Since the famous 1976 Paris blind tasting of Napa Valley reds versus Crus Classés from Bordeaux, surprising results are common. In numerous occasions such tastings have greatly amazed experts and aficionados alike. This high quality comparative tasting of wines from (respectively) reputed vintages (90 & 91) was a first @Les Conseillers du Vin.
When it comes to fine reds that offer richness and elegance, for the past few centuries, Bordeaux stood alone at the top! But times have changed, the evolution of the Bordeaux style paired with the amazing results from hard working and determined Napa Valley producers announced a fierce competition.
@ Les Conseillers du Vin: in the usual blind tasting format, a group of 15 experienced tasters evaluated and compared four (4) high quality Napa Valley 1991 Cabs to four (4) 1990 Bordeaux Crus Classés/Bourgeois.
Results: To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded for a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
Favourite wines of the tasting:
The group’s favourite wine was Whitehall Lane Reserve Cab with 21 pts. A distant second was Château Léoville Barton with 14 pts. Tied for third with 13 points each: Conn Valley Reserve Cab and Howell Mountain Cab from Dunn. As you can see California dominated with three (3) wines in the top 4! Two wines were quite controversial: the Corison Cab was deemed over the hill by many participants, and the Château Sociando Mallet was slighty corked and not really appreciated, though it was still full, rich and structured. Dunn and Sociando were by far the youngest showing wines of the tasting.
My three favourite wines were : 1- Sociando-Mallet 1990 (regardless of the slight cork taint), 2-Dunn Howell Mountain 1991 3- Léoville Barton 1990
The wines : Order of blind tasting with my tasting notes
1-Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 1991 Dunn (Group score: 13 pts)
This wine seems frozen in time! Still deeply coloured. Charming floral, earthy/mineral nose. Quite full with surprising acidity and firm tannins. Lots of remaining potential (5 to 8 years). My rating: 92+/100
2-Château Haut Bages Libéral 1990 Pauillac (Group score: 7 pts)
Evolved colour. The nose also shows some evolution displaying forest floor and floral scents. Fresh, some remaining tannins, quite typical of the vintage. Seems to be starting its decline. Soft and easy drinking, medium bodied and average length. Drink up! My rating: 88/100
3-Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1991 Whitehall Lane (Group score: 21 pts)
Fading colour, orange rim. Still some ripe fruit on the nose. A bit on the firm side with structured tannins and fresh acidity. A very good wine that unfortunately lacks complexity. Might still evolve favourably 2 to 4 years. My rating: 89/100
4-Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1991 Conn Valley Vineyards (Group score : 13 pts)
Colour is fading, orange rim. Lovely evolved nose: forest floor with some leftover ripe fruit. Great balanced, quite elegant with good length. Drink or hold for a couple more years (2 -3 years). My rating: 91/100
5-Château Sociando-Mallet 1990 Haut-Médoc (Group score: 8 pts)
Unfortunately a slight cork taint prevented this great wine from finishing on top. Aside from the hint of cork, it offered forest floor, green peppers, graphite and floral hints. Good structure and body with lots of remaining fruit. Should continue to offer great pleasure over the next 5 to 8 years. My rating: 93+/100
6-Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 Corison (Group score: 4 pts)
The disappointing wine of the tasting: very evolved, on the decline. Orangy colour. Not much left in this wine. Oxidised nose. A rather thin austere finish. My rating: 86/100
7-Château Chasse Spleen 1990 Moulis (Group Score: 9 pts)
Beautifully evolved nose: mineral, vegetal, floral and earthy tones. Showing some evolution. Quite easy drinking, medium weight, at its peak. Drink up! Lovely elegant wine. My rating: 90/100
8-Château Léoville Barton 1999 St-Julien (Group score: 14 pts)
Deep colour barely evolved. Complex nose offering black licorice, graphite with earthy and spicy hints. Displaying some ripe fruit, good extract and structure. Still some potential: 4 to 6 years. Great Bordeaux! True to its reputation! My rating: 92/100
Photo and text : Nick Hamilton