1980s Bordeaux

This was a tasting to live long in the memory. All the wines were tasted blind and included in each flight a wine from 1982, 1985, 1988 and 1989 though not necessarily in that order.  The Grand Cru Classé wines certainly stood out, and generally the better the cru, the better the wine, which really is  how it should be. However, some of the lesser crus with lower price tags to match definitely acquitted themselves extremely well against their more expensive neighbours.

These are my tasting notes and therefore only my opinion. Overall, the three favourite wines of the 12 tasters (I was the only woman) were wines 3,12 and 9. Mine were 3, 10 and 8 and 9 joint third.

claret 1980

1. Château Potensac 1985 Médoc Cru Bourgeois

The aromas were at first very mature but at the same time incredibly expressive – forest floor, cedar, musky, minty with hints of Christmas spiciness. On the palate it was smooth, light (from age) delicate and elegant. The length was gentle and pleasant.  However…….as one might expect from a Médoc of this age, which strictly speaking, and despite its Cru Bourgeois classification, had no right to be this good, it fell apart quickly in the glass.


claret 1980 ii

2. Château d’Issan 1988 Margaux 3ème Cru Classé

Badly corked.

3. Château Léoville Las Cases 1982 St. Julien 2ème Cru Classé

Typical old classic Bordeaux aromas of cedar, pencil shavings, iodine with a delightful datey Madeira edge. I could have continued to enjoy smelling this for several hours. Amazingly firm, rich and long with, to me, perfect balance. The pruney fruit, the bold tannins, the savoury flavours were completed by the dignified acidity. A seriously classy wine.

4. Château Lynch Bages 1989 Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé

Aromas of dried fruits, coffee and liquorice with a slight bitter edge. Still bold in structure and with noticeably powerful tannins, savoury rather than sweet fruit. Unbelievably, I suspect this would benefit with a bit longer in the cellar.

5. Château Batailley 1989 Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé

Prunes and treacle aromas on the nose, which I found very appealing, mingling nicely as they did with cherry fruit. This was gentle on the palate, smooth and elegant with some still lush fruit and soft tannins.

6. Château Labégorce Zédé 1988 Margaux Cru Bourgeois

Very badly corked – a veritable stink bomb.

7. Château Beaumont 1982 Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois

My note said that it was standing up well. Now I know what it is, I have to give it huge credit for standing up at all – a petit château, a favourite of the Mercian, competing well alongside the big boys. It was without doubt much less complex than most of the wines, but its pruney, figgy nose and palate of light tannins and silky texture and even its lasting finish are to be admired.

8. Château Lagrange 1985 St. Julien

So powerful I felt it must be a Pauillac and 1989 – wrong on both counts. It appeared much younger than its age (would that I could claim the same characteristics) showing a red fruit, porty nose with the ubiquitous cedar. There were meaty, smoky, tarry flavours on the palate, a classy lasting finish – a truly memorable wine.


claret 1980 iii

9. Château Pichon Lalande 1982 Pauillac 2ème Cru Classé

Black fruit, eucalypt, black olive, charcoal, cassis – incredibly complex and enticing. Amazingly the fruit on the palate was still lusciously sweet with delightful hints of spice on the long, caressing and gentle finish. This was undoubtedly classy and serious. What was confusing was that the following wine was three years younger but looked ten years older – GCC will out!

10. Château d’Issan 1985 Margaux 3ème Cru Classé

Kirsch cherry aromas, undergrowth, leather on the bouquet. I loved the balance and softness of this wine; the fruit was luscious, the acidity lively, the tannins long and elegant, graceful to the finish. A very smart wine which I thoroughly enjoyed.

11. Château Meyney 1988 St.Estèphe Cru Bourgeois

Alongside the other wines, this seemed rather simple, short and a bit disappointing. I’d like to think that had it been tasted without its superior cousins it might have been more appreciated. The nose came across as vanilla cream and the palate lacked acidity, was gloopy and short.  It was the only wine, corked wines excepted, I didn’t rate.

12. Château Angélus 1989 St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé (now Premier Grand Cru Classé A)

Although I did get this as a very serious wine, I would never have put it on the right bank. What do I know? I have had the privilege of tasting Angélus a few times (one day I might actually drink some) and can appreciate its quality but it is not a wine gives I find easy. My notes suggest a classy wine; on the nose were coffee, roasted nuts and liquorice. Powerful, savoury flavours with high acidity and a long complex finish.


Not all wines age beautifully, most are not designed to but if you are lucky enough to have a cellar-full, store them well and you could be in for a treat. Try do not to be in the hapless position of the chap below.


aged wine

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