tirsdag 9. april 2019
The new, very beautiful wine shop and reception at Château d'Yquem
Primeur week is over and this year’s marathon for wine critics is over, even if Anteprime de Toscana isn’t much behind on that front. 900! Wines tasted this year by me, by far the most I have ever done, but I also spent a little longer in the region. A Chinese TV crew named me the tasting machine after a colleague of mine travelling with was asked where I was. Oh, Christer still tastes, he is like a tasting machine he answered, and there you have it. Maybe you have gotten used to Yves Beck and “Beckustator”, now “The tasting machine” might join the force. Who knows?
The famous gate of Léoville Las Cases
2018, a brilliant vintage, but not for everybody. That means both estates and customers. Some wines are very dense, some are quite untypical for their usual profile, and some have quite high alcohol levels, so you might need to consider those factors when buying. If you like rich, dense and big Bordeaux, 2018 is a vintage for you, if you like freshness, liveliness and more classic expression, there is still lots of 2016 out there for you. Some remarkable wines were made in 2018, some will probably be legendary. Both because of high quality but also because of difference in style. Calon Ségur is one of the densest, deepest and most alcoholic wine ever produced at the estate. If it is a turning point towards a new style of the house or just one vintage going in a different direction, we don’t know yet. But it is certainly different. It is a great wine, and it will be up to you to determine in the future if you find it a great Calon Ségur. I’m on the fence, I think it is too much personally. But 2003’s surprice me every time I taste them, so even if 2018’s for the most part seems to have higher alcohol, even quite a bit higher, they might show more classical in the future.
The lovely Saint-Emilion
The acidity isn’t really high this year, yet most wines seems to have enough lift not to feel flabby. Tannin levels are high yet fine grained and like snowflakes more or less across the region. So they don’t feel quite as high as they actually are. 2010 and 2011 had similar levels even if quite some estates have even higher this vintage and therefore the highest IPT as they say, ever. I will go further in detail for each commune as I publish notes from them, but Pomerol, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac and Fronsac has very few wines that are not stand outs in their own right from the producers. Many have made their best, or one of their best ever, across all price levels and classifications. Saint-Emilion is much more widespread, but so is the soil and microclimats. Clay and/or limestone is key to have kept enough water for the drought from late June and more or less throughout the season. Many have low crops due to unheard of mildew problems. Yet others sprayed freely and still maintained 40hl/ha which means they sprayed quite a bit. Biodynamic estates like Palmer, Durfort Vivens, Pontet-Canet and others have lost up to 80% of the crop due to mildew, but also pour fruit set due to the wet and rainy spring. Most have done better than that. I didn’t taste Durfort-Vivens, La Ferrière and Haut-Bages Liberal due to low production and the wines were not at the tastings where I normally taste them. If that was the case with Troplong-Mondot and Les Carmes Haut-Brion as well, I don’t know. There just isn’t enough time to visit everyone and everybody at the one place they might show their wine, or not. Too many have already left the big tastings. Some critics are now spending three to four weeks in Bordeaux to taste through everything. I just don’t have that time on my hand. Or the budget to keep a rental car for that long. Yet I managed to taste 900 wines plus another few hundred wines from older vintages.
Lovely Wisteria acros Cirons, the small river giving us the fog that creates Sauternes
The beauty of 2018 is that some inexpensive wines like those of Fronsac, Lalande de Pomerol, plain Bordeaux appellation and the Cotes, Cadillac for example as well as Cru Bourgeois have made superb wines within their level and classification. Graves as well. Rarely have I enjoyed tasting wines costing sometimes less than €10,- per bottle en primeur more. So it is a vintage where you can buy lots of inexpensive wines to enjoy over the next five to twenty years depending on estate, region and how you like them. There will be lots of great value!
Whites are not as bad as some critics state (at least while still in Bordeaux, as I haven’t seen much published yet). The freshness is quite well balanced with the fruit and concentration of each wine even if the wines are not as playful nor as complex or long as they can be. Some lovely wines for medium term drinking was made for sure. I expected them to be quite flabby. And I didn’t really find that many. If you like them crisp, it isn’t the white or sweet vintage for you, but I wouldn’t avoid them totally. But read comments carefully to find the freshest ones. PH levels were generally low enough for freshness across all ranges (also red) but some exceptions is out there.
Relaxed tasting at Château Haut-Bailly
The fine-tuned winemaking and details in Bordeaux wines these days are unparalleled. There has never been anything like this vintage, both in terms of style but also due to how precise the wines are. There is a shift after 2013 and it is increasing every year. Producers know their plot better and better, replanting with right varieties to the soil, and even right clones of the variety to the soil, the right rootstocks, precise vats that fits the plot of that one terroir that is in this one parcel, to ferment it by itself and so forth, gives incredibly precise wines. Harvests wher half a row is picked, and then wait a day or four for the rest of the row to reach perfection according to the team of each estate is making these wines incredible to taste. The worry is if it changes the style of the wines we all adore with enough years in the cellar. We don’t know yet, but seeing how 2000’s, 2003’s, 2005, 2009’s and so forth seems to be heading, I worry less about it now than I used to. 2009 is already ten years even if I still think of it as a baby. The last ten years with magic vintages like 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016 and now 2018 is unheard of, and still there is the superb yet forgotten 2011 (it is another 2001, and I have said it for years. Finally I heard a Bordeaux producer saying the same, and it was none other than Hubert de Boüard de Laforest himself). I have preached that 2011 is a steal for years. 2012, blander but more charming is more expensive. 2012 won’t be more charming for much longer, the 2011’s are just starting to unfold their buds.
2018, a brilliant vintage, but not for everybody. More will be published soon!