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Bordeaux 2018: Margaux MW Institute Tasting

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

The Margaux appellation is large and heterogeneous. This variety comes through in the wines in 2018. A hot year with wildly shifting conditions – first wet and humid, then dry and hot – is complex enough and likely to yield variation. When translated across a wide variety of soils [clay, sand and gravel] it adds another dimension of complexity. For me classic Margaux is defined by enticing perfume, purity of fruit and velvet tannins. In that respect Château Margaux itself alongside Château Brane-Cantenac and Château d’Issan lead the pack with these characteristics in spades in 2018. Not a hint of vintage heat in these wines, just layered, cool blackcurrant fruit tones. I’d have expected Château Palmer and Château Rauzan-Ségla to be in this set too, but they were not represented at the MW tasting. I’ve previously been a fan of both Château Giscours and Château du Tertre, but neither impressed greatly on the day. Château Lascombes and Château Cantenac Brown were comfortably the next best wines. The former is typically opulent and saturated, the latter inky and structured. Neither are classic Margaux as identified above, but they will be bold, satisfying glasses of wine for sure.

The following wines were tasted in November 2022 at the MW Institute’s annual Bordeaux tasting.

Château Boyd Cantenac, Margaux, 2018

Deeply coloured; blueberry and bell pepper aromatics; tobacco with some violet lift – this is classic Boyd with considerable oak influence on the nose; caressing fruit on the palate which appears pretty lush and full; but finish is a little dry [extraction] which currently feels a bit chewy. Should settle but will always have tannic punctuation at the end. [13.5% alc, 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2025-2038. Tasted Nov ’22. 88+

Château Brane Cantenac, Margaux, 2018

Deep at core; fresh, pure blackcurrant aromatics – wow – love the purity here [as ever]; has the precision of fruit; laser focused; beautiful palate with real clarity and elegance but also plenty of fruit and structure. Sophisticated and classy. Great wine. [13% alc, 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot]. Drink now-2045. Tasted Nov ’22. 96+

Château Cantenac Brown, Margaux, 2018

Deep looking; spices, menthol and ink; feels big; some chocolate notes too; quite rich and heady on the palate; structured and quite extracted but quality of the tannins is ripe and overall this works well. Continuous improvement here over the last decade. [13.5% alc, 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2025-2043. Tasted Nov ’22. 92+

Château Dauzac, Margaux, 2018

Deep; stone fruits, wet rock; needs to open up; oak less dominant here than in some previous years; rich and ripe on entry but extraction evident which leads to a rather chewy finish with evident alcohol. [14.5% alc, 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot]. Drink 2025-2032. Tasted Nov ’22. 88

Château Desmirail, Margaux, 2018

Mid depth; evolved, forward aromatics; this appears to be ready to drink; undergrowth, plum and tobacco notes on the palate; attractive and easy if lacking in concentration. Little clipped on the finish. [13.5% alc, 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot]. Drink now-2035. Tasted Nov ’22.  86

Château d’Issan, Margaux, 2018

Mid depth; great purity of fruit on the nose; needs a bit of air to express itself but when it does lovely seam of blackcurrants and earth; not far behind Brane Cantenac qualitatively; caressing palate which is really nicely balanced; this is proper Margaux; has grip on the finish and freshness and evident structure. Very good effort. [14% alc, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot]. Drink 2026-2045. Tasted Nov ’22. 94+

Château du Tertre, Margaux, 2018

Mid depth; fresh looking; some red fruits, little reductive at first; needs time to open up in the glass; supple palate with elegance; some tobacco notes on the finish. Little closed. [14.5% alc, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 14% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2026-2040. Tasted Nov ’22. 87+

Château Giscours, Margaux, 2018

Mid depth; inky blackcurrant aromatics; chewy and tannic palate with lots of extract; needs to settle and feels very chewy on the finish. Needs a few more years for things to combine better and tannins to agglomerate. Need to revisit in a few years [14.5% alc, 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2028-2045. Tasted Nov ’22. 89?

Château Kirwan, Margaux, 2018

Deep colour; stones and wet rocks; evident depth; structured on the palate but lacks a bit of charm with rather dry, chewy tannins at the end.  [14.5% alc, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2026-2042. 88

Château Lascombes, Margaux, 2018

Deep and saturated looking; layered plummy aromatics; ripe blackcurrants; classic Lascombes; black cherry notes too alongside some new oak notes; creamy and layered palate; tannins sweet and despite the level of evident extraction the finish isn’t dry here. The quibble is the slight lack of acidity which leaves it lacking a certain freshness on the finish. That said it works well overall. [14.5% alc, 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2025-2038. Tasted Nov ’22. 92+

Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux, 2018

Deep and dark; some red fruits and blackcurrant notes; sweet fruit on the palate with a certain unctuousness; has texture and feels bold; chewy extract on the finish but plenty of balancing fruit. [13% alc, 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot]. Drink now-2035. 90

Château Margaux, Margaux, 2018

Mid depth; little dumb at first; resin and cassis; genuine elegance on the palate which is nicely done with cool blackcurrant fruit tones; freshness and texture on the finish. Fine certainly and fresh in the vintage context. I might be underrating this. [14% alc, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2028-2050. 96+

Château Pouget, Margaux, 2018

Deep and dark; oak influenced; plummy fruit; attractive; black fruits and oak well integrated on the palate; plenty of plums and sweet black fruits; soft finish but has concentration with ripe tannins. This works nicely in an up front style. [13.5% alc, 49% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot]. Drink now -2035. Tasted Nov ’22. 90+

Château Prieuré Lichine, Margaux, 2018

Deep looking; sweet black fruit tones on the nose; plums; very ripe black cherries; attractive seam of fruit; palate has lots of fruit and feels quite chunky; some wet rock and needs to gel a little; Dryness to the tannins currently but will work. [14% alc, 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2026-2038. Tasted Nov ’22. 90

Château Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux, 2018

Mid depth; little reduced to start with then some spicey and earthy notes; some development, tobacco and tea notes; some tannins and extract on the finish. This property has been picking up recently but this ’18 seems to lack character. [14.5% alc, 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2025-2035. Tasted Nov ’22. 86

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