Highly acclaimed from the outset as a «vintage of the century», 1989 was the earliest harvest (at that time) in the history of Bordeaux. A very hot vintage that produced full, ripe, intense reds with enormous aging potential. These full bodied reds have barely reached their peak, and with lots of structured tannins, should continue to evolve favourably into the next decade. Thirty years later, and for the third time (@ Les Conseillers du Vin 1999 & 2009), an evaluation of this fine Bordeaux vintage was due. Some of the châteaux chosen for this tasting came through with flying colours while others were enjoyable/ready for drinking.
@ Les Conseillers du Vin, thirty years later, we revisited this classic Bordeaux vintage. To verify the evolution, structure and balance of this fine Bordeaux vintage, a group of 16 experienced tasters analysed 7 outstanding Chateaux plus a mystery wine in the usual blind tasting format.
Results: Overall the wines faired very well! 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.
The favourite wine of the tasting was Ch. Angélus with 24 points, just ahead of Ch. Sociando Mallet (18 pts) and Ch. Léoville Las Cases (17 pts). Finishing fourth with 15 pts was the mystery wine : 1991 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain. Surprisingly only three (3) participants identified it as the odd man out. Most of the wines showed good structure, great balance and complexity. Both de Fieuzal (7pts) and Pavie Macquin (6 pts) were lighter, ready and easy drinking. Very disappointing was the upscale cuvée from Ch. Moulin Pey Labrie, quite evolved/slightly oxidised and with a hint of cork on the nose. One wine seemed difficult to figure out: Ch. Tertre Roteboeuf only received 4 pts, it offered depth, richness and structure, but few participants seemed to enjoy this very ripe style. My top three wines were: 1-Angélus, 2-Sociando Mallet, 3-Tertre Roteboeuf.
The wines : Order of blind tasting:
1- Château Angélus, St-Émilion (Group score: 24 pts)
True to its reputation, Angélus was impressive! Full bodied yet elegant, well balanced with great length. Superb mineral nose with a hint of forest floor and bell peppers. Lots of extract and structure for further aging (3 to 5 years). My rating: 95/100
2- Château Sociando Mallet, Haut-Médoc (Group score: 18 pts)
Finishing in second place, again, Sociando Mallet overachieves! Classic Bordeaux nose displaying forest floor and mineral scents. Surprisingly elegant and velvety for this hot vintage. Still some flesh and tannins left. Quite enjoyable right now. My rating: 93+/100
3- Château Pavie Macquin, St-Émilion (Group Score: 6 pts)
Some evolution, orangy colour. Typical evolved nose: graphite and forest floor. Some firm tannins, but the time is now, should not get better. Medium weight and good length. My rating: 90/100
4- Château Tertre Roteboeuf, St-Émilion (Group score: 4 pts)
A bit of an enigma! Quite full and rich with a solid structure. in a ripe concentrated style that did not appeal to many of the participants. Should be tasted again in the near future. My rating: 92+/100
5- Château de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan (Group score: 7 pts)
In a very elegant style, medium bodied and quite easy drinking. Evolved nose displaying mineral/forest floor scents enhanced by vegetal (tomato vine) and animal hints (leather). Drink up! My rating: 89/100
6- Château Léoville Las Cases, St-Julien (Group score : 17 pts)
The 3rd favourite wine of the tasting. Forrest floor scent with some vegetal (bell peppers) and mineral (graphite) hints. Some lingering tannins, but remains quite supple and elegant with good balance and length. Perfect drinking. My rating: 91/100
7- Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, Dunn (Group score: 15 pts)
Only (3) tasters identified it as the mystery wine. Deeply coloured, showing not much evolution. The nose offers some ripe fruit (dark berries) and mineral overtones (graphite). A very well structured wine that should continue to evolve favourably into the next decade. My rating: 92/100
8-Château Moulin Pey Labrie Cuvée Bénédicte, Canon-Fronsac (Group score: 2 pts)
Did not seem at its best. A bit oxidised with a hint of cork. Much more evolved than expected (high acid content). The disappointing wine of the tasting. Hurry, drink up! My rating: 87+?/100
Photo: Château Angélus, Le Monde