It was a tale of two vintages; some in the north claimed 2018 was a vintage of ‘dreams’, those in the mildew-stricken south were less enthusiastic as crops were lost in what has been described as a ‘very stressful year’.
Looking at the white wines from 2018 across both parts of the Rhône there are some gems to be found if you know where to look.
Scroll down to see Matt’s best Rhône 2018 white wines
The Northern Rhône was largely a vintage for reds but there are plenty of very good white wines too, particularly from Condrieu, with a handful from St-Joseph, Hermitage and St-Péray also scoring highly.
On the whole, the wines from Condrieu are fairly dilute, lacking the opulence and fullness that often make them so irresistible, but buy on recommendation and you can find some very attractive wines not least from producers with vineyards on the most prestigious terroirs such as Domaine Niero and Domaine de Monteillet.
There are several safe bets in Saint-Péray and Saint-Joseph this year, many of which are generously proportioned but also fresh and drinkable. Growers in Saint-Péray understand how to get the best from their vineyards even when the mercury rises – as in 2018 – and while lots from Saint-Péray are on the broad side this year, there are some that have a lovely aromatic freshness and will provide a lot of pleasure when young.
The best whites from Hermitage this year are impressive, displaying good energy, freshness and drinkability if not muscle.
Quick link: Rhône 2018 En Primeur: Full report
Travelling south there are some real finds in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Lirac and Vacqueyras, but again, you need to know where to seek them out.
In general terms the whites were a little more consistent than reds this year and fall between 2015 and 2017 in style. They are ripe, full-bodied, with high alcohol and sometimes low acidity. Some are delicious, and are largely wines to drink young rather than keep.
The whites from Châteauneuf-du-Pape are consistent, in a particularly full-bodied and opulent style. A good proportion were on the light side, others were overweight and lacked freshness. Some producers managed to walk this tightrope successfully, but like the reds, drink sooner rather than later.
More and more white grapes are being planted in Vacqueyras to keep up with demand and there are some enjoyable examples in 2018, while in Lirac the whites were the most reliable of the lot.
White Lirac can sometimes be light on its feet, but the 2018s are fairly full and lush; when winemakers could capture enough freshness to balance the innate richness of the vintage, some enjoyably characterful wines are the result.
The wines below all impressed, with many scoring 94 points. Be sure to add them to the ‘My Wines’ section of the website as a reference point for when they are released.