A few members of the Vinfolio team recently visited France to experience 2018 Bordeaux en primeur week firsthand. We began our journey at the remarkable Château Haut-Brion and ended at the spacious Château Cos d’Estournel. Over a three-day period, we tasted dozens of wines directly from the barrel and were deeply impressed with each of them. The quality of the 2018 vintage is very high and we’re excited to see how these wines evolve over time.
Whether you’re a seasoned Bordeaux collector or you want to start a collection from scratch, the 2018 vintage makes an excellent addition to a cellar. These wines are rich, concentrated, finessed, and elegant. While it’s still a very young vintage that has a long way to go, it’s already showing great promise. In this guide, we’ll offer you tips on which 2018 wines we think are worth collecting and provide you with some useful market projections that you can use to make investment decisions.
A Difficult Vintage, But Quality Is Very High
Gavin Quinney of Château Bauduc called the 2018 Bordeaux vintage “devilish.” He said, “While it was a glorious year for some growers, which will presumably be borne out by the tastings, for others the size of their crop was the stuff of nightmares.” The spring season was rainy and damp, creating the perfect conditions for mildew. Infected grapes had to be culled early to prevent the spread of mildew, which significantly reduced yields at many estates. As if that weren’t enough, some areas also suffered unexpected hailstorms in May and July. Vineyards in Haut-Médoc, Sauternes, Bourg, and Blaye were damaged by hail, which further reduced the size of the crop.
However, by mid-July, the weather improved. The summer growing season was warm and dry across Bordeaux, allowing the remaining grapes to ripen fully and develop intense concentration. Temperatures were higher than average in most vineyards and the heatwave continued into the early harvest season. The region saw some light rain later in the fall, but it never came close to diluting the grapes. Instead, producers that let their grapes hang on the vines a little longer (as long as mid-October for Cabernet Sauvignon) benefited from the late-season rain and cooler conditions, which increased acidity levels in the grapes and balanced out the concentrated sugar.
Overall, you can expect slightly lower acidity and greater concentration than usual in many 2018 Bordeaux wines.
On the whole, these weather conditions resulted in deeply concentrated wines that are very high in alcohol, yet the most successful producers made wines that are still well-balanced and finessed. We tasted 2018 Château Lafleur during our trip and found that, although the wine was intensely flavored, it also had incredibly fresh acidity and a lifted, floral bouquet; its power was subtle. Many other producers made wines of equally high quality in 2018 and it will likely be remembered as one of the best Bordeaux vintages of the decade. Cabernet Sauvignon did particularly well in 2018, as the weather conditions were ideal for this thick-skinned, sun-loving grape.
Nevertheless, not all producers had as much success in 2018. Since Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon require slightly cooler conditions to ripen perfectly, many white wine producers struggled to make balanced wines. In 2018, temperatures were so high and water so scarce that many white grape varieties developed far less acidity than usual. Based on early en primeur tastings, the whites are concentrated and delicious, but some are slightly high in alcohol and lack balance due to low acidity. This is not the case on every estate though. Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, for example, is showing great promise. Sauternes has also been successful; botrytis onset was late, but noble rot did eventually affect most of the grapes, producing sweet, complex, and lush wines.
Overall, you can expect slightly lower acidity and greater concentration than usual in many 2018 Bordeaux wines. Their complex flavors should make these wines fascinating to drink and some of the best bottles may have great aging potential as well.
Top 2018 Bordeaux En Primeur Scores
It’s still too early to say with any certainty how high in quality 2018 Bordeaux is or exactly how it compares to past vintages. However, now that the 2018 Bordeaux en primeur season is over, we have a better idea of what these wines taste like.
We’ve put together a list of the estates that received some of the highest scores from critics during 2018 Bordeaux en primeur week. To rank the wines, we gathered scores from the following wine critics, Masters of Wine, and other experts:
- James Suckling
- Matthew Jukes
- Jane Anson
- Rod Smith
- Jeff Leve
- Lisa Perrotti-Brown
- Chris Kissack
- Julia Harding
- Gavin Quinney
- Jeb Dunnuck
- Antonio Galloni
We then averaged the scores given by these experts to each Bordeaux estate. Here are the highest-ranking producers according to these critics’ average Bordeaux 2018 scores:
- Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (99)
- Château Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarrosse (98.5)
- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou (98.5)
- Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion (98.5)
- Château Ausone (98)
- Château Pétrus (98)
- Château Lafite Rothschild (98)
- Château Léoville-Las Cases (98)
- Château Rauzan-Ségla (98)
- Château Cos d’Estournel (98)
- Château La Conseillante (98)
- Château Trotanoy (98)
- Château Smith Haut Lafitte (98)
- Château Pavie (98)
More Top-Scoring Producers
- Château Cheval Blanc (97.5)
- Château Lafleur (97.5)
- Château Angélus (97.5)
- Château L’Église Clinet (97.5)
- Château Pavie-Macquin (97.5)
- Château Mouton Rothschild (97)
- Château Latour (97)
- Château Margaux (97)
- Vieux Château Certan (97)
- Château Palmer (97)
- Château Haut-Bailly (97)
- Château Montrose (97)
- Château Léoville-Poyferré (97)
- Château Haut-Brion (97)
- Château La Mission Haut-Brion (97)
- Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf (96.5)
- Château Figeac (96.5)
- Château Pontet-Canet (96.5)
- Château Le Pin (96)
- Château Calon Ségur (96)
- Château Pichon Baron (96)
One other factor to consider is how 2018 Bordeaux will evolve over time.
Since the 2018 vintage, while excellent, wasn’t quite as consistent across the board as other excellent vintages, like the 2016, this list is a great resource for choosing the very best 2018 Bordeaux futures or pre-arrivals. However, keep an open mind as you shop for new wines to add to your Bordeaux collection. You may find that you enjoy 2018 Château Latour more than Château Cos d’Estournel even though the latter came away with slightly higher overall scores. Moreover, every critic has his or her own preferences that can impact the scores they give en primeur wines. For example, Jane Anson gave Château Palmer and Château Mouton Rothschild nearly perfect scores in the 98-100 point range, while critic Rod Smith placed these wines at the bottom of his list, giving them both 94-point scores.
One other factor to consider is how 2018 Bordeaux will evolve over time. Some critics are hesitant to give any en primeur wines a perfect score, even if the wine is truly exceptional, because they know that the wine is still developing in the barrel and may change significantly before it’s released. So if you’re surprised to see some wines on this list ranked lower than you would expect, it’s possible that these wines will receive much higher scores when critics taste them again upon release.
When to Invest in 2018 Bordeaux Futures
Demand for 2018 Bordeaux futures is already quite high and availability is limited for some of the most sought-after wines. Low yields are making this vintage a bit more challenging for collectors to invest in early, as wine isn’t as plentiful as usual. Collectors who manage to secure their allocations will have made a wise choice, because the 2018 vintage is a great value so far. It’s very high in quality and potentially quite age-worthy, yet prices aren’t as high as they were in 2016, when many wines were sold as futures at a steep price but have since plateaued in value.
By securing your allocations now, you’ll get to try the finest bottles without paying higher prices on the secondary market after release.
The same fate isn’t likely for the 2018 vintage. We’re already seeing lower prices than in 2016, which should offer collectors a safer return on their investments. For example, Château Angélus is selling its 2018 vintage for $283 per bottle ex-négoce, which is 8.7 percent less than the 2017 vintage. If 2018 Château Angélus is indeed as high in quality as we expect it to be, then it and other excellent wines from the 2018 vintage could offer collectors an excellent profit margin.
If you’re not looking to resell your collection, then 2018 Bordeaux futures are still worthwhile. Producers made some delectable wines in 2018 that (as we found out for ourselves during our trip to Bordeaux) are already a treat to drink. By securing your allocations now, you’ll get to try the finest bottles without paying higher prices on the secondary market after release. Vinfolio offers some of the best Bordeaux futures in our en primeur shop. Or, if you’d like to receive updates on the latest 2018 Bordeaux en primeur allocations, sign up for our exclusive newsletter. These resources will set you up to build an incredible collection of 2018 Bordeaux.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.