Bordeaux 2018 en primeur buying guide

I do think 2018 is a Bordeaux vintage to consider buying into – given the right wines at the right price. Here are my ‘en primeur’ scores out of 100 for most of the leading wines, with scores close to 90 or above, from the top appellations. The rating for 2018 is on the left, 2016 on the right. Although the vintages are not the same in style, the wines are often not far apart, quality-wise, and the châteaux will price their new 2018 wines with 2016 in mind.

The first EP price is the opening en primeur price of the wine in the UK in May or June 2017, and the ‘£ now’ is the average list price you’d find, according to Liv-ex. Prices are per case of 12 ‘in bond’ (excl duty and VAT).

These tables are a simple guide to relative values: if my score for the 2018 is the same or higher than the 2016, and the price is the same or cheaper, then it’s worth a look. (And vice versa.) You can compare my 2018 ratings with other critics’ scores on the Livex page here.

The 2016s were bottled in 2018 and are physically available. Many have a long life ahead of them but some are already approachable, such is the purity and freshness of the fruit, and silkiness of the tannins.

In general, the 2018s will require patience, despite the opulence and hedonistic appeal of the wines. I’d reckon on drinking windows of 2028-2043 (10-25+ years) and beyond for many of the top estates.

Some personal favourites in their class in 2018, and for which we hope pricing is reasonable, are in highlighted in bold/italics.

At the foot, there’s also 50+ ‘Bordeaux on a budget’ 2018 reds en primeur. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2018 en primeur and vintage report

2018 is an exceptional vintage for Bordeaux. One of the most challenging starts to the growing season in living memory was followed by three glorious months, with record levels of sunshine, precious little rain and an unflustered harvest, resulting in red wines – at the top end – of extraordinary depth, opulence and intensity.

On show around Bordeaux during the en primeur tastings in late March and early April were hundreds of rich, lush and powerful barrel samples that fully expressed the overt ripeness of the vintage. It was far from plain sailing, however, with many leading châteaux having much lower yields than their neighbours, and there’s a fine line in 2018 between getting the balance just right in such a ripe vintage, with its naturally high alcohol and forceful tannins, and stepping a little too far towards the dark side. And, to be fair, such a full-on vintage might not be to every Bordeaux lover’s taste.

In this report, I’ll try and cover the ups and downs of an extraordinary year. This was my 20th harvest in Bordeaux and my 19th consecutive vintage of tasting the top wines from the region en primeur. A version of this article appears in the May 2019 issue of Harpers Wine & Spirit, the UK trade magazine, for whom I’ve written the Bordeaux en primeur report and complied a list of my Top 100 Wines each year since the 2005 vintage.

My scores for 100 of the best known wines are listed on the handy Critic Scores page for Bordeaux 2018 on Liv-ex insights.

18 things to know about Bordeaux 2018

  • Three warm and dry months from early July through to the September and October harvest, with record hours of sunshine, made for a very ripe vintage.
  • The first half of the year was one of the most challenging, with a wet winter and a wet, humid spring leading to mildew being a huge threat.
  • (It was always going to be a ‘game of two halves’ once France won the football World Cup in July.)
  • Production overall in 2018 was the same as the average of the previous 10 years, following on from the small, frost-affected crop in 2017.
  • 2018 is an excellent vintage for red Bordeaux, with powerful, rich and opulent wines across most appellations.
  • 2018 was a good to very good year for dry whites, with some soft and attractive sweet whites from a prolonged, dry harvest that didn’t lend itself to noble rot.
  • Alcohol levels for reds are relatively high, with 14% the norm for the Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot based wines of the Left Bank, and often higher still for Merlots and the Merlot-Cabernet Francs of the Right Bank.
  • Although the red wines are deep, lush and seductive, this can mask the tannic core and many of the top wines are built for the long haul. Think 10+ to 30+ years for the best wines.
  • 2018 is the fifth fine vintage in a row for the important northern Médoc appellations of Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe.
  • 2018 is not as consistently excellent a year as 2016, but it is right up there alongside 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2016 for quality – and, for Margaux and Saint Emilion, with 2015.
  • Eric Boissenot, the consultant oenologist for many of the leading châteaux in the Médoc, including the First Growths, told me that 2018 is like a blend of 2009 and 2016. Few château owners on the Left Bank are going to argue with Eric.
  • 2018 is unique among the top vintages this century for having such a huge variation of yields among the top châteaux. This is mostly down to the impact of mildew up until mid-July.
  • To bio or not to bio. 2018 is the vintage that really asked the question of growers following an organic (‘bio’ in French) or biodynamic approach in the humid climate of Bordeaux.
  • An untroubled harvest, with the opportunity to pick and choose dates, gave winemakers a range of options. On the whole, we’re seeing a move to more refined styles, rather than blockbusters.
  • 2018 might have been an easy harvest but it wasn’t a straightforward vintage for winemakers. Three months of sun and drought meant less juice, higher alcohol, powerful tannins, concentration, lower acidity – and therefore careful extraction.
  • The extraordinary investment in new cellars, new wineries and new kit continues unabated. Hundreds of châteaux have been transformed this century – many in the last decade alone – and we’re seeing this in the wines, with greater selection and far more precision.
  • Good terroir has a huge impact with a drought. Coupled with the full-on nature of the vintage, and the huge threat of mildew earlier on, high quality wine is not a given further down the price pyramid.
  • There are, though, hundreds of great wines from dedicated growers at all price points in 2018. But I would say that.

Links to previous updates on Bordeaux 2018

My previous reports on Bordeaux 2018 can be seen here – as published on Jancis Robinson’s website and on Liv-ex, the fine wine trading platform:

Hail in Bordeaux 31 May 2018

Bordeaux 2018 – a game of two halves 30 July 2018

Bordeaux 2018 weather and harvest report 31 October 2018

Bordeaux 2018 yields – a devilish year  11 March 2019 Keep reading

March review

Good Lord. The 29th of March 2019 already.

Now we’re into time added on – what in football we used to call injury time – we still don’t have an answer to the most popular question from visitors in the last two and three quarter years – ‘how will Brexit affect you?’ As Brits in France, exporters to the UK from the EU, and as importers in the UK, we’ll put some answers on a postcard in due course, once we’ve got a stronger indication as to where we’re headed.

Keep reading

Q1 in the vineyard – in pictures

The start of the year might seem like a quiet time yet there is so much to be done. We don’t host tours and tastings at Château Bauduc until April, so we have fewer visitors, but along with the bottling and other important tasks in and around the winery, there’s the winter pruning and preparation of the vines for the season ahead. Here’a an album of pics of the pruning, removal of old branches and the tying down of new ones.

With this photo gallery, you can tap, touch or click on a photo to enlarge it and for a description, then use the < arrows > to scroll through. Then use the X (top left) to exit.

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A flying visit to Selection Schwander

I flew to Zürich this week to pour our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc for customers in the tasting room at Selection Schwander. Philipp Schwander was the first Master of Wine in Switzerland and has a remarkably successful business selling wine to private consumers, mainly through mail order. We’ve known Philipp for many years – partly as a result of my somewhat geeky Bordeaux reports – and he’s selected our white for his limited list for the fourth vintage on the trot. In a competitive market, with over 3,700 wine merchants serving the good people of Switzerland, he’s made Bauduc into a popular brand and our Sauvignon is one of his top selling whites. We’re currently exporting more white wine to Switzerland than to the UK right now, thanks to him and clearly a very sophisticated clientele.

With this photo gallery, you can tap, touch or click on a photo to enlarge it and for a description, then use the < arrows > to scroll through. Then use the X (top left) to exit.

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Bordeaux 2018 yields – a devilish year

This article has also been published on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.

As a backdrop to the en primeur tastings that take place at the end of March and the first week of April, here’s a look at the production figures and a few statistics for the 2018 vintage in Bordeaux. More than that, it’s a fairly in-depth breakdown of how the different appellations contribute to the enormous amount of wine that’s made here, and how recent vintages compare.

On the face of it, a year that produced the same amount of wine as the average of the previous 10 years wouldn’t appear to warrant a great deal of scrutiny: the overall figure suggests it’s just an average year, volume wise. As with any vintage, however, the devil’s in the detail and none more so than with Bordeaux 2018, when the equivalent of 666 million bottles were made. (Sorry.) And while it was a glorious year for some growers, and this will be borne out by the tastings, for others the size of their crop was indeed the stuff of nightmares.

Ten highlights of Bordeaux 2018 production

  • Bordeaux produced a fraction under 500 million litres in 2018, the equivalent of 666 million bottles. Keep reading

February review – No posing please and other tosh

What a month. 23°C yesterday afternoon here and who’d have thought we’d need refrigerated trucks to transport our stock around in February.

Not really, but we have been busy with shifting the new vintages of our wines. The complete series is available for delivery in the UK.

Keep reading

A Long Weekend with David Pritchard

Watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in Bordeaux for the umpteenth time when it was repeated earlier this month brought back many happy memories but, on this occasion, it was tinged with considerable sadness. The director and producer David Pritchard, who had worked with Rick for many years, died a few weeks before this showing, following a brave battle with cancer.

On the face of it, the visit by David, Rick and the production team to Château Bauduc on the last day of our harvest in 2015 had culminated in just a few minutes of TV – albeit primetime BBC. By then though, David and I had become good friends and our friendship would continue, from afar, long after the filming had ended. So here’s a small tribute to the great man, with a gallery of pictures of his reconnaissance trip to Bordeaux, when he was accompanied by his wife and assistant Fiona, and of the filming of the Long Weekend itself with his crew.

David was an avid consumer of our newsletter – he would often call afterwards or drop us a line – so it seems only appropriate. Keep reading

No posing for the photo please – The Guardian

‘We need a picture of you with the stock you’re planning to sell’ said Jon Henley, the Guardian’s European correspondent, after he came to talk about Bordeaux wine and Brexit. We duly obliged and how smart the online version of his excellent piece looked. Then the picture editor of the print edition called. ‘Not for us, thanks. We need a ‘living the dream’ shot asap – bringing in the harvest, but no posing please.’ That proved more of a challenge than we thought but no doubt you’ll agree that Ange, Georgie and Sophie, below, don’t look like they’re posing. Not one bit. The boss reduced to a miserly cameo role, top right.

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Bottling our 2018 whites and rosé – in pictures

We’re usually a little wary of bottling in late January or February because of the cold. When you hire a machine to sit outside overnight, you can have nightmares along the lines of the wintry scene at the start of Gladiator, with Russell Crowe saying ‘the frost – sometimes it makes the blade stick.’ (Not quite, but you get the drift.)

Anyway, all was fine. Young Ed Findlay has been working for us in the vineyard and winery for a year. He was a junior school teacher and then photographer in England, before setting off to Bordeaux to live the dream of tending vines. Much as we think his pruning skills are improving, we’ve made use of his creative talents of late, such as with this album of the bottling of our 2018 dry whites and rosé.

With this photo gallery, you can tap, touch or click on a photo to enlarge it and for a description, then use the < arrows > to scroll through. Then use the X (top left) to exit. Keep reading