Ah, spring, time in Bordeaux for the 2018 en primeur tastings take place, and time to think about the 2018 vintage: what happened, how the wines were affected, and what fine wine to look forward to drinking! Today we focus on the Left Bank, from the Medoc down to where the chilly Ciron hits the Garonne, creating the magical mist that propagates noble rot and brings us those tasty wines known as Sauternes.
The Left Bank soil is a mix of gravel and clay. How much moisture the year brings and how hot it gets will affect how stressed the wines are and how they ripen. 2018 was perilous at first. A wet winter and spring brought the threat of rot of the non-noble type, as well as mildew. This was particularly a problem for those practicing organic or biodynamic viticulture. The yields of producers like Palmer and Pontet Canet were affected, though the surviving juice is expected to be exquisite. Hailstorms in the southern Medoc threatened to knock out grapes, whether quality or not. Then the tides turned. Between August and October it got very hot. The harvest season was cited as being long, and nearly perfect.
All the heat and lengthy hang time meant deep color, concentration, and lots of sugar—a recipe for wines potent both in flavor and alcohol. Some of the grapes raisinated on vine. This can result in lower acid, which could be seen as a caveat. Still, some are saying 2018 is looking to be a fantastic year, on par with 2010. Many at the tastings are calling it a Cabernet year, as Merlot had more problems with acidity. Malbec did particularly well, so Decanter says we might see a larger proportion of it in the blend.
As for the whites and sweet wines, the acidity in the whites is adequate. The botrytis set in later than usual for Sauternes, but as with the reds, concentrated flavors abound, verging on tropical.
And now, of course, we want to recommend some wine! Top scores were given to First growth Château Margaux as well as Third growth Château Palmer. Strong structure and sturdy tannins as well as depth of concentrated fruit will make them long-loved. Château Latour maintained its elegance along with its power. Mouton-Rothschild rounds out the list of wines scoring 97-99 points.