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?
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion’
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.
The St Emilion Grand Cru Classé that were tasted bling at the Grand Cercle press tasting at Château de la Dauphine back in April were sensational. They stood out along with the wines from Fronsac [more on these shortly]. I’ve already published posts individually on a number of top chateaux in St Emilion in 2022. I’m including these tasting notes again in this post, but I’m majoring on notes and analysis on a further sixteen cru classé and a handful of grand cru tasted with the Grand Cercle. There is usually some degree of variation between properties in any given year. The particular challenges of ’22, in terms of heat spikes and near continuous drought, would also have varied depending on terroir, viticulture and winemaking approaches. That being said, the astonishing thing about the wines tasted at the Grand Cercle was the high consistency. Many of the best wines are weighing in at fourteen to fifteen degrees alcohol [and, yes, it does now seem possible for a wine to achieve balance and weigh in at fifteen degrees] but there is surprising freshness in the wines, delicacy even. And the textures are sublime. So, what were the highlights at the Grand Cercle tasting?
Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Pavie-Macquin are two of my favourite wines in St Emilion [although I confess to having quite a few in the appellation!]. Both are managed by Nicolas Thienpont and his team, both are quite different. Larcis has a wonderful eleven hectare spot on the sunny, terraced south west facing Côte de Pavie. It is a very solar location. Its wines are typically lush and sensual. They are the classic iron fist in a velvet glove – almost more akin to terrific Grand Gru Burgundy than Bordeaux. They also have a magical ability to age. Château Pavie Macquin is often more obviously powerful and structured. It has more varied terroir with a number of different parcels across the St Emilion limestone plateau. Typically, there is slightly more Cabernet Franc in the blend with a spot of Cabernet Sauvignon too. Both properties have made superlative wines in 2022. There is not a hairs breadth between the two qualitatively speaking, though they as ever they are quite different stylistically. I had the pleasure of tasting both in the cellars at Château Larcis Ducasse with winemaker David Suire who works with Nicolas Thienpont.