From June 17 to June 21: END GAME
The Bordeaux 2018 Futures releases ended this week with :
• Pomerol : VIEUX-CERTAN
At the same time, we have put online some (very small) quantities of second tranches of wines that have been sold out so far:
Last week we compared the price of 2018 red Bordeaux wines with those of 2015, a year of comparable quality. These price variations over 3 years give us 6 lessons:
- a few vintages, heavily impacted by the loss of harvest due to mildew, experienced spectacular increases in 2018 but not representative of their usual course: for example in properties under organic cultivation such as Durfort-Vivens (barely 9 l/ha), Ferrière, Fonroque... idem for those devastated by hail such as Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Chasse-Spleen...
- over the last 3 years, the price of the 1st great classified growths has remained constant, on the left bank (Haut-Brion, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild +4%) and on the right bank (Ausone and Cheval Blanc 0%). Only Lafite-Rothschild (+15%) increased but less than the average for Pauillac's classified growths.
- On the other hand, the second wines of the 1st classified growths continue to grow: Petit Mouton (+62%), Carruades de Lafite (+60%), Pavillon Rouge (+37%), Clarence de Haut-Brion (+17%).
- some vintages used the 2018 vintage to reposition their prices, with substantial decreases over 3 years: La Mission Haut-Brion (-19%), Troplong-Mondot (-16%), Suduiraut (-11%)...
- while others show their qualitative ambitions: Figeac (+66%) launched in the race for the title of 1st Grand Cru Classé A in the next ranking, La Conseillante (+39%), Clerc-Milon (+36%), Pichon-Comtesse (+35%), Gazin (+34%), Calon-Ségur and Léoville-Las Cases (+32%)...
- Overall, the price of a large majority of red Bordeaux wines remained stable over 3 years. At less than +5% increase (in constant €), we find:
- most of the Médoc's crus bourgeois
- most of the wines of the Libourne satellite appellations
- number of well-known classified growths: Angélus and Pavie-Macquin (-3%), Malartic-Lagravière and Branaire-Ducru (0%), Prieuré-Lichine (+1%), Saint-Pierre (+2%), Pédesclaux (+3%), Lynch-Bages (+5%)
From June 11 to June 14: TOP OF THE TOP
Finally, all the 1st classified growths appeared this week, left bank as well as right bank, with their second wines:
• Bordeaux dry white : AILE D'ARGENT
As the 2018 season draws to a close, it is now possible to compare the prices of the 2018 Bordeaux wines with those of previous great vintages. Taking as a reference the red Bordeaux wines continuously present in our selections since 2015, the average price of 2018 is just below that of 2016 (-1%), higher than that of 2015 (+16%).
However, while 2015 and 2016 had been vintages of good production volume (in the norm for 2015, +10% higher for 2016), 2018 is in deficit (the lowest vintage of the decade after 2017 and 2013) and the price level of 2018 only partially compensates for the crop loss.
But this is only an overall average with very contrasting trends from one vintage to another. At the beginning of the campaign, we wrote that the 2018 prices should be between those of 2017 (floor) and those of 2016 (ceiling), the 2015 price being a good compromise.
Here is the ratio of 2018 price to 2015 price, by appellation and after deduction of the inflation rate from 2015 to 2018, or 3.02% (INSEE):
- Dry white wines: the majority of the wines are between 0% and +10%.
- the wisest: Malartic-Lagravière (+2%), Domaine de Chevalier (+4%)
- the strongest: Smith-Haut-Lafitte (+31%), Doisy-Daëne sec (+13%)
- Sweet white wines: the average price is down by -3%.
- the wisest: Suduiraut (-11%), Carmes de Rieussec (-7%)
- the only increase: Coutet (+11%)
- Pessac-Léognan red : the average increase is +10%.
- the wisest: La Mission Haut-Brion (-19%), Chapelle de la Mission (-3%)
- the strongest: Smith-Haut-Lafitte (+29%), Haut-Bailly (+24%)
- Médoc/Haut-Médoc : the average increase is +7%
- the wisest: Poujeaux (+2%), du Retout (+2%)
- the only strongest : Chasse-Spleen (+21%)
- Margaux : the average increase is +16%
- the wisest: Prieuré-Lichine (+1%), Margaux (+4%)
- the strongest: Durfort-Vivens (+51% mais 9 hl/ha), Pavillon Rouge (+37%)
- Saint-Julien : the average increase is +12%
- the wisest: Branaire-Ducru (0%), Saint-Pierre (+2%)
- the strongest: Léoville-Las Cases (+32%), Sarget de Gruaud (+24%)
- Pauillac : the average increase is +22%
- the wisest: Pédesclaux (+3%), Mouton-Rothschild (+4%)
- the strongest: Petit Mouton (+62%), Carruades de Lafite (+60%)
- Saint-Estèphe : the average increase is +12%.
- the wisest: Marquis de Calon (-3%), Ormes de Pez (+4%)
- the strongest: Calon-Ségur (+32%), Montrose (+21%)
- Rive droite/Libournais : the average increase is +4%.
- the wisest: Montlandrie (-4%), La Mauriane (-3%)
- the strongest: Domaine de l'A (+14,52%), Les Cruzelles (+10%)
- Pomerol : the average increase is +19%
- the wisest: Feytit-Clinet (+7%), La Petite Église (+8%)
- the strongest: La Conseillante (+39%), Vieux-Certan (+34%)
- Saint-Émilion : the average increase is +10%
- the wisest: Troplong-Mondot (-16%), La Mondotte (-7%)
- the strongest: Figeac (+66%), Fonroque (+26%)
From June 3 to June 7: SECOND BEST
This week will have been the week of (super-)second growths classified or assimilated:
• Bordeaux dry white : SMITH-HAUT-LAFITTE
• Pessac-Léognan red : LA CHAPELLE DE LA MISSION HAUT-BRION, SMITH-HAUT-LAFITTE, HAUT-BAILLY, MISSION HAUT-BRION
• Margaux : DURFORT-VIVENS
• Saint-Julien : DUCRU-BEAUCAILLOU, LÉOVILLE-LAS CASES
• Pauillac : RÉSERVE DE LA COMTESSE, PICHON-BARON, PICHON-COMTESSE DE LALANDE
• Saint-Estèphe : MEYNEY (new), PAGODES DE COS, MONTROSE, COS D'ESTOURNEL
Apart from the greatest wines on our lists as it should be for a great vintage, 2018 was also an opportunity for us to include in our new selections (two of which this week) new vintages or wines, confirmations or revelations of the year:
- in Pessac-Léognan: Haut-Bergey white and Haut-Bergey red. Property awakened in 2011 by the arrival of son Paul Garcin, a former rock musician from the Bordeaux scene. Instant transition to organic farming, artist's wines, intuitive, immediately sapid, tasty and with a strong note of pleasure, white and red.
- in Margaux: Baron de Brane. 2018 is the first vintage in which Brane-Cantenac offers its second wine for the first time, establishing its new status as a brand in its own right, the result of the undeniable progress made in this château over the past 15 years.
- in Saint-Julien: Moulin de la Rose and Saint-Estèphe: Ségur de Cabanac. Two crus bourgeois of the Delon family (cousins of those of Léoville-Las Cases). Two nuggets (7.5 ha each) from the Médoc, wines without blush, of a natural and promising balance of harmonious ageing, and above all well established on their terroirs (more velvety at Moulin de la Rose, more fleshy at Ségur de Cabanac).
- in Pauillac: Haut-Bages-Libéral. After her Margaux vintage, Ferrière, certified organic since 2015, it is now her other vintage, Haut-Bages-Libéral, that Mrs Villars has converted to organic (certified for the next vintage 2019). Progress is evident, as Mr. Bettane pointed out, "94-95/100. It confirms the progress in precision and expression strength that began with 2016. High quality/price ratio likely".
- in Saint-Estephe: Meyney. With a superb terroir (its crest of gravel on the edge of the Gironde has nothing to envy to that of its neighbour Montrose) magnificently maintained, Meyney is in the process of recovering its lustre of the 1950-1970s: the vigour and power of the great Médoc in a very pure and refined style. Great future assured.
- in Saint-Émilion: Grand Pontet. As mentioned in last week's letter, Grand-Pontet is simply a great terroir (on the plateau, adjacent to Beauséjour-Bécot), in the hands of the most attentive and perfectionist winemaker, Mr. Lucin.
- in Saint-Émilion: La Marzelle. In the continuity of the gravel and sand tongue of Figeac and Cheval-Blanc is located in the south La Marzelle. Since this vintage adopted biodynamics (2015), the stylistic relationship with its two prestigious neighbours has become more evident with each vintage. To quote again Mr. Bettane" 96/100. Great terroir, great talent, great year: a 2018 that will be a landmark and is part of the panorama of the year's very great world wines. Remarkable velvety texture reminiscent of the greatest Pomerols, impressive length, undoubtedly the best in history
From May 27 to May 29: HALF-WEEK
A short 3-day week truncated by the extra long weekend (Ascension day), with only 10 new wines but not the least:
• Bordeaux dry white : BLANC DE LYNCH-BAGES
• Saint-Émilion : CANON-LA GAFFELIÈRE, TROPLONG-MONDOT, CLOS FOURTET, BEAUSÉJOUR DUFFAU-LAGARROSSE, LA MONDOTTE
Hats off: a special mention to the very discreet and little mediatized Pascal Lucin. It is he who, as technical director of Grand Pontet in Saint-Émilion, is responsible for the current great shape of this wine, highlighted by critics (here). But also from his own estate, Clos Louie, a magnificent 2 ha nugget in Côtes de Castillon, vines grown organically, partly prephylloxera (there).
A winning duo: in this 2018 vintage, where the know-how and intelligence of winemakers prevail, the Nicolas Thienpont + Stéphane Derenoncourt tandem has done wonders. It is no coincidence that the castles they follow are without exception among the most successful of their appellations. Here are the properties we offer you on both sides of the river, managed or advised by them:
- Médoc/Graves: Poujeaux, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Prieuré-Lichine, Talbot, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith-Haut-Lafitte
- Libourne: Puyguéraud, Alcée, Domaine de l'A, Petit-Village, La Gaffelière, Larcis-Ducasse, Pavie-Macquin, Beauséjour-Duffau, Clos Fourtet
In addition to the recommendations of our letter of May 15, here are the wines that deserve a special distinction this year, whether for their quality and/or their price:
• Dry white wines: Domaine de Chevalier, magnificent 2018 with an unusual roundness and melting for this great white wine known for its liveliness, which is more often biting.
• Sweet white wines: Suduiraut, the most complete of the Sauternes, which, despite a tiny harvest, is lowering its price by 17% (same price as in 2014).
• Graves/Pessac-Léognan: for us, it is once again Malartic-Lagravière that stands out for its quality (always rated between 92 and 95/100) and its price (less than €50.00 including VAT per bottle).
• Médoc/Haut-Médoc: there is no shortage of successes in 2018 among the crus bourgeois of the northern Médoc. Rather than one of the classics of the sector (Sociando-Mallet, Potensac, Clos Manou...), this year we fall in love with Charmail, privileged by its clay soil.
• Moulis: Poujeaux undoubtedly wins hands down, supervised by Derenoncourt (see above).
• Margaux: Brane-Cantenac, at the top of the appellation without being as rare and expensive as its immediate neighbours (Palmer, Rauzan-Ségla...).
• Saint-Julien: between the finesse of Branaire, the fruitiness of Lagrange and the fleshy character of Saint-Pierre, it is difficult to choose a wine in this appellation where competition is so fierce. This year we are opting for Léoville-Barton, both rich (vintage effect) and distinguished (terroir effect).
• Pauillac: apart from the first great classified growths, it is without hesitation (and even if its price is not yet known) Pichon-Baron who wins our votes.
• Saint-Estèphe: Cos d'Estournel's velvety power is formidable this year. Depending on its price (coming soon), the favorite may go to the second wine, Pagodes de Cos.
• Libourne: more than just a vintage, it is the Fronsac and Côtes de Castillon appellations that must be specially distinguished in 2018. Unbeatable quality/price ratios.
• Pomerol: it is impossible to determine a preference for Pomerol at this time when barely half of the wines have revealed their price.
• Saint-Émilion: this year, Cheval-Blanc is the appellation's favourite, but the price is likely to be as high as the wine... At the crossroads of the quality of the terroir, the competence of the team in place and the wisdom of the price, Bellefont-Belcier is the most recommendable for us.
From May 20 to May 24: RESOMPTION OF WORK
After last week's break, the Futures 2018 resumed its course this week with several great growths classified in all appellations:
• Bordeaux dry white : LES ARUMS DE LAGRANGE, CAILLOU BLANC DE TALBOT, LATOUR-MARTILLAC, CARBONNIEUX, DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER
• Pessac-Léognan red : LATOUR-MARTILLAC, CARBONNIEUX, DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER
• Médoc/Haut-Médoc : CHASSE-SPLEEN
• Margaux : BARON DE BRANE (new), DU TERTRE, FERRIÈRE, CANTENAC-BROWN, BRANE-CANTENAC
• Saint-Julien : SARGET DE GRUAUD, LES FIEFS DE LAGRANGE, CONNÉTABLE DE TALBOT, LAGRANGE, TALBOT, GRUAUD-LAROSE, LÉOVILLE-BARTON
• Pauillac : LACOSTE-BORIE, PÉDESCLAUX, GRAND-PUY-LACOSTE, PONTET-CANET
Honour Roll: now that Jacques Dupont's notes have appeared in Le Point (on sale since last Thursday), we can establish the list of Bordeaux 2018 wines according to the 5 most experienced tasters for us (Bettane, Quarin, Dupont, Revue du Vin de France, Galloni).
By retaining the 10 greatest reds according to them, we logically find the largest - and most expensive - Bordeaux wines (in bold those open for reservation):
- named 4 times out of 5: Ausone, Lafite-Rothschild, Lafleur, Mouton-Rothschild
- named 3 times out of 5: Calon-Ségur, Cheval-Blanc, Haut-Brion, Latour, Petrus
- named 2 times out of 5: Cos d'Estournel, Figeac, Léoville-Las Cases, Margaux, Pichon-Baron, Pontet-Canet, Rauzan-Ségla, Trotanoy
But, when we classify the 50 greatest reds of each, wines appear under 80.00 € excluding VAT per bottle (estimated price for those not yet known) which can be considered as the best quality/price ratio among the greatest wines of the 2018 vintage:
- named 4 times out of 5: Domaine de Chevalier, La Gaffelière, Léoville-Poyferré
- named 3 times out of 5: Léoville-Barton, Saint-Pierre
- named 2 times out of 5: Beauséjour-Bécot, Branaire-Ducru, Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac-Brown, Clerc-Milon, Durfort-Vivens, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Gruaud-Larose, Larcis-Ducasse, Malescot-Saint-Exupéry, Pape-Clément, Pavie-Macquin, Talbot
From May 13 to May 17: VINEXPO BREAK
As planned, this week being occupied by Vinexpo Bordeaux and its many related events, no new Bordeaux cru has appeared (with two beautiful exceptions). Fortunately, two producers outside Bordeaux took the opportunity to offer their 2018:
• Rhone Valley : TARDIEU-LAURENT
• Spain : DOMINIO DE PINGUS
2018 in the Rhône Valley: another great vintage, the 4th consecutive after 2015, 2016 and 2017, but in an inverted profile where those from the south are fresher and less rich in alcohol than usual while those from the north show a more southern richness and unctuousness.
- in the south, the harvest is low due to grenaches decimated by mildew in spring. Quality level and breed comparable to 2015 on Châteauneuf, Gigondas, Rasteau, etc. Great success of the mourvèdre (superb Bandol).
- in the north, perfectly ripe Syrah has produced seductive wines with velvety tannins. They will evolve quite quickly and the charm will be there. Halfway in style between 2009 and 2010. To be noted is a new white wine, Crozes-Hermitage Vieilles Vignes, 100% marsanne over 50 years old.
2018 in the Duero Valley: same meteorology as in Bordeaux with a wet spring and a dry summer. By harvesting quickly and early (from September 26 to October 8), Peter Sisseck avoided the dangers of the vintage (too high alcohol and hard tannins). Thanks to its sweet extractions, its wines are especially aromatic and very fine, unlike any other in Ribera del Duero this year.
2018 in Bordeaux: on May 15, we published our general comment on the vintage in Gironde : here.
From May 6 to May 10: AT FULL THROTTLE
VINEXPO, the world's leading wine and spirits exhibition, will be held in Bordeaux from 13 to 16 May, with a large number of Châteaux rushing to offer their 2018 before next week's break. Here are the thirty wines selected this week:
• Bordeaux dry white : VIRGINIE DE VALANDRAUD, LARRIVET HAUT-BRION, CLÉMENTIN DE PAPE-CLÉMENT, PAPE-CLÉMENT
• Pessac-Léognan red : CLÉMENTIN DE PAPE-CLÉMENT, LARRIVET HAUT-BRION, PAPE-CLÉMENT
• Médoc/Haut-Médoc : POUJEAUX
• Margaux : PRIEURÉ-LICHINE, MALESCOT SAINT-EXUPÉRY
• Saint-Julien : MOULIN DE LA ROSE (new), LALANDE-BORIE, GLORIA, LA CROIX DUCRU-BEAUCAILLOU, SAINT-PIERRE, BEYCHEVELLE
• Pauillac : D'ARMAILHAC, DUHART-MILON ROTHSCHILD, CLERC-MILON
• Saint-Estèphe : SÉGUR DE CABANAC (new), MARQUIS DE CALON-SÉGUR, HAUT-MARBUZET, CALON-SÉGUR
• Right bank/Libournais : REYNON, LA VIEILLE CURE, D'AIGUILHE
• Saint-Émilion : CÔTE DE BALEAU, GRAND PONTET (new), FOMBRAUGE, POESIA, BARDE-HAUT, VIRGINIE DE VALANDRAUD, CLOS DE L'ORATOIRE, LARCIS DUCASSE, PAVIE-MACQUIN, VALANDRAUD
Calon-Ségur: due to a reduced harvest (mildew + drought) and a vineyard undergoing restructuring (grubbing-up + replanting), the volumes allocated by the château in 2018 are the lowest since 2012, forcing us, with great regret, to offer this wine only to 2017 buyers. If this is your case, do not hesitate to contact us before the end of May 2019.
Tasters present: many notes on the 2018 Bordeaux wines have now been published and, as expected, they are excellent and even exceptional. For each wine, you have on our site the notes and (partial) comments of the tasters we consider most relevant and whose opinions most often overlap ours:
- Michel Bettane, freely accessible on www.mybettanedesseauve.fr
- La Revue du Vin de France, May (already published) and June (to be published Wednesday, May 29) issues,
- Jacques Dupont, in Le Point magazine to be published on Thursday, May 23,
- Jean-Marc Quarin, by subscription on www.quarin.com
- Antonio Galloni, by subscription on www.vinous.com.
Absent tasters: three criticisms, which we shared with you in previous years, are not mentioned:
- Neal Martin, on subscription on www.vinous.com, will only come to Bordeaux in 2018 next September and we will not fail to give you his assessments as soon as they appear (at the end of the year),
- Bernard Burtschy, an excellent taster for 30 years at La Revue du Vin de France, Gault-Millau and Le Figaro, has now retired,
- The Wine Advocate, decimated since Robert Parker's retirement and the departure of Mr. Galloni and Mr. Martin, no longer has in our opinion the past expertise.
From April 29 to May 3: UPSCALING
The "Primeurs 2018" campaign continues on its launch, with around twenty vintages selected this week, including several grand cru classés, while remaining at an intermediate price between 2016 and 2017:
• Pessac-Léognan red : HAUT-BERGEY (new), MALARTIC-LAGRAVIÈRE
• Médoc/Haut-Médoc : MILLE-ROSES, FONRÉAUD, SOCIANDO-MALLET
• Margaux : DEYREM-VALENTIN, SIRAN
• Saint-Julien : LANGOA-BARTON, BRANAIRE-DUCRU, CLOS DU MARQUIS
• Pauillac : FONBADET, HAUT-BAGES-LIBÉRAL (new)
• Saint-Estèphe : ORMES DE PEZ
Here are in detail the three climatic events to be considered for the 2018 Bordeaux wines, two have affected the quantities and one concerns quality:
• after a winter (December-February) that was much wetter than the norm (+26%), there was a particularly wet March: 113 mm for an 30-year average of 65 mm. The soils were soaked, favouring the departure of the vine but also and especially mildew. In the memory of a winegrower in Gironde, never before has there been such a strong and long (until July) pressure from this fungus, which first attacks the leaves and then the bunches. Organic vineyards have been heavily impacted, especially those less experienced in conversion, but also those in conventional cultivation. It only took one or two days of delay in a treatment for the damage to be significant).
• second event, violent hailstorms very localized but devastating for the properties concerned:
- May 26th on Pessac-Léognan (Pope-Clement...) and southern Médoc (Cantemerle, La Lagune...),
- on July 15th on Sauternes (Fargues, Guiraud, Rieussec...) and again in the southern Médoc.
• the third event, the most important because it shaped the profile of the 2018 vintage, is the mid-July weather changeover. From July 17, summer settled in and never left the Gironde until the end of October: 15 continuous weeks of hot weather (+2.8°C compared to the norm, 26 days at over 30°C) and incredibly dry: in 3 months it fell barely a quarter of the usual rainfall (58 mm instead of 210 mm). With a month of September practically without water (3.2 mm instead of 80 mm), the weather was cloudless, allowing everyone, in white and red, to pick at their ease and according to their choices.
Outside Bordeaux, Domaine Jean CHARTRON has just offered its 2018 wines for the first time:
• Burgundy dry white : Domaine Jean CHARTRON, three villages, four 1ers crus, two grands crus
After several years of minimal production (frost, hail...), Côte de Beaune has regained a smile in 2018 with a harvest finally complete, with golden, ripe and perfectly healthy grapes. The wines, rich and pulpy, have very expressive fruity aromas with gourmet structures. In contrast to the liveliness of 2014 or 2010, closer in style to 2000 or 1990.
From April 15 to 26: LAUNCHING FOR 2018 FUTURES
From mid-April and without waiting for Easter, Angelus launched the "Futures 2018", which has since been followed by a number of vintages. Thus, there are already 35 vintages on our lists while we are only at the end of April:
• Graves red : CLOS FLORIDÈNE
• Médoc/Haut-Médoc : DU RETOUT, PETIT MANOU, MAUVESIN BARTON, BELLE-VUE, CHARMAIL, PETIT-VERDOT by BELLE-VUE, CLÉMENT-PICHON (new), CLOS MANOU, POTENSAC, LA TOUR CARNET
• Margaux : LA TOUR DE MONS, LA GURGUE
• Saint-Estèphe : TOUR DES TERMES
• Right bank/Libournais : PUYGUÉRAUD, ALCÉE, LA CHENADE, DALEM, MONTLANDRIE, HAUT-CARLES, LES CRUZELLES, CLOS DE BOÜARD, LA FLEUR DE BOÜARD, CLOS LOUIE
• Pomerol : LA PETITE ÉGLISE
• Saint-Émilion : MOULIN SAINT-GEORGES, BELLEFONT-BELCIER, CARILLON D'ANGÉLUS, ANGÉLUS
We will give more details in the next few letters the particular circumstances of the 2018 Bordeaux vintage, but here are some of the key points that shaped this vintage for red wines:
• Weather forecast
- very wet spring until mid-July, responsible for a mildew that is all the more devastating in organic (or in conversion) properties,
- from mid-July onwards, the weather was durably warm and dry until the end of October, producing concentrated grapes with thick skins and calm harvests.
- undoubtedly, 2018 is a very great vintage for Bordeaux reds, globally at the level of 2015 and a notch below 2016.
- but, unlike 2015 and 2016, 2018 is very heterogeneous, exceptional wines (fruity, tasty, deep and dense flesh) alongside other unbalanced wines (hard tannins, high alcoholic degree), in all appellations and for all grape varieties.
- 2018 will produce "serious" wines, rich and tannic and therefore long-lasting. After the charms of their first youth in the year following bottling, they will close again and should be expected to last for a good ten years (or more...).
- the mildew of spring, then the hail storms of June-July and the drought of summer explain the 2018 harvest, which was finally quite low in Gironde (5 million hectoliters), placing 2018 behind 2016 (6 Mhl), 2015 (5.5 Mhl) and 2014 (5.4 Mhl).
- we are only at the beginning of the Futures but it is easy to guess the price of the 2018 futures, between the price (ceiling) of 2016 and the price (floor) of 2017. The 2015 price in Future 3 years ago is in our opinion a good compromise, those who want to derogate from it must have solid qualitative arguments.