1988, 1989 and 1990 red Bordeaux – differences?
Next week I will be attending a Bordeaux themed wine dinner where the theme will be a comparative tasting of the 1988, 1989, and 1990 vintages of red Bordeaux. I’ve been asked to speak for 5-10min before the event begins to discuss the 88, 89 and 90 vintages re: the weather, harvest, yield and what should be expected from these wines i.e.: the differences in vintages, not the particular wines we will be drinking as there will be many different wines.
Being much too young to have tried any of these vintages on release, it would be great to get comments on how these vintages tasted on release and perhaps how they have evolved over the years. I've only had a handful of 89s and 90s so my experience is very limited.
Thanks in advance.
Good to see you hear and as I mentioned, it's even better that you've moved to the dark side
To read about the weather, harvest and other information for 1988 Bordeaux, 1989 Bordeaux or 1990 Bordeaux, I have nice vintage summaries on the main portion of The Wine Cellar Insider. Click on Bordeaux Year to Year Detailed Vintage Reports & Guide 1945 to Today
Is this what you need, or do you want to know who the wines are showing in general for each vintage?
Jeff, thanks for the link....that's exactly what I'm looking for in terms of vintage info on weather, harvest , etc.
Since I didn't have the chance to taste these wines on release, some quick and general info on how they drank young and how they have evolved over the years would be very much appreciated.
And it would be great if you could shed some light on how the wines are showing in general for each vintage.
Devin... It's really a wine by wine case. I discovered wine by 1994. So, while I had the chance to drink a lot of 1989 Bordeaux, 1988 Bordeaux and 1990 Bordeaux within a few years after release, I did not get to try them all. Plus, I'm probably at least a slightly better taster these days.
IF you want to know about specific wines, you can either search my tasting notes: www.thewinecellarinsider.com/tasting-notes
Although, the notes do not really start untill 2003, or just post the wines you're interested in.
Jeff, thanks for the info.
The one area where I can't seem to find enough info on is the weather conditions for the '88 vintage. All I can seem to find or hear from people is "cooler year" "tougher conditions" "lots of rain". Any more specific/detailed info on the weather? Also harvest dates and yield info would be great too. All I can find is that it was an early harvest.
I know yields were high for 89, but what about 90?
Thanks for all your help.
Devin... I included as much info on weather, yields and other data as I could find when I wrote the pages for the all the different Bordeaux vintages. I wish I had more for you bro. Let me know how the talk goes...
Hey, good luck with your talk! I went to a great 89/90 tasting recently and a lot of the 88s I've had have been really enjoyable. I'm sure everybody would love to see your notes afterwards. Enjoy!
The talk went very well...most of the info I used was from this site so a big thanks to Jeff. I had a crazy busy month of May and I'm about 5-6 events behind in my tasting notes so when I eventually get them typed up I will post them. Cheers.
What a nice thing to say... Thanks. Glad I could help. What were your favorite wines from the tasting?
Originally Posted by devin roch
Jeff, the wines at my table were 88/89/90 Lynch Bages, 88/89/90 Pichon Baron, 88/89 Mouton and 90 Lafite.
My WOTN was the 90 Lafite, followed by the 89 and 90 PB. The 89/90 LB were also both excellent but overall I preferd the Pichons. The 88s were all good to very good, but none great. The 88/89 Moutons were again very good, but not great. I'll post detailed notes soon as I get them typed up.
Thanks again for your help.
This was a fantastic tasting. A few general comments: I found the 88s to be my least favorite overall. While some show classic claret notes and can be quite nice, some are starting show lean and mean at this point. The 89s seem to be my favorite as they have the fruit of the 90s, but with just a tad more restraint and more classic structure. The 90s are more showy right now, and probably always will be, and therefore seem to be giving more hedonistic pleasure right now than the 89s...but the 89s need the most time and have a lot left to show.
I found I preferred the Pichon Baron over the Lynch Bages in every vintage. The LBs are easier to like, but ultimately the PBs are better, deeper and more complex across these three vintages. Outside of the killer 1990 Lafite, the PBs were definitely my favorite and they trumped the Moutons in convincing fashion.
With duck rillette, haricot vert and grainy Dijon mustard...
With saddle of rabbit wrapped in prosciutto and sage with hedgehog mushrooms, ricotta gnudi and ramps...
- 1988 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Medium red, some bricking. This had a classic Lynch-Bages with mature red fruits, menthol and cedar. On the palate this wasn’t as impressive as it was light in the mouth with cool flavours of mature red fruits and pencil shavings. Fades quickly on the finish. Pencil shavings, mature red fruits. A few at the table thought this was elegant on the palate, but I was thinking more along the lines of thin and dilute. The nose was actually quite nice…too bad the palate didn’t live up to it. Drink now. Good. (87 pts.)
- 1989 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Medium red, some bricking. This was singing on the nose when I opened it at home but by the time we got to it (hour or so later) it seems less expressive (maybe because it’s now sitting beside the extremely expressive ’90). At any rate, nose offers notes of cedar, pencil lead, darker fruits and some Bordeaux funk. These characters carry onto the palate but the flavours are much more intense than the aromas are on the nose. There is a lot of structure here (most structured of the LB trio) with great acidity and solid tannins. This is full and round in the mouth and very well balanced. Dark, almost black fruits linger on the finish. This is still quite youthful and I’ll hold my remaining bottle for a least 5 years. Excellent. 92+ (92 pts.)
- 1990 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Slightly more youthful looking than the ’89. This had the most expressive nose of the flight with loads of cedar, Bordeaux funk, dark fruits, bell pepper and tobacco. This also takes the cake for the sweetest fruit and most supple and round mouthfeel. There’s a good deal of structure here, but the ripe and sweet nature of the tannins almost fools you into thinking there’s none. Flavours are intense, sweet and refined compared to the ‘89s more tannic and structured profile. Ample acidity keeps the round mouthfeel from being sluggish and there’s a hint of alcohol on the finish that reminds you of the hot year that 1990 was. This had the best nose of the flight; the ’89 had the best palate of the flight. Like the ’89, this should continue to develop for at least 5+ years, but this won’t be as long lived as the ’89. Excellent. 92+ (92 pts.)
- 1989 Château Prieuré-Lichine - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Kind of a modern nose with plenty of okay notes coming through, darker fruits and hints of funk. Not as expressive or classic as the Lynch Bages wines. This was also the most resolved on the palate with powdery tannins and good acidity. This is fully mature. Good. (85 pts.)
With braised boneless beef shortrib, soft polenta and broccolini...
- 1988 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Ruby red, just hints of browning at rim. Dark nose that took a little while to open up but once it did showed beautiful development, perfume and classic claret notes. On the palate this wine was very well balanced with developed red and black fruits, lots of acidity and resolved tannins. This was much better than the ’88 Lynch Bages showing more intensity, balance and presence. This is drinking perfectly now. Excellent. (91 pts.)
- 1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Ruby red with hints of browning near the rim. While the ’88 showed great maturity, this showed great youthfulness, but like the ’88, this showed classic Bordeaux notes of tobacco, cedar, hints of bell pepper, cassis and dark cherries. There’s a wonderful richness to the nose that lifted by an elegant perfume note. There’s just a hint of funk on the nose that gives you some idea this is a 23 year old wine, but that’s the only indication you get. In the mouth this is big, powerful and rich with loads of fruit backed by a classic tannic spine. This shows remarkable elegance despite its powerful and tannic profile. This is the most structured wine of the flight loads of firm tannins and bright acidity. This is the most youthful wine of the night and in need of 5-10 years. Outstanding. 94+ (94 pts.)
- 1990 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Darkest wine of the flight and not showing its age at all. Sweetest nose yet with rich and dark aromas of blackberries, cassis, coffee beans and cedar. While the nose here is of a different tone than the ’89, it’s equally as intoxicating and enjoyable. On the palate the ripe and rich flavours fully coat the mouth while intensity and weight. Like the ’90 Lynch Bages, the tannins here are sweet and chewy and the acidity is plentiful and prevents the mouthfeel from being too round or heavy. For a wine with such intensity and rich fruit, the balance is incredible. This needs a lot of time…5-10 years to be sure. Outstanding. 93+ (93 pts.)
With apple/caramel sable and seasonal berries...
- 1988 Château Mouton Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
After just finishing the flight of 88, 89 and 90 Pichon Baron, the nose here comes across as almost modern, which is really strange considering the vintage. Jammy notes that would have me guessing this came from a hot year if tasting it blind. On the palate it’s structured with an austere finish. Tannins are drying and firm. The jammy/modern nature of the nose certainly doesn’t much the structured, lean and classic profile of the palate. Despite this wine’s inconsistencies, it was fairly enjoyable, with nice fruit and spice on the palate, but just in a tough spot in this tasting. As it sat in the glass the nose improved slightly but overall this was disappointing and part of me feels this bottle may not have been representative. Very good. (88 pts.)
- 1989 Château Mouton Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Medium red colour. There was a good dose of sulfur at first on the nose here but that eventually blew off and left a nice sweet and sour funk that I enjoyed while others at the table didn’t. There were also aromas of earth, spice and red fruits. On the palate this had classic flavours of plum, cassis and spice with firm tannins and lots of acidity. This well stored bottle was drinking quite youthfully and I think it needs another 5 years at least before all its potential is revealed. Excellent. 92+ (92 pts.)
- 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Wow…game over on this nose. I could declare this my WOTN just from the smell. An intoxicating and purely classic Bordeaux nose of cedar, some poopy funk with unadulterated cassis, blackcurrant and plum fruit and maybe a hint of floral. Just an incredibly complex, pure and classic nose. In the mouth, once again, classic cedar notes wrapped in a nimble yet muscular frame of plum, blackcurrant and dark cherries. Silky, balanced and very long. It’s subtle yet powerful, elegant yet muscular. This has the best nose, palate and texture of all the wines tonight. Going into this I almost wanted to not like this wine, but alas, it’s incredibly good. It’s drinking very well now but has at least a decade left of development to go. Outstanding. 95+ (95 pts.)
- 1990 Château de Fargues - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
No formal notes. Medium gold colour with notes of mango, honey and apricot with good acidity. Drinking well. Excellent. (91 pts.)
Nice job on the notes Devin. We agree 100%, except in a few cases. I've become a much bigger fan of 1990 Pichon Baron over the years while my affection for 1989 Pichon Baron has declined a bit. I like 1989 Lynch Bages and 1990 Lynch Bages more as well and I find 1990 Lafite Rothschild to be a bit on the boring side. But I haven't had it in a few years. Perhaps it's better.
You are right about 1988 Bordeaux. Some of the Pomerol and Pessac Leognan wines are good. I still have a few bottles of 1988 Certan de May which is a very good Pomerol as is Clinet and La Fleur de Gay. While it's a bit on the austere side, 1988 Haut Brion is one of the better wines from the vintage.
The vintage clearly favored the Merlot. With time, the unripe character of the grapes becomes more apparent, especially with Caberent Sauvignon. That's what's happening to 1994 as well. Bordeaux wine made from not fully ripe fruit are in most cases, better in their youth. Aging after the first decade does not help in many cases.
Great thread Devin. I find it interesting that some estates made such good wine in 1989 and they fell apart in 1990, or vice a versa. At this stage, I'm probably more of a fan of 1990, they seem to be richer and riper. However, iif I ever get to taste 1989 Haut Brion, I could change my mind.
If you're paying, hold off on the '89 Haut Brion for another decade!
The truth is, you could hold a bottle of 1989 Haut Brion for a decade as you suggest, drink it now, or save it for your grandchildren, Not that any of us will be around to see this wine at 100 years of age, but my guess it, it will be stunning when it hits the century mark!
Originally Posted by M Albert Bouffard