The warmest year since the beginning of the 20th century, temperatures in 2018 were 3.24°F above the national average. In Margaux, the year began with a relatively mild winter with below-normal temperatures and occasional frosts in February which had no impact on our vines. The rest of the year was hot, sometimes very hot, compared with seasonal averages, marked by record-breaking temperatures in the last ten days of June and the first ten days of August, more than 7.2°F above the 30-year average.
Rainfall in the first half of the year was heavy with nearly 25 inches in Margaux between January 1st and July 10th, making growing conditions challenging. Each rainy day made a good vintage less likely. But dry and warm summer conditions eventually reached our region and remained until the end of the harvest. Rainfall was very low between mid-July and late September at 2 inches. This rainfall pattern is reminiscent of 2009.
Under these conditions, budbreak was relatively late between the 4th and the 10th of April. The vines flowered between the 25th and the 28th of May and, despite fairly poor conditions, we did not note, even in the relatively sensitive Merlot plots, poor or failed fruit-set. The greatest challenge was mildew which this year led to slightly lower yields than hoped for after the fruit-set.
The white grapes were harvested the week of August 27th. The red harvest took place from September 17th to October13th in ideal conditions. Again this year, we were able to choose the best time to harvest our grapes – no Botrytis symptoms, mild weather, ripening conditions sufficiently spread between the earliest Merlots and latest Cabernets – and we had time to take the necessary care with each wine-making vat. Nearly a hundred different batches were converted into wine this year, demonstrating our continued efforts for better and more precise selections.
Château Margaux 2018 is one of the best wines to be produced on the Estate in recent years even taking into consideration the extraordinary quality of the 2015 and 2016 vintages!
Château Margaux 2018 is remarkably concentrated. A small grape size and relatively low yields largely explain the exceptionally high tannin indices. The wine’s power is not, however, overwhelming and helps to considerably lengthen the aromas and structure of the finish.
Fairly early in the wine-making process, we understood this tannic potential and moderated our extraction programs including for our Merlot plots, which are usually less dense than our fine Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The latter still form the heart of Château Margaux, accounting for 90% of the blend. They limit the alcohol content to 14° in these weather conditions. This wine’s blend is completed by 4% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Château Margaux represents 36% of the harvest.