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.
I’ve been nursing a dilemma these past few months. Shouldn’t I really be keeping quiet about Château Laroque? This impressive St Emilion property, situated on some of the highest limestone terroir of the appellation, has been run since 2015 by David Suire, the talented winemaker who, with Nicolas Thienpont, crafts the beautiful Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Beauséjour. For me, Château Laroque 2018 was one of the best buys on the Right Bank I tasted this year. The quality was knockout for the price. I nabbed a couple of cases for my own cellar. Just don’t tell anyone. If your experience is anything like mine, increasingly I’m having trouble affording my favourite Bordeaux. Expect Laroque’s prices to rise over the next few years, so if you can find any remaining 2018, I’d nab it quick! If not the 2016 looks good too.
Château Angélus looks very strong in 2018. There is the usual depth and power but the bold tannins suggest a long life. The wine is now made by Hubert de Boüard’s daughter Stephanie. The property is on conversion toward organic growing so the vagaries of the 2018 vintage [the wet start with its threat of mildew] were a challenge. Overall, however, volumes are not down and the considerable [yet ripe] tannin profiles are a testament to the extraordinary sunny and hot weather that defined the second half of the growing season in 2018. Other wines in the de Boüard stable also look impressive in 2018. I’m a great fan of Chateau Bellevue and Chateau Daugay and both are excellent in this vintage. Chateau Roc de Boisseaux also is very good.
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.