It seems that those with a vested interest in Bordeaux wines are forever declaring yet another “vintage of the century” or at the very least extolling the virtues of the most recent vintage over previous ones. Since vintage makes a difference, and vintage is especially important to the quality of Bordeaux wines, one has to ask: Just how good was the Bordeaux vintage in 2018? More importantly, what are the chances the wines will live up to the early hype heaped upon them? Will the 2018 Bordeaux wines be any more thrilling than those from the last several vintages, especially those from 2015 and 2016?
Weather determines the overall quality of a vintage. While some wine regions enjoy climates that limit the vagaries of a vintage, others are not so fortunate. The weather in Bordeaux varies enormously throughout the growing season and from one year to the next, as the 2018 Bordeaux vintage can certainly attest. In 2018, Bordeaux experienced devastating hailstorms, excessive rain, severe drought, and an extended harvest into late October. Consequently, one could easily conclude that the weather Bordeaux experienced in 2018 was highly unfavorable and, because weather largely determines the quality of a vintage, the resulting wines will turn out to be equally unimpressive. However, for the châteaux that did not lose their entire crop in 2018 to Mother Nature’s whims, their 2018 Bordeaux reds may be the finest they have ever made.
It is true that the spring and early summer weather in 2018 brought many Bordeaux owners to tears and made others wonder if they would have even a few barrels to make. In fact, quite a few Bordeaux châteaux lost everything to hail and early summer rains, which wreaked havoc in the vineyards and limited crop size throughout Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, the old adage “June makes the quantity, August the style, and September the quality” surely rang true in 2018. Add exceptional weather in October that extended the growing season so that the Cabernet Sauvignon could bask on the vine to perfection and 2018 may turn out more exceptional red Bordeaux wines than anyone could ever have imagined by looking at the weather charts. While hail and torrential rains early in the season dramatically cut production, the excessive rain allowed the vines to cope with the drought conditions that developed later in the summer and fall. The results are extremely concentrated red Bordeaux wines with ripe tannins and higher than average alcohol levels. Early tastings out of barrel indicate that many Bordeaux châteaux have indeed produced their finest wines to date. The bad news is almost every châteaux has a lot less wine to sell and prices will be high due to the exceptional quality and extremely small harvest. So where does that leave the consumer?
Consumers will have a chance to look at Bordeaux’s white wines this year but will have to wait for the 2018 Bordeaux reds to come of age. However, smart consumers and all Bordeaux, Cabernet, and Merlot enthusiasts ought to be purchasing as much of the 2015 and 2016 Bordeaux reds as they can find. Quality across the board, from the lowliest Petit Châteaux to the finest Grand Crus, is exceptional. No matter how great 2018 may turn out, the 2015 and 2016 red Bordeaux wines are already in bottle and they are the real deal. Don’t miss out!