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St Emilion Grands Crus Classés 2018 – Part 2

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Hopefully you weren’t holding your breath. The delay in getting Part 2 of my review of the Grands Crus Classés of St Emilion up and published was due to a combination of COVID over the winter break and then the volume of other work in January which blew me off track. Anyhow, finally here is my summary of the second tranche of twenty-one 2018s St Emilion classed growths tasted last September. Again, these are a generally rich and ripe set of wines, some quite precocious, and many already a joyful drink. Alongside these, properties also showed one other vintage. As in my earlier piece, the 2016s really impressed, but so too did many 2017s. So what are the picks?

Château Marzelle is a personal favourite amongst the Grand Cru Classé. It is usually opulent and exotic and the 2018 doesn’t disappoint. The 2012 shown alongside was fully mature and nicely balanced. That vintage favoured Merlot was very good on the right bank. Readers of this blog will also know that I’m a great fan of the wines of Château Laroque since David Suire took the helm here. Again, this is a lovely 2018. The wine, which was knockout during primeurs, has settled down and lost some of that early coquettishness but still looks a very smart indeed, though it is one 2018 that probably needs a few more years. Château Grand Corbin Despagne 2018 also impressed, which was very polished and complete and their 2016 has lots of plummy fruit.

Château La Couspaude produces very enticing St Emilion and this wine has done very well in 2018 and 2016. Both wines have concentration but also life and texture. Stylish wines for sure. Château La Serre and Château Tour Figeac also showed well, Tour Figeac especially so. Their 2018 was layered and delicious and the 2016 savoury with lovely balance. I’m also a fan of Château Laroze which makes satisfying St Emilion, and impressive wines have been made here in 2018, which is excitingly bold, and in 2016 too. Château Yon Figeac also produced full-flavoured St Emilion in 2018 and 2016.

Other wines that never disappoint are Château Sansonnet and Château Villemaurine. Both made excellent 2018s but, for me, these are pipped fractionally by the quality of their wines in 2017, which showed exciting depth, freshness and texture with marginally greater intensity than their ’18 counterparts.

Overall thoughts? It will be fascinating to see how these 2018s develop. Many are wonderful but there is some variation in 2018 and there are wines that lack acidity and freshness. Certainly it feels an early maturing vintage and many wines can be approached already. Whether they hold up over the longer term and gain complexity will depend on their balance and remaining freshness. Where 2017 was showed alongside, it did really well in my book. Perhaps the more evident freshness and intensity piqued my interest, rising above the sometimes easy charms of the 2018s. Despite the damaging spring frosts in 2017 in St Emilion, for those less affected, this vintage is starting to look very smart indeed. And 2016? I think no-one doubts the splendid quality of this year in St Emilion – probably the finest vintage on balance Bordeaux has had in a decade.

The following notes were taken back in September 2021 at a tasting put on by the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion.

Château Grand Corbin Despagne, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; ripe merlot; has extract; camphor, olives and menthol; good purity; good entry on the palate; polished and complete; extract and a certain elegance along with the fruit; excellent texture and has plenty of elements. [75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2023-2038. 92+

2016 – Deep at core; lifted fruit works well; fresh and savoury; sweet ripe entry; nicely done; plummy; good balance between the freshness and the richness. Works very well indeed. [75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2038. 93

Château Grand Corbin, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; earthy red at edge; spices; lifted herbal notes; some mint, leather; silky entry; this is a precocious ’18 that is already delicious; personally I’d tuck into this now; has balance. [75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2030. 89

2015 – Mid depth; quite evolved colour and aromatics; some leaf and lapsang notes; savoury and developed on the palate; smoke, spice and menthol notes; soft but lacks a bit of depth. [75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2025. 87

Château Haut Sarpe, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; deep at core; density; lots of extract and depth; spices and mint with liquorice; full on the palate; quite a lot here; black fruits, spices and menthol; works well. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2022-2033. 90

2017 – Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; nice attractive fruit; plums and black fruits; some pain grillé tones; fruity palate dominated by sexy plummy tones and pain grillé notes; this works very well indeed. Reminds me of the fine qualities of the ’17 on the right bank – those that survived the frost. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc]. 92

Château Jean Faure, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; glossy and alive in the glass; earthy purple at edge; sturdy, schist notes with black fruits and some liquorice beneath; has good depth; attractive fruit and extract on the palate; soft tannins but plenty of middle here; nice texture. Not hugely concentrated but is attractive and stylish. [60% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 5% Malbec]. Drink 2022-2033. 90

2016 – Deep at core; earthier at edge than ’18; schist again and quite bold and fresh; layered; palate ripe and fresh with sweet and silky aspect. Lacks a little complexity perhaps but attractive overall. [60% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 5% Malbec]. Drink 2022-2033. 89

Château La Couspaude, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Bold colour; deep at middle; legs; very savoury, Cabernet influenced aromatics; spices; stylish and layered; ripe black fruits on the palate; plenty here; this is a really satisfying glass of St Emilion; plenty of extract and style. [75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2023-2038. 93+

2016 – Deep; red at edge; mature and lifted aromatics; very attractive; leafy and savoury notes alongside black fruits; lovely creamy palate; this works very well indeed; savoury notes; concentrated and satisfying. [75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2038. 94+

Château La Fleur Morange, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; deep at core; red edge; really round and seemingly mature already; plenty of plummy fruit; some ink too; spicy palate; little more extracted in the mid palate; slightly dry and dusty finish. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc]. Drink now – 2028. 87

2014 – Mid depth; easy and soft; mature aromatics; round palate which works well; spices and round tannins now supple and sweet. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc]. Drink now – 2024. 88

Château La Marzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Lovely deep colour; colour tight to rim; deep; meaty and substantial aromatics; some pain grillé tones; full and ripe; spices and herbs here too; similar flavours on the palate – ripe black fruits with some cabernet notes; very nice entry on the palate; sweet tannin but plenty here and nicely handled in the cellar; extract is sweet and ripe. A real crowd pleaser! Biodyamic property now. [75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% alc]. Drink now -2035. 94+

2012 – Deep at core; red at edge; earthy aromatics; spicy; complex savoury and smoky tones; 2012 was a good vintage in St Emilion; some secondary characters; some undergrowth; mature and really drinkable; feels like ’12 doesn’t have the substance of ’98 or other great vintages, but is very attractive. Wonderfully mature St Emilion. Drink now to 2028. [75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon 60% new oak].  92+

Château La Serre, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Good solid colour; red at edge; solid aromatics; little dusty; some mocha notes and earthy tones; herbal notes; black fruits emerge on aeration; sturdy and pleasing on the palate; still a little pent up; has layers and plenty of fruit; robust finish; vibrant fruit is sweet and has substance. [80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2022-2035. 91+

2016 – Deep and glossy; some earthy notes; spices; notes of old wooden tables; pines; herbal and spicy notes; quite substantial on the mid palate; herbal tones again; works well in an intense savoury style. [80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc]. Drink now-2031 90

Château La Tour Figeac, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; deep at core; legs; solid; some liquorice, black cherry; pretty, layered nose; good entry to the palate; round and nicely handled; plenty of extract here but glossy and a nice tension here too which keeps the ball in the air; savoury edge from the Cabernet Franc. This works well and has really good length on the end. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 14.5% alc, 50% new oak]. Drink 2022-2035. 93

2016 – Deep at centre; intense and savoury; smoky notes; some lapsang souchong tones but also has intensity; works very well; savoury aspect; ripe on the palate with good depth; this works really well; fresh finish with a real twist. Like this a lot. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 50% new oak]. Drink 2022-2038. 93

Château Laniote, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; earthy edge; pure cherry and black fruit tones; ripe plums too; sweet fruit on the palate with extract; lacks a little complexity of the very best; solid and ripe; works well. Sweet finish. [80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2030. 88

2016 – Deep at centre; earthy; dusty notes initially; palate ripe fruit, nicely caressing and satin; lots of depth and extract but also little chunkiness to the tannin profile. Sturdy and chunky overall. Solid if a little lacking in finesse. [80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2032. 87

Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Deep and pure looking; lot of depth here; colour tight to rim; little dumb and inky initially now it is in bottle then the ripe plum tones emerge; cool and pure fruit; ripe entry and lots here on the palate; has lost some of its early coquettishness and now shows lots of savoury depth; needs a bit of time I reckon [3 years or so]. Plenty here. Structured wine with plenty of fruit and depth. [97% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2024-2038. 94+

2015 [unfortunately the samples had run out by the time I returned to taste this wine – here are my notes from 2019 on the 2015 when tasted at the property]. Mid depth; attractive aromatics; ripe, layered fruit on the nose; quite sophicated; nice palate; red fruits; nicely polished; nice texture; mid weight. Fresh on the palate. Savoury finish. [50% new oak, 18 months. 94% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted April 2019. Drink 2019-2032. 90

Château Laroze, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Bold colour; legs; colour right to the rim; black fruit, spices, some menthol and camphor; nice intensity here; savoury tones on the palate; quite layered; good mouthful; plenty here; impressive depth; full and lots going on; soft tannins but plenty of depth. Like this! [65% Merlot, 27.5% Cabernet Franc, 7.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 65% new oak]. Drink 2022-2035. 93+

2016 – Mid depth; deep at core; ripe black fruits; sweet; some liquorice; smoked meat notes; cured ham; attractive and savoury; easy and caressing palate with flesh and freshness. Lovely wine and already drinking well. [60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink now-2036. 93+

Château Le Chatelet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Pretty solid colour; red at edge; quite mature already; some ink and plums; open and full on the palate; plenty of fruit; lacks some variation and complexity but has plenty of fruit. [80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc]. Drink now – 2028. 87

2019 – Deep and saturated look; ripe and figgy; prunes; bit tough and extracted in the palate and lacks the complexity of the best; inky and intense certainly. Needs to settle. [80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2023-3032. 87+

Château Le Prieuré, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Solid central core; legs; some plums and marzipan; quite voluptuous; really ripe black fruit tones on the palate; caressing tannins; lacks a bit of texture perhaps but lashings of ripe, low acid fruit. Drink 2022-2032 88+

2017 – Deep and fat looking; ripe and figgy notes; full for sure; molasses and prunes; open and rich; some depth here and plenty of matter and extract. Another ’17 which gives the ’18 a run for its money. Drink now – 2032. 90

Château Moulin du Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth, dark at core; pure colour; inky black fruits; plenty here if lacking the finesse of the very best; soft and low acid palate – will mature early; coffee and mocha notes at the end. Drink now-2028. 88

2017 – Deep; intense aromatics; palate feels tauter and more structured and there is freshness; black fruits and plums. This works well. Drink now-2032. 90

Château Sansonnet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Deep and saturated colour; tight to rim; nicely satisfying aromatics; layered nose with plenty of plummy black fruit; almost coquettish in the glass; nice purity on the palate with plenty of depth and extract; lacks a bit of acidity in the finish but this works very well in the vintage context. Drink 2022-2034. 91+

2017 – Deep and intense looking; some schist; layered aromatics again with plums and black fruits; tight and intense; palate is full and plenty of depth; ripe and seductive; like this a lot; another ‘sleeper’ ’17 that looks to be even more impressive than their ’18 here. Drink now-2035. 92+

Château Villemaurine, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Less deep than Sansonnet; bright fruit; inky stalky freshness; ripe black cherry; quite cool fruit tones for the vintage; spices; like the purity here; nice entry on the palate; sort of savoury aspect; has dimensions to the palate; damsons, plums, sweet and ripe. This is an excellent ’18. Drink now-2032. 93+

2017 – Deep looking; really very savoury; plums and black fruits too; on the palate, has lots of depth and intensity and I’m really enjoying this savoury aspect. Palate is equally layered with plenty of plummy fruit. Nice twist of oak on the end. Excellent. Drink now-2033. 94

Château Ripeau, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; lacks the concentration of colour of some; red at edge; red strawberry fruits; ripe and some satin qualities; little undergrowth too; ripe on entry; soft and easy style if it lacks a bit of tension in the middle; chocolate notes on the finish. Drink now – 2028. 88+

Château Rochebelle, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Bold colour; deep at centre; plenty of liquorice and ripe black fruits; this is ripe and heady; soft entry; quite high alcohol; satin quality to the palate; easy if lacking in punctuation. Drink now-2027, 87

Château Saint George Côte Pavie, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Mid depth; legs; some black cherry and camphor notes; ink; has intensity and density on the palate; like this; very schist style; works really well. Drink 2023-2034. 92+

Château Yon-Figeac, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

2018 – Deep at centre; earthy red at edge; chocolate, mocha; more purity on the palate; opens up; quite substantial; plenty here in terms of plummy extract and matter; quite approachable already. Drink now-2030. 91+

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