La Devine 2018

The colour of the wine shows a deep red and is marked by its beautiful Merlot lushness with the Cabernet Franc/Sauvignon adding length and character, whilst on the nose it shows a fresh powerful and pronounced mix of scented aromas, rich jammy-ripe damsons and black cherry fruit flavours.

You then find more complex notes of forest floor, moss, spice and toasty characters as well as a hint of liquorice and menthol that integrate well with a pleasant layer of smoke and leather over further spicy characters to provide an attractive combination.

On the palate the wine is soft and seductively supple with a generous well-balanced length, an elegant aromatic persistency and freshness where we find more blackberry and blackcurrant notes, tobacco leaf and grilled oak with hints of leather, vanilla and softly refined ripe tannins that lead to a long persistent finish.

Drink 2020 to 2028.

Vineyard: 5 hectares overall

Grape variety: 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Harvesting: 100% by hand, 24th and 30th September

Winemaking: Saignée, cold maceration (7-8°C) for 7 days to develop fruit aromas.  Alcoholic fermentation (25C) for 5 days with regular pumping over. Post-fermentation macerating (28-29°C) for 15-20 days, due to the exceptional fruit quality. Malo-lactic fermentation in oak barrels

Ageing: Aged in 10% New Oak and 90% 2nd and 3rd year Oak for 12 months

Alcohol by volume: 13.0% vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 5,000 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.

With a cranberry and cherry crunch and perfectly weighted, refreshing tannins, this is a gorgeously fresh and bright Merlot with a neat and tidy finish. Forward and aromatic this is a lovely, generous wine.”

Matthew Jukes