1989/1990 Right Bank Bordeaux Tasting

1989/1990 Right Bank Bordeaux tasting 3-25-2016

Vienna Cafe and Wine Bar – Davie, FL

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1989 and 1990 produced some of the best wines out of Bordeaux in the past 25 years, and both have already become legendary vintages. This is certainly true in the Right Bank appellations of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. It is often debated which vintage produced the better wines overall, as well as at many of the top châteaux. Neither professional critics nor wine amateurs can agree on which is the preferred vintage at châteaux such as La Conseillante and Angélus. With this in mind, we arranged a tasting of some of the top Right Bank wines from 1989 and 1990. What we found on this night should not be surprising at all; all of the wines in the tasting were superb, and there was little variation in the strength and appeal of these wines. It was very difficult to rank the ‘best’ wines on this night, and the subjectivity of this exercise has never been more apparent than on this night. Any of these wines could have been ‘wine of the night,’ and it almost seemed unfair to rank and score them. But in the end, the top three wines (chosen by the ten participants) were the 1989 Château Angélus, 1990 Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse),  and 1989 Château Clinet.IMG_8316

1989 Château La Conseillante: Elegant. A beautifully perfumed and fragrant nose. Very ripe red fruits, blueberry, truffle, very floral, with some Asian spices. Such purity of fruit in this wine. Not as concentrated and dense and the 1990 La Conseillante. Finesse and elegance on the palate. Excellent balance, with tannins nicely integrated. High acidity and a lengthy finish. This never ran out of steam, and just seemed to open and up and improve with passing time. 96/100

1990 Château La Conseillante: Layered and elegant. The nose started out a bit shy, but it really blossomed after two hours of air. Plum, cherry, floral, mint, sous bois, and sweet tobacco. Less floral and more earthy than the 1989 La Conseillante. This also exuded elegance, with silky tannins and a soft mouthfeel. Great complexity on the nose and palate. Beautifully balanced. Tannins nicely integrated. Medium-high acidity. A long finish with lots of lingering fruit and freshness. 95/100IMG_8285

1989 Château Clinet: Powerful. A beautiful core of plum and ripe cherries, with spices, mushroom, and damp earth. Dense and enormously concentrated. A rich wine. Full mouthfeel, with a fantastic balance. Nicely structured with soft but fairly prominent tannins. Well-balanced acidity on the finish. While perhaps not a 100 point wine, this is a powerhouse wine that is definitely at its peak and impressed most at the tasting. 97/100

1990 Château Clinet: Focused. One of the surprises of the night, in that it rivaled the 1989 Clinet (and surpassed it for some at the tasting). Really ripe and pure red fruits, with earthiness, mocha, and lots of floral notes. A beautiful ruby color. A really great weight to the wine. Very clean and linear. Less power and structure than the 1989 Clinet, but perhaps a bit more charm. Very soft tannins. This wine is in a good place right now, and was much better than the last bottle that I had several months ago. Probably won’t have the longevity of the 1989, when it’s all said and done. 95/100
IMG_8320.JPG1989 Château Tertre Rôtebouef: Rustic and exotic. I was expecting big things from this wine, after the incredible bottle of this I recently had (from the same case). This started out with a really exotic nose of red fruits, bacon, pepper, flowers, and dark chocolate. Surprisingly, the nose seemed to close down over time. Good weight and concentration, but didn’t seem to have the same finesse and elegant mouthfeel of the last bottle. Standing on its own, this wine could still hold its own; tonight, however, it just didn’t stand out. Will have to try this again, as there is just so much potential with this wine. The complexity is obviously there, and there is ample fruit and structure for this wine to shine. 93/100

1990 Château Tertre Rôtebouef: Dark and spicy. For most at the tasting, this was preferred to the 1989 Tertre Rôteboeuf. Dark fruits, black cherry, sous bois, spice, flowers, and anise rounded out some really nice aromatics. It did start out a bit shy, but opened up very nicely over time. Exotic like the 1989, but with more power and concentration. Firm tannins and medium acidity. A really nice finish with medium length. While not one of the top wines of the evening, this was still an excellent wine that held its own. I would consider giving this wine more time, as it seems that a bit more synthesis needs to occur. There is a serious core of fruit here, so there should no worry with holding this wine for a bit longer. 94/100

IMG_83211989 Château Angélus: Powerful and earthy. Probably my favorite wine of the tasting (though this was a difficult choice, given that all of the wines were impressive and so evenly matched). This was easily the most intoxicating nose of the evening, and it was hard to keep my nose out of the glass. Ripe plum, cassis, blackberry, sweet barnyard, soy, chocolate. After about an hour, there was a serious burst of violets on the nose. Very ripe and pure fruits. Powerful and dense on the palate. Full-bodied mouthfeel. The complexity of the nose was matched on the palate. Good freshness on the finish. Tannins still need more integration. This was truly a complete wine, and one that stood out due to its uniqueness of its aromatics and its power on the palate. 97/100

IMG_8336.JPG1990 Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse): Complex and complete. Struck by its very dark color, showing little signs of aging. Plum, dark fruits, mint, damp earth, and tobacco round out the aromatics. Complex, concentrated, and balanced, this wine seemed to have all of the necessary elements. Lots of structure; the tannins are round but still fairly prominent. High bright acidity contributing to lots of freshness on the finish. This wine has so much time left, and is just getting started. The immense amount of fruit, coupled with its solid structural makeup, bodes well for anyone who has this wine in their cellar. A standout on this evening. 97/100

1990 Château l’Evangile: Charming. This continues to be a really unique wine from l’Evangile. This was quite different from the other wines at the tasting. Red fruits, chocolate and sous bois. A bit lighter on the palate, almost seeming Burgundian at times. Still has noticeable tannic structure, with its ultra-soft tannins. High acidity creating a nice brightness on the finish. This is a very charming wine, especially if you like the light, elegant style. While some have reported bottle variation with this wine, this wine was spot-on with the last bottle tasted several months ago. 95/100

1990 Château Troplong Mondot: Dark and brooding. A bit closed down initially, but opened up nicely after an hour. Black cherry, raisin, earth, menthol, and coffee. Impressive concentration and complexity. A full-bodied mouthfeel. A really powerful wine. Lots of structure with firm tannins. A finish with impressive length. I get the sense that this is not yet at its peak and is going to improve. With the fruit concentration and structure here, this wine has a long life ahead of it. It just seemed like it was holding back a bit on this evening. 93/100

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Bordeaux Trip Overview – September 2015

Even though we had recently visited Bordeaux earlier in the summer, it was obviously hard to stay away for long. We found ourselves coming back a mere three months later. It turned out that this was a fantastic time to visit. The skies were clear. The rains abated. And fortunately for us, the harvest was just beginning. The 2015 Bordeaux vintage was just hitting its stride. 1-chateau-haut-brion-harvesting-grapes

Our trip began in St.-Émilion, where we stayed at the restaurant/B&B Logis de la Cadène. Hubert de la Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, owns this small guesthouse. For those who are aware of the fantastic restaurant, it should come as no surprise that the rooms here are top-notch. The service was also fantastic; we will definitely stay here again. Our visit here was also highlighted by a great dinner at Le Tertre, an excellent family-owned restaurant across from Logis. 

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In the Right Bank, we visited a number of properties in both St.-Émilion and Pomerol, including Clinet, La Conseillante, Petit-Village, Vieux Château Certan, Beau-Séjour Bécot, La Gaffelière, La Dominique, and Villemaurine. Echoed at most châteaux was the belief that the Merlot ripened extremely well, which should bode well for the vintage. Some even felt that the sugar ripeness was possibly a bit high and could lead to higher alcohol levels. Despite this, there was an excitement here that this vintage will easily eclipse the past four.3-chateau-la-conseillante-wine-glass-vineyard

When we reached the Médoc, the harvest was in full swing. Again, this early harvest was due to the excellent ripening of the grapes. We stopped by Château Margaux and spoke with Managing Director Paul Pontallier, who relayed his cautious optimism about the 2015 vintage. At Margaux, they were also planting a few vines in front of their new winemaking facility; these vines won’t be made into wine, however. They are going to serve as ‘reference vines’ to teach visitors about the different varietals. We visited other properties in the Médoc, including Lynch-Bages, Palmer, Phélan Ségur, and Giscours. At Palmer, Thomas Duroux was furiously moving through the vineyards, likely awaiting the upcoming harvest.

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Finally, we made it to Péssac-Léognan and Sauternes. The harvest was in full swing at Haut-Brion, which had already harvested the white grapes and had just started with the young Merlot (destined for the second wine). Château Climens in Barsac was also harvesting the beautifully botrytized grapes. We also visited La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Guiraud, and d’Yquem. The weather throughout was just amazing, with clear azure skies contrasting with the rolling green vineyards.

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Our trip ended in the city of Bordeaux. Again we dined at Garopapilles, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. The chef here previously worked at Haut-Bailly, and the food here is consistently brilliant. We also briefly joined Jane Anson, the renowned author of numerous Bordeaux books, for a glass of wine at Le Bar à Vin. This was followed by a special dinner  at Comtoir Cuisine, where good friends Hamish Wakes-Miller of Bella Wine Tours, Ronan Laborde, and Monique Bailly joined us. Ronan is the owner of Château Clinet, which produces some of the best wines in Pomerol. Ronan and Monique brought a bottle of 1960 Château Clinet to share with us, and what a special bottle this was. 6-chateau-clinet-1960

All in all, this was a whirlwind of a trip, but what a trip it was. We covered a lot of ground, but there is so much more to cover. Until next time… 

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