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.
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.