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Bordeaux En Primeur : 2018, 150th harvest at Lafite!

To celebrate our 150 years of viticulture, we needed the heavens to send us a tearaway vintage. The sort that plays tricks on us, showing us how our job should always keep us on our toes to protect our vines and our future crops.

The winter of 2018 was the coldest we have experienced since 2010, especially because of a month of February that brought down the average temperature. But above all, it was rainy… Incessant rain that continued throughout the spring. Not since 2001 had there been such wet conditions at the start of the season. These permanent rainstorms, violent at times, resulted in continuous and unparalleled pressure from mildew from May to July. It struck like it had never struck before in the memory of the vineyard teams at all our properties. Lafite, Duhart-Milon and Rieussec were able to withstand the pressure well. But L’Evangile, where the mildew was even worse at the end of flowering, was more severely affected. Because of the temperamental weather that brought us 7 days of rain and 90% humectation on the 10 days of flowering, it was impossible to get into some plots to protect them.

Hail was also a constant threat. Our vineyards were spared in May and June, but unfortunately Rieussec was severely hit on 15 July, at the very moment France was winning the FIFA World Cup…

Summer did not begin until 16 July. We thought at the time that we had had enough waterto last until the end, for a vintage that was already expected to be late. But conditions changed dramatically with the arrival of a hot spell, and temperatures continued to increase with peaks of up to 40 degrees. The soils being saturated with water, the growing cycle picked up speed and the vintage turned into an early one, with mid veraison of the Merlot on 3 August, only 4 to 5 days later than in 2017 (another very precocious child).

Under these conditions, evapotranspiration was very intense and water stress arrived much earlier than expected: by 10 August it was common to record hydric potentials of -1.5, and extremes of -2.0 were reached at the end of August at L’Evangile. These very warm conditions for ripening made it difficult for the young vines and for soils that were too dried out, but were ideal for old vines in the great terroirs, because they have the capacity to absorb the excesses of the climate.

September arrived as a final twist: strong heat, cool-enough nights and a few drops of rain at the right time. Never had we experienced such a trouble-free harvest.

Château Lafite Rothschild

There is no doubt here: the great terroir effect buffered the excesses of the vintage. After so many challenges at the start of the season, the last weeks were a pleasure because we could sit back and watch the vintage becoming great. At the time of the harvest, the perfect health of the grapes gave us the time to choose as never before, to attack each plot with the sole criterion of ripeness. In the end, we were spoilt for choice, because the Merlot and Cabernet both shone, in vinification as well as during blending.

Bud Burst : 16 April
Flowering : 4 June
Veraison : 3 August

Harvest :
Merlot : from 17 to 24 September
Cabernet Sauvignon : from 25 September to 5 October
Cabernet Franc : 24 September
Petit Verdot : 3 and 4 October

Château Lafite Rothschild
Cabernet Sauvignon : 91 %
Merlot : 8,5 %
Petit Verdot : 0,5 %

Carruades de Lafite

This year for Carruades, we went even further, right from the vine, in the selection to be able to gain precision at the time of our blend. In what we call the Anseillan plots, on the other side of the road, we completely redefined picking by enriching our historic soil maps with new data on resistivity, NDVI vigour and water potential. After vinification, we can finally say that this effort has borne fruit.

Bud Burst : 16 April
Flowering : 4 June
Veraison : 3 August

Harvest :
Merlot : from 17 to 24 September
Cabernet Sauvignon : from 25 September to 5 October
Cabernet Franc : 24 September
Petit Verdot : 3 and 4 October

Carruades de Lafite
Cabernet Sauvignon : 56,5 %
Merlot : 38 %
Cabernet Franc : 5,5 %

Château Duhart-Milon

On the Duhart-Milon terroir, drier than Lafite for the Cabernet Sauvignon but with more clay for the Merlot, 2018 had two different effects. For the Cabernet, the stress was very intense in August and September but the light rains on 28 August and 5 September resolved the situation and put ripening back on track. On the clay, where our Merlot is planted, our terroir proved to be particularly well adapted to the vintage and the water stress was always perfect and without excess. We have never seen such beautiful Merlots at Duhart: which is good news, because our Grand Vin always contains them in high proportion.

Bud Burst : 16 April
Flowering : 4 June
Veraison : 3 August

Harvest :
Merlot : from 17 to 25 September
Cabernet Sauvignon : from 25 September to 4 October

Château Duhart-Milon
Cabernet Sauvignon : 65 %
Merlot : 35 %

Moulin de Duhart
Merlot : 60 %
Cabernet Sauvignon: 40%

Château L’Evangile

It is impossible not to mention the mildew problem, when we had been working so hard to build a viticulture without residues and with high environmental responsibility. Thanks to extremely meticulous work, our team was able to restore ideal conditions in the vineyard before ripening. The effect of the heat was even stronger here than on the other bank, with ripening blocked for some young vines at the end of summer. We were saved by the 25 mm of rain on 7 September. Our greatest pride in 2018, even if our heart is still beating for Merlot ? The excellent quality of our Cabernet Franc.

Bud burst : 3 April
Flowering : 28 May 
Veraison : 3 August

Harvest :
Merlot : from 19 September to 2 October
Cabernet Franc : from 25 September to 1 October

Château L’Evangile
Merlot : 80 %
Cabernet Franc : 20 %

Blason de L’Evangile
Merlot : 60 %
Cabernet Franc : 40 %

 

Château Rieussec

At Rieussec, after the terrible hailstorm, the summer conditions were life-saving. But the September climate that was miraculous for the reds, was a handicap for the Botrytis which had us waiting, waiting, waiting… and the harvest did not start seriously until 20 October. At this date, we lacked a bit of heat and sunshine to reach the candied aromas of the greatest years, but our great terroirs could once again give us great grapes, especially the Sauvignon. The blending work led us to make a very strict selection for Rieussec and a very “Sauvignon” one.

Bud burst : 6 April
Flowering : 5 June
Veraison :  26 July

Harvest :
Dry wine : from 29 August to 21 September
Sauternes : from 10 to 31 October in 2-3 passes

Château Rieussec
Sémillon : 75 %
Sauvignon Blanc : 25 %

Carmes de Rieussec
Sémillon : 89 %
Muscadelle : 6 %
Sauvignon Blanc : 5 %

R de Rieussec
Sauvignon Blanc : 58 %
Sémillon : 42 %