Q1 is the time when the invites roll in for tastings of the previous year’s vintage or for the wines that are now bottled from the year before that.
This is a really good exercise as it gives you a feel for how the vintage performed, wines that are going to be ready to drink soon and those that need more time than I have left to savour at their peak.
This year I’ve focussed on 2017 Burgundy and what I’d term “entry level” 2018 Bordeaux. By that I mean wines form really good areas but not the classed growths such Chateau Lafite or Mouton Rothschild which tend to be investment grade wines and made for longer term ageing any way.
I thought that the best and most approachable wines came from the southern regions such as the Cote de Beaune and Chalonnaise. In general found the wines from Chablis to be just a little to “zingy”. By that I mean they were spicy on entrance and whilst not being overly citrus to the taste, I thought they felt a little like the sensation when you’ve sucked a lemon. I don’t mean in a bad way (which is how it might sound) but that fresh mouth-watering sensation.
I thought the reds from Volnay and Pommard were much more approachable than the bigger names like Gevrey Chambertin which whilst I think will be great 5 years from now they were difficult to enjoy at this point.
I really thought the whites from the Cote de Beaune were the best of the vintage. Naturally you’d expect Puligny Montrachet from Sauzet to be excellent (and it is) but the real bargains are from appellations like Saint Aubin and Santenay which, from my viewpoint, made superb, well-structured and approachable wines that you can enjoy now and for years to come. I also rated highly the wines from Rully in the Chalonnaise and thought this region gave the best quality to price ratio of all the wines I tasted.
I’m pleased to say I really liked the left bank 2018. That is to say wines from Saint Estephe, Margaux, St Julien, Pessac Leognan and the Haut Medoc. They were beautifully structured and will be ready to drink upon release but, just like the white burgundies above, will age well and give a great drinking option for the next 5 years or so. Next year I will definitely start looking for 2018s on restaurant wine lists. You don’t need to go for big names as I really think the left bank wines will offer great value early drinking. These tend to be more Cabernet Sauvignon dominant and clearly the vintage suited this grape. The Merlot dominated right bank (which I normally seek out for early drinking as Merlot can offer a little more softness in young wines) didn’t show quite as well. I thought they were a little more backward than the left bank wines and need time to open up. That said, when I shared my comments with one of the Chateau owners who was showing his wines he proceeded to tell me that “the 2018s are a bit vulgar and obvious, the 2016s will be amazing but no doubt the fruit loving plebs will go for the 18s”
Plebs of the world unite!