Clos Cantenac 2018

This wine is made from wonderfully ripe Merlot from our older vines planted in three separate blocks and picked in perfect early morning conditions over 8 days in late September. The colour is a deep dense velvety black with a vibrant and hugely appealing structure of fine rich, ripe fruits with hints of black cherry and cassis enhanced by dark fruited fragrances and a touch of sweet spice. Elegance and finesse further supports a register of lush fresh berries and brambly like flavours, coffee beans, mocha and soft grilled new oak notes.

On the palate it displays a luscious concentrated fine fruit attack with a succulent crunchy florality and waves of dark plums and chocolate that spreads with a generous exaggeration and impressive intensity across the mouth leading to a sleek graphite like finish. It is a deliciously confident and opulent wine of classic structure but with a touch of mystique that promises well for the future.

Overall, the vintage has produced a very fine and attractive wine that will continue to develop for many years to come and benefit hugely from careful cellaring.

Drink 2022 to 2035.

Vineyard: Careful selection from 5.0 hectares overall vineyard.

Grape variety: 100% Merlot

Harvesting: 100% by hand, 18th-21st and 25th September

Winemaking: One days’ cold soak (7-8°C) due to high extractability. Alcoholic fermentation (25°C) for 6 days with regular pumping followed by a single delastage. Post fermentation maceration (28/29°C) for 6 days in reductive conditions. Malo-lactic fermentation in new oak barrels.

Ageing: Aged in 50% New French Oak and 50% 2nd year Oak for 12 months.

Alcohol by volume: 14%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 8,000 bottles

2018 will be remembered as an exceptional year in Bordeaux with a glorious summer that extended long into harvest. However, the year begun with many challenges and was initially characterised by a wet winter followed by a seriously cold and damp spring with the threat of mildew from spring onwards the strongest for decades.

During this period there were also localised hailstorms in May and July, but the flowering in May and June was largely successful and was followed by good weather with just enough rain in early July to sustain the vines through even the hottest spells.

However, in stark contrast to the rain that fell from March to June, compared to July, August and September was the amount of rain prior to April. March was very wet, but February was close to average. Then in December and January we experienced almost double the normal rainfall and so going into the growing season there was no shortage of water underfoot.

Another factor was the mild end to 2017 and early 2018, which was followed by a cold period in February that provided an important winter break for the vines and March was also a degree colder than usual. However it was not just the wet spring that was a problem but also a very rainy December to March with temperatures fluctuating that led to a serious threat of mildew and severe risk of contamination from mid April onwards. Many organic/biodynamic vineyards were hit badly at this time and even those conventionally farmed vineyards that missed vital treatments also suffered considerable losses. A day or two late in many cases proved expensive as about a third of Bordeaux was impacted by mildew to a greater or lesser extent.

The flowering in late May/June went well and the weather picked up from mid-June and after the rain over month end, the sun shone brightly from 4th July though to September. That period was also considerably warmer than usual and with 5 consecutive days at over 35ºC which was just too much for some young vines. In fact from 14 July to 15 August we had the second hottest ‘high season’ on record since 1947 and only surpassed by the scorching summer of 2003.

I cannot recall such a uniformly warm and sunny summer and stress free harvest in Bordeaux since I first arrived almost 20 years ago and so with such favourable conditions it was little wonder that the harvest kicked off early. We started with the rosé harvest on 4th September and then waited to complete it with one more day on 11th September and then moved on to the reds. There was of course the small exception of 5th and 6th September when we had 34mm of rain, but it was actually a blessed refresher prior to the red harvest which commenced with the Merlot on 18th September and finished with the Cabernets on 11th October with the fruit coming surprisingly clean.

In conclusion 2018 was an unusual vintage with extraordinary amounts of winter rain followed by a humid early growing season and an exceptionally long, hot, dry summer, which finally produced perfect harvest conditions. The potential for greatness is now clear, although achieving the correct balance was also key to success but the late cold spell in early spring and continued cool nights made up for the mild winter and provided the acidity and structure needed to accommodate the intense fruit and alcohol. Ultimately, the result of an individual Estates success will be defined by the timing and delivery of their vineyard management decisions and the winemaking techniques applied.

It sashays out of the glass with very pretty notions of kirsch, raspberry pie, blueberry preserves and red roses plus hints of cinnamon stick, menthol, chocolate box and star anise.”

Lisa Perrotti-Brown – Robert Parker