The Complete Guide to the Best 800 wines of the vintage!
2018 Bordeaux is the initial year in an unequaled trio of incredible vintages including 2019 and 2020. There are numerous famous back-to-back vintages, but a trio of high-quality years has never happened in the past.
Future generations of wine lovers are going to have a blast comparing these vintages, much the way current wine consumers talk about 1989 and 1990 or 2009 and 2010, along with 2015 and 2016. Old-timers did the same thing with the 1928 and 1929 vintages. But as you have noticed, all of those years are back-to-back vintage comparisons. 2018, 2019, and 2020 is the first hat trick Bordeaux has experienced.
In part, this is due to climate change, but you also need to look at how the vineyards are managed today. Better farming, more of a focus on cleaner vineyard management, organic farming, and biodynamic techniques. Stringent selections continue taking place in both the vineyards and in the cellars.
Vignerons today are not seeking maximum ripeness. Instead, now, they are seeking better balance, freshness, and most importantly, purity in the fruit. At many chateaux, less new oak is being used during the aging process. Today, you are seeing more neutral vessels being used to age part of the wine. Amphora, foudres, and egg-shaped cement vats are all being used to some degree at numerous estates all over Bordeaux.
But, clearly, the change in climatic conditions has benefited the appellation. The right amount of heat, sunshine, and water when it was needed all helped mold 2018 into an incredible vintage that future generations will covet for decades.
2018 can be in many ways placed against other, warm, sunny vintages, not really for the weather conditions but for the opulent, sensuous styles and richness found in the wine. For example, think of 2015, 2009, 1990, 1989, 1982, and 1959.
However, the high points in 2018 will probably exceed what you found in several of the wines from those previously mentioned vintages. Although it is going to vary from vineyard to vineyard in the years 2009 and younger. Lovers of Bordeaux wines are enjoying an embarrassment of riches.
Where are the best 2018 Bordeaux wines…
In the Left Bank, the best wines come from the Northern Medoc, where the roots, especially old vines were able to dig deep into the soils. Clay-rich terroirs also made a difference. The Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Estephe, Pauillac, and St. Julien gave birth to prodigious wines.
In the Right Bank, Pomerol and St. Emilion are spellbinding! The Merlot and Cabernet Franc reached perfection not only in the two most famous appellations but in the Cotes de Bordeaux and other smaller regions. At the end of the day, great vintages are not measured against all the best wines and famous wine-growing terroirs, it is the petit chateaux and less famous appellations that you need to look at. When those producers and vineyards also make good wine, you have the makings of a great vintage.
It is interesting to note that all of these wines were tasted in bottle in my home office. It was the first time Bordeaux agreed to send wine directly to select journalists, as opposed to journalists coming to Bordeaux to taste the wines. This was due to the pandemic.
One of the values of tasting wine at home is that I was able to taste dramatically more wines in bottle. From barrel tasting of the 2018 vintage, I reviewed 600 wines. But I received and tasted over 800 wines for tastings at home. Almost every wine I tasted reached the top end of my projected score range, with several wines scoring even higher than I originally anticipated!
All of my in-bottle reviews are sorted by appellation going from north to south, moving from the Left Bank to the Right Bank. That is the order I tasted the wines in. You can also use the search functions to find tasting notes for individual wines you are interested in.
Guide to the 800 best 2018 Bordeaux wines by appellation.