Do I need to be drinking my Bordeauxs younger?

Was at a friend’s house Saturday night and had four what I would call excellent older Bordeauxs - 1979s and 1989s from Cos d’Estournal and Pichon Lalande. However, I did not find any of these wines thrilling and I have really enjoyed the 1979 Pichon Lalande in the past. This seems to be a continual theme for me this year. I am drinking classic Bordeaux from the 1970s and 1980s and, while I am enjoying them, I don’t find them as thrilling as I would have hoped. They seem to lack a certain distinctiveness from each other that I found in the wines a few years ago.

I am thinking I should be opening more of my 15-20 year old Bordeauxs instead of older wines (with some exceptions). Thoughts.

Now I will get myself in trouble. The WOTN was a 1999 d’Angerville Volnay Taillepieds.

Mixed bag on this. When they’re oldish and they’re on, they’re wonderful. But I’ve had much more consistent results at 20-25 than at 30-40. I also think things are trending to being more accessible young. So

Maybe you shouldn’t be drinking Bordeaux at all. I still enjoy them but I mostly reach for burgundy these days

I drink about 10 Burgundies to each bottle of Bordeaux, but historically I have enjoyed some diversification.

A bit of an odd post from my end considering that, IMHO, you are one of the most sophisticated wine palates and thinkers on this site. I assume this is not related to palate aging as your affinity for complex Burgs appear in tact. Perhaps bottles that were just not singing, perhaps it really is that you prefer Bordeaux in that 15-25 year window, who knows. There is no doubt, Bordeaux over 25 years when you are getting deep into ancillary characteristic, or even wines on the back-slope of their evolution, appeal to some and not to others. I wonder, too, if sometimes we go through these cycles where something is just off. I’ve had some recent misses on some wines that should hit, but tonight, I’m drooling over a killer 2017 Beaujolais.

I think in that 30+ year old range the adage of “no good wines only good bottles” really starts to separate out those stellar bottles from pretty much everything else, and that difference between the top 2% and the other 98 really starts to open up. personally, its made me think the same as you… maybe I lean towards 25ish years instead of 35.

If it makes you feel better, most of the 1982’s I’ve had have been tired and underwhelming. But a recent slew of 89’s were all too young to me.

Howard: I suggest you only drink 86!

Noah, I agree that the top 40 or so bottles of claret from 1989 (and the top 25-30 from 1990) are not yet at peak. For all but a few wines, the 1982s-1988s (including the 86s which still have firm tannins but are fully blossomed IMHO) have been at peak for a while and some have definitely started to fade in the last 5 years or so. Storage is so key for wines this old and older of course.

Howard, perhaps combination of changing palate and the wines getting tired. Glad to hear the 99s from d’Angerville are open now.

So true, and then you have one of those good - nay, great - bottles with 40+ years, and it refocuses your opinion about them. Some can be so glorious. Have recently had show-stoppers from 1973 Latour, 1966 Magdelaine, and just last month, 1969 Mayacamas.

Nah…just had a wonderful ‘62 Latour today.


Thank you for the kind words. When you use the words “Perhaps bottles that were just not singing” you are saying what I am trying to figure out. Is it me (either fading palate, preference for more fruit, etc.) or them (the wines). Certainly, there are older Bordeauxs that I have had over the last few years that I have thought were fabulous including 1959 Latour, 1970 Lynch Bages, 1982 and 1985 Leoville las Cases, 1982 Ducru and others, but I have now attended at least three dinners in the last year where I did not like wines from the 1970s and 1980s as much as others I have dined with. I sense that the wines have lost some vibrancy and have not made up for it with additional complexity and that they taste too much alike (not entirely alike, but not enough diversity for my tastes - I learned from David Schildknecht as a younger wine drinker that wines of distinction are wines of distinctiveness. I wanted to check this out a bit Saturday night by bringing a 1989 Domaine de Chevalier to get away from Pauillac/St. Estephe and try to add a bit of diversity to the dinner but others wanted me to bring the 1989 Cos for symmetry. I really don’t know whether I am losing a bit of my ability to taste nuance (if so, why does it show up only in Bordeaux and not in Burgundy or even California Cabs) or whether these friends (also long-time wine drinkers really with palates similar to mine - i.e., Burgundy (esp. Truchot) freaks) are somewhat drinking labels. As I said, I am finding the wines (and one of the tastings was a vertical of Chateau Margaux from the 80s (admittedly, not my favorite of the first growths)) excellent but not thrilling.

Interestingly enough, at a mini-vertical of Ridge Montebello not too long ago, it was the oldest wine of the three we had that I liked the most. We had a 2009 (still very primary and marked by oak-dill flavors), 1999 (more mature but still a hint of the dill) and 1993 (oak had fully integrated and wine was fabulous).

If I had to guess, what I am finding is a combination of the following (1) whereas there are a lot of thrilling wines at 15-25 years in Bordeaux, there are a lot fewer at 30-40 years old and that, while those are the ones that are mind-blowing experiences, you just don’t get that with most wines (i.e., there is a reason that wines like 1959 Latour are so prized); (2) Burgundies are just more complex than are most Bordeauxs and while most people like body in wines more than complexity, I am the opposite; and (3) maybe my palate is fading a bit (but then why does it not impact my enjoyment of Burgundies (for example, I had a 1966 Pierre et Jean Baptiste Lebreuil Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Serpentières that I love) or even of whites like German Rieslings, white Burgundies (although I don’t drink these that old anymore) and Champagne (where among my top ten wines of the year this year are 1996 Taittinger CdC blanc and rose).

Open, wonderful, but still a bit young. And, I cannot comment on all his 1999s, just the one I had.

More generally, I have had a few 1999s lately and they really are confirming that 1999 is a great vintage.

One wine (and a Latour, which has the reputation (deservedly so IMHO) of being the longest lived wine in Bordeaux) proves exactly what?

‘66 Beychevelle is drinking great too, nowhere near first growth pricing or reputation.

For my palate Bordeaux can be enjoyed at various stages except young. Over the past month I’ve experienced the following bottles.

At Troquet in Boston we had a 1966 Gruaud Larose and 1976 and 1978 Mouton which showcased the nuances and complexities of mature Bordeaux. All of these wines developed in the glass over more than 2 hours. Would every wine drinker appreciate equally this experience? Doubt it. Drinking mature wine is not everybody’s cup of tea.

At a Saturday tasting group table we had a nice cross section of super seconds from the 85, 86 and 88 vintages. A bit more power and structure present but fruit levels were still high and very forward. This is the sweet spot for me. The balance of sweet fruit with secondary characteristics provides for me the best balance of intelectual and sensual pleasure.

Dinner last week presented the opportunity to experience a few super seconds from the 95, 96 and 98 vintages. This is a completely different wine experience. Too much power and concentration and the volume obfuscates the message inside the bottle. Some people loved them but all I could think about was unfulfilled promises.

To each his own and only experience can dictate the individual sweet spots for each drinker. For me I do not even look at my good or great vintage Bordeaux bottles until they turn 30. There are plenty of other vintages ready to drink younger such as 93, 94, 97.

Bordeaux, tojours Bordeaux…

For my palate, the highs are higher but less frequent as you go from 20-25 years to 30-35 years.

I think the older wines get the more bottle variation plays a role. It would not be the first time that some old bottles from the same case are overwhelmingly good while others are just ok. Furthermore the age of wines is often more respected as it should be. One of the very best experiences with Bordeaux I ever had (and I had many) was a bottle of 1989 La Mission Haut Brion when the wine was almost a baby, only 10 years old. This specific bottle made me speechless. It was so good that I almost forgot eating my main dish in a Michelin starred restaurant. I had the same wine at other occasions but no bottle came close.

BTW: I drink my Bordeaux younger these days too. Because I made the experience that it is better too drink a good wine a tad too young then too old. And btw.: With the beginning of a certain age many wine lovers prefer Burgundy over Bordeaux. I drink more Burgundy these days than 15 years ago. Thats a typical development for a wine lover. So maybe the wine has not changed that much but the palate did.

I think this is a big part of it. Also, I think that very few Bordeauxs ever get the complexity of a really good Burgundy, so that I may be looking for something else in most Bordeauxs. It may just be that waiting the extra 10 years means you lose fruit and never get sufficient complexity (in most cases) to compensate it, esp. in comparison to what I am used to.