It might be overkill, but here are my notes from a big 86 Bordeaux horizontal held in 10/08. Keep in mind with these notes that Bordeaux is my favorite region and 80’s Bordeaux in general is my favorite set of Bordeaux (81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 88, 89, and 90 if it counts)…
"A group of Bordeaux lovers converged on NYC last Saturday to check in on the great wines of the 1986 vintage… The only really “closed” wines were the Leoville Las Cases, and to a lesser degree, the Margaux. The only “ready” wines were the Rausan-Segla, the Talbot, and maybe the Pape-Clement. But have no doubts: the 1986 vintage in the Medoc is sensational, and it was clear to the table that the fruit will “outlast” the tannins and that these wines are really beginning to open up by and large. The depth and length on these almost all of these puppies was off the charts. Almost all were very open aromatically, if not yet mature.
The best of these wines-- for me the Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Gruaud, Rausan-Segla, Baron, Cos, Ducru, and Lalande stood above the rest-- will be legends for decades to come. That said, I don’t think ANY of the main wines disappointed, except perhaps the Las Cases as it was so closed and the Barton which at least one person thought was corked. However, I think the Mouton and the Lafite deserve special recognition in this exalted company as the top wines of the night.
All of the wines had terrific acidity-- in some wines, it was arguably more prominent than the tannins. Personally, I love high acids wines when the fruit is there to match it, and in that regard (and all others, for that matter), the 1986s did not disappoint.
Blind Flight - Warm-Up
We began with a double-blind mystery flight. Wine A showed an oaky nose that seemed very American oak to me, so I guessed the '86 Dominus. The table also shared the view that it must be Californian. No one was wowed by it. Wine B immediately grabbed most everyone’s attention. Someone said Cheval Blanc, and I agreed it must be a special Right Bank wine (but I really had no clue). Most everyone was very impressed with B. Wine C was over the hill, and tongue-in-cheek I guessed it was a NY State Pinot Noir… When the wrappers came off wine C was the Montelena 1986, Wine B was a Pesquera 1986 Crianza…and gasps around the room when A was unveiled: Petrus 1986! I will add that as the Petrus sat in the glass, over time the aromas became less overtly oaky and morphed into something like caramelized vanilla. The Pesquera was great, my second time with its 86 (the first was the reserva).
Flight 1These 3 wines were more aromatically superior to their palates. The Pichon Baron was the wine of the flight.
1986 Château Beychevelle - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
The Beychevelle was terrific with a nose of stones, dry extract, black tea. It was aromatically complete.
1986 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
The Pichon Baron had a classy bouquet of dark fruit and some tobacco. To taste, it had lovely sourness, plums. Some subtle oak, but the wood was the most obvious of the flight. Fantastic length, still tannic but open. This improved a lot with time in the glass, and was the most exotic-flashy of the three. Just wonderful.
1986 Château Léoville Barton - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
The Leoville Barton was also classy with a tobacco-cigar nose with a long coating back palate and finish. Dry but balanced. Even if it was corked, it was so mild that the wine was still excellent.
The Rausan-Segla was the WOTF tonight, but in 10 years watch out for the Gruaud.
1986 Château Rausan-Ségla - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
The Rausan-Segla was terrific with perhaps the most evolved bouquet of all the '86s. There was a dried-orange aroma to go with tea and lots of sweetness. The palate was also great with a gripping sour-orange flavor I loved and a fairly hard, dry finish.
1986 Château Gruaud Larose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
The Gruaud-Larose was terrific too. I had it two years ago and it was darn tight. Not so now. It was somewhat closed aromatically (especially in this flight), but what a palate, what length! To taste, it was huge, smooth and reminiscent of liquid iron. There is plenty of fruit, but hold this baby for its 30th birthday.
1986 Château Talbot - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
The Talbot was no slouch in this company. Some barnyardy notes on the nose, it smelled great and was very expressive. It has the thinnest mid-palate of the flight and had abundant Cordier funk. It seemed to fade a bit in the glass.
I think the LLC was the WOTF (the Lalande was mine), but the Ducru was right there and kept getting better.
1986 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
On the Ducru-Beaucaillou, I got a nose of green banana, black tea, some sweetness. It had the best bouquet of the flight. Awesome on the back-end/finish. Bright acids. Improved with air.
1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
The Pichon Lalande was disliked by some, but I loved it. It had a bigger nose than the Ducru; its bouquet was fairly funky with some distinct lactic-cherry notes (some said this lactic smell is from the Petit Verdot). It seemed the most ready of this flight, but still think it needs lots of time to really shine. It has great grip with a long finish where hints of green appeared.
1986 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
The Leoville Las Cases was pretty closed, but showed hints of ash/smoke on the nose which I’ve found on this estate before. Most thought the LLC has the depth of fruit to eventually come out alive.
Flight 4 - The First Growths
At this point, I stopped taking anything like notes. The three 1st Growths were magnificent, with the Mouton edging the Lafite for its exotic flair (e.g. it has a clear note of soy sauce in the bouquet). The Margaux was terrific but just too closed tonight to run with the Pauillacs. The Mouton was the WOTF and the WOTN, but the Lafite was not far behind and clearly these two belong alone at the top.
We had the Pape-Clement, Cos and La Mission Haut Brion for the finale. For me, only the Cos really stood out as superb, but it needs time to really shine. It keep getting better and better with air. The Clement was something of the disappointment, and the La Mish was funky and kinda weird with pungent aromas somewhat reminiscent of slightly rotten fruit or compost, but it had fantastic depth and power.