Bordeaux En Primeur 2018: A First for Australia
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in News
En Primeur 2018 has been a return to form for Bordeaux. But in an Australian first, Langton’s brought Bordeaux En Primeur to these shores at exclusive events in Sydney and Melbourne. We looked at ten en primeur barrel samples direct from the Châteaux side-by-side with the recently released 2015s. Shop the 2018 En Primeur wines here.
James Suckling has called the 2018 vintage 'exceptional' while Andrew Caillard MW, in his 2018 report for Langton’s, has described the wines as 'immortal.'
Bordeaux En Primeur 2018 in Australia
We at Langton’s are very proud of our ability to deliver exclusive access, events and products to our clients. Our access to (and in) Bordeaux is unrivalled in this country, and more Australian collectors trust Langton’s to secure and deliver their allocations than anyone else. No surprises on arrival! We’ve been doing this for a long time and we are unmatched in terms of size and staying power. We’ll be here in the years to come when your En Primeur wines arrive.
En Primeur 2018 in Australia
In an Australian first, our clients (and some of our competitors) joined us for an En Primeur tasting of ten wines. Eight reds and two whites (one sweet) showcased a broad range of terroirs from across Bordeaux. The En Primeur wines were drawn from barrels in the Châteaux and cellars of the négociants before being flown to Sydney and Melbourne. To maintain the integrity of the wines, they arrived at the last possible minute, causing the appearance of a few more grey hairs at Langton’s HQ.
To illustrate the progression of the wine, we showed each wine side-by-side with a 2015 vintage from the same house. From an educational point of view, this highlighted how the wine changes with barrel age–allowing, of course, for vintage variation. Fortunately, the 2015 and 2018 vintages had much in common.
What is an En Primeur tasting?
En Primeur wines are unfinished – what they show is potential. Oak won’t impart acid or any primary vineyard characteristics. They'll remain. So understanding how oak ageing changes a wine is crucial. Tasting the unfinished 2018 with the ready-to-go 2015 illustrated why the Bordelais make wine the way they do.
The surprising thing about Claret
The surprise of the night, in general, was the value. The party line from many in attendance was 'they’re really good value.' We were delighted to hear this, not least because we agree. But also because it highlighted that perception about Bordeaux wine. 'That perception' being that claret is just really expensive. While it’s true that Bordeaux can reach dizzying heights in terms of price (see below for talk about the First Growths), there is value to be found and plenty wines of exceptional quality that come in at a lower price than the top-flight Australian Cabernet and Bordeaux blends.
While many attendees came in search of their preferred AOCs, Pontet-Canet was the star of the show. The wines won over palates, while their Quixotic story won over hearts. The pursuit of biodynamic viticulture cost the Château around 70% of this year’s harvest. Given the heights attained by some of the grand crus across Bordeaux in 2018, this must smart all the more. Still, the commitment of the Tesseron family is unwavering in its pursuit of perfection and must be admired.
Based on vox pops at the event, Clos Beauregard did its reputation with Sydney and Melbourne-based punters no harm at all. It’s Pomerol for a (relative) pittance. The 2018 (due to land in August 2021) is significantly down on price compared to the 2015 (due August 2019) and both are available for quite a bit under $100 per bottle. If truffled dark fruit and chocolate is your thing, but patience is not, then Clos Beauregard should squarely be on your Claret radar. Max Allen was in attendance and described the wine as 'Gorgeous, plump, plummy merlot flavours...' in his The case for drinking claret article for the AFR.
An unsurprising surprise hit of the tasting events was the sweet wine from Château Bastor-Lamontagne. 'It’s not cloying or sugary at all. It’s actually making my mouth water.' Ah, Sauternes, so much more than a pudding wine. In fact, you are far more likely to enjoy this prior to a meal than following it. If you’re in charge of feeding the hungry hordes, then serving a Sauternes will have them salivating. There’s no seasoning quite like hunger. The Bastor-Lamontagne showed bright ripe peach and dried apricot. While showing a viscous mouthfeel, the acid cut through to the saliva glands and, sorbet-like, cleansed the palate to invite another sip. There was a well-worn path from the Bastor-Lamontagne to the very large, very full grazing table. Outside of the rarified world of Yquem, Sauternes are arguably the best value wines in Bordeaux.
The 1855 Firsts Growths
The early growing season worries were put squarely to rest with an incredible run up to harvest. All four of the 1855 Classified ‘First Growths’, alongside a galaxy of other châteaux, released wines that had the reviewers searching for superlatives.
First up, let us look at how the First Growths performed. Of the 1855 Classification, that’s just four original 1er Grand Crus: the Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Margaux and Haut-Brion.
NB: Château Latour no longer sells its wines En Primeur.
Château Margaux was the first First Growth released in 2018. Normally a more 'feminine' wine, the 2018 retains that signature subtle elegance, but with added power and depth. With yields down and a clear winner on their hands, the Château move the price north with an En Primeur release of $1195 per bottle.
Titanic neighbours Châteaux Mouton-Rothschild (2018 En Primeur release price $1195 per bottle) and Lafite-Rothschild (2018 En Primeur release price $1375 per bottle) were released back-to-back, the latter was a slight surprise, with little showing on the rumour mill prior to going live. While Lafite reached for perfection in the opinion of James Suckling with 99-100/100, the 2018 Mouton achieved it with a hard 100 point score. Critics across the board variously swooned at the two great wines. This in itself isn’t unusual, but the extent to which they garnered praise stood out. Given that these are two of the more likely wines to be cellared for 20, 30, 40+ years and the Caillard-certified 'immortal' prospects of this vintage, these two have shouldered their way into the pantheon of great First Growths. Time, of course, will tell.
There is a wonderful ongoing tussle between Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, at least in the eyes of the wine-loving world. We look to both and taste them in context, often asking 'who did it better?' 2018 was pretty close. La Misson will be ready before Haut-Brion, while the latter will reward greater patience. Both wines are extraordinary.
Honourable mention or Wine of the Vintage
Our Senior International Buyer, Florian Thoelke, said of the 2018 Vieux Château Certan 'for me, a contender for wine of the vintage.' The wine has scaled new heights in recent vintages under the management of Alexandre Thienpont, son of Guillaume. The density, concentration and complexity of VCC (as it is affectionately known) underpin what is a strikingly beautiful wine.
That's it for this article but just the tip of the Bordeaux iceberg. Access our portfolio of En Primeur wines here, and our Bordeaux portfolio here. To find out more about En Primeur, the wines of Bordeaux, or to learn how to start your cellar, contact a Langton’s Wine Broker here.