Bordeaux 2018 Vintage Report

The release of the Bordeaux 2018 is just around the corner, with the world’s wine trade and press descending on Bordeaux this week for the annual En Primeur tastings.
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The Vintage:
Could be summed up as a wet start but a long, dry finish, resulting in a decent-sized crop, harvested under perfect conditions.  The Northern Medoc had slightly lower yields than the last three vintages, whilst they were generally greater for the southern Medoc and Right Bank.  The warm, sunny, endless summer allowed chateaux to pick their grapes over an extended window, having achieved optimal but not over ripeness, without the threat of heavy rains and rot.  Mildew and localised hail earlier in the year affected quantity for some chateaux but not necessarily quality, i.e. Chateau Palmer in Margaux cropped at only 10hl/ha(!) but have made one of the top scored (so far) wines of the vintage.  There is, as yet, no suggestion that 2018 has favoured the Left or Right Bank and it appears that, with such unusual control over harvesting dates, chateaux should have been able to make the wine they wanted.
The Market:
Negotiants I spoke to recently are keen not to talk the vintage up as are concerned it may encourage the Bordelais to price unrealistically.  The muted reception to the largely overpriced 2017 vintage, and merchants and collectors still being well-stocked with excellent but expensive 2015 and 2016 (both of which like 2018 were also sizeable crops), means that a third, large, vintage of the century in the same decade is likely to be met with a degree of coolness.  For the UK, still the biggest market for Bordeaux EP, the campaign will play out to a Brexit backdrop and the news that influential critic Neal Martin will not be tasting until later in the year.  Both these factors, one may hope if not expect, could influence release prices.  Or not, if chateaux continue their policies of holding back greater quantities for subsequent release, or of shifting allocations to a resurgent Asian market.
Buying Tips: 
It’s always worth identifying the (relative) bargains from a vintage, although given the undoubted quality of 2018, and chateaux’ general upward pricing and limited release trends, these might be few and far between. For 2017 – we concentrated on those releases that showed an attractive to impressively substantial decrease on 2016 prices, whilst still receiving strong reviews for the vintage.  For 2018, we will as always continue to recommend a tighter selection of chateaux than most, concentrating on the best and best value wines   Meanwhile Liv-Ex “Fair Value” method concentrates not on relative release price but evidence of consistent price improvement on the secondary market, identifying certain chateaux that over a ten year period are especially worth buying en primeur.  These include a number of our regular recommendations including Conseillante, Clinet, Lynch Bages and Lafite.  A final tip is more personal:  There is little doubt that 2018 is a great, potentially legendary, vintage – there is already considerable early enthusiasm around the first tastings.  As a Bordeaux lover you tend to be loyal to those chateaux you have developed an interest and then a passion for over the years and want to continue to building your collection.  2018 was a great opportunity for winemakers to choose how best to express their chateau’s style and character, and so represents a great opportunity to ensure you can add a benchmark wine to your cellar.