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Claret of the 1983 & 1985 Vintages

By Tom Cannavan, 04/07

Extremely enjoyable tasting. The tasting showed these wines to be absolutely ready for drinking. Overall the '85s showed better than the '83s, with a little more fat, more elegance and greater concentration. One or two of the '83s seemed to be tiring slightly. The Haut-Brion, Léoville-Barton and Ducru '85 stood out, with Gruaud-Larose, Léoville-Las-Cases and Léoville-Poyferre just a notch behind. Compared with '95 and '96 en primeur pricing, and with 10 years life ahead of them, these wines seem like relative bargains!

Château Léoville-Barton, 2nd growth, St-Julien 1985 - £32.99
Deep ruby colour with hints of brick. Charming, leafy, cassis fruit on the nose with soft, eucalyptus notes too. Slightly nettley, herbal character, but showing abundant, ripe blackcurrant fruit, medium to full body and lovely cedary notes. Good integration of oak and fine tannins. Smooth, long finish. Elegant, excellent structure, not massively complex, but very, very good. Fully mature but should hold for quite a while. In my top 3 of the tasting.

Domaine de Chevalier, Cru Classe, Graves 1985 - £32.99
Very deep, crimson colour. Subdued nose with slightly rough, oaky notes (others said this softened considerably over the evening - I didn't re-taste). Quite luscious on the palate, glycerine as well as decent fruit and subtle tobacco notes. Not giving a huge amount at this stage, though a fine, long finish. Very pure but subdued and lacking enough concentration to really grip. Very fine though - one that might improve?

Château Gruaud-Larose, 2nd growth, St-Julien 1985 - £36.99
Very full, deep crimson colour. Leafy cabernet nose, hint of toasted oak and burnt rubber. Medium bodied, very pure, clean blackcurrant fruit and soft, integrated oak. Nice long, peppery finish with firm tannins. Good length. Just below my top 3.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, 2nd growth, St-Julien 1985 - £44.99
Lovely ruby/purple just tinged with brick red. Very pure cassis and cigar box nose, a hint of stalkiness. Pure streak of blackcurrant fruit on the palate with mouth filling tannins and medium to full body. Sophisticated, with great length and long, super-clean finish with fine, drying tannins and classy cigar box/cedar notes. Great depth, concentration and wonderfully integrated flavour elements. Top 3.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, 2nd growth, St-Julien 1983 - £32.99
Colour as above. Giving very little on the nose - traces of all the classic claret elements, but very toned down. Tannins obvious and quite smooth, but dominating the fruit. A wee bit acrid, a touch woody, a touch coarse for Ducru. Decent length. Not a patch on the '85. Maybe fading?

Château Léoville-Poyferre, St-Julien, 2nd growth 1983 - £32.99
Very dense dark ruby/purple. Big nose of brambly, blackcurrant fruit. Very up-front and juicy on the palate Lush, super concentrated black fruits and a nice creaminess. A little more acidity than some others. Finish quite long, fairly smooth, cool and minty. Excellent concentration. A bit of a blockbuster for this rather restrained vintage.

Château Léoville-Las-Cases, St-Julien, 2nd growth 1983 - £49.99
Most even, dense, deep purple colour of the evening so far. Very pure and classy cabernet fruit on the nose. A touch of cedar component on the palate, but really dominated by ripe, concentrated, cassis fruit and sweet oak. To me, the essence of "Claret". Rich and well structured if lacking the final complexity and expression that would make it "great". Long, pure, delightful finish. Almost made top 3 status.

Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 1st growth 1983 - £62.99
Deep ruby with brick red at the fringes. Very intense, concentrated cassis nose. Luscious, plummy fruit, mineral steeliness comes through. Pronounced but fine tannins evident and tremendous concentration. Oak is well integrated and there is a little prickle of acidity. Quite delightful, smooth-as-silk finish and good length. Stays very pure and balanced. Elevated slightly above most of this company by sheer concentration, structure and balance. Very good plus, definite top 3.