Most of us gamble; it’s a matter of what we choose and how we do it. For some, it’s the thrill of the slots, or the blackjack table, but that’s not the only kind of gambling. The simple act of getting into your car and driving to work is a gamble although most of us wouldn’t see it that way, nor is the fact that many of us are indebted to the banks for a mortgage, or that we carry car payments. Although we might not consider these as gambles, they are. Granted, we hedge our bets on steady income and good health, and usually our odds are pretty decent.
Buying premium wines could also be considered a gamble, and one of the biggest arenas for this endeavour is the labyrinth world of Bordeaux top growths, which are sought after by wine enthusiasts around the world. A couple years back, Aligra plunked down money on a number of 2018 En Primeur Bordeax wines. En Primeur (a method of purchasing) gained significant popularity in the 1970’s and 80’s. The wines are sold as futures, before they are bottled. The consumer pays the opening price as soon as the offer is made (usually while the wine is still in the barrel), and then, up to two years later, after paying shipping costs and any duties imposed, takes possession. The theory: the consumer secures a lower price of a particular wine. This is especially true of wines that garner wide critical praise. For these wines, retail prices often skyrocket as consumers fight to acquire the rare bottles.
Well, the word is out: the 2018 vintage has been heralded as a vintage that was both difficult and exceptional (some say it has the potential to be legendary). Accolades for the entire vintage across the board have been generally stellar. The year started poorly: The winter was unusually wet and remained so throughout the spring. This prompted an outbreak of downy mildew which threatened various vineyards. Hail also struck during this period and a few unfortunate châteaux took significant hits. Conditions eventually eased allowing for a successful flowering and the onset of a hot, dry summer which lasted from June through to September. Though the days were hot and dry, the nights were surprisingly cool, allowing for not only rich, concentrated fruit, but an excellent balance of acid. The weather was ideal for the harvest and many producers were afforded the rare luxury of being able to take their time when it came to picking, ensuring the grapes had reached optimal ripeness. Although it varied, many producers had slightly lower than average yields due to the problems with rot and hail earlier in the year.
Of course, purchasing these wines could be seen as a gamble, but the gamble has the backing of pretty much everyone in the wine world. And if you are worried about price, these wines are actually bargains, considering their provenance and potential for extended maturation in good cellars. Below is a survey of the wines we carry right now in the store, along with some (not all) critical reviews. The survey is in no particular order, nor is it ranked in any way. The quantities are limited, and it goes without saying: when these wines are gone, they’re gone. Read up, go online and do some spelunking of your own. Maybe there’s a place for these wines on that special someone’s Christmas list. Or maybe that someone is you, and don’t you deserve something special?
Chateau Gloria 2018 St. Julien, Medoc. 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc. $94.99 750 ml.
This wine has all the structured intensity and ripe fruitiness of a Saint-Julien. At the same time, it displays a light touch with the black fruits and open texture, promising an attractive wine. Drink the wine from 2026. Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast.94 Points
There's lots here, with raspberry, blackberry, currant and blueberry fruit all playing a role, along with lively briar and licorice snap notes. An apple wood frame keeps the elements in line. Wine Spectator. 96 Points
Readers looking for an estate on the uptick need to check out the 2018 Château Gloria, which is up with the finest vintages I’ve tasted from this Saint-Julien estate. Deeply colored with terrific cassis and blackberry fruits as well as ample leafy herbs and sappy flower notes, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, has polished, elegant tannins, and a great finish. It’s a juicy, fruit-forward effort with good concentration and lots of class. Drink it over the coming 25 years or more. Jeb Dunnock. 94 Points
Château Belle-Vue Cru Bourgeoise Exceptionelle 2018 Haut-Medoc. Cabernet Sauvignon 48%, Merlot 30%, Petit Verdot 20%, Cabernet Franc 1%, Carmenere 1%. $40.99 750 ml.
This wine is dark in color and firm, with big black-fruit flavors. It is rich, intense, and full of tannins that indicate great aging potential. This powerful wine is likely to be ready from 2025. Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast. 93 Points
Cellar Tracker 91.3 Average
The melange of flowers, spice-box, cherries, wet earth and cocoa smells just great. On the palate, things get even better with all the sweet, fresh, energetic, juicy, ripe, soft, textured, red fruits, spice and herbs in the finish. One of the few Bordeaux produced using all 5 allowable grape varieties. The Wine Cellar Insider.91 Points
Chateau Sociando-Mallet 2018 Haut-Medoc. Cabernet Sauvignon 48%, Merlot 47% Cabernet Franc 5% $85.99 750 ml.
93 / 100 Wine Spectator
95 / 100 James Suckling
The 2018 Sociando Mallet delivers a convincing bouquet of blackberry, boysenberry, cedar and light earthy/terra-cotta aromas and nicely integrated oak. The palate is svelte on the entry, offering very good acidity, layered red berry fruit laced with cassis and crushed stone, and an atypically plush, sensual finish. This might well be the best Sociando Mallet I have encountered at this stage, and it will age with style and grace. Chapeau, Jean and Sylvie Gautreau! Highly recommended. 2023 – 2048 Neal Martin, vinous.com, November 2019. 92/94Points
Chateau Dalem 2018 Fronsac.90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.$52.99 750 ml.
This is so energetic and vibrant with dark-berry and citrus undertones that lead the wine to a tight and linear finish. Medium body, pretty fruit and vivid structure. James Suckling 93-94 Points
The 2018 Dalem is deep garnet-purple in color and a little broody to begin, giving way to a core of baked blueberries, kirsch, redcurrant jelly and blackberry pie plus wafts of bay leaves and truffles. Full-bodied with bags of generous black fruit sparked by red fruit accents and a firm, velvety texture, it has a lovely refreshing lift on the finish. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. 92-94 Points
Another successful Fronsac which is smooth and creamy through the mid palate with good fruits and rich roasted coffee bean notes alongside toasted oak, coffee and chocolate. It's definitely not taking its foot off the pedal in terms of extraction, but it is sexy and approachable and ready for pleasure, as the high alcohol helps wrap up the tannins. Decanter 92 Points
Chateau D’Armaillac 2018 Pauillac (Grand Cru Classé). 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc,5% Petit Verdot $119.99 750 ml.
This is clearly one of the most concentrated d’Armailhacs that has been produced in recent decades owing to the extremely small and concentrated berries, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, harvested at the end of the growing season. It’s also one of the best, with clear personality and power, and although still the least complex of the three Pauillacs in the Mouton stable, it should offer the best value giving a ton of rich fruit and cigar box frisson. Tasted several times – always with the same impression. Decanter 94 Points
Black core. Scented with cassis and cassis leaf, lightly cedary. (This last is, unusually, a rare descriptor in this vintage.) Aromatic. Very tannic and chewy, dense, compact and telling you to stay away but not lacking fruit in the middle and the aroma is extremely inviting. Needs time to unfurl. Jancis Robinson
Deep garnet-purple colored, it reveals a very fruity nose of crushed blackberries, warm black cherries and mulberries plus hints of potpourri, spice cake and pencil shavings. Full-bodied, the decadent palate delivers loads of black berry layers and a firm, grainy frame with underlying freshness and an earthy finish. Wonderfully opulent D’Armailhac! Robert Parker's WineAdvocate. 91-93 Points
Château Pougeaux 2018 Cru Bourgeoise Exceptionelle, Moulis-En Medoc. 52% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc $96.99 750 ml.
Poujeaux is a wine that I often hold up as classic example of what the Médoc can achieve, and here again it's a huge success. It has a beautiful nose, with vibrant and well extracted brambly dark fruits on the palate - but not so much that it feels like it's pushing too hard. It's an architectural wine, a more classic take on the vintage, but for me this is where the money is in Moulis. It takes its time to unravel, and the heat of the summer comes through in its rich, ripe mouthfeel. The tannins close in on the finish, which has a menthol and eucalyptus edge that suggests a long life ahead. Decanter. 93 Points
The 2018 Château Poujeaux has plenty of potential and is an impressive Moulis. Pretty notes of black cherries, pipe tobacco, and freshly tilled earth all give way to a medium-bodied, nicely textured 2018 that has good ripeness in its fruit and tannins, outstanding balance, and great finish. It has plenty of potential. Jeb Dunnock. 88-91 Points
Solid core of fruit and polished tannins give this a tight and composed palate. Fresh and bright. James Suckling. 92-93 Points
Chateau Lafleur-Gazin 2018 Pomerol. 100% Merlot $86.99 750 ml.
Black fruits and structured tannins are happily balanced by this wine's freshness. The Merlot gives a huge feel to the wine, not beating about the bush in its density and concentration. At the end, though, there is fruitiness and the promise of freshness as the wine matures. Drink from 2027. Roger Voss Wine Enthusiast. 92 Points
Just an up-front, incredibly charming, irresistible Pomerol, the 2018 Château Lafleur-Gazin offers up a smorgasbord-like nose of red and black cherries, flowery incense, spice, and cedary herbs. With loads of sweet fruit, this plush, layered, sexy 2018 has sweet tannins, no hard edges, and the class to evolve and drink well for 10-15 years. Jeb Dunnock. 92 Points
Gorgeously silky texture, this is a lovely ripped, muscular Pomerol, although the high alcohol slightly threatens the balance overall on the finish. Drinking Window 2024 – 2038. Decanter. 92 Points
Extremely rich and opulent nose of ripe fruit and meat with flowers, following through to a full body with round, juicy and chewy tannins that are polished and rather soft.Intense finish. Try after 2024. James Suckling. 94 Points
Chateau Pavie Macquin 2018 Saint Emilion 78% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. $166.99 750 ml.
Medium to deep garnet-purple colored, it slowly, sensuously unfurls to reveal a gorgeous perfume of Black Forest cake, Morello cherries, baked plums and violets, with nuances of licorice, Indian spices and fertile loam. Medium to full-bodied, the palate has achingly plush tannins and fantastic freshness framing the spicy black fruit and mineral layers, finishing long and so, so fragrant. Wow—just stunning! Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 97 Points
This is just so good. Not overly big, it has nuance, sapidity and grace, with space between the lines. It's not sacrificing its concentration but it gives you a chance to get onboard and accompany it along the way. I love the quality of the brambled blackberry and loganberry fruit here, and the touch of austerity that gives a welcome note of bitter chocolate to the finish. It has great tannic grip and there's no question that this will age well, but it's also extremely drinkable now. Tasted several times, and each occasion blew me away. My favourite vintage to date from this property. Decanter. 98 Points
Sleek, pure, aromatic and streamlined version, with lovely cassis, cherry puree, violet and mesquite notes tightly wound together, while anise and savory hints peek in. Long finish is carried by chalky minerality. A wine of poise. Wine Spectator. 96 Points
Violets, blackcurrants, cloves, tobacco, orange zest and dark chocolate on the nose. It’s medium-to full-bodied with firm, silky tannins and fresh acidity. Sleek and refined with elegant floral and spice notes on a long finish. Interesting hint of bitterness at the end. Try from 2025. JamesSuckling. 97 Points
Chateau La Dauphine 2018 Fronsac Merlot 85%, Cabernet Franc 15% $45.99 750 ml.
The 2018 Château de la Dauphine was a knockout when I tasted it from barrel. Now in bottle, it has a very clean, precise bouquet of shimmering blackberry and wild strawberry aromas, underlying blood orange notes coming through with aeration. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannins, plenty of graphite-tinged black fruit and a very elegant yet long finish. Superb! Neal Martin, Vinous Media. 93 Points
A delicious wine that has been well handled comprising vibrant fruits with brambles and hedgerows keeping things on the right side of slick. A good job done here, with the estate retaining biodynamics even through a tough vintage.Drinking Window 2022-2032. Decanter.93 Points
A tangy and energetic sense to this Fronsac with dark berries, wet earth and a mineral undertone.Medium-bodied, focused and real. James Suckling. 92-93 Points
Chateau St. Pierre 2018 Saint Julien 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc $139.99 750 ml.
Composed of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot, the 2018 Saint-Pierre bursts from the glass with a glorious perfume of kirsch, blackcurrant pastilles, black raspberries and cedar chest with hints of red roses, pencil shavings and spice box. The medium to full-bodied palate coats the mouth with velvety tannins and beautifully knit freshness, supporting the generous black and red berry layers, finishing long and perfumed. It needs a good four years for the oak to marry and the fruit to really hit its stride, then should drink a further 20+ years. Robert Parker’s WineAdvocate. 95 Points
Sports a beam of cassis, plum puree and blackberry sauce running through the middle while roasted applewood, violet and sweet tobacco notes run along the edges. Everything meets and then extends through the finish, with an echo of warm cast iron at the very end. Wine Spectator.95 Points
Copious black cherries, lavender, incense and violet just storm from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit laced with cedar and charcoal. Delivering wonderful delineation and focus and a disarming silky finish, this fulfills the promise that it showed from barrel. An outstanding Saint-Julien that should age well over the next 20–30 years.Vinous. 95 Points.
With an almost Pauillac-like stature and structure, the 2018 Château Saint-Pierre (Saint-Julien) offers a powerful bouquet of black currants, lead pencil, spicy oak, and chocolate and shows more earth and tobacco as it sits in the glass. Deeply hued, full-bodied, and concentrated, it has a stacked mid-palate, building tannins, and one heck of a great finish. It needs to be forgotten for 7-8 years and will keep for 2-3 decades. Jeb Dunnock. 94 Points.
List Of Sources
Wine Searcher Editorial, 2018 Vintage – Bordeaux, Last updated 06-Jul-2021
Suckling, James, Bordeaux 2018: An Exceptional Vintage, James Suckling.com, April 11, 2019
Suckling, James, Bordeaux 2018 : A Vintage Of Superlatives, James Suckling.com, March 4, 2021
Mullen, Tom, Why Vintage 2018 May Turn You Into A Wine Lover, Forbes, Feb 15, 2021
Anson, Jane, How Is The Bordeaux 2018 Vintage Shaping Up? Decanter, February 28, 2019
Quinney, Gavin, Bordeaux 2018 – All Came Right In The End, Jancis Robinson.com, October 31, 2018