Red Bordeaux - Which vintages to drink now?

After a very nice '78 Ducru last weekend, I started thinking of all the Bordeaux I’ve had recently (and not so recently), and how they’ve been drinking, and I went ahead and attempted to make my personal vintage chart. I’ve posted this lengthy stream of conscience on my blog at:

but I’d like to discuss here…what are your thoughts about red bordeaux drinking windows from late 70’s to now? Please note that my impressoins are based on my personal drinking history…I am not RP or Tanzer, so I have not tasted 50 wines per vintage. Feel free to disagree with me…I am hoping to learn from all of you.


Thanks, Steffan!

I’ve got a '97 Canon-la-Gaffeliere that now I know I can pop sometime soon.

I’m unclear as to your direction on the '03 - ‘some are ready to drink’? - and with '04, you state that they will come through faster than '02, but does that mean they are good to go now?


I think some of the right bankers from 03 are absolutely ready to drink. Beausejour Duffau and Beausejour Becot have been very good. Not at peak, mind you, but you won’t regret opening them. I have not had any FGs and super seconds, so I suspect they should be left alone. “Lesser” 03s can already be enjoyed.

As far as 04 is concerned, I think 04 is not yet ready with a few exceptions, again, predominantly on the right bank. But I do believe that 2004s will be ready far sooner than the 2002 counterparts. Just a less tannic vintage based on my tasting history.

I have two “lesser” 03s – the Marbuzet and Haut Maillet – I’ve tried two bottles of both of them over the last 18 months and both were nearly impossible to drink the first time around. Second time around, the Marbuzet opened up a bit, but the Maillet – a right bank Pomerol – still was impossible in the winter of 08.

I had a 1989 Branaire Ducru this winter that was doing very well. That was about right for me, as I generally tend to like bordeaux about 20 years out from vintage.

Steve 20 years for a classified growth is about my timeframe as well. I have consumed copious quantities of Petit Chateau for the late 90’s to the 05 vintage, but the larger more structured wines really do need more time to bloom. I have enjoyed a few 89’s this year PB, Poyferre, Troplong Mondot. I wish I hadn’t previously enjoyed most of them (HB, LMHB, LLC) already. [cray.gif]

I have enjoyed some terrific '90’s lately…left bank in particular.

Todd, I had a 98’ Canon la Gaffeliere last year and it was superb and still very young. 98’ right bank wines ROCKED!! I’m not sure if it wasn’t 5-10 yrs away from the beginning of it’s drinking window.

Vintages aside, a good rule of thumb to start drinking better bordeaux is ten years, minimum. Having said that I do try them younger but try to buy enough so that I can have then between 10-25 yrs out. My personal opinion and I am guilty as the rest, we drink our wines too young more often that not. I had a 1983 Pichon Laland last year that easily had a decade of life left. The 86’ Pichon Lalande I had this year still had 15-20 yrs. left. Ditto for the 1985 Margaux. The 1966 Chambertin Clos de Beze(burg not bordeaux) that I had in Dallas (Phillip brought that stunning wine) still had plenty of fruit left and shows what we miss when we drink them too young. Just my dos centavos [cheers.gif]

Off the top of my head (it’s mornig here, just had breakfast and should be leaving in a while):

'70 - Léoville las Cases & Montrose, way over the hill the one time each I’ve tried them. Not had much luck with the '70s I’ve had, but haven’t had very many.

'75 - Pichon Lalande, of the 4-5 times I’ve had it i the past 1-½ years, 4 times ex-château, it has been quite youthful and quite nice, not stunning though. Poujeaux, twice in 2007, both overly tired.

'78 - Pichon Lalande, around 4 times, all ex-château. 2 very good, 2 not so good. '79 and '75 drinking much better. '78 Haut Brion, 2 bottles in 2003, purchased from D. Sokolin, one was tired, one was quite good. Lafite Rothschild was my favorite wine of '78, had many but the last 2 bottles opened in 2004 and 2005 were very tired.

'79 - Pichon Lalande, around 8 bottles, 2 ex-château, the rest purchased from KL Wines (sourced from LD Vins which got them ex-château). Drinking excellently. Siran, twice, ex-château. In January 2008, drinking very well. The bottle a couple of months ago very tired. LLC very nice, but last had it was around 7 years ago.

'80 - Very limited experience and I can’t remember any particular bottle offhand. Must not have ben interesting enough.

'81 - only one wine comes immediately to mind, an excellent Clos St Martin sometime in 2005.

'82 - Tried many, including the 1st growths, more than once. Some are already starting to get tired. Drinking most youthfully now is Gruaud Larose based on 2 bottles I’ve had in the past 8 months. Figeac is excellent. Pichon Lalande very good but have noticed a lot of bottle variance. LLC good, but I prefer the '86 version. Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion drinking very well when I had it last around 1-½ years ago. The most tired in my experience have been Calon Ségur, La Lagune and Talbot.

'83 - Latour was still quite good in May of 2001. Pichon Lalande very nice sometime last year. Rieussec very nice around 2-½ years ago.

'84 - nothing I can remember.

'85 - Had very many. La Conseillant very nice a few months ago. 3 Pichon Lalandes very nice in the past 2 years, last was less than a year ago. Latour very good last I tried it in 2002 or 2003. Margaux and Lafite Rothschild were very good but not fantastic in 2005 (good thing both were gifts). Palmer, ex-château, was excellent in mid-2007.

'86 - I absolutely love this vintage and have had very many. Montrose was excellent all the way through 1998-2006, the last I’ve had was a bit tired already though. Mouton Rothschild I’ve had from 5 bottles over the past 4 years: 3 were fantastic, 2 very good but not great. Margaux I’ve had only once, in 2003, very good but not fantastic. Pichon Lalande ok, but didn’t really impress me. LC twice, both fantastic. Yquem I’ve had many, many times - all sublime, but didn’t wow me like the '67 and '88 did. Ducru Beaucaillou in February this year had a very nice bouquet but was very disappointing on the palate.

'87 - Lynch Bages was quite nice in mid-2005 but fell apart within 35-40 minutes in glass. Can’t remember anything else from this vintage.

'88 - Pichon Lalande was just ok. First time in early 2000, I found it pleasant but lacking in middle. The last one I had around a year ago was a lot better, but nothing great. LLC still very good, opened about 8 bottles in the past 3 years. Latour still quite good when I had it last around 3 years ago, but not great.

'89 - another favorite vintage, I find them more classic and better structured than the '90s. A few excellent ones drinking very well now that immediately come to mind are Latour, LLC, Montrose, Lynch Bages, Grand Puy Lacoste, Pichon Lalande (probably the most masculine PL I’ve ever had), Siran, Gruaud Larose, Angelus, Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Haut Bailly, etc.

I’ll have to stop here, have to get ready for the day. Will continue this evening (if I remember to).


Agree with Wilfred. If I had to pick one vintage right now that I love, it’s 1990.

Anthony…the better 1998s are just now entering their drinking window.

Noel…please do finish your vintage chart…fascinating stuff.

1981 and 1983 are both drinking very well.

Steffen, I find that that the '96’s as a whole are much more approachable now than the more acidic '95’s. You’re spot on about the '95 Haut brion though. I’ll give more detailed thought to this tomorrow, as I’m still in morning of how my Wings palyed tonight. [cray.gif]


Sorry to hear about your Wings. You guys take hockey seriously up North! Looking forward to what you’ll add to this thread. I am hoping this thread can become a current drinking guide with the input from you and other seasoned Bordeaux drinkers.

Sure thing, but before that, some added bottles/info on '71, '83, '85, '86 and '89 that I have recalled:

'71 - How could I have forgotten the '71 Pétrus? Supposedly a middling vintage for Pétrus, the bottle I enjoyed a little less than 2 years ago was sublime, complex and incredibly well-balanced. I’d be in no rush with this wine as it has the structure to age even more.

'83 - Palmer last had 16 August 2008, ex-château, very elegant with great finesse. Could use just a little bit more heft/presence mid-mouth, but that’s picking nits. Lafite Rothschild excellent; wouldn’t bother to wait longer on this. Very nice Rieussec and a surprisingly leaner (but still excellent) Yquem.

'85 - The 2 Pape Cléments I opened around 1-½ years ago were excellent.

'86 - Cos d’Estournel is sublime. Buy this and enjoy. I’ve had the Gruaud Larose twice and have been underwhelmed both times.

'89 - Palmer, last had on 18 October 2008, ex-château, excellent and can age more. Ducru Beaucaillou, last had 10th March 2009, very good if just a touch faded, I’d drink up relatively quickly. Siran is mature and drinking very well now and I’d drink up; if from magnum, can still go a few more years but I wouldn’t bother to wait. Trotanoy could hold longer because it has good structure, but, as a whole, I wasn’t impressed when I had it last in February 2007. Calon Ségur, while nice until around 2001, succeeding bottles have been consistently tired since. The Figeac I had in early 2005 was already tired.

Now to the '90s:

'90 - Pauillacs have been particularly luscious in the past year. Excellent now and can still hold easily for 5-10+ more years are the Latour, Pichon Baron, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch Bages. Also luscious now but I wouldn’t bother further ageing is Grand Puy Lacoste. Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Figeac and Cheval Blanc are incredibly good as well. Pichon Lalande was nice, but not impressive. The last Montrose I had (sometime in early 2008 I believe) seemed on the cusp of decline, but previous bottles make me think that last one was unduly advanced. The last Calon Ségur I had in 2007 was already noticeably tiring. Cos d’Estournel is excellent and can last quite a few more years. Troplong Mondot was going very strong last I had it late 2005.

The Filhot is amazing.

'91 - I can’t remember if I ever had any Bdx from this vintage. Probably not.

'92 - La Fleur-Pétrus 4th July 2008 was surprisingly good for such a maligned vintage, I’d buy some if I could get it for, say, $75, but not a cent more than that. Margaux on the 10th March 2009 had a most alluring bouquet but my notes state: “The bouquet, however, was the best the wine had (left?) to give, as it was sadly thin and diffuse on the palate - giving up more drying cedar than any fruit or ghosts thereof.”

'93 - I used to keep many Lascombes as a house red until around 1998 or 1999, but, thereafter, it was no longer palatable. Surprisingly good despite the vintage were the Batailley and Palmer, both on 4th July 2008. I’d buy these if offered at around $75-$80 just to show others not to just swallow general vintage assesments hook, line and sinker.

'94 - Enjoyed many VCCs and a few La Conseillantes back in 2000-2003, but have not been able to try them since. Within the past 10 months, the Angelus, Léoville las Cases, Pontet Canet and La Mission Haut Brion have been surprisingly good, while the Haut Brion is excellent. The Latour I last had on the 15th June 2006 and it showed the green/unripeness the vintage is generally known for - never bothered to have it again.

'95 - Pichon Lalande is very good and, at the last vertical I attended sometime last year, I even ranked it higher than the '96, '85 and '89. Cheval Blanc is also quite good but seems to still be pretty reluctant (last had January 2008 in magnum). Calon-Ségur I can’t really say as the last one I had (beside the mentioned '95 Cheval Blanc, also in magnum) was mildly corked. Mouton Rothschild, Léoville las Cases and Montrose still taste too young for me - sometimes I wonder if that’s all there is to them.

'96 - I’ve enjoyed many from this vintage over the past year or so though they are still quite young: Léoville Poyferré, Montrose, Gruaud Larose, Cheval Blanc, Cos d’Estournel, Lynch Bages, Rauzan Ségla, Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande, among others. Over a small dinner that featured a horizontal of the five 1855 first growths '96s on 29th June 2008, I’d say not to bother touching these for another 5-7 years. Same goes for the LLC. La Mondotte, however, is already roaring out of the bottle. If you want a relatively inexpensive treat, go for some of this vintage’s Pagodes de Cos and de Fieuzal. I’d hold the Haut-Bailly a few more years to see what happens because they aren’t very interesting yet. Drinking superbly is Domaine de Chevalier (I love this wine at its very reasonable price). Yquem is still very young. Reasonably good at their prices are Rieussec, de Fargues and Guiraud.

'97 - Some nice, inexpensive, casual drinking Bdx here. Some from the past year that are fairly good at their prices have been Grand Puy Lacoste, LLC, Cos d’Estournel and Léoville Barton. La Mondotte’s '97 is a relatively cheap way to enjoy Stephan’s revenge - bought and drank 2 bottles in mid-2007, nice enough, but I’ve decided that La Mondotte isn’t really my style.

'98 - The Haut Brion was already drinking surprisingly well last June 2007 and has a long life ahead I expect. Forget Latour for around 4-5 more years. Right banks are already very enjoyable, if not particularly intellectual: Pavie, La Mondotte, Canon-la-Gaffelière, La Couspaude, Le Bon Pasteur (yeah, yeah, I know), Cheval Blanc, Ausone. The only '98 right bank I’ve had that has struck me as a serious /intellectual wine has been the L’Evangile (around 2 months ago) which has a long life ahead of it. Troplong Mondot was quite disappointing when I opened one around 2 years ago - likely too young at the time. The Siran I had last Saturday was quite good, especially at its price. The Les Forts was already drinking very well whan I had it last in mid-May 2008.

'99 - I’ve been enjoying a lot of these generally easy drinking, modestly-priced Bdx the past year. e.g., Lynch Bages, Léoville Poyferré, Malescot St Exupery, Grand Puy Lacoste, Siran and Branaire Ducru. Serious wines from this year that, in my personal opinion, shouldn’t be touched for at least 3 more years are Margaux (my favorite 1st growth of this vintage), Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, LLC and Montrose. Amazingly, the Ausone I had in mid-2005 was already stunning, but I haven’t had it since so it is possible that it may have shut down already. The Le Pin is very good for the vintage, but its price is absolutely ridiculous. Cheval Blanc is excellent for the vintage and, I find, reasonably priced for what it is. Gruaud Larose, Ducru Beaucaillou and Canon-la-Gaffelière have been very disappointing for me. Pavie is luxurious, if lacking in elegance.

'00 - Still very young (even crus bourgeois like Siran and Sociando Mallet and top-growth 2nds like Le Petit Cheval and Carruades de Lafite) and I’ve had very many. Watch out for the Figeac.

'01 - For my tastes, good chx are still too young. That said, in my experience over the past year or so, with an hour or so aeration, the Les Forts, Léoville Poyferré and Canon-la-Gaffelière are already very enjoyable.

‘02 - Haven’t really tried this vintage, just a handful of reds which haven’t interested me. Sauternes’ de Fargues and Yquem, though, were pretty good.

'03 - Tried a few, but generally all way too young for me to really enjoy. From those I’ve had, I see that this Bdx vintage is not to my taste. But that’s just me.

'04 - I like this vintage for Pessac Léognan. Tasted through many them in June 2007; to see some of my notes on these, click on this. Generally, I find '04 Bdx more to my taste than '03. Still quite young, but I’d guess they’ll be ready to drink in another 3 years. haven’t tried any of the 1st growths of this vintage.

'05 - Tasted through most of the top growths in July 2006 and again in May 2008. They are way too young for me to enjoy. Many seemed to have shut down in last May’s Vinexpo in HK. That said, of the '05 top growths, I predict Margaux will be the most elegant and Latour will be the most serious. Mouton Rothschild is monstrous. La Mondotte as well. Haven’t tried Haut Brion though.

'06 - Tasted through them in Vinexpo 2007 Bdx. The right bank easily trounced the left, in my opinion. Notables were La Conseillante, Figeac, Canon-la-Gaffelière and Clinet.

'07 & '08 - I haven’t tried any from these vintages.

Bdx doesn’t figure heavily in my drinking, but I’ve had a few interesting ones recently. These I actually put into CT.

1970 - Montrose was not OTH at all. Maybe lucky - it was delivered by UPS, promptly schlepped up to Michigan and drank the next day after snowboarding. Have a mixed bag of '70s on tap.

'88 Conseillante - after a merciless bottle a couple years ago, this was still coarser than LC ought, but much suaver and resolved.

'92 Mouton - Mouton-lite, but I got it for under mkt price and it was worth that.

'95 Trot - a merciless beast.

'96 Conseillante - A nice place of tension between primary and secondary. I am finding I really, really like Bdx when I have it at this point. I like mature, but I really like that nervous tension.

'98 - have to throw this in - '98 Monbousquet - “Not as bad as I expected.”

'01 - Maybe I am weird, but I am finding an opulent plushness. Through odd circumstances I had 01 LMHB not long ago and am drinking 01 Conseillante right now. Both are characteristic, but have this wash of plush fruit/suede textures that is quite compelling. Small sample, I know, but I am craving it. Saw some 01 LMHB calling out to me on a shelf recently …

My .02$ as someone who is not typically a Bdx drinker, but has had more in the last 6 mos than in the past 2 yrs.