St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2021: The 2018 Vintage
Back in 2016 I headed down to London for a tasting of St Emilion Grand Cru Classé wines from the 2015 vintage. Held on the 42nd floor of the Leadenhall Building, the event was memorable not only for the magnificent views across the London skyline, but also for the opportunity to taste a majority of the appellation’s grand cru classé wines alongside one another. Some of the wines poured on the day, from vineyards of just 2 or 3 hectares, are (in my experience) not frequently encountered outside the Bordeaux region. And it was a strong vintage on the right bank; the average level of quality was high.
If I recall correctly all the wines at that tasting were poured by the proprietors, or at the very least some representative of the château. Off the top of my head I recall informative discussions with Sylvie Cazes, of Château Chauvin, Caroline Decoster of Château La Fleur Cardinale and Alain Château of Château Yon-Figeac, who at the time also owned a handsome portfolio of Loire properties (at least some of which he has since sold). No doubt there were others. As the day drew to a close I felt fully refreshed on the state of play in St Emilion, with a ream of tasting notes ready to publish.
I resolved to return to this tasting – at the time a biennial event – in future years.
The next such gathering was scheduled for June 2018, but as the date approached I learnt it had been cancelled (I never found out why). A rescheduled 2019 tasting looked promising, but I was in the Loire Valley at the time, so could not attend. And then came Covid-19 of course, and all 2020 tastings were off. This explains why my next report from the St Emilion Grand Cru Classé tasting comes after a five-year interval. Strangely, while five years seems far too long, they are five years which seem to have passed in a flash. I think that’s something to do with getting older.
So here I report on 37 wines from the many grand cru classé properties in St Emilion, as classified back in 2012. One positive development is that the tasting has moved away from barrel samples (the 2016 tasting featured the 2015 vintage) to finished wines, this tasting focusing on the recently bottled 2018 vintage. As noted in my report on the 2016 tasting all the properties showed another vintage, in most cases younger, although one or two châteaux chose to send their 2019. Here I home in solely on 2018, so these other vintages will be the subject of a second report.