordeaux. This purity comes across in their own wines – the seriously good value Château Puygueraud and Château La Prade in Francs and Château Alcée in Castillon. But it is his tending to the wines and winegrowing of the St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classés, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Beauséjour [Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse], with his son Cyrille Thienpont and winemaker David Suire that perhaps, understandably, commands the most attention. The wines here have been wonderfully impressive in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 trio of vintages in St Emilion. In 2018, they are knockout.
The wines of Fronsac should be on every Bordeaux lover’s list. There have been some terrific successes here in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and 2018 joins these vintages as an exciting one for the appellations of Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac. I’m always struck by the homogeneity of these appellations, year in, year out. Despite the difficulties of the 2018 vintage – a growing season with an extremely wet first half, followed by the sunny and dry second half – there are a great number of wines in Fronsac that are outstanding. These should also offer good value to the consumer en primeur. If some of the wines lack a little bit of tension in terms of acidity, the tannins are beautifully ripe and the lush fruit present makes many of these irresistible.
If you want a great introduction to the hedonistic pleasures of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage, then look no further than the Côtes de Bordeaux. Wonderful wines have been made in Castillon, Francs, Blaye and Cadillac. For me Francs and Castillon lead the pack with some fantastically plump, rich reds that retain harmony and balance. If occasionally some wines lack a little zip, the colours are deep, the fruit is beautiful and the tannic profiles are supple and not overly extractive. This is a vintage that really reminds me of 2009 at its finest. Yet there are less of the late-picked qualities of that year, nor the more evident extractive cellar chicanery of that winemaking period. Outstanding wines have been made in 2018 at Château Alcée, Château d’Aiguilhe, Château Côtes Montpezat, Château de Laussac [Cuveé Sacha] in Castillon at the top end. In Francs, Thienpont’s Château La Prade and Château Puygueraud are brilliant. Château Reynon is also seriously impressive in Cadillac.
Last Sunday I spent my third day examining Bordeaux 2018, this time at Château Angélus in St Emilion. The grand vin here is very exciting. Angélus has wonderful perfume, great depth and is multi-layered. Brilliant wines have been made here by the de Boüard family in 2015 and 2016, but 2018 Château Angélus is certainly up there in quality with these vintages, if more in keeping with the style of the 2009 vintage. For me Carillon d’Angélus is a marvel. It is the most exciting Carillon I can remember tasting en primeur. The fruit is beautiful and the tannins are wonderfully refined.
First stop last Saturday was to Château Pavie Macquin in St Emilion. The winegrowing judgement here of Nicolas Thienpont, Cyrille Thienpont and David Suire is second to none. There aren’t any state secrets. Here gentle extraction of wonderfully ripe fruit, the result of meticulous work in the vineyards from beautiful terroir, always yields some of Bordeaux’s most appealing wine. In 2018 Château Pavie Macquin, Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Beauséjour [HdL] are exceptional. Larcis has typically satin-y, caressing fruit, and fabulous length. Pavie-Macquin has great depth with remarkable power under the hood while Château Beauséjour displays some of the most exceptionally pure, beautiful fruit I’ve come across. All are stunning. The real steals I imagine, will be the Thienpont’s own wines from the Côtes de Francs – Château Puygueraud and Château La Prade are lovely.