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97-100 JEB DUNNUCK: "The 2018 Château La Conseillante checks in as a blend of 83% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Franc brought up in 70% new French oak, with a small amount in amphora. Yields here were a light 32 hectoliters per hectare, and the 2018 is a respectable 13.5% natural alcohol. Winemaker Marielle Cazaux commented that the secret to the vintage was to be a lazy winemaker (i.e. hands off). Her 2018 boasts a saturated purple color as well as incredible purity in its blue and black fruits, spice, liquid flower, and violet-like characteristics. Full-bodied, pure and seamless on the palate as well, it’s flawlessly balanced, with building yet sweet tannins, no hard edges, and a great, great finish. It´s going to flirt with perfection. Hats off to Marielle for another magical wine from this estate, which has quickly risen into the top echelon of estates in Bordeaux."
97-98 JAMES SUCKLING: "This is a forceful red, showing blueberry and blackberry character with violets and light wet earth. Clarity and beauty with so much transparency and focus. Full-bodied, firm and silky with lots of white-pepper and salt undertones."
The name “La Conseillante” appeared in the middle of the 18th century, when the influential Catherine Conseillan, who owned the property, decided to endow the estate with her name.
In 1871, the Nicolas family acquired La Conseillante, whose surface area (12 hectares – 30 acres) and plots have not evolved since, enabling the estate to hold on to its exceptional qualities. In 1960, Louis Nicolas’ heirs formed the Société Civile des Héritiers Nicolas company. In 2001, the organisation of the company progressed by recruiting an Estate Manager. Then in 2003, a Family Council was formed.Since 1st February 2010, the Family Council of La Conseillante has had three members, Docteur Bertrand Nicolas, co-Managing Director since 2001, Jean-Valmy Nicolas co-Managing Director since 2010 and Henri Nicolas.
Today, the fifth generation of the Nicolas family manages the estate, symbolising the long-lasting attachment of this family to a great wine.The Family Council’s role is to supervise the Estate Manager’s activities and to take part in strategic decisions, such as futures sale prices, allocations, investments, dividends and promotional activities. The Nicolas heirs are identified on the label, which has sloped corners and a silver border surrounding the coat of arms inscribed with the letters “LN”. The violet-coloured capsule is a reminder of the aroma and characteristics of the wine. These parts of the design chosen by the Nicolas brothers in 1871 remain elegantly modern in the 21st century.
For the 140 years that it has existed, Château La Conseillante has thus benefited from long-lasting, unwavering support from the Nicolas family, helping it to express the best of its terroir, one of the greatest in Pomerol. One of its characteristics is that no member of the family lives with income from the property.
A quite mild winter was followed by a rainy spring. As from July, hot, very dry weather set in right up till October with a very fine Indian summer. The best climate for an amazing vintage! The grape pips were especially ripe; and the skins, which were thick and rich in polyphenols, produced very concentrated wines. This was a vintage in which the grapes needed to be har- vested at the correct ripeness levels and the vinifications carried out using gentle extraction in order to achieve powdery tannins.
2018 is stunningly aromatic with blue and black fruits coming to the fore, such as blackcurrants, blueberries and blackberries mingling with floral and spicy notes. The entry on the palate is very fleshy, while a dense mid-palate develops with tension and energy, providing extra length to the wine’s finish. This is a vintage with succulent flesh and cocoa powder-like powdery tannins. The wine’s ageing potential is around 30 years.
2018 Bordeaux Vintage Report and recommendations
by Andrew Caillard MW
2018 is an exceptional year. The Bordeaux whites and sauternes are very good, but from an Australian perspective the excitement is all in the red wines. All sub regions produced examples of really good wines, but some performed better than others. Generally the very top estates made exemplary wines illustrating that the human factor and wealth can have a major impact on terroir! Over the last few weeks I have tasted around 350 to 400 wines, sometimes in large format forums like the UCG tastings or at various Chateaux. Nowadays it is difficult to taste the wines blind but density of colour, aromatic freshness, tannin density and overall balance are obvious indicators. In some instance I have tasted wines a few times enabling me to cross reference.
The weather until a few days ago has been clear with bright sunshine, warm days and a cool breeze. Temperatures have fallen now with more cloud cover and intermittent rains. While driving from Sauternes to St Emilion we drove through light hail but not enough to cause too many problems. In two weeks we have seen dormant vineyards and trees spring to life. The growing season is starting a touch early and of course people are worried about the chances of frost. After the devastating frost events of 2017 and the challenges created by hail and mildew during 2018, there is a feeling that climate change may well have an unpredictable impact on future Bordeaux vintages.
We have pretty tasted a good amount of primeurs wines now. As usual the vintage will be exaggerated. The growing season was near calamitous but long warm sunshine hours over summer cleaned everything up and allowed the grapes to ripen very really well. The colours, flavours, density and acidities are really impressive and as a consequence the vintage is generally quite exceptional. It is difficult to truly understand the overall crop losses as producers are understandably quite cagey. But they vary from almost nothing to less than a third. At Ch Climens in Sauternes Barsac I would estimate the crop being around 20% of the average. When one considers that this estate lost its whole crop in 2017 from frost, the shock must be keenly felt. Mother Nature has been particularly cruel of late. The narrative of the growing season will inevitably create a negative impression, but few people will remember the details in years to come. They will only remember the wine. For some people with long memories they believe the vintage is like 1947 or 1961. If this is the case, this is not just an exceptional vintage, this is something beyond the norm. An immortal year. The concentration, weight, and vitality of the wines are impressive. Despite the amazing tannin density, saturated colours and flavours, the wines are actually quite easy to taste, indicating remarkable balance and life.
In my opinion the strongest sub regions are Pauillac and St Julien – which have both produced wines of great consistency and classicism. They are powerfully expressive with pronounced ripe tannins and pure fruit flavours. The combination of better micro-climatic conditions, wealth and physical resources helped with the result. Ch Pontet Canet is an outlier because of its approach to biodynamic viticulture. It suffered terribly from mildew and has produced only a third of the crop. The wine is markedly different from wines like Ch Latour or Ch Pichon Lalande, but its overall buoyancy and richness of fruit is compelling. It also stands for something that is worthwhile and important.
I always think of Pauilac as being the reference for Bordeaux. Typically the wines are extremely expressive with pure cassis cedar aromas and fine grainy tannins. This year the wines are particularly dense and inky with plentiful graphite tannins. They are not at all sinewy or soupy and hence when the tannins settle down the wines will be exceptional.
There are many outstanding wines from Pauillac including Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Ch Pichon Longueville Baron, Ch Lynch Bages, Ch Batailley, Ch d’Armailhac and Ch Grand Puy Lacoste. The first growths Ch Latour, Ch Mouton Rothschild and Ch Lafite Rothschild are very impressive. Their second wines Les Forts de Latour, Petit Mouton and Carruades are also of very high quality.
Neighbouring St Julien has also performed very well. Ch Ducru Beaucaillou and Ch Leoville Lascases probably lead the pack but Ch Leoville Barton, Ch Leoville Poyferré, Ch Gruaud Larose, Ch Talbot and Close de Marquis are all exceptionally well made wines
St Estephe is variable. Some estates controlled the volume and consistency of tannin very well and made classical wines. These include Cos d’Estournel, Ch Montrose, Ch TronquoyLalande, Ch Phelan Segur and Ch Canon Segur. Other examples were in my opinion excessively brutish in structure. For those willing to keep the wines for a decade or two, many of them will eventually come
Margaux is also variable and does not always have the density of fruit to go with the tannins. Yet one of my favourite wines of the vintage is Ch Palmer which is magical. In fact I think it is the wine of the vintage. Ch Prieuré Lichine, Brane Cantenac, Giscours and Marquis de Terme were all good. Ch Margaux and Pavillon Rouge were of course well above the average.
Subregions Moulis, Listrac and Haut Medoc wines are all over the place yet there are some genuine highlights including Esmond de Rothschild’s Ch Clarke, Ch Cantemerle and Ch Beaumont.
Graves and Pessac Leognan have produced wines of varying quality yet again the very top Chateaux including Ch HautBailly, Ch La Mission Haut Brion and Ch Haut Brion have made impressive grand vins. Ch Smith Haut Lafitte has really moved up the hustings and has made a really good wine this year.
St Emilion is a fascinating tapestry of colour and movement this year making some truly outstanding wines. Ch Cheval Blanc, Ch Ausone, Ch Belair Monange, Ch Fourtet, Ch Figeac, Ch Canon and Ch Pavie have all produced wines of richness and impact. I also enjoyed Ch La Dominique and the Burgundian-like Tertre Roteboeuf. But there is more inconsistency on the flats and fringes of the region. However as is often the case the value can be found best with lesser names who have prevailed well. This includes a few wines in the nearby Cotes de Castillon which may represent good value.
Pomerol is more consistent than St Emilion but there is also some variability. Ch Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan, Ch Certande May, Ch Latour a Pomerol, Ch Gazin, Lafleur, Lafleur Petrus and Ch Trotanoy made really terrific wine but there were some instances where the wines were lighter in weight and probably less appealing. On reflection I think Pomerol vies for line honours. The wines are amazingly impressive with beautiful polish, suppleness and concentration. There are many instances where second wines have performed
2018 is not a very great Sauternes Barsac year and the quality is dependent on the producer and how much of the crop was picked before the rain and humidity finally arrived to promote botrytis in the vineyards. My clear favourite is Ch Climens. Although I always see it in parts, the end result promises to be outstanding. Rieussec, de Fargues and Lafaurie Peyragueyare are standouts.
As you will see from my tasting notes there are many great wines. This year it is going to be very hard to make a bad decision. Although the big names have made impressive wines there are stacks of lesser known or lower profile estates that have made promising young wines. Over the next year they will continue to evolve and mature in barrel, building more complexity and allowing the tannins to settle down.
As regards whether it is a great vintage, I think it is safe to say that it is a remarkable year with many very great wines made. In some ways it is a miracle year considering the challenges and disappointments of the growing season. Most observers will agree that the 2018 vintage, specifically the red wines, is in the same league as the greatest vintages including 2015, 2010 and 2009 etc. Some winemakers are also suggesting its very similar to 1947 or 1961.
But 2018 is also an atypical year – whatever that means these days. The weather patterns are more difficult to predict and no one can really second guess what God plans for this forthcoming season. Thankfully the predicted cold snap last night did not damage the emerging new growth. But the unseasonable warm start to the growing season and clear skies has everyone on edge
Andrew Caillard, MW