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1989 and 1990 Bordeaux


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Commanderie de Bordeaux tasting dinner of the 1989 and 1990 vintage at Gavroche in Vancouver. We brought our own wines and also passed a glass from other tables, so we had the opportunity to taste quite a few different wines from these vintages.

The menu is worthy of mention so I’ll get that over with first.

With an NV J. Lasalle Brut that obviously had some age – showing colour, nice toast and mature notes in nose, complex with sweet elements in the mouth, lots of acidity, great mousse, flirts with old age but quite interesting.

With tuna tartare with wasabi tobbiko, smoked sturgeon with seaweed caviar, and large scallops with mango salsa.

Then the food courses:

foie gras and truffle flan with roasted pear chutney (apparently a real bear to cook and keep together)

1997 Ch. La Tour Blanche - great match – sweet botrytis nose but then drier than anticipated in the mouth, which suited the food very well.

rabbit tenderloin with black olive sauce on sweet potato gallette

duck breast with wild mushroom flan and bing cherry sauce

venison chop with port reduction

cheese plate

espresso terrine with hazelnut praline.

Here is how we arranged our wines. Brief notes on other wines we tasted are also appended.

1989 Canon La Gaffeliere (St. Emilion) – showing a bit lighter colour than most of the later wines, with a hint of fading at the edges. Decent nose of pure fruit and vanilla, excellent acidity that mated very well with the food, and a pleasant smoothness on palate.

1990 Pichon Baron – wow, the nose on this one is great – dark wine, big lush nose of cedary fruit and spice, sweet entry, smooth and long, but will continue improving for many years. Oh my, why didn’t I buy more of this wine?

1990 Mouton Rothschild – huge nose of leather, dark fruit, but that was the best aspect of this wine, as it was leaner than expected in the mouth, though no longer as tannic as it was, and with a nice sweetness in the finish. Bit disappointing for a Mouton.

1990 Leoville Barton – big sweet fruit driven nose, and similarly big and sweet in the mouth – it handily bettered the Mouton and while it drinks very well, it also has years to go yet.

1989 Margaux – goodness – the sweet fruit in this nose was so attractive I just wanted to go on sniffing it, and there was considerable complexity – much enhanced since the last time I tried this wine. When I tasted the wine it showed excellent flavour integration, with everything in place and presenting as an harmonious whole – no one element sticking out or still gawky. That isn’t to suggest that it was at peak, though it would be hard to stay away from this delicious wine – I think it has a good few years left in it yet, and a few of those before it tops out.

1989 Lafite Rothschild – a spicy almost Rhone-like element in this nose, but also more sweet fruit, and now showing the elegance of the house (it was uncharacteristically tannic when I tasted it 10 years ago), but not really up to the Margaux. Again, no rush on this very good wine.

Others tasted:

1990 Cheval Blanc – this was amazingly ready now – big mocha nose with immense flavour concentration and excellent length – I can’t see this getting any better, but it is veeeerrry tasty now!

1983 Pichon Lalande – served blind and a good showing it made, too. Showing as youthful with a sweet nose and rounder at the end than the Pichon Baron is now. I thought it might have been a 1985.

1990 Montrose – nose on this wine was absolutely huge, full of jammy fruit and like the Mouton, a bit of leather. On palate, exceptional concentration and length and no rusticity It needs considerably more time before it should be drunk. This may change my mind about how good it is in relation to my personal fave, the 1970.

1989 Lynch Bages – the nose was spirity almost porty and the wine is still tannic. Patience is called for.

1990 Leoville Las Cases – lovely spiciness in nose, weighty and smooth in the middle, soft tannins dominate the lengthy finish. Why doesn’t this rate first growth status when it is so consistent and out-performs Mouton so many times……

And finally

1978 Quinta do Noval – starting to get pale in colour, not much heat in the nose, though a little hot in the mouth, pleasant, middling sweet and a nice end to a very interesting event.

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Thanks for these notes, Bill. I have some of these in the cellar (but, no, I'm not parting with any of my 90 Pichon Baron).

You did a good job offering your opinion regarding the longevity of some of these wines in the cellar. But that opinion was missing for the 90 Las Cases, so I'm asking for it now.

And that 90 Montrose is one of the best wines I've had -- ever. One of the very few times where I've been on the same page as Parker (not that he or anyone else cares).

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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No rush at all on the Las Cases - my note was brief as I just had a 'passing taste' as the glass went by.

And I am very fond of the 1970 Montrose - I just can't bring myself to put a bottle in the freezer and take it out in 10 or 15 years - the only way to really tell which is better, that or the 1990.

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What a wonderful tasting, Chapeau!

The Grand vin de Leoville Las Cases 1990 has quite a few years to go. Same like the 1986 vintage, these wines need another three to five years to reach their peak and if drunk sooner, mind that they are very slow to open. Should you have a 1989, This one can certainly be enjoyed now.

Andre Suidan

I was taught to finish what I order.

Life taught me to order what I enjoy.

The art of living taught me to take my time and enjoy.

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And the 1975 Las Cases has finally entered drinking territory......

Mirabile dictu! We truly live in wondrous times.

In the 1970s we shook our heads and said that the major 1975 Bordeaux would be great classic wines, someday ...

In the 1980s we were patient, things take time. Lots of good Bordeaux at reasonable prices.

Over the 1990s the Bordeaux market changed noticeably, became much less attractive and more expensive, with new wines actually costing more than well-aged ones! Horribile dictu.

In the 2000s I was surprised when, receiving a 1975 Léoville-Las-Cases as a gift and opening it at dinner, it was still immature. (An unusual dinner leading to memorable events, no thanks to the Las-Cases.)

So this report is interesting. (I've heard rumors that even 1978 DRC senior Burgundies eventually became drinkable. Hope is what keeps us alive.)

Cheers! -- Max

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