Bordeaux 2008: A Tough Call

bordeaux 2008 steven spurrier People & Places Articles
  • Monday 8 June 2009

On the back of a gloomy summer and an ever gloomier market, it was a vintage that had been all but written off. Some didn’t even bother going to taste it. Steven Spurrier did, and was pleasantly surprised by both the wines and the early news on prices. But can it all be good news?

Nobody’s going to believe it, but 2008 in Bordeaux is rather good’. Thus wrote Bill Blatch in December in his annual report for Vintex, the Bordeaux negociant. With almost 40 years at the centre of the action, Blatch is the master of reflective comment. ‘Meteorologically, 2008 looks to be the identical twin of 2007: each month’s temperatures and rainfall figures are about the same, starting with a mild winter, continuing into a wet spring, a dull and damp summer and then saved by a miraculous turnaround in the form of a glorious autumn.’

So why are the late-harvest wines of 2007 – bright, fruit-driven and forward – so different to the richer, more generous, more tannic 2008s? Blatch explains that the 2007s had an erratic early start, slowed down in summer and then were saved by 11th-hour ripening in September – ‘artificial ripeness’, said Christian Moueix of Pétrus fame. In 2008 the vine did nothing fast, and had very slow cycles which, despite frost in April, excess rain in May and a mediocre summer, allowed it to ripen the grapes gradually. Finally, it was the small crop size (due to abortive late flowering) and dry weather from mid-September to late-October, that allowed the final ripening to be so effective. 2008 produced the lowest yield (notably in Sauternes) since the frosted year 1991.

2008 was also a year where the vines had to be attentively looked after, despite the slow ripening. Unlike 2000 or 2005, when conditions were perfect for everyone, generic growers and lesser estates who had not done all the necessary vineyard work saw their bunches deteriorating two weeks before they were ripe, so had to pick then. This was an expensive growing season, after which only the well-tended estates could wait as long as they wanted before picking. 2008 was another undemocratic vintage in which the establishment came off best.

The wines

Dry whites

2008 continues the run of very good years for this increasingly admired category, with the Sauvignon Blancs retaining their crisp acidity and the Sémillons benefiting from a late vintage but needing time to gain aromatic complexity. Less tight than 2007, less fleshy than 2006.

Sweet whites

Barsac and Sauternes suffered badly from frost, pre-flowering millerandage, and slow development of botrytis on what bunches were left in October, yet ended up with finely poised, elegant wines.

Reds

2008 surprised me with its depth and conistency of fruit across all appellations. Not since 2005 have I enjoyed tasting with almost no palate fatigue. Certainly acidities are firmer than 2005, but tannins are less tough than 2006 and a fresh ripeness is evident everywhere, bolstered by high but harmonious alcohol. In terms of comparison to past vintages, Blatch takes the long view: ‘Comparisons are possible with late harvests like 1978, ’83, ’98, ’01, ’02, ’04, ’07. Meteorologically and wine-wise, like 1983 and 2001.’ Robert Parker was more succinct, telling Jonathan Malthus of Château Teyssier that ‘08 was: ‘Better than ’04 and ’06, nudging 2005.’

My view is that 2008 resembles 2001, with more vigour and concentration due to the smaller crop – a vintage that needs to be laid down for the medium to long term. As to whether it is a Right or Left Bank vintage, the better wines were so consistent that both impressed equally, the Right showing advantageously at this stage thanks to its earlier harvest.

The market

Upon my return from en primeur, and before the earlier-than-expected first price releases, everyone agreed that in the world economic climate, prices of the classed growths and their equivalents had to fall a long way. It was also agreed that the first growths should come out early and lead the market down. What was not agreed was by how much they should drop their prices compared to the E200 ex-château average for 2007 (some suggested they be halved) and what the other châteaux would do to follow.

Jean-Guillaume Prats of Cos d’Estournel was clear: ‘2008 can only be sold en primeur if it is a bargain, which is good, as it will bring people to Bordeaux, but bad, as it makes 2007 and 2006 look very expensive. The alternative is that the châteaux maintain their prices, sell very little and carry the stocks for four or five years, but protect their customers. If there was a mistake in earlier pricing, this is the chateaux’s responsibility.’ Blatch, who now covers the US market for Vintex, agrees, but takes a different perspective: ‘They have been too expensive for three years and this is the châteaux’s last chance. You cannot imagine the anger and disappointment in the US, where indifference to Bordeaux is on the rise. The price of 2005 was very cheeky, but they got away with it. They won’t get away with the wrong price for 2008.’

From the buyers’ perspective, their stockholdings and those of their customers will dominate decisions. Kevin Whelehan of Japanese importer Pieroth Japan said ‘We have stocks of 2005 and 2006 and there’s no point in buying 2008.’ Simon Staples of Berry Bros, who before the tastings had stated that if prices weren’t cut by 50% he wouldn’t buy a single case, admitted that ‘there are some very good wines and we are open to discussions to ensure stock flows through to our customers – as our purchases of 2007 did not – but if they hold a gun to our heads, we will walk away.’ Such an attitude would have been unthinkable until now, due to the châteaux’s practice of allocating wines only to those who bought them previously.

In the event, early releases (see p8 and p36) suggest the châteaux have listened, with the first growths down to about E100 and other classed growths down by about 40% to close to 2004 prices, a move cautiously welcomed by merchants, though it remains unclear as to just how much of their crop the top châteaux will make available in this first tranche.

But with the châteaux talking to merchants and merchants talking to customers, 2008 may be the first vintage for many years to sell entirely on its merits. I’ll be buying – but only where the price is right.

Left Bank by Steven Spurrier

The tendency in Bordeaux is to treat each vintage as favouring either the Left or Right Bank. 1996 was evidently the former,1998 definitely the latter. In 2008 it is by no means clear and the great difference will be between those estates that oversaw every part of their vineyards during the problematic growing season, who could pick each plot at the moment they desired, and those who did not and had to harvest early. The smallness of the crop benefited Merlot, the lateness of the harvest favoured Cabernet Sauvignon. Since the Left Bank is a blend of both grapes, (the higher you go up the scale, the more Cabernet dominates) the vintage here was surprisingly successful.

The hallmark of the vintage is found in very dark colours – perfectly healthy grapes made pigment extraction easier than in 2007 and 2006 – vigourous fruit, combining flesh and firmness, freshness of acidity and stong but not hard tannins. If my tasting notes are similar, it is just that the better Médocs reflected these characteristics at under six months of age, while at the same time staying true to their individual communes. Thus, the weather did not dominate the vintage, as it did in 2003, for it allowed the vines to recover and the grapes to ripen to reflect the vineyard. 2008 on the Left Bank is a year of clarity and precision, all the better to express character and origin.

Médoc

The Médoc appellation begins well north of St-Estèphe and the climate here is cooler than other regions in Bordeaux.Attention in the vineyards and modern winemaking have very much improved quality overall and the health of the late-harvested grapes showed in the wines.

3 stars HHH

Ch Potensac (16+) Smoky, fleshy Cabernet fruit, dense and well-extracted. 2014–20.

Ch d’Escurac (16) Crushed black fruits, good extraction and vineyard expression. 2012–18.

Clos Manou (16) Big, dense, floral fruit, full and plummy, very modern. 2012–17.

Ch Goulée (15.5) Fleshy, spicy fruit, depth and balance. More elegant than usual. 2013–18.

Ch Greysac (15.5) Well-structured with charm to show later; well-made. 2012–18.

Ch La Fleur Lamothe (15.5) Good oak. Polished, with a good future. 2012–16.

Ch Vieux Robin Bois de Lunier (15.5) Fine Cabernet fruit. Will have class. 2012–16.

La Chapelle de Potensac (15.5) Good crunchy fruit, quite forward. 2012–16.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

Ch Haut-Canteloup (15) ■ Ch La Tour de By (15) ■ Ch Patache d’Aux (15) Ch Preuillac (15) Ch Tour St Bonnet (15)

Haut-Médoc

The Haut-Medoc vineyards run from south of Margaux to north of St-Estèphe, so the appellation is by no means homogeneous. Some of the best wines this year came from a group of châteaux at Macau and Ludon in the south whose vineyards touch those of La Lagune, showing more plummy fruit than the more seriously Cabernet wines further north. Overall good quality from an AC offering a wide stylistic range.

4 stars HHHH

Ch La Lagune (3cccc) (17.5) Dense but lifted, suave flavours, seductive style. Great length and polished tannins. 2014–22.

Ch La Tour Carnet (4cccc) (17) Deep, fleshy fruit: precise, vigorous. Good expression of the vintage, good future. 2015–24.

3 stars HHH

Ch Bellevue (16+) Depth and character with lifted fruit and density of flavour. 2013–20.

Ch Caronne-Ste-Gemme (16+) Dense, pure fruit; expressive. Long tannins. 2014–20.

Ch Sénéjac (16+) Fine expression of fruit. Great purity, elegance and balance. 2013–18.

Ch d’Agassac (16) Fine cassis nose and good smooth fruit. Modern yet classic. 2013–18.

Ch d’Aurilhac (16) Cassis nose, fleshy flavours with firm tannins to keep it going. 2012–18.

Ch Belgrave (5CC) (16) Precise Cabernet fruit, firm but ripe tannins, harmonious. 2014–20.

Ch Cantemerle (5CC) (16) Lightly plummy and spicy. Not big but elegant. 2014–20.

Ch Charmail (16) Good Cabernet-Médoc fruit, classic style with depth and charm. 2012–18.

Ch Coufran (16) Smoky black fruits, full, broad and plummy. Good structure. 2014–20.

Ch Maurac, Les Vignes de Cabaleyran (16) Sophisticated, potentially complex. 2012–18.

Ch Bernadotte (15.5) Fine, ripe, open, floral Médoc Cabernet. Crunchy fruit. 2013–18.

Ch Cambon-La-Pelouse (15.5) Solid red fruits with good grip and structure. 2013–18.

Ch Citran (15.5) Ripe, fleshy fruit, firm natural tannins, not complex but quality. 2014–18.

Ch Clément-Pichon (15.5) Impressive but needs to throw off bitter tannins. 2015–24.

Ch de Gironville (15.5) Smoky, blackcurrant Merlot fruit, good oak, nice tannins. 2012–16.

Clos de Jaugueyron (15.5) Dense blackcurrant fruit, fleshy and flavoursome. 2014–20.

Ch de Lamarque (15.5) Smooth and polished. Good depth, harmonious finish. 2014–20.

Ch du Retout (15.5) Deep, fresh blackcurrant. Good plummy fruit, good wine. 2012–16.

Ch Maucamps (15.5) Soft Merlot fruit nose, precision and depth on the palate. 2012–16.

Ch Paloumey (15.5) Fine smoky blackcurrant nose, elegant flavour, good tannins. 2013–17.

Ch Pontoise-Cabarrus (15.5) Ripe, complex fruit, good smooth style. 2012–16.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Bonneau (15) ■ Ch de Camensac (5CC) (15) ■ Ch du Moulin Rouge (15) ■ Ch Malescasse (15) ■ Ch Beaumont (14.5)

St-Estèphe

Gravel gives way to some clay in St-Estèphe and the wines often show a robustness that is the opposite of Margaux to the south. With few exceptions, these wines showed very well-extracted fruit and a sense of harmony, perhaps not as clearly defined as Pauillac, but a very satisfying range of wines, the best being superb.

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Calon-Ségur (3CC) (18.5) Pure, aromatic cassis and wild roses. Elegant, harmonious with immense charm and depth to last. The Lafite of St-Estèphe. 2015–30.

Ch Cos d’Estournel (2cccc) (18.5) Deep blackcurrant fruit, full, plummy, smoky, exotic, with superb Cabernet ripeness, vibrant and virgourous. Long. 2017–35.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Montrose (2cccc) (17.5) Complex nose, firm palate. Tight and tough despite inherent richness. Classic but needs time. 2020–35.

Ch Lafon-Rochet (4cccc) (17) Concentrated black fruit. Structured but elegant, showing great depth of fruit. 2015–25.

Ch Cos Labory (5CC) (16.5) Fragrantly lifted black fruits; elegant and harmonious. A good, natural wine. 2014–20.

Ch de Pez (16.5) Compact, concentrated blackcurrants, smoky with elegance, lift, structure and length. Classy. 2014–20.

Ch Les Ormes de Pez (16.5) Fine berry fruit, jammy and expressive. Fragrant and fruity, good oak. Depth and class. 2014–22.

Dame de Montrose (2L) (16.5) Smoky seductive cassis, violets, lifted density of fruit, fine character and length. 2014–20.

Pagodes de Cos (2L) (16.5) Concentrated blackcurrant fruit, lifted spice and good length. Will fill out well. 2014–20.

3 stars HHH

Ch Phélan-Ségur (16+) Floral nose. Complex, spicy, leathery palate. Polished. 2014–20.

Ch Tour des Termes (16+) Excellent fleshy fruit; good grip. A vineyard wine. 2013–20.

Ch Haut-Beauséjour (16) Smoky, good jammy fruit, fresh and crunchy. Pure, long. 2014–18.

Ch Haut-Marbuzet (16) Floral ripe fruits, fleshy depth with good oak. Suave. 2013–18.

Ch Lilian-Ladouys (16) Good, fleshy fruit with grip. A fine modern St-Estèphe. 2013–18.

Ch Serilhan (16) Floral, crushed black fruits, elegant and classy. Complex, long. 2013–18.

Ch Tronquoy-Lalande (16) Concentrated cassis nose, attractive smoky fruit, firm yet floral. Precision and depth. 2014–20.

Ch Andron-Blanquet (15.5) Floral berry fruits, broad wine with good grip. 2012–17.

Ch Beau-Site (15.5) Concentrated berry fruits. Good fleshy wine, good length. 2013–17.

Ch Clauzet (15.5) Good, plummy, open fruit. Forward for St-Estèphe. 2012–16.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Tour de Pez (15)

Pauillac

Home to the strongest, firmest wines of the Médoc, 2008 favoured this appellation, with densely ripe Cabernets blended with less Merlot than usual in the grands vins. Superb colours led the way to vibrant blackcurrant fruit on the nose and fragrance and power on the palate. Even lighter styles took on more fruit depth and the firmer styles were classic Pauillac.

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Latour (1cccc) (19.5) (94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot) Expressive, smoky, savoury, blackcurrant fruit; complex. Fine, deep, long, firm, classic. Full of energy. Precise. Tannins in perfect balance. 2018–40.

Ch Lafite-Rothschild (1cccc) (19) (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc) Controlled aroma of pure blackcurrant fruit. Textured and layered, firm, deep. Not the typical Lafite charm, but has power and breed. 2018–40.

Ch Mouton-Rothschild (1cccc) (18.5) (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot.) Fine elegance. Subdued with satiny texture. Creamy, fine tannins. Understated now but has power and length to develop Mouton’s typical lush fruit. 2017–35.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Pontet-Canet (5CC) (18) Fine depth. Has power and breed. Concentrated, focused, expressive. Potential complexity. 2017–35.

Ch Lynch-Bages (5CC) (17.5) Plummy, smoky concentration, rich fruit depth, ripe tannins to mature well. Long. 2016–25.

Ch Pichon-Longueville Baron (2CC) (17.5) Big smoky, cassis nose. Creamy, vibrant vineyard fruit. Deep and long. 2016–30.

Carruades de Château Lafite (2L) (17) Spicy blackcurrant nose, lissom, ripe fruit. Classy structure, fine tannins. 2015–25.

Ch Clerc-Milon (5CC) (17) Rich cassis nose, smoky and spicy, structured and firm. Will become more floral and broad. 2015–25.

Ch d’Armailhac (5CC) (17) Lifted briar fruit, smooth and elegant. Seductive, poised; will open early and age well. 2014–22.

Ch Duhart-Milon (4CC) (17) Structured and sturdy, four-square now, but elegance will come through. 2016–25.

Ch Grand-Puy-Lacoste (5CC) (17) Dense berry fruit nose and palate, purity and length, still rather reserved. 2015–22.

Ch Haut-Batailley (5CC) (17) Fragrant, deep blackcurrant nose. Fresh, pure, poised palate. Clarity of expression. 2014–20.

Ch Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande (2CC) (17) Smoky, seductive black fruits. Supple extraction. More elegance than depth, but class is there. 2015–24.

Les Forts de Latour (2L) (17) Seductive fruit, with firmness, grip and structure. No blockbuster, but pure and long. 2015–25.

Ch Batailley (5CC) (16.5) Good lifted fruit,not a blockbuster, but pure and rounded with leathery spice. 2015-24.

Ch Haut-Bages-Liberal (5CC) (16.5) Lifted Cabernet fruit, still green on the palate, but has precision and potential. 2015–24.

3 stars HHH

Ch Croizet-Bages (5CC) (16+) Straightforward Pauillac/Cabernet expression. 2014–20.

Ch Grand-Puy-Ducasse (5CC) (16+) Broad, robust Pauillac with a good future. 2014–22.

Ch Pibran (16+) Vibrant, fleshy but firm. Fine modern Pauillac. 2013–18.

Les Tourelles de Longueville (2L) (16+) Fragrant, earthy, good plummy fruit, even a little cedary. Fine classy wine. 2014–20.

Ch Lynch-Moussas (5CC) (16) Lifted red fruits, smooth and classy. Forward. 2013–20.

Pauillac de Ch Latour (3L) (16) Fresh, jammy cassis with good oak. Firm. 2013–17.

Réserve de la Comtesse (2L) (16) Seductive, smoky, spicy. Attractively smooth. 2014–20.

Ch Haut-Bages Monpelou (15.5) Leathery, solid smoky fruit. Good depth. 2013–18.

St-Julien

With a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, St-Julien was, with Pauillac, the Médoc’s most favoured commune. The natural fruit density was heightened by a freshness, and each château was very much in keeping with its own vineyard style. One or two disappointments, but overall an impressive range.

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Léoville-Las Cases (2CC) (19) Dense, complex blackcurrant fruit. Seductive at first, then great power, purity and density of fruit. Beautiful, impressive. 2018–35.

Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou (2CC) (18.5) Dense, complex blackcurrant. Lifted, floral, leafy, great purity and length of fresh, crunchy fruit. Balanced, modern, classic. 2016–30.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Léoville-Barton (2CC) (18) Structured autumnal black fruits, classic firm finish, powerful yet restrained. 2018–30.

Ch Léoville-Poyferré (2CC) (17.5) Plummy, smoky, fleshy ripe fruit, broad and fresh. Firm tannins, inherent class. 2017–30.

Ch St-Pierre (4CC) (17.5) Fragrant, floral with wild roses, good depth, a richly focused wine with dense, pure fruit. 2016–25.

Ch Langoa-Barton (3CC) (17) Briary black fruit, fresh, deep, elegant. Tannins will blend to show an classy wine. 2015–25.

Clos du Marquis (2L) (17) Briary cassis fruit, finesse, class and depth with firm, more Pauillac finish. 2014-22.

Ch Branaire-Ducru (4CC) (16.5) Lifted Cabernet nose, discreet but firm, long, harmonious, poised and elegant. 2015–24.

Ch Gloria (16.5) Big earthy cassis nose, fine Cabernet-dominated fruit with good grip and length. Silky texture. 2014–22.

Ch Lagrange (3CC) (16.5) Fine, concentrated blackcurrant fruit; smoky, supple, ripe, pure, harmonious and elegant. 2014–22.

3 stars HHH

La Croix de Beaucaillou (2L) (16+) Velvety despite being 90% Cabernet. 2014–18.

Ch Talbot (4CC) (16) Upfront Cabernet, yet lacking concentration and depth. 2015–24.

Ch Beychevelle (4CC) (15.5) Supple, forward fruit, lacks structure and depth. 2014–20.

Ch Gruaud-Larose (2CC) (15.5) Broad, jammy, lacks definition, good but not long. 2014–20.

Ch Lalande-Borie (15.5) Deep, pure cassis, supple with good length. 2013–16.

Listrac

Listrac still seems less favoured than its neighbour Moulis, whose style has richer fruit. This year the wines responded well to Cabernet’s ripeness and the leanness of fruit from past vintages is less evident.

3 stars HHH

Ch Clarke (16+) Elegant, extracted black fruit, good oak, classy tannins, depth. 2014–20.

Ch Ducluzeau (16) Full and fleshy, crunchy blackcurrant fruit. Good tannins. 2013–18.

Ch Fourcas-Hosten (15.5) Crushed red/black fruits, precise and clear. Forward. 2013–16.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Fonréaud (15) ■ Ch Fourcas-Dupré (15)

Moulis

Moulis produces very much my style of Médoc: dense yet supple, elegant yet approachable, and in 2008 they were very much up to scratch. A very reliable AC.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Branas Grand Poujeaux (16.5) Fine, ripe cassis nose of elegance and polish. Suave flavours, no rough edges. 2014–20.

Ch Chasse-Spleen (16.5) Dense, polished, precise black fruit. Broad nose, reserved palate. Length and class. 2014–22.

3 stars HHH

Ch Poujeaux (16+) Concentrated but elegant Cabernet nose, rich earthy palate. 2015–24.

Ch La Garricq (16) Cassis and violet nose, spicy palate of depth and charm. 2013–18.

Ch Maucaillou (15.5) Rich fruit in a chunky style. More weight than finesse. 2014–18.

Margaux

Margaux is even more spread out than Pauillac, covering the five communes of Arsac, Cantenac, Labarde, Margaux and Soussans. Soil varies greatly, as do château characteristics, but the AC is showing an increasingly even quality, with even the more extracted wines showing elegance and vice versa. The Cabernets ripened well so the softer influence of Merlot is less present in 2008 than 2007, producing wines with fine depth of expression.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Margaux (1CC) (18) (87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 1.5% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Petit Verdot) Aromatic purity, precise, restrained. More floral than black fruited. Terrific length and finesse. Less ripe now than its peers. 2018–35.

Ch Palmer (3CC) (18) Concentrated, plummy and aromatic. Satiny ripeness with firm tannins, freshness and depth. 2017–30.

Ch Rauzan-Ségla (2CC) (17.5) Less cassis, more floral, almost understated fruit. True precision, depth and length. 2015–25.

Clos des Quatres Vents (17.5) Blackcurrant depth, fragrant yet vigorous. Fascinating, with great richness and purity. 2015–25.

Ch Boyd-Cantenac (3CC) (17) Crushed berry fruit, robust with firm finish. Four-square but good length and potential. 2015–30.

Ch Brane-Cantenac (2CC) (17) Floral, crushed fruit. Elegant, complex, lean with purity and length. Expressive. 2015–25.

Ch Dauzac (5CC) (17) Dense, rich black fruits, firm ripe tannins, big structure, leathery. Will show well for a long time. 2015–25.

Ch Kirwan (3CC) (17) Concentrated cassis already showing complexity and texture. Good persistence and tannins. 2015–25.

Ch Malescot-St-Exupéry (3CC) (17) Lifted blackcurrant fruit, fine precision, lots of energy and good tannins. 2014–22.

Ch d’Angludet (16.5) Fine concentration, elegant, earthy Cabernet, good breadth, length and structure. 2015–24.

Ch Durfort-Vivens (2CC) (16.5) Fragrant and reserved. Firm Cabernet that needs time but already elegant and long. 2014–20.

Ch Ferrière (3CC) (16.5) Pure Margaux Cabernet fruit in a lifted, forward style. Firm tannins will keep it going. 2014–20.

Ch Pouget (4CC) (16.5) Dense extraction of blackcurrant fruit. Structured and ripe tannins. Fine late-harvest wine. 2014–25.

Ch Prieure-Lichine (4CC) (16.5) Concentrated nose. All the elegance of Margaux: depth of fruit, personality and charm. 2014–20.

Ch Siran (16.5) Expressive, ripe Cabernet fruit. Has density but still elegant. Good wine, good future. 2014–20.

Ch Tayac-Plaisance (16.5) Spicy cassis nose, suave and persistent, good depth of northern Margaux fruit. 2014–20.

3 stars HHH

Ch d’Issan (3CC) (16+) Dense Margaux berry fragrance, elegantly expressive. 2014–20.

Ch Giscours (3CC) (16+) Crème de cassis without the sweetness. 2014–20.

Ch Marquis de Terme (4CC) (16+) Solid, lifted fruit, fleshy palate, nice tannins. 2014–20.

Ch Monbrison (16+) Cassis finesse. Good vineyard precision and tannins. 2014–20.

Ch Rauzan-Gassies (2CC) (16+) Concentrated, vigourous. Could be more complex. 2014–20.

L’Aura de Cambon (16+) Floral and supple, lifted and elegant. Margaux charm. 2013–18.

Alter Ego de Ch Palmer (2L) (16) Open nose, closed palate. Fresh, precise. 2013–18.

Ch Bellevue de Tayac (16) Fragrant Cabernet, fleshy density, pure and precise. 2013–18.

Ch Cantenac-Brown (3CC) (16) Smoky cassis fruit; solidly robust style. 2014–20.

Ch du Tertre (5CC) (16) Earthy concentration. Could be more complex. 2014–20.

Ch Labégorce (16) Solid, earthy wine. Good future but never great complexity. 2014–20.

Ch Lascombes (2CC) (16) Rich black fruits, forward, slightly raisiny. Solid, ripe. 2014–18.

Ch Mille Roses (16) Wild rose nose, deep, elegant fleshy fruit. Good future. 2013–18.

Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux (2L) (16) Less seductive than last year. 2014–20.

Villa des Quatres Soeurs (16) Concentrated cassis. Firm for Margaux. True. 2013–18.

Ch Desmirail (3CC) (15.5) Doesn’t have 2008’s concentration but still attractive. 2013–18.

Ch La Bessane (15.5) Tight, dense, good grip (20% Petit Verdot). Raw for Margaux. 2013–17.

Ch Paveil de Luze (15.5) Poised Margaux nose. Light, pretty, supple and fruity. 2012–16.

Ch Pontac-Lynch (15.5) Tight Cabernet. A serious wine low on charm. 2014–18.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Blason d’Issan (2L) (15) ■ Ch La Gurgue (15)

Pessac-Léognan and Graves

Any discussion whether the vintage is a Left or Right Bank year usually leaves Pessac-Léognan and Graves in the middle.

This is further complicated by the fact that the appellation, created in 1987, makes Bordeaux’s finest dry whites, while the other two regions don’t.

2006 was a particularly successful year for Pessac-Léognan, for the reds avoided some of the hard tannins of the northern Médoc and the whites were seductively fleshy for a usually tight style of wine. 2008 equals these in quality.

As for the Graves, with few exceptions (those estates around Portets in the north) the reds – crushed, smoky blackcurrant aromas, very good depth and purity of vineyard fruit and a slight earthiness – are for early drinking. The whites this year were uniformly successful, both floral and citrussy, and can claim some rivalry with those from Pessac-Léognan.

Pessac-Léognan reds

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Haut-Brion (1CC) (19/20) (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc) Seductive berry fruit, satiny palate, precise. Fleshy yet restrained. Great breed and class that will show Haut-Brion’s earthy style to perfection. 2020–40.

4 stars HHHH

Ch La Mission Haut-Brion (gccgcc) (18) Precise, elegant, briar fruit and spice. Classic La Mission concentration. 2019–35.

Ch Malartic-Lagravière (gccgcc) (18) Excellent extraction showing lifted, rich, defined vineyard fruit with no heaviness. 2015–30.

Ch Pape-Clément (gccgcc) (18) Sophisticated nose, elegant palate. Restrained but with great potential. Finely polished. 2014–30.

Ch Haut-Bailly (gccgcc) (17.5) Cabernet fruit with linear precision blending suppleness, firmness and ripeness. 2015–30.

Domaine de Chevalier (gccgcc) (17.5) Smoky, complex, cassis and rose. Deceptively easy due to the fruit purity. Lovely. 2014–25.

Ch Smith Haut-Lafitte (gccgcc) (17) Ripe red/ black berry fruits. Broad and fleshy but elegant with soft complexity. 2014–24.

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (2L) (17) Broad Merlot-dominated nose, broad yet firm. Potential silky fruit. Nice weight. 2015–25.

Ch Latour-Martillac (GCC) (16.5) Big, smoky complex, lifted Cabernet fruit; lively yet dense, typical northern Graves. 2014–24.

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion (2L) (16.5) Ripe Cabernet fruit: open nose, firm palate. Herbaceous, precise. 2015–25.

3 stars HHH

Ch Bouscaut (GCC) (16+) Smoky fruit, roses. Northern Graves sophistication. 2014–22.

Ch de Fieuzal (GCC) (16+) Good tannins but ripe enough to open early. 2014–22.

Ch Les Carmes Haut-Brion (16+) Finely extracted and balanced. Elegant. 2013–18.

Ch Carbonnieux (GCC) (16) Lively, floral, faintly tobacco. Not fleshy but characterful. 2013–18.

Ch Couhins (16) Rich, plummy, lifted. Attractive, youthful expression. 2012–2016.

Ch Gazin-Rocquencourt (16) Tobacco and blackcurrant. Grippy and serious. 2013–18.

Ch La Louvière (16) Smoky, dense fruit, firm tannins, more depth than charm. 2015–25.

Ch Brown (15.5) Tobacco, ripe, firm Cabernet- dominated wine, good future. 2013–18.

Ch Haut-Bergey (15.5) Leathery blackcurrant nose. Deep but not overly complex. 2013–18.

Ch Haut-Gardère (15.5) Fleshy, earthy northern Graves fruit, good finish. 2012–17.

Ch Le Thil Comte Clary (15.5) Floral, cassis nose. Good richness and tannins. 2013–18.

Above: like the wines it promotes, en primeur has enormous global interest

Ch Olivier (gccgcc) (15.5) Not fleshily ripe, but has persistence. Potentially complex. 2014–22.

Ch Picque Caillou (15.5) Jammy red fruit, lifted, supple, elegant and long. 2013–20.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Baret (15) ■ Ch de France (15)

Graves reds

3 stars HHH

Ch de Cantegive (16) Graves tobacco leaf, depth and freshness, well-made. 2012–16.

Ch Rahoul (16) Smoky blackcurrant nose, Depth and potential complexity. 2013–18.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Ferrande (15)

Pessac-Léognan whites

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Haut-Brion (gCC) (18.5) More fleshy than Laville, despite less Sémillon. Precision, perfect harmony and length. Hard to imagine a more beautiful expression of Sémillon/Sauvignon grapes. 2012–20.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Laville Haut-Brion (gCC) (18) White flower and white stone-fruits. Controlled energy on the finish. 2012–20.

Domaine de Chevalier (gCC) (18) Elegant oak and herbs, great potential complexity. Think Domaine Leflaive Puligny in style. 2012–20.

Ch Malartic-Lagravière (gCC) (17.5) Herby florality. Pure, persistent Sauvignon Blanc. Great energy, totally harmonious. 2011–18.

Ch Pape-Clemént (17.5) Oak blends with floral nose. Elegant, precise palate.Sophistication, lift and class. 2011–16.

Ch de Fieuzal (17) Burgundian style Graves: fleshy white fruits, but a balancing acidity will allow it to mature well. 2012–16.

Ch Smith Haut-Lafitte (17) Fragrantly ripe white fruits, fleshy yet harmonious acidity. Fine, floral, broad. 2011–16.

Ch La Louvière (17) Fine, floral Sauvignon Blanc expression with gravelly Graves complexity. Firmness will hold it. 2012–16.

3 stars HHH

Ch Couhins (gCC) (16+) Vibrant floral fruit. Firm. Harmonious finish. Long. 2011–2015.

Ch Carbonnieux (gCC) (16+) White flowers and honey. Full palate. Vibrant. 2011–15.

Ch Olivier (gCC) (16+) Crisp, well-expressed fruit. Still firm but will open up. 2011–16.

Ch Bouscaut (gCC) (16) Precise, bright fruit that will become more complex. 2011–16.

Ch Brown (16) Fleshy yellow fruits on the palate and fine, citrussy acidity. 2010–13.

Ch Haut-Bergey (16) Dry herbaceous fruit and clear vigour on the palate. 2011–14.

Ch Latour-Martillac (gCC) (16) Herbaceous white fruits with dry honey. 2011–15.

Ch Larrivet Haut-Brion (16) Good length and will develop well. 2011–15.

Ch Picque-Caillou (16) Elegant white flower fruit. Restrained Sauvignon Blanc. 2011–15.

Ch Baret (15.5) White flowers and lifted fruit, good clarity and length. 2010–12.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch de France (15)

Graves whites

3 stars HHH

Ch de Chantegrive (16) Clear, broad fruit palate, good length. Serious wine. 2010–14.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Ferrande (15) ■ Ch Rahoul (15)

Right Bank by James Lawther MW

It’s perhaps a little early to cry ‘Right Bank vintage’, but en primeur supported the view. In my view, there was more consistency and excitement than on the Left Bank (though the latter had its highs), the Merlot and Cabernet Franc providing seductive aromas and flavours combined with structure and concentration.

Surprise in the quality (good to very good) was general, growers pointing to naturally low yields (coulure, especially in the Merlot; mildew, hail and frost in parts of St-Emilion), a dry July and the bright conditions in September and October as the mitigating factors. Proper vineyard management prevailed – and patience to harvest late. Those who rushed to pick in mid-September got poor results. At JP Moueix, picking dates were 29 September to 12 October in Pomerol and 14 to 21 October in St-Emilion.

Apart from quality, the other surprise was wine style. Late-harvested vintages (like 2007) are usually softer and earlier drinking, but in 2008 the Right Bank Wines have a seductive nose and texture, with acidity and ripe tannins for ageing. As a vintage that breaks a number of tenets (‘good vintages aren’t late ones’) it has few comparisons. The wines are modern, richer than 2004 and 2006, not far from 2005 but less powerful all the same.

St-Emilion

This was a successful year for St-Emilion. The wines combine the characteristics of a classic and late-harvested vintage with flattering aromas, suave texture, ripe tannins and marked acidity. They are seductively fruity and structured for ageing. Despite the late harvesting there’s little overripeness and few wines are over-extracted. Good vineyard management was essential. The pick are from clay-limestone and gravelly soils, at the high-achieving end of the scale. Merlot has the panache only seen in top years and the excellent Cabernet Franc has given blends length, complexity and freshness. Wines lack the power and punch of 2005 and 1998, but the quality is not far off. Some of the charm of the better 2001s can also be perceived. The imprint of St-Emilion’s various terroirs is evident.

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Ausone (1GCCA) (19/20) Continues the run of great vintages since 1996. Fragrant nose of superb fruit purity. Seamless palate with vigour and finesse. Lifted, fresh finish. Dense and profound. 2018–35.

Ch Cheval Blanc (1GCCA) (19) Superb, with the finesse, nose and Pomerol-esque opulence for which it is renowned. 50-50 Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Understated density. Close in quality to 2005. 2016–30.

Vieux Château Mazerat (GC) (18.5) New wine from Jonathan Maltus of Ch Teyssier, stamped with class. Fragrant, complex, well-extracted, fine tannins. Power and elegance. Old-vine fruit from a top terroir. 2016–28.

4 stars HHHH

Ch Figeac (1GCCB) (18) True to style, this has Médoc allure (70% Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc) with finesse, freshness and length. 2016–30.

Ch Pavie (1GCCB) (18) Another big wine from Gérard Perse, close to ’05 in quality. Huge weight, density and tannic frame. Long ageing. 2016–35.

Ch Troplong Mondot (1GCCB) (18) A dark, powerful, brooding statement from Christine Valette. Massive cassis fruit and tight tannins. 2015–28.

Clos Fourtet (1GCCB) (18) Vibrant fresh fruit. Gourmand and opulent. Superb texture. Fine tannins, good length. A standout this year. 2015–30.

Chapelle d’Ausone (GC, 2L) (17.5) The quality of a first growth. Savoury, spicy, complex. Dense, velvety. Long, fine tannins. Poised and elegant. 2016–30.

Ch Angélus (1GCCB) (17.5) Typical in style. Spicy, cedar nose. Rich, full extract but reined in and accented towards the fruit. Big but harmonious. 2016–28.

Ch Belair-Monange (1GCCB) (17.5) First vintage for Christian Moueix. Change of style, with greater fruit density and finer texture. Terroir. 2015–30.

Ch Canon (1GCCB) (17.5) Hallmark elegance. Good if not better than ’05. Fine, supple weight and texture. Long, fresh finish. Harmonious. 2015–28.

Ch Canon-la-Gaffelière (GCC) (17.5) Fine fruit and texture. Shows precision. Elegant but with a great depth of fruit. Long, fresh finish. 2015–26.

Ch La Gaffelière (1GCCB) (17.5) Lovely depth of fruit. Velvety in weight and texture. Dense, expressive with balance and length. Charm. 2015–28.

Ch Larcis Ducasse (GCC) (17.5) Dense, smooth and elegant. Tannins very fine. Long, fresh finish. Terroir evident. Rivals the top growths. 2015–30.

Ch Pavie Macquin (1GCCB) (17.5) Iron fist in a velvet glove. Seductive ripe fruit, powerful tannic frame, mineral terroir finish. Unique. 2018–30.

Ch Trottevieille (1GCCB) (17.5) 50% Cabernet gives freshness, length. Continues the progress in poise, balance and elegance of past few years. 2016–30.

Ch Valandraud (GC) (17.5) Pure, expressive fruit. Dense, ripe but balanced, firm, fine, fresh tannins. Concentrated but harmonious. 2015–25.

La Mondotte (GC) (17.5) Dark, powerful and brooding, as is the style. Rich, dense fruit, forceful tannic frame. Good length and finish. 2016–26.

Le Dôme (GC) (17.5) Textured, dark fruit. Plentiful tannins, finely honed. Well-handled extraction. Subdued but with an edge of finesse. 2015–24.

Les Astéries (GC) (17.5) Elegant, fragrant, touch of class. Long and linear but solid depth of fruit. Fresh, minerally note on the finish. 2016–26.

Ch Beau-Séjour Bécot (1GCCB) (17) Plenty of dark fruit extract. Fresh, chalky, minerally finish. Less seductive than some years. 2015–28.

Ch Fleur Cardinale (GCC) (17)

Rich and full in style, opulent fruit and texture. Fine but firm tannic frame. Long. 2014–24.

Ch Grand Mayne (GCC) (17) Full, generous, vibrant fruit. More elegance than some years. Long, firm finish. Good ageing potential. 2016–30.

Ch l’Arrosée (GCC) (17) The run of excellent wines continues. Fragrant, intense, good length, supple texture. 2015–25.

Ch Le Tertre Roteboeuf (GC) (17) Trademark opulence and maturity of fruit. Ripe, confit nose. Gourmand, zesty palate. Round, pure tannins. 2015–26.

Ch Magdelaine (1GCCB) (17) Riper spectrum than in the past. Supple fruit, richer than ’07. Terroir still evident with a fine, fresh finish. 2015–28.

Ch Pavie Decesse (GCC) (17) Evident fruit power and density but a little too much. Tight, strict, more muscular even than Pavie. 2016–30.

Le Carré (GC) (17) Lovely fragrant fruit expression. Beautifully textured. Opulent fruit and fine, long tannins. 2015–25.

Le Petit Cheval (GC, 2L) (17) Superb second wine – much of the elegance of the grand vin. Fragrant, finely textured, long and balanced. 2015–24.

Virginie de Valandraud (GC) (17) Seductive this year. Less power and reserve than Valandraud but very fine. Fragrant fruit, fine long tannins. 2014–22.

Ch Barde Haut (GC) (16.5) Rich, dense fruit. Supple, layered texture. Tannins ripe, firm and long. 2015–25.

Ch Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse) (1GCCB) (16.5) Generous fruit, fresh finish. Solid, vigourous, firm tannins.Lacking finesse. 2015–26.

Ch Destieux (GCC) (16.5) Dense, powerful but austere now. Big depth of fruit. Firm structure. Ageworthy. 2016-26.

Ch Grand Corbin Despagne (GCC) (16.5) Fine texture and fruit. Generous but elegant. Has the class of top years. Consistent player. 2014–25.

Ch La Dominique (GCC) (16.5) Jean-Luc Thunevin continues progress at this estate. Dense, elegant fruit, fine and long. Harmonious, pure. 2015–25.

Ch La Tour Figeac (GCC) (16.5) Fine, fresh and opulent. Very attractive this year. Not as dense as ’05 but added charm. Potential good buy. 2014–24.

Ch Moulin-St-Georges (GC) (16.5) Lovely density and depth of fruit. Ripe and dark with polished tannins. Fresh, balanced finish. 2015–24.

Ch Rol Valentin (GC) (16.5) Dense, concentrated, elegant, creamy texture and balancing fresh finish. Power and elegance this year. 2014–22.

Clos des Jacobins (GCC) (16.5) Rich and full with firm but fine tannins. Confirms its class and consistency. 2015–24.

Clos St-Martin (GCC) (16.5) Dense, ripe with a solid depth of fruit. Tannins firm but fine. Long, linear finish. Good potential. 2016–28.

Pèby de Château Faugères (GC) (16.5) Concentrated, dark confit fruit but more elegant than in the past. Palate less bruising. Fresh finish. 2015–26.

3 stars HHH

Ch Bellevue (GCC) (16+) First vintage by the Angélus team. Sweet Merlot: 98%. 2016–26.

Ch Dassault (GCC) (16+) Seductive, spicy, dark. Oak more subdued than normal. 2014–23.

Ch Fonplégade (GCC) (16+) Continues the progression seen since 2006. 2015–26.

Ch La Couspaude (GCC) (16+) True to style, modern, gormand fruit, fine oak. 2013–23.

Ch La Serre (GCC) (16+) Fine, long, rich density of fruit. Underlying power. 2016–26.

Ch Bellefont-Belcier (GCC) (16) Compact, fragrant. Consistent quality. 2014–24.

Ch Berliquet (GCC) (16) Fine first vintage by Stéphane Derenoncourt. 2015–25.

Château Monbousquet (GCC) (16) Dense, ripe, modern. True to the house style. 2015–24.

Ch Cadet-Bon (GCC) (16) Smooth, fragrant. Fine texture and tannic frame. 2015–23.

Ch Croix de Labrie (GC) (16) Refined texture, soft silky tannins. Approachable. 2013–20.

Ch Faugères (GC) (16) Ripe, expressive, well-handled fruit. Fine tannins. 2014–24.

Ch Fombrauge (GC) (16) Dark, rich, dense and modern.Extracted but balanced. 2015–25.

Ch Fonroque (GCC) (16) More elegant than in the past. Pure fruit expression. 2016–26.

Ch Franc Mayne (GCC) (16) Flattering berry fruit. Touch of oak, fresh finish. 2014–24.

Ch Jean Faure (GC) (16) Elegant, fragrant, fresh fruit expression. Fine tannins. 2013–22.

Ch La Clotte (GCC) (16) Perfect expression of Côtes Merlot. Big step up from ’07. 2015–25.

Ch La Gomerie (GC) (16) Supple Merlot. Jolly texture and tannin. Balanced. 2014–22.

Ch Laforge (GC) (16) Dark, full, savoury. Ripe and solid rather than complex. 2014–22.

Ch Laroque (GCC) (16) More generous fruit this year. Tannins firm and long. 2015–26.

Ch Le Prieuré (GCC) (16) More structured than ’07 and ’06 but still modern, fresh. 2015–25.

For all the latest news, prices, blogs, videos and Ch Les Grandes Murailles (GCC) (16) Big, ripe, voluptuous. Modern. Consistent. 2015–25.

Ch Quinault L’Enclos (GC) (16) Representative of the vintage. Supple, elegant. 2014–22.

Ch Sansonnet (GC) (16) Expressive fruit. More finesse than in the past. 2015–24.

Ch Soutard (GCC) (16) Conforms to new style set in ’07. Riper, denser fruit. 2015–25.

Ch Villemaurine (GCC) (16) Riper, smoother wine by Stéphane Derenoncourt. 2014–24.

Clos de l’Oratoire (GCC) (16) Accent on fruit. Long, fine and elegant in style. 2014–23.

Clos La Madeleine (GC) (16) Smoother texture than in the past adds finesse. 2015–25.

Ch Cadet-Piola (GCC) (15.5) Fresh, elegant, lively. Classic from the plateau. 2015–23.

Ch Cap de Mourlin (GCC) (15.5) Keeps the riper, supple style set a few years ago. 2014–24.

Ch Corbin (GCC) (15.5) Ripe, plummy with a certain opulence. Fine tannins. 2014–20.

Ch de Fonbel (GC) (15.5) Crushed raspberry and spice. Good value as always. 2012–18.

Ch de Pressac (GC) (15.5) Balanced. Tannins fine and ripe. Above average. 2014–20.

Ch Gracia (GC) (15.5) Rich, round, concentrated but lacking in verve and freshness. 2014–20.

Ch La Fleur Morange (GC) (15.5) Modern, spicy. Acidity level leaves robust edge. 2013–20.

Ch La Marzelle (GCC) (15.5) Round and supple. Density of red fruit. Fine tannins. 2014–23.

Ch Larmande (GCC) (15.5) Almost Médocain in weight and frame. True to style. 2013–22.

Ch La Tour du Pin (GCC) (15.5) Improvement from Cheval Blanc team. Finesse. 2014–23.

Ch Petit Faurie de Soutard (GCC) (15.5) Denser, riper than in past. Dark, crunchy. 2014–23.

Ch Teyssier (GC) (15.5) Succulent, good value. Attractive fruit, Light tannins. 2012–16.

Ch Balestard la Tonnelle (GCC) (15) Confit fruit but a touch overripe. Chalky. 2014–24.

Ch Bergat (GCC) (15) Defined plateau terroir.Minerally fruit. Chalky. Austere. 2015–24.

Ch Chauvin (GCC) (15) Round, supple fruit. Fine in a lighter style. 2013–20.

Ch Grand-Pontet (GCC) (15) Sound, ripe and plummy. Fine tannic frame. 2014–20.

Ch Guadet (GCC) (15) A bit austere. Better fruit than past. Work in progress. 2015–22.

Ch Haut-Sarpe (GCC) (15) Overripe, jammy. Mineral finish. Awkward balance. 2015–22.

Couvent des Jacobins (GCC) (15) Light but fresh. Accessible early but will age. 2013–20.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Haut Simard (GC) (15) ■ Ch Laroze (GCC) (15) ■ Ch Matras (GCC) (15) ■ Ch Ripeau (GCC) (15) ■ Ch Simard (GC) (15) ■ Ch Corbin Michotte (GCC) (14.5) ■ Ch Haut-Corbin (GCC) (14.5) ■ Ch Laniote (GCC) (14.5)

Pomerol

As with the Right Bank in general, 2008 was a good year for Pomerol. It continues the favourable run of 2005, 2006 and 2007, but quality is more uniform and a notch higher in 2008. The characteristics of the vintage are fragrance, fresh acidity, natural alcohol levels (of 13° to 14°) and the opulence that typifies quality Pomerol. Naturally lower yields were essential for consistency but also key was good vineyard management. Terroir played a part, with wines from the warmer clay/gravels of the plateau (usually the site of the top estates) superior to those on sandier soils. The wines are ripe and concentrated, with textural and aromatic charm. 1988 has been mentioned as a possible comparison (another late harvest year) but ripeness was greater in 2008.

5 stars HHHHH

Ch Lafleur (19) With 54% Cabernet Franc, this is a wine of elegance, length and line. Discretion itself, giving the impression of austerity, but there’s impressive finesse of fruit and length of tannins. 2018–35.

Ch Pétrus (19) King of the Moueix stable this year. Big and brooding with great density of fruit and imposing structure. Typical of the vintage, the tannins are powerful, fresh and long. 2018–40.

Ch l’Eglise-Clinet (18.5) Denis Durantou has produced another classic, long-ageing wine of distinction.Expressive Merlot, refined tannins and 15% Cabernet Franc adding complexity and length. 2018–35.

Ch Trotanoy (18.5) Discreet and subdued but with an impressive density of fruit and ripe, firm tannins. Powerful and muscular but does not have the majesty of Pétrus this year. 2018–35

4 stars HHHH

Ch l’Evangile (18) With ’05, one of the best of the Rothschild era, though less powerful. 12% Cabernet Franc. 2016-2030

Ch Gazin (17.5) Characteristic, opulent Pomerol. Firm, ripe structure. Close to ’05 with perhaps more charm. 2016–28.

Ch La Violette (17.5) Beautiful fruit. Fine, ripe but balanced. Greater density than ’07; close to ’06 in quality. 2015–26.

Ch Le Gay (17.5) Burgundian red fruit aromas. Palate full and round but with a firm tannic frame. 2015–26.

Ch Le Bon Pasteur (16.5) Round and suave. Succulent fruit on the palate. Ripe with confit notes. Polished tannins. 2015–26.

Ch Petit-Village (16.5) Seductive nose. Good density. Continues the post-2004 progress towards greater finesse. 2015–25.

3 stars HHH

Ch Beauregard (16+) More intensity than in 2007. Smooth and finely honed. 2014–25

Clos du Clocher (16+) Dark fruit notes. A notch above the attractive 2007. 2014–25.

Ch La Croix de Gay (16) Fragrant, Burgundian.Fleshy and overtly seductive. 2014–23.

Ch La Pointe (16) Riper than the past. Good potential in a lighter-styled vein. 2014–23.

Ch Guillot (16) Rarely in the spotlight but consistent in quality. Fresh, linear. 2014–22.

Ch Nénin (16) Firm, dark and restrained. Almost Médoc-like. Touch austere. 2015–25.

Ch Taillefer (16) Seductive, violet notes. Lively fruit, firm tannins. Good value. 2013–20.

Le Clos du Beau-Père (16) Suave, succulent, 10% Cabernet Franc adds length. 2013–20.

Ch Bourgneuf-Vayron (15.5) Robust tannins. If they mellow it gets a better score. 2015–23.

Ch Certan de May (15.5) Better than ’07. Riper but still not achieving its potential. 2013–20.

Ch La Croix du Casse (15.5) Improvements paying off: the best for many years. 2013–20.

Ch Mazeyres (15.5) Noble effort from a large estate on sandy soil. Light but lively. 2013–20.

Ch Montviel (15.5) Juicy ripe fruit. Attractive in a round, forward fashion. 2012–20.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Bellegrave (15) ■ Ch La Cabanne (15)

■ Ch Vieux Maillet (15) ■ Domaine Fayat-Thunevin (15)

Lalande de Pomerol

3 stars HHH

Ch de Chambrun (16) First vintage by Silvio Denz (Ch Faugères). More elegant. 2013–20.

Ch Garraud (16) Fine, firm with expressive dark fruit. Length on the finish. 2013–18.

Ch La Sergue (16) Oak more restrained than the past. Interesting potential. 2013–20.

La Fleur de Boüard (16) True to style: warm, modern, finely textured. 2013–20.

Ch Les Cruzelles (15.5) Consistent value from Denis Durantou. Juicy. 2013–18.

Ch Siaurac (15.5) Continued progress. Has gained in finesse and texture. 2013–18.

Ch Tournefeuille (15.5) Spicy, dark fruit aromas. Solid density of fruit. 2013–18.

Domaine Fayat-Thunevin (15.5) 30% Cabernet Franc adds complexity. 2013–18.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch La Gravière (15) ■ Ch Jean de Gué (15) ■ Ch Perron, La Fleur (15)

Fronsac, Côtes and satellites

If good vineyard management techniques were applied and producers held out to harvest late, then consumers will find lots of good value wines here in 2008. The fruit is juicy and the structure firm, fresh and ripe. Naturally lower yields assisted with concentration, but then it came down to vineyard cultivation and the patience to harvest late. Hail in June affected Montagne St-Emilion.

Fronsac

4 stars HHHH

Haut-Carles (16.5) Ripe, modern, flattering fruit, exotic flavours. Fine tannic frame. Accessible early but will age. 2012–18.

3 stars HHH

Ch de La Dauphine (16+) Charm, elegance with a firm but fine tannic frame. 2012–18.

Ch La Rousselle (16+) Violet notes from a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc. 2012–18.

Ch du Gaby (16) Dense, firm with expressive fruit. Chalky terroir. Good length. 2014–18.

Ch Haut-Ballet (16) Minerally complexity, polished tannins. The best yet. 2012–18.

Ch Moulin Haut-Laroque (16) Ripe, dense, attractive fruit. Polished. 2012–18.

Ch Les Trois Croix (16) Consistent, elegant style. Tender red fruits, precise. 2012–18.

Ch Dalem (15.5) Solid dark fruit. Fine texture and weight. Dense but restrained. 2012–18.

Ch Fontenil (15.5) Expressive fruit. Ample and gourmand. Harmonious. 2012–18.

Ch Moulin Pey-Labrie (15.5) Round, ample elegant fruit. Fine tannic frame. 2012–18.

Ch Richelieu (15.5) Dense, ripe fruit. Firm, powerful style, solid tannic frame. 2012–18.

Ch La Vieille Cure (15.5) Ample, round with generous fruit. Finely structured. 2011–16.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Barrabaque, Prestige (15) ■ Ch Cassagne Haut-Canon, La Truffière (15) ■ Ch de la Rivière (15) ■ Ch Villars (15)

Côtes de Castillon

4 stars HHHH

Domaine de l’A (17) Unrivalled elegance for the appellation. Velvety texture, fine tannins. Superb this year. 2012–18.

3 stars HHH

Ch d’Aiguilhe (16) In tune with the style of the vintage. Polished tannins. 2011–17.

Ch Joanin Bécot (16) One of the appellation’s consistent performers. 2011–15.

Clos Les Lunelles (16) Rich, ripe and modern. Confit notes. A wine for hedonists. 2011–16.

Ch Cap de Faugères (15.5) Dark, ripe fruit. Juicy and gourmand. 2011–15.

Ch Clos l’Eglise (15.5) Consistent value for money. Dark fruit, spicy, fresh and balanced. 2011–15.

Ch La Croix Lartigue (15.5) New, by Stéphane Derenoncourt. Ripe and dense. 2012–16.

Ch Veyry (15.5) Good fruit density. Integrated oak. Modern, honed, not excessive. 2011–15.

Clos Puy Arnaud (15.5) Potential’s there but the wine’s awkward at this stage. 2012–16.

3 stars (15 and 14.5 points) HHH

■ Ch Ampélia (15) ■ Ch Côte Montpezat (15)

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