Bordeaux 2018: risers and fallers

The Union Des Grand Crus De Bordeaux are holding their annual tasting today and tomorrow in London, presenting the wines of the 2018 vintage.

Forty-seven chateaux from the Bordeaux 500 (50 brands and their ten most recent physical vintages) released their 2018 vintage in June of last year. Forty-three of them were priced higher than 2017 with an average premium of 17.9% – three out of the four released at a discount were from Sauternes. The consensus of the campaign proved puzzling – not only did the vintage lack consistency from producer to producer but there were also some sharp differences of opinion amongst the critics. Nonetheless, secondary market trade of the 2018 was well above the previous year.

In our closing report on the campaign, “Bordeaux 2018 – A perplexing vintage”, the simple truth we highlighted was, “the wines that failed to attract buyers were released too high, at or above the current Market Price for the physical 2016 vintage. The ones that “sold out” represented ‘Fair Value’ or compared favourably to their 2016 alternatives”.

Due to ill health Neal Martin tasted the vintage well away from the theatre of the UGC launch. He released his tasting notes in November 2019 with his scores suggesting that the 2018 vintage did not match the “greats” of the 21st century. His average scores, albeit higher than all the “off vintages”, did not equal or surpass those of 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, and 2016 (against which the 2018 was similarly priced).

The majority of the wines released during the campaign have since drifted from their London release, with only three standing tall and commanding a premium.

The outright leader, Lafite Rothschild 2018 which will be bottled in 150th anniversary bottles, released at £6,000 per 12×75, an identical price to the 2016 vintage. Neal Martin scored the 2018 vintage 95-97 points, noting an alcohol level of 13.3% and saying that it “might end up challenging the 2016”. Several critics including Jane Anson, Jeff Leve, and Lisa Perrotti-Brown were more generous in their appraisal and awarded an upper barrel range of 100 point.

A relative value option from Bordeaux and the second best in performance, is Calon Segur 2018, which released at £864 per 12×75 and now trades at a 3.4% premium. Vieux Chateau Certan 2018 wraps up the top three, having increased 2.7% from release (£2,628).

The wine that has drifted the most has been Grand Puy Lacoste 2018, which released at £672 per 12×75, a 3.7% premium to 2017 and an 8.6% discount to 2016. Two First Growths feature among the reds that have fallen: Margaux down 8.1% and Mouton Rothschild down 9.0%.

As the trade and critics reassess the 2018 vintage, the question being asked is this. Where does 2018 sit relative to the broadly admired and highly rated 2016 and 2019 vintages? And did Neal Martin’s privileged view of the vintage (6 months post all others) prove to be just that?