St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2018 tasting notes review

Brendan Barratt tastes the St Emilion Grand Cru Classés 2018 reporting on mixed results but with a few highlights worth noting.

 

The tasting was interesting.  Firstly, it is the start of harvest, so no growers were around.  It was a bit odd to be served the wines by a bunch of young sommeliers that were predominantly Italian and appeared to have no idea about the wines. 

Blind tasting?

antique longcase clocks london uk
Antique Longcase Clocks London UK

One good thing was that they gave no prices, and combined with my lack of knowledge about St Emilion, it was a proper blind tasting.  Well, I knew a few wines, but I have not tasted this many young wines from this village in this setting. It was fun, but surprising.

In my experience, Merlot and Cab Franc make a great Bordeaux. I am a Burgundy geek, so I often find old St Emilion that is interesting and of a weight and perfume that I like.  Not these. Someone turned them up to 11! There was a similar pattern. We were there to look at the 2018’s which I started making comments about them being big and rich. They normally had a 2016 or a 2014 on tasting from the same Chateau, which were almost always more balanced, perfumed and pleasant. 

Shifting style

I initially thought this was just the age mellowing the wine but as I progressed, it seems there has been a significant shift in style toward, bigger (definitely more alcoholic with many tipping the 15% mark on the label, so some will be higher, 14-14.5 for the most), over-extracted style that was confusing.  

Chateau Corbin 2019 was big and thin at 15%. Not what I needed before lunch. The 2018 was the same. It is not fair to pick out only a few of the ‘hot’ offenders, but I am getting tired of writing the same thing about so many wines….

Diamonds in the rough

st emilion grand cru classe 2018

It was not all bad news.  The Chateau les Grandes Murailles 2018.  Good balance, medium fruit and good length.  This is what I was expecting, a good wine.  They served it against a 2012 which was holding the fruit well, a very well-aged, long lived wine.

The Chateau Chauvin was also an exception.  A more old-school, well-rounded (balanced) wine, if a little dusty/dirty.  It also happens that I have some from the 80s and 90s in the cellar that, for a cheap wine, have kept very well. 

The Chateau Bellevue was packed full of flavour, had good fruit, but a lot of obvious strong oak treatment that may settle down one day…maybe. 

01 collage st emilion

My list of preferred St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2018 wines:

Chateau Dassault, both 2018 and 2016 had great balance and fruit, as was the Couvent des Jacobin.

Chateau Fonplegade 2016 was potentially the wine of the tasting.  Good drink!

Chateau Faurie-Souchard

Chateau Haut Sarpe was bright and perfumed, possibly the higher % of Cab Franc coming through

Chateau La Fleur Morange – it is always good to find something dirty in a good way.  Both the 2018 and 2014 were of a similar style but the 2014 was very good and, probably more importantly, very interesting in a room full of similarly styled wines.

 

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As COVID-19 conspires with the grimmest of winds and rain to force a societal retreat behind our own front doors, the word ennui springs to mind. The muddle of displeasure is pierced when Natalia hands me a large bulbous glass of a liquid I do not recognise.

 

 

Britain’s lamentable exit

On the eve of Britain’s official departure from the EU, my partner and I decided to explore a small town on the Italian Riviera where thewintry cold doesn’t feel so much like cold war bite.

I had warned my significant other that I would be having an inverse departure party, a release of the sanity valve if you like!

 

Sitting inside the ancient castle walls inside the town of Soave, a short drive from Verona in northern Italy, the unique slightly almond aroma of the indigenous grape, Garganega, rises gently from my glass. The castle sprawls up the side of an extinct volcano that gives the region its variant soil structures that mark out the better quality of Soave wines.

 

Tanisha Townsend decided to move to Paris 4 years ago after regularly passing through the city en route to the world’s most famous vineyards. In fact, it was about 2 years ago at the Printemps de Champagne Bouzy Rouge tasting in Reims that I saw (who we shall now refer to as) GirlMeetsGlass chirpily speaking to her web followers on Snapchat.

 

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.

 

Driving into the Entre-Deux-Mers region from the north, the vineyards roll out like a bright green deep-pile carpet across the undulating land. It’s hard not to be excited about tasting wines with so much heritage, as we head to Chateau-Sainte-Marie to meet with 5th generation owner, Stéphane Dupuch. 

 

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