There Has Never Been a Better Time To Buy, Enjoy and Cellar Wines from France's Premier Red Wine Region
Posted: December 1, 1996
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Looking over my list, it was hard to pick only 20 in Bordeaux when many others are on the way up. A few other estates to watch out for include: La Conseillante, Pavie-Decesse, Larmande, Montrose, Domaine de Chevalier, Cheval-Blanc, Sociando-Mallet, La Fleur-Pétrus, Beychevelle, L'Evangile, and D'Armailhac. These chateaus have made impressive wines in the last decade and should continue to do so.
This doesn't mean, however, that you should blindly buy the youngest vintage available from any of the greatest chateaus. First look for wines from 1990 and 1989. From the outset, the top Bordeaux of '90 and '89 showed extraordinary concentration of fruit and structure in tannins yet retained superb harmony. I have a slight preference for '89 due to the exotic ripe fruit character in most of the top wines. The wines produced in these two vintages will improve for decades and should be remembered in the same light as 1928 and 1929, another pair of classic vintages that have served as benchmarks for all fine reds this century.
Of course, it would be a waste to open most of the top '90s and '89s until next century. Even the excellent '88s and '86s still need a few more years of bottle age. Vintages drinking well at the moment include '85, '83, '82 and '81 as well as '79, '78 and any of the well-regarded vintages before them. But they are extremely hard to find outside of the auction market. As an alternative for everyday drinking, you might consider buying some of the weaker vintages such as '92, '91 and '87. Both '92 and '87 are fading quickly, so keep to wines from my top 20 chateaus. Stay away from the '91s for now; they still need more time due to their hard tannins, but some of the best ones should be coming around in a year or two. After tasting them from the barrel, some of the '93s may also end up being very good--although I would stay away from the '94s, which are overpriced and overrated. No final judgment on either the '93s or '94s can be made, however, until they are bottled and tasted again.
After all, the leisurely sipping of a properly cellared bottle of great Bordeaux provides the deepest pleasure.
James Suckling is the European Editor of Cigar Aficionado and the lead taster in Bordeaux for Wine Spectator.
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