2018 – A Marvel
A difficult start – a majestic finish! Like for many other exceptional vintages, the year started quite miserably, with excessive rain, aggressive mildew and hail storms during the first half of the year. Everyone was quite anxious. In June the sun returned and generously stayed with us until the end of the season. Hot days intermingled with fresh nights in September allowed an excellent maturity and consistency and a calm start to the harvest period. An excellent sanitary state of the grapes arriving to the vats put an end to the period of concern. The smiles returned to everyone’s faces, and with that came a strong belief that 2018 is a grand millésime to be classified as very good or even excellent among the last few decades…a wine “out of the ordinary” which will fascinate us during “en primeur “tastings…
Looking back at highly contrasting weather conditions …
We registered a lack of water in autumn, but a very rainy winter helped to build groundwater levels up to their normal (highest winter rainfall level since 2000 with 180 mm). After quite a mild January (+3°C above average), the cold weather was back in February. A period of dormancy allowed the vines to preserve their strength in order to survive an eventual frost.
The spring came with its regular and abundant rainfall (+84% in March), its relatively high temperatures (+2.5°C in April, +1°C in May), and brought in a consistent but quite late budding (5/6 days later than average for 2000-2008 vintages), and a nice flowering. Thanks to favourable weather conditions and a large supply of water, the vines developed at a rapid pace. April frost as ever held the region in fear but the loss remained limited. The first flowers appeared from May, 25th. A rapid and even blossoming was a precursor of a good quality.
The only cloud on the horizon: a combination of humid and mild weather favourable to the aggressive spread of mildew, put a historically strong pressure on wine-makers in Bordeaux. There were disparities on the Left as well as on the Right bank, and also within the same appellation. Some areas turned out to be more vulnerable than the others to the spreading of the devastating infection. During this season full of difficulties, protection methods play a crucial role. Fortunately today technology allows vignerons to detect the infection at early stages and act with precision in order to avoid multiple treatments of vines.
In late May the first hail storm devastated over 7000 hectares of Bordeaux vineyard: the second in early July damaged the regions of Langon-Sauternes and Bourg-Blaye (2000 hectares damaged). In total 10 000 hectares were ruined by the hail.
For some properties the harvest loss caused by various climate incidents was quite dramatic but it still remains marginal as to the total yield in Gironde attaining 5.6 million hectolitres. The total harvest of Bordeaux vineyards is still 9% superior to the average recorded for the last 5 years (source: France Agrimer).
Finally summer came bringing a change of décor. From now on, anticyclonic conditions were particularly favourable to maturing: high temperatures (+2.5°C in July and August), water shortage1 – 66% in August and – 96% in September, and wide temperature fluctuation. The threat of botrytis was definitely behind us. An early, rapid and even maturing of the fruit started in early August. As the harvest started, a generous sun dried out the soil, purified vines, favoured early polyphenolic synthesis, and stimulated colour and the aromatic potential of the fruit. Only young vines were somewhat affected by lack of water. The others attained perfect maturity in ideal weather conditions. The first grapes were picked durng the last week of August.
A great summer was followed by a stunning autumn. The sun put the owners and their teams in a very good mood. Picking went on calmly until the end of September, giving beautiful results both in quantity and in quality. Hot days and cool nights alternated contributing to the perfect maturity of the fruit despite the skin being often quite thick. Depending on the area, drying winds reduced the size of the grapes during the ripening period. While the Merlots had already filled everyone with enthusiasm (picking around September, 10th on mature parcels of Pomerol and Graves), Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon turned out to be astonishing (picked around September, 20th). A signature of a grand vintage is without doubt a consistency of varieties.
The first tastings confirm the extraordinary potential of the wines. The whites despite hot weather, still have a nice tension, freshness and remarkable minerality. As for the reds, one cannot stop praising them: they bring pleasure, freshness, balance, elegance. Well-structured and powerful, the wines contain a good concentration of fruit. Whilst their intense colour is noticeable, they are praised for their delicate and silky tannins. A long-lasting charm is the result of an accomplished maturity…
Bordeaux delivers a great vintage, full of charm and depth. It is an extraordinary vintage in terms of concentration and richness. Some think that the 2018 can be compared to the mythical 1961; others believe it can be approaching the historical 1947; others go further and raise a question if we can possibly be witnessing a “true vintage of the century”? In order to discover this so eagerly awaited Bordeaux, we will see you soon during the En Primeur week.