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.
Get ready for the superlatives. Last Friday, in wonderfully warm late March sun, I started at the top. First up this year was a visit to Château Latour. Frankly you couldn’t get a better introduction to the extraordinary quality of this vintage – the proverbial game of two halves. In 2018 an incredibly wet first half of the growing season was followed by a sunny, hot halcyon, game changing second, that spanned July to October. The ripeness and depth of fruit and the texture of Château Latour in 2018 immediately reminded me of 2009. Yet there is real freshness here too. This is Latour that is a mix of 2009 and 2010. Wow!
Château Haut-Bailly has some of the most enviable terroir in Bordeaux. Unfortunately even this was insufficient to spare the property from the devasting frosts of April 27 and 28, 2017. These frosts did damage to the lower plots on the property, but the old vine parcels were spared. Subsequently even flowering and an exceptionally dry summer, saved the day. In 2017 Château Haut-Bailly has produced red wines that have depth and freshness. The vintage is a little reminiscent of 2008 and 2014 but with softer tannins and more gentle extraction.