Well I have just broken one of my own rules… `never buy En Primeur again William`, I mumbled to myself back in 2016.
Well there we go, it’s great making plans and rules, but then again, it’s a human privilege that we can always change them or break them up. So, I have just used my privilege, and done just that, as I have ordered some 2018 Ch.Palmer, some 2018 Ch.Tertre-Rotboeuf and a little 2018 Ch.Ausone, of course all ‘en primeur’, ex Bordeaux negociant.
The 2018 vintage is a fascinating vintage for me and has been marked by two meteorological halves: persistent rain through the spring until mid-July, and then an unblemished, rainless summer of hot days and cool nights. Ultimately each château’s wine has been defined by decisions taken on how and when to combat the mildew attacks that peaked in June, and when to harvest, given there was no time pressure due to the seemingly unending summer. The latter is an uncommon luxury for producers, and it left many asking themselves the question: just how ripe do I want my grapes to be?
The advantage of a later harvest is that all the tannins, in the skins, pips and stalks are able to achieve exceptional ripeness, but that can come at the expense of acidity. There seem to be two schools of thought this year: those that felt they could achieve greater phenolic ripeness without unduly increasing sugars or diminishing freshness, or those that valued acidity over the extraordinarily rich textures available to those who waited. Well my megre trio are here:
2018 Château Palmer is still Palmer in its overall purity and elegance, but it is a different animal in many respects, not the least of which is the blend, of which Cabernet dominates and Petit Verdot comprises a hefty chunk (53/40/7% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot). It has an opaque core of cassis and blackberry purée that is stunning in its purity and definition. Then there is wave after wave of lilac, violet, black tea and sweet tobacco notes, embedded perfectly in the fruit. The finish has terrific drives, like a metronome, but bristling with energy. It flirts with flamboyant along the edges but stays laser like in its focus, with a lingering iron streak. It is quite simply a spectacular wine, with its high quality amplified by the story of the vintage captured within. There are only 6,000 cases produced in this 2018 vintage, and I cannot wait to taste the final bottled version of it.
2018 Ch.Tertre-Roteboeuf is made up of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, and aged in 100% new oak. A whopping 16.2% alcohol and yes, it is always a joy to taste at Tertre Roteboeuf and as normal is always an opulent and flamboyant wine and the 2018 vintage is no exception. In spite of the seismic levels of alcohol this wine is super-smooth, and as Louis Mitjaville put it, ‘digest’. This one word sums up the elemental beauty of Tertre Roteboeuf in that it tastes cosmically beautiful but it is also a joy to drink and savour. In spite of the massive intensity and kaleidoscopic fruit this is an insanely pretty and velvety smooth wine. Heroic in all departments, I have no idea when it will start drinking let alone when it will finally run out of energy. I expect that it will perform miracles on your palate on any given date in the next half century and I guarantee that you will be amazed when you have tasted what I have had the immense pleasure of tasting.
Finally, or should I say ‘short and sweet’…
The 2018 Ch.Ausone is composed of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot. The Merlot was harvested September 25 and 27, and the Cabernet Franc was harvested October 3, 8 and 9. Deep purple-black in color, it is an impenetrable wall to begin, unrelenting without persistent coaxing, at last uncoiling to offer glimpses at preserved plums, blueberry coulis, molten licorice and underbrush with emerging scents of lavender, iron ore, crushed stones, charcoal and Indian spices plus a waft of red roses. Full-bodied, rich, decadent and tightly knit, it offers layer upon layer of fruit, spice and mineral nuances with a firm frame of exquisitely fine tannins and bold freshness, finishing with epic length and heart-stopping beauty.
So there we go, that’s it for this year, and seriously I am not sure if I am going to do this again. As they say, your guess is as good as mine. And as there are only a very few cases of each on their way arriving in the years 2021/2, quite frankly who cares anymore. I as hell do care a lot, but that’s another story, and I am looking forward immensely to drinking all three wines, 4/5 years later, even if you don’t want to.
Cheers big ears!