Various Médocs 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

24 January 2021

Here we have a “catch-all” review of Médoc wines, given COVID19 restrictions to taste from bottle. Tasting notes of course vary, as much ground is covered, from inland Moulis and Listrac, to Haut-Médoc wines that “see the river”, such as Sociando Mallet. Among the 1855 Classified Growths, tasted blind at Château Belgrave, two bottles came across a bit iffy, so I have reserved my notes and hope to re-taste them from bottle again at a later date. As with other areas in 2018, cooler soils helped to buffer vintage heat, but you sometimes get raisin or heady aspects. 

Médoc/Haut Médoc/Listrac/Moulis – In alphabetical order (with some updates coming)

As usual, if in bold, I liked especially. If red and bold, even more.

Château Agassac (AOC Haut Médoc) – This wine, tasted in Strasbourg along with the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels, exudes tasty ripe fruit, although you get some raisin like aspects, coming from the heat of the vintage. 90

Château Arnauld (AOC Haut Médoc) – This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot is a reliably good Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel and it does not fail to please in 2018, with plenty of brambly fruit, a refined expression and just delicious. Clocks in at 14% alcohol. 92+

Château Belgrave (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted blind. This has fresh fruit primary aspects on the nose that seduce. Smooth and nuanced and juicy. More than delivers the goods. A top Haut Médoc in 2018. Bravo! 94

Château Belle-Vue (AOC Haut Médoc) – One of the top among the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel wines tasted non-blind in Strasbourg, with subtle floral and ripe red and dark fruit aromas. Extra care for superb selection both in the vineyard and in the vat room: important in 2018. The nearly 20% Petit Verdot lends spice and structure, 54% Merlot succulence, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon more structure and body. There is 1% Carmenere, but I will not pretend to detect it  J. What I like about this wine is classicism in a rich hot vintage, coming from the southern Médoc to boot, just near the Margaux appellation. The balance at close to 13.5% alcohol is agreeably fresh for the vintage, but the wine also has density and fine length, with pleasing, Indian Tonic like bitterness. 93

Château Cambon La Pelouse (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted in Strasbourg as part of a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel tasting, this wine blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It needs time to come together, but a rather fresh expression of ripe dark and red fruits. On day 2 it gets better, although it lacks the lush quality of, say, Château Arnauld. 14% alcohol. 91

Château Camensac (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted along with the other classified Haut-Médocs in Bordeaux. Old wood on the nose, not quite that engaging … but the palate much better, with ripe fruit, smooth enough texture, and even  if a touch disjointed, letting it sit in glass, you get impressive length and power. Belgrave has a more pristine sense of balance, but this wine may last the longest of the bunch. 92+

Château Cantemerle (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted blind. Could it be a question of the bottle? The nose is a bit like church banister. A bit of reduction. Kind of rubber like. The palate is better but we get a sense of “this should go away” that is more hopeful than definitive.  Note reserved.

Château La Lagune (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted blind after what turned out to be a superior La Tour Carnet, the nose here is not quite as cohesive. Is there a hint of green? The palate however is suave, albeit with foreboding tannin. With time, the palate density impresses, and thus demands time in your cellar. Note reserved.

Château Lestage (AOC Listrac-Médoc) – A slightly heady aspect, so serve chilled! Very 2018 in that it comes across very rich, and perhaps not to the liking of more “classical Bordeaux”. I do get some dry raisin along with very ripe fruit. The good news is that the wine comes across very juicy on the palate and with impressive density! Overall, a bit simple for a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel but that could be the vintage. The clay soils from this estate help to maintain some freshness. 91

Château de Malleret (AOC Haut Médoc) – Very juicy and a pleasure to drink, this Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, while it may not have as much power as, say, Château d’Arsac (see Margaux), tasting alongside, it has more charm. The tannins are velvety.  A welcoming wine with ripe fruit. Alcohol clocks in at 14.5%. 92

Increasingly precise, and the second wine is darn tasty, too.

Château Mauvesin Barton (AOC Moulis En Médoc) – Lovely pure juicy plum aromas enchant the taster. The palate has fine density and smooth tannin, too. This blend of 54% Merlot, 39.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6.5% Cabernet Franc clocks in at 13.5% alcohol, and it was aged in one-third new oak. The Cabs lend structure and body to the Merlot succulence. I have noticed improved precision to this wine since Michel Sartorius and wife Lilian Barton, of the famous Barton Family, purchased the estate in 2011. Fine effort, too, from Impression de Mauvesin Barton, the second wine. It has lighter plum fruit. And while it lacks the density of the first wine, it comes across as eminently fun, and would grace your summer barbecue. 92

Château Potensac (AOC Médoc) – The wine shows much depth and density, and even if I found myself thinking about the 2016 and its greater freshness, this is an excellent 2018 vintage for one of the best AOC Médoc wines money can buy, with veritable elegance. Less than usual 14 months aging, to avoid getting too much oak tannin, explained director Pierre Graffeuille. Actually in 2016, about two months longer aging in the oak. Special mention for the second wine, Chapelle de Potensac, which is so fun to drink. Bright fruit indeed.  92+

Tasted at the estate. Special label to commemorate 50 years under the Gautreau family.

Château Sociando Mallet (AOC Haut-Médoc) – A special black label to mark the 50th vintage of the estate under the Gautreau Family is striking. This is big and bold, and the back label shows 14.5% alcohol. While not in the same league as 2005, 2010 or 2016, the estate at least made a succulent – if heady – wine in a heady vintage. Big and bold and rather Californian. I went back to the 2010, whose back label indicates a full degree less of alcohol, and it conveys more freshness and proportion. And when you go back to the 2016, which is 14% alcohol, you get a better sense of freshness. On the other hand, the 2015 does not have the sheer bravado of the 2018. A classy wine nonetheless and one that consistently offers more bang for your buck. 93

Château du Taillan (AOC Haut Médoc) – Juicy and ripe red and black fruit aromas, from this Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel tasted in Strasbourg: Quite direct and even somewhat creamy on the palate, with a touch of cassis, coming from the 15% Cabernet Sauvignon: the rest is a huge share of Merlot, making the wine quite succulent, while avoiding a raisin like aspects. While not especially profound, this is a tasty wine that would grace any summer barbecue! Be sure to serve slightly chilled, or cellar temperature, as 14.5% alcohol. 92

Château La Tour Carnet (AOC Haut Médoc) – Tasted blind with other classified growths at Château Belgrave. Depth to the nose. A bit hard, no? And yet this blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon exudes lovely floral stem and ripe fruit aromas along with violet flower. I like the juicy palate; this wine delivers the goods well. Ripe fruit and the alcohol well managed. Do you get fire in the belly? A bit, but not excessively so. A top choice among the Haut Médocs. 93

Château Les Vimieres (AOC Haut Médoc) – Wow, this is old school, and with fine grip! Has Bordeaux almost forgotten this style? There is a muscular aspect, but never heavy or over extracted. And with freshness and drinkability, too. Crafted by none other than celebrated wine consultant Eric Boissenot, this bottle had been opened three days already. Thanks to Jane Anson for the taste. Excellent wine, vigorous. 93

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