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.
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion Grand Cru Classé’
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 are some excellent wines in St Emilion this year. While the 2017 vintage will always be remembered for the severe April frost, unlike 1991, that other frost affected year, there are a great many impressive wines in the appellation [and the same could never be said for ‘91]. Still the frost has created inconsistency, affecting the blends of some, reducing the volumes for many, and wiping out vineyards for others. Interestingly critic Antonio Gallioni has called 2017 a right bank year. Certainly many of the top wines here are really good, friendlier perhaps that the correct reds on the left bank, even though the left bankers technically profited more from the growing season. Yet as Cyrille Thienpont at Pavie Macquin pondered, ‘It is not really a case of left bank versus right this year, or Merlot versus Cabernet, more a question of which terroirs performed best.”
Château Angélus has made vivid, beautiful wine in 2017. The property reports that only a small part of the vineyard was affected by the April frosts. The remaining fruit benefited from the consistent weather during flowering and the hot June spurred vine growth. The vitality of the wine owes its origins to the dry but coolish summer, which helped the grapes retain freshness and acidity, as well as bright aromas. The relatively precocious state of the vineyards unaffected by frost meant that the vintage was relatively early, somewhat encouraged by the rainy period in September. Carillon d’Angélus also looks impressive in 2017. Château Bellevue is wonderfully lush and deep, almost irresistible at present. Château Daugay is soft and forward. Certainly there is plenty of joy to be had here in 2017 across the range of wines owned and managed by the de Boüard family.
The 2017 vintage was a difficult one for Stephan von Neipperg and his team. In the frost of April 27-28 they lost much of the crop at Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, half of the crop in both his Castillon estate Château d’Aiguihle and St Emilion property Clos de l’Oratoire. At Château Canon-la-Gaffelière frost reduced the harvest by 40%. Only the prized La Mondotte vineyard was spared. That’s the bad news. The good news is that team Neipperg have succeeded in making impressive wines, very much against these odds. This is partly thanks to the quality of the remaining crop, a huge amount of work in the vineyard but also a determination to encourage a useful harvest from second generation grapes. It is also says much about Stephan von Neipperg’s own strength of character. Determined not to be despondent, he encouraged his team in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, as Billy Ocean famously noted, the tough get going.