First Growth Bdx style question

I do not agree. In fact, quite the opposite. Today, I find all the First Growths produce better, more unique wines than at any time in their history. But that’s just me. YMMV.

When you use the word “unique” do you also mean distinctive, compared to each other?

Yes, exactly.

Jeff, honest question. Is there any wine where you prefer things the way they used to be, or think a change was made in the wrong direction? I get that some people think everything is going to hell in a handbasket and everything was better in yore. I am not suggesting that you have to agree with that. But it’s just hard for me to believe that there is nothing now that you think isn’t as good as it used to be, that it’s always onward and upward.

David… How far back does used to be, go?

With the more popular, better-funded properties, they are all improved. vOff the top of my head, all of those estates are making better wine today than ever. There are perhaps some properties that have changed ownership that are not quite as good. And there are probably smaller, under-capitalized chateau that have slipped, but today, with more knowledge of their vineyards, more stringent selection, more of the harvest devoted to second wines, and better, modern cellars, just about everyone is making better wine than ever. That is my view from top to bottom.

To give you a simple illustration for the topic at hand, the First Growths, when compared to the wines from the 1980’s, look at this information cribbed from my favorite website :slight_smile:

To give you an idea on the changes in production at Chateau Haut Brion, this chart gives you a vivid illustration of the changes in production numbers over the past decades.

1982 – 21,600 cases

1989 – 17,093 cases

1990 – 18,088 cases

2009 – 11,000 cases

2010 – 8,094 cases

Read more at:Learn about Chateau Haut Brion Pessac Leognan, Complete Guide

Yet you’ve rated the 1989 a perfect 100 no less than 13 times, and 99 points most every other time . . . . And tried to score it a 101, once.


I know you liked HB 2009/2010. I found them far less interesting, distinctive etc than previous vintages. It seemed to be going for a modern Parkerized style (at a time when Parker’s influence was clearly waning) and the result were the most blah Haut Brions and LMHBs I can remember tasting in the twenty plus years I have been doing Bordeaux En Primeur.

Robert… And each time I taste 89 Haut Brion from a correct bottle, it gets better and better. However, the wines produced there today, and at the other top vineyards will reach even higher pinnacles upon hitting maturity! Now, you find more finesse, concentration, freshness and purity, with softer, silkier tannins, which is what happens when you exercise selection.

I am fortunate to have younger friends that are buying a few bottles of these gems today, so I can taste them over the next few decades. Else, I would hardly ever see these current wines, except in Bordeaux. It is a good deal for them. I open my older bottles and they share their recent purchases. Which is how I experienced so many older bottles early in life. I am sure they will carry on that tradition. But I am a bit off target here reminiscing.

*** Mark G… I will get to retaste the 2009 HB and LMHB in April! I have not seen either 2009 or 2010 since they were bottled. 2005 seems to be the last vintage most of my wine circle purchased, so I seldom get to taste these younger examples. Let’s see what we see.

Thanks, Jeff. Those are indeed amazing figures. But all they show is that there is less wine, not that what wine there is is necessarily better.

David… It does mean the wine is better. The grapes that have not reached the desired level of maturity are now placed into the second wine. Barrels that did not develop as hoped are placed into the second wine.

Wines are only as good as the grapes used to produce the wine. More stringent selection on a parcel by parcel, row by row, vine by vine basis is going to make a better wine.

Not necessarily, it could make a more monochromatic and inferior wine. I’m not sold that there is a “perfect” level of ripeness for grapes and that better wine can’t be made by embracing naturally occurring variation instead of selecting out everything that isn’t “perfect.” In that same vein, “silkier” tannins aren’t necessarily better either, as some rough edges can give a wine more personality and enhance its expression.

This is where I think Jeff is dead wrong and Mike is dead right. The problem, Jeff, is that you present your opinion as a statement of fact. It’s not. It’s pure opinion. I would posit that you and many of the modern consultants are seeking a level of “perfection” that basically makes wines potentially rather boring and ubiquitous. It is like looking at a completely photo-shopped and filtered picture of a supermodel. I would rather see the raw picture, with freckles, blemishes and whatever. I call that character, and in the right wine, distinction.

The only way for you to know is to taste the wines and decide for yourself, which you may have done. Have you tasted them?

Yes, but my opinion is right, so I am good with that neener