2018 Bordeaux: How weather from ‘hell and paradise’ has produced Claret that’s truly exceptional

Winter snowfall, springtime mildew, hail and the hottest, driest summer in generations have conspired to make 2018 Bordeaux vintages something you must absolutely snap up, explains Harry Eyres.

Another Bordeaux vintage, another opportunity, as the en primeur campaign gets into gear, for exaggerated claims of greatness? Perhaps, but I was genuinely impressed by the handful of 2018 Bordeaux barrel samples I managed to taste on a short trip in March. In pockets, at least, this is an exceptional vintage, which should be represented in every serious claret lover’s collection.

Why you should be buying it

Last year was ‘hell and paradise’, according to Gabriel Vialard, technical director of the Pessac-Léognan cru Château Haut-Bailly, one of the châteaux I visited and was most impressed by. The hell part of 2018 was hail and especially mildew, caused by the damp spring and early summer; Haut-Bailly lost half its crop.

The paradise was the remainder of the long, warm, dry growing season from late June to October. Very high levels of ripeness were achieved and the challenge for many was retaining freshness.

Three wines to buy and try

At an entry level, the consistent cru bourgeois Château Beaumont 2018 looks an excellent bet. I’ve yet to taste it, but have heard good reports — not just of this cru bourgeois, but of others from the heavier soils of the northern Médoc.
£114 per dozen IB from www.davywine.co.uk

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At more exalted heights, I loved two of the Pessac-Léognan greats. Domaine de Chevalier 2018 (right,) has beautiful, fresh elegance and completeness, with layer upon layer of pure fruit.
Estimated to cost £325–£390 per six IB; www.leaandsandeman.co.uk

The other I tried is something which will become truly incredible: Château Haut-Bailly 2018 (est. It’s almost opaque in colour, with great brooding depth on the nose; the first impression is of silky suavity, backed up by multi-layered density. This is a great wine in the making.
Estimated at £500–£600 per six IB; www.leaandsandeman.co.uk

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