BORDEAUX, France — The splendid 2018 vintage of red Bordeaux marks the fourth consecutive very good to outstanding harvest in arguably the world's most closely watched wine region. Given its marginal climate, which is often too cold to fully ripen its red grape varieties, the current streak of above-average vintages is unprecedented in recent decades.
The 2018 Bordeaux reds owe their lush aromas and generally fine tannins to a warm, dry summer that carried through the harvest without interruption. While a few chateaux suffered significant crop loss due to mildew or hail, the broader picture was one of healthy, ripe fruit that was picked in excellent condition.
Though the reds won't come to market for approximately two years, the quality of the vintage should generate intense interest in the Bordeaux futures market.
I sampled more than 100 of the barrel samples that were presented to the trade and press by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (or UGCB) over the first week of April. Rather than pay homage to the uber expensive and difficult-to-obtain First Growths of the Left Bank, I focused on the wines poured during the official UGCB program, which are no less good but typically easier and less costly to source.
Wines are rated on the 100-point scale but within a four-point range that allows for variation as the wines develop over the next two years. When I taste a barrel sample, I am primarily looking for concentration of fruit, balance and the quality of the tannins. I tasted very few flawed or bad wines over the course of the week, and most of the wines that I found disappointing were due to winemaker misjudgments, such as over-extraction.
Here are my top 20 red Bordeaux from the 2018 vintage:
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Chateau Angelus, Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru — Ultra suave, richly layered with an inviting floral note and aromas of cassis and red currant. Powerful yet exquisitely balanced. 97-100.
Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien — Rich and powerful with impressive depth and a decadently long finish. Shows ripe black fruits with beautifully integrated tannins and excellent balance. 95-98.
Chateau La Croix de Gay, Pomerol — Gorgeous dark fruits, excellent balance and suave tannins. Great potential. 94-97.
Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac — Decadent and richly layered with impressive depth, excellent balance and fine tannins. 94-97.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac — Supple, smooth palate, impressive weight without sacrificing elegance, well-balanced and beautifully integrated tannins. 94-97.
Chateau Petit-Village, Pomerol — Richly layered, showing aromas of blackberry and plum, exceptional balance and impressive long-term potential. 93-96.
Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac — Gorgeous ripe cassis and blackberry on the palate, a hint of floral on the nose, exquisite balance and impressive depth. 93-96.
Chateau Beauregard, Pomerol — Rich and dense, supple tannins, aromas of red and black fruits, and impressive mouthfeel. 92-95.
Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien — Floral on the nose, generous red berry flesh, suave tannins. Outstanding potential. 92-95.
Chateau Gazin, Pomerol — Good richness on the palate, layered aromas of blackberry and plum, impressive length and supple tannins. 92-95.
Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac — Shows an attractive floral note, gorgeous mouthfeel, fine tannins and impressive length on the palate. 92-95.
Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, Pauillac — Richly layered, beautifully structured, intense aroma of cassis. Excellent potential. 92-95.
Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien — Rich, ripe black fruits on the palate, firm tannins and excellent balance. 92-95.
Chateau La Pointe, Pomerol — Dense and rich, complex red and black fruit aromas, impressive length and supple tannins. 92-95.
Chateau Larcis Ducasse, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru — Intense aroma of ripe blackberry on top of a lush, layered palate. Impressive balance and length. 92-95.
Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien — Beautifully structured, impressive depth and intense aromas of cassis and blackberry. 92-95.
Chateau Ormes de Pez, Saint-Estephe — Rich and powerful, layered complexity, showing black fruits, firm tannins and impressive length. 92-95.
Chateau Pape Clement, Pessac-Leognan — Rich and intense, showing dark fruit aromas with firm tannins and impressive depth. 92-95.
Chateau Phelan Segur, Saint-Estephe — Concentrated black fruit aromas, firm tannins that are typical of this estate and an inviting spice note on the finish. Built for the long haul. 92-95.
Chateau TrotteVieille, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru — A hint of violets on the nose, notes of red and black fruits, exceptional richness on the palate and impressive depth. 92-95.
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