There was something magical about the top wines in 2018 when first tasted during primeurs. The finest wines had fabulous levels of extract and exotic fruit profiles that were reminiscent of 2009, 1989 and 1982. Just over a year ago the MW Institute put on their 2018 horizontal tasting of all the principal Bordeaux appellations at four years of age. It was instructive. Some of the wines were developing really well and impressed. Others had firmed up considerably and had shut down. There were quite a few others that now felt a bit ponderous and lacking in freshness. There can be no doubt that this heatwave vintage has yielded some remarkable wines, but overall, the vintage continues to lack the overall consistency of 2019 and 2016 vintages from what I have tasted. So, what were the highlights?
Only seven wines from Pomerol were shown at the MW 2016 tasting back in late 2021. They were all thrilling. The pick for me was Château La Conseillante. This is so plush and layered, yet despite the density and concentration it dazzles and dances on the palate. What a wine. Château Trotanoy was its equal. It was cool and fresh yet with layer upon layer of flavour. Wonderful balance. Super wines have also been made by Château Clinet and Château Gazin. The former creamy and opulent as usual, the latter, sturdy with plenty of textured fruit and notes of smoked charcuterie and meats. Château Hosanna showed excellent purity and Château La Fleur Pétrus had wonderfully plummy fruit tones with texture and depth. Château Nénin was jam packed with plum and black cherry fruit. This property has advanced so much since the Delon tenure here.
There’s a fascinating on-going discussion to be had about any vintage. It’s a conversation that shifts as the wines develop and age, and how they start to compare with the other vintages that surround them. From the outset, 2016 was both spellbinding and consistent across all the appellations. This remains the case today. St Emilion has also produced a collection of beauties in this vintage comparable in quality to the other principal Bordeaux appellations. If they don’t have the sheer volume and alcohol of more recent successful vintages here [I’m thinking 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022] 2016 more importantly has finesse and it is the balance of these wines in this vintage that remains so striking. They are appetizing and superbly balanced in the main. The picks in the MW’s line up of St Emilions? Well, Château Angélus and Château Figeac really impressed but there were terrific efforts also from Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Château Bellevue, Château Canon and Château Fonplégade. Château Cheval Blanc was focused and textured but a little subdued. Château Belair-Monange had also retreated into its shell. Chateau Quintus and Château Troplong-Mondot were both bold and rich, the latter too much for me. I think it’s fair to say that this was probably the end of the old style of late-picked highly extracted efforts at Troplong-Mondot. New broom Aymeric de Gironde has brought in a fresher more appetizing style in recent vintages.
There are lots of great wines in Pessac-Léognan in the 2016 vintage. You’d expect superlative efforts from the likes of Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion. But there are also magnificent wines from the appellation’s defacto first growths Château Haut-Bailly and Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Brilliant, yet contrasting red wines have been made here. Fractionally outside this club, but only fractionally, is Domaine de Chevalier. Year in, year out this is one of the highest quality, dependable but won’t [entirely] ‘break-the-bank’ reds in all of Bordeaux. Fine wines have also been made at Château Bouscaut, Château Fieuzal, Château Malartic Lagravière. Château Latour Martillac is drinking well, already offering textbook earthy Graves. That said, overall, at the top level these are still wines that need another two or three years in bottle to get really into gear. In some senses a few have crept into their shells since earlier tastings. These will improve further in complexity over the next decade and expect them to last well into the middle of the century.