An early start saw us strike north into the heart of the Medoc, arriving at our first appointment, Leoville Las Cases at 9am sharp. Today we concentrated on the two Medoc communes of St Julien and Margaux.
With 2018, we have a growing season split into two extremes and this has left its mark on the properties of St Julien and Margaux. The winter of 2017 and 2018 was uncommonly wet with one Chateau owner commenting that a whole years worth of rain fell in the first six months of the year, this completely saturated the water tables of the Medoc. The rain and winter temperatures led to a very late budburst and the unseasonably wet and cool weather led to an almost unheard-of amount mildew threat across Margaux and St Julien. From June onward there was a hot dry summer giving the grapes time to recover and with the water tables well stocked most Chateaux reported no hydric stress for the vines, allowing them to ripen beautifully.
Now, to the wines of St Julien and Margaux that we tasted today. Across the board the quality of the wines is simply outstanding and we tasted a handful of wines today where the group struggled to recall a better wine tasted from barrel, an excellent start. There is a lot of talk of incredibly high levels of alcohol, there is no way of hiding it - all the wines we tasted today tipped the scales over 14%. However, of all the Chateaux we visited today only in a single wine did we feel the presence of the alcohol on the palate.
With the heat low yields and high levels of alcohol the wines are indeed full of big, dense, concentrated ripe fruit, however the 2018’s we tasted are beautifully fresh and aromatic alongside. The tannins are fine, beautifully balanced with the acidity adding freshness - this gives them amazing poise, direction and length.
As mentioned before, with the mildew problems came low yields and none more so at Ch. Palmer. There will be no 2018 Alter Ego de Palmer and just 6000 cases of the grand vin made, it is a truly stunning wine however and probably the wine of the day, for me. Well worth getting some if there is any to go round!
Tomorrow (Tuesday 2nd April) is the turn of the northern Medoc - St Estephe and Pauillac. Once more unto the breach...