The 2018 Pauillac is a contender for the title of vintage. The wines are exceptional! Versatile, deep in color, concentrated, supple, firm, rich and sometimes ostentatious. But despite all their talents, they retain their solid, regal, Pauline nature.
With a lot of wine, the 2018 Pauillac is the best version of the 2009. He’s also in the same shape as he was in 2015.
To get an idea of what to expect, imagine a better version of the 2009, with all its best features, but with more freshness, silkier tannins and a bit more concentration. Of course, not all 2018 Pauillac wines are created equal.
Jean-René Matignon of Château Pichon Baron explained the characteristics of the 2018 Pauillac: In 2018, the character of the vintage is defined by the incredible richness of the grapes, but also by the precision, concentration and accuracy of the aging.
In short, the growing season started very wet. Until mid-July it rained almost daily in the vineyards. This rain quickly caused mold to grow, affecting some vineyards more than others.
Chateau Ponte Canet lost a lot of harvest (up to 80% of the crop) due to a terrible fungal infestation, exacerbated by their commitment to biodynamics. Alfred Tesseron said they continue to run a biodynamic farm despite heavy losses.
Alfred Tesseron said: Despite significant losses and especially the year of litigation, we have decided in good conscience to continue along this path. It was a high price. But we have remained true to our values and to the principles of biodynamics, a simple approach to viticulture based on the natural balance of the vine.
With the arrival of summer, from mid-July, everything changed and Bordeaux enjoyed warm, sunny and dry conditions throughout the harvest period. The best wines have withstood the water stress caused by the summer drought. Vineyards with old vines, access to water, deep gravelly soils that allow the roots to reach the water, or vineyards with a lot of clay in the soil have produced the best results. If you want to know more about the 2018 harvest in Bordeaux.
Nicolas Glumino of Château Pichon Lalande summed up the 2018 Pauillac well: The weather and our improved winemaking skills since 2016 have allowed us to produce the first vintage of a promising 18-19-20 trilogy.
Many winemakers agree, including Jean Charles Keyes of Chateau Lynch Bages and Chateau Haut Batailley, who said conditions in both vineyards were ideal for producing high quality wines with low yields. We had mixed weather conditions with a mild and wet winter and spring. However, the summer was hot and dry. This provided ideal ripening conditions for the grapes, which were further enhanced by ideal weather conditions for the harvest.
2018 Pauillac wines with the best balance of common characteristics, including concentration of flat berries with low yields and healthy ripeness in skins, pips, stems and peels, so the wines are all dark, deep, long and intense. The wine is alcoholic, but there is no sense of heat or excessive ripeness. Don’t be put off by the numbers on the label. These wines are great examples of Pauillac at its best!
The following 2018 Pauillac wines were tasted under non-blind conditions in my home office in early 2021.
2018 – Bataille – Powerful, crisp, fresh and lively in character, the wine is packed with spice, tobacco leaf, black currant, espresso and cedar. More savory than sweet, with a classic crisp mouthfeel and a very long finish. Almost avant-garde in style, this is a charming Pauillac that will mature for at least two or three decades without too much effort. 94 pts.
2018 – Clerc Milon – This is definitely a new level of quality for Clerc Milon. The wine opens with notes of smoke, gravel, violets, creme de cassis and spices. Elegant, soft, refined and fresh. The fruit is just amazing on the palate, with the perfect amount of liveliness to give you a kick and more than enough fruit to give you length. The wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmen Old Vine and has 14.15%. Clearly the best vintage ever produced at Clerc Milone. 95 pt.
2018 – Pastourelle de Clerc Milon – Forward, elegant, supple and already very approachable this lovely wine is perfectly drinkable with all its notes of fresh ripe red fruit, tobacco, forest leaves and flowers. It is ideal to order in a restaurant because it does not need to be decanted. 90 pt.
2018 – d’Armailhac – The darkest vintage of d’Armailhac I have ever seen, from the first swirl and sniff you know this is a new level for this chateau. Smoke, tobacco leaves, blackberries, plums, damp earth and thyme on the nose. The palate is lush, round and deep with layers of ripe, sweet fruit, soft, round tannins, herbs, pepper, dark chocolate, spices and an explosion of dark red and black fruit on the finish. Give him ten years in the basement and he starts showing his talents. The wines are a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. 94 pts.
2018 – Duhart-Mylon – Deep grenadine color, the wine offers spice, smoke, currants, tobacco leaves and cedar on the nose. The wine has more depth than usual and is round, lush, sweet and fresh, with aromatically textured red fruit on a silky smooth finish. Give it about 5 years in the cellar, because it drinks early. This is clearly a new era for Duhart Milone. The wines are a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot, 14.5% ABV. 95 pt.
2018 – Fonbadet – Flowers, smoke, licorice, thyme, tobacco and red fruit are lightly present. Full-bodied, with layers of ripe, juicy, sweet cassis, a cigar and cedar wrapper, round tannins and a juicy finish. 92 pts.
2018 – Grand Puy Ducasse – Dark in color, the wine pours with notes of ripe cassis, espresso, smoke, tobacco, vanilla and blackberries. The palate is sweet, fresh, juicy, crisp and chewy, with black and red fruit, spice and cocoa on the finish. This wine should be aged for at least 7-8 years for an even better experience. The wine is made from a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 48% Merlot. 93 pt.
2018 – Haut Bages Liberal – Medium-bodied, bright, sublime layers of sweet, juicy red berries emerge on the nose, along with tobacco, cedar, cigar box, and a light touch of oak. Bright fruit on the palate, firm tannins and crisp red berry fruit are present from start to finish. 93 pt.
2018 – Haut Bages Liberal La Chapelle de – A nice core of red fruit up front, it’s easy to love the open, approachable style that can be enjoyed at lunch – this is an easy coffee. 87 pts.
2018 – Haut Batailley – Dark, big and bold, with layers of crisp Cabernet Sauvignon character, you’ll also find bitter chocolate, espresso, cigar wrapper and spice. Full-bodied, tannic and concentrated, the wine is rich, juicy, chewy and long. The finish offers ample waves of sweet and tart red berries, cocoa, spice and peppery herbs. The wine is made from a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot, 14.3% ABV 94 pts.
2018 – Haut-Bages Monpelou – Crisp, chewy, ripe, juicy, with tobacco leaf, cedar and currant on the nose and a classic mouthfeel. This is probably the best Haut-Bages Monpelou has ever produced. 90 pt.
2018 – Lafite Rothschild – Captivating in every sense of the word, you know you are in for something special just by seeing the depth of color. From there, you’ll discover an abundance of flavors with aromas of tobacco leaf, cigar box, cedar, red currant, cherry, red plum, 5-spice, floral and earth. Rich yet incredibly refined, the wine offers an incredibly silky texture, beautiful purity of fruit, and a seamless finish that lasts longer than 60 seconds. Made from a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.5% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot, 13.3% ABV. 99 pt.
2018 – Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite – Even with all that Merlot in the mix, there are clear family resemblances to this baby Lafite. Soft, elegant and refined, this structured wine is pure silk. There is good energy and purity of fruit with lots of sweet, fresh, ripe cherries and cherry on the finish. The wine is a blend of 56.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 5.5% Cabernet Franc. 93 pt.
2018 – Lynch Bages – Deep and dark in color, the wine breathes creme de cassis, blackberries, black cherry liqueur, barbecue smoke, Cuban cigars and a background note of roses. On the palate you will find rich, round, juicy, layered essences of stone, earth and fragrant, ripe, juicy fruit. The wine generously envelops your palate with layers of sweet berries that stay with you for at least 50 seconds. With ten years of aging, this will undoubtedly be one of the best vintages of Lynch Bages ever made! And given their quality, that’s saying something. The wine is composed of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, 14.1 ABV. 97 pt.
2018 – Lynch Musas – The aromas of herbs, tobacco leaves, currant, cedar and spice are just beginning. On the palate, the fruit is fresh, lively and bright, with a chewy, crisp, tangy, juicy character that persists into the finish. The wine combines 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot. 92 pt
2018 – Mouton Rothschild – Inky red in color, the wine exudes aromas of Asian spices, espresso, smoke, cigar box, nuts, cocoa, blackberries and currants. If you manage not to look for more nuance in the aroma, the wine hits the palate with waves of dark red fruit and sensual, decadent, velvety spiciness that keep you waiting for more than 60 seconds. Think of the 2018 as an improved version of the 2009, with more concentration, silkier tannins, additional levels of purity and richness. Even with all this sweetness, the wine is energetic and intense. The blend is composed of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc, 13.8% alcohol. 100 Pt
2018 – Mouton Rothschild Petit Mouton by Mouton Rothschild – Is Petit Mouton the best second wine in Bordeaux today? After tasting 2018, this is a distinct possibility. Dark color, the nose jumps with 5 spices, currants, smoke, blackberries and light oak aromas. Silky, lush and polished with layers of sweet, ripe, fresh and round red fruit that develops and lingers. Surprisingly light on the palate, it can age for at least two decades. The blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc reaches 14% alcohol, in part because the wine is so rich. This is the first time the wine has been aged in 100% new French oak barrels and no more than 50%. 95 pt.
2018 – Pauillac – Lush, fruity, round, juicy with layers of sweet cassis, tobacco, cedar, espresso and smoke. The wine has good concentration, depth of flavor, soft tannins and a juicy finish. 93 pt.
2018 – Pedesclaux – Spicy nose of mint, cigar box, tobacco leaf, espresso, cedar, creme de cassis and blackberry. The wine is medium-bodied, sweet, fresh, chewy, bright, with aromas of dark cocoa, espresso, earth, spice and berry on the finish. The wines are composed of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. It’s clear they are developing their game in Pedesclaw. 93 pt.
2018 – Pibran – A strong candidate for Pibran’s best vintage ever released, the maturity of the vintage really shines here. The palate is about medium-length, round, sweet, juicy, red cherry and black currant, which are very pleasant to taste even at this young stage. However, a little patience will add more to this charming and well-sold polubushka. 91 pts.
2018 – Pichon Longueville Baron – Incredibly dark in color, the wine is bursting with aromas of Cuban cigars, cedar, spices, tobacco leaves, red and black currants, forest floor, and pepper jack spices. This could be the most concentrated and powerful vintage of Pichon Baron. The wine is very concentrated, full and deep. But despite all these depths of flavor, everything remains perfectly balanced. The tannins are ripe. Full and luscious on the palate, with layers of ripe, sweet red fruit on the finish, this wine really keeps you hooked. Jean-Ren Matignon believes this is his best vintage. I’m not sure I agree with that. But if not, it’s very close! The wines are a combination of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot. Because of its strength, this is the only vintage of Pichon Baron to be aged 100% in new oak, but the oak is already fully integrated into the wine. 98 pt.
2018 – Pichon Baron Les Griffons by Pichon Baron – Cigar box, red and black fruits, dark chocolate and tobacco leaf notes fill the aroma. The palate is full of depth and richness, ending with a round texture, soft, ripe tannins, plenty of sweetness, ripe dark red fruit, freshness and another nice touch of Cabernet on the finish. 93 pt.
2018 – Pichon Baron Les Tourelles de Longueville – This is definitely a mini version of the Grand Vin. From 2018, you’ll find a kick of sweet, ripe, juicy currants, freshness, spice and tobacco leaf in the front of the nose and silky smooth palate. Already light and pleasant to drink, the sweetness of the fruit in the elegantly structured finish makes you want to sip after sip. It is an excellent second tasting wine. 92 pt
2018 – Pichon Lalande – With striking depth of color, the wine opens up in the glass with notes of espresso, smoke, tobacco, flowers, spice and an array of red and black fruits. This wine has a full body, a rich texture, lush, velvety and silky, and shows exceptional decadent and sexy orange notes. This is a modern version of the legendary 1982 that can easily age 3-4 decades without fear. Leave it in the basement for at least 10 years before disconnecting it. Congratulations to the team at Nicolas Glumino for making this incredible wine! 99 pt
2018 – Reserve Pichon Comtesse – Medium-bodied, elegant, refined, soft and silky, this wine shows its supple red fruit as soon as it leaves the glass and graces your palate. Clean and elegant, in a forward style, this is a beautiful, inexpensive Pauillac that can be enjoyed for at least a decade or more until the Grand Vin develops. 93 pt.
2018 – Pontet Canet – Completely opaque, with a dark purple hue, the wine explodes with blackberries, creme de cassis, smoke, graphite, licorice, spice and just a hint of vanilla in the background. Fishy, concentrated, fresh, round, lush and layered, with pebbles and freshly pressed blackberries, the creamy, luscious finish lingers and entices one to take another sip. This sublime vintage from Ponte Canet should be cellared for at least 12 years and then reveal itself for at least 2 to 3 more decades. Only a small amount of this stone will be available, as the yield was only about 25% of normal production due to extremely difficult weather conditions. 98 pt.
2018 – Tour Sieujean – Black currants and cranberries form the basis of this medium-bodied, crisp, bright, chewy, classic style wine. 88 pt.
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