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Bordeaux vertical, 1994 - 2000

by Tom Cannavan, 08/04

This was an interesting tasting presented by Oddbins "Ultimate Wine Store" in Glasgow. It looked at Bordeaux from each of the vintages 1994 to 2000, which includes supposedly "great" years like 1995 and 2000, "very good" years like 1996 and 1999, and years considered to be moderate, like 1994 and 1997.

There is nothing that can be conclusively drawn from this tasting, as the wines on show varied widely across appellations and quality levels, from second wines to 1st growth Châteaux. But it was an interesting chance to taste through the years to see if these specific wines lived up to, fell short of, or out-performed the general expectations for the vintages concerned.

The two first growth wines really did show the class of their terroir and winemaking, and stood out on complexity and quality, though at a price. The two modest, and modestly priced wines from 2000 suggested that this vintage will live up to all the hype that surrounded it upon release.

The tasting was not blind.

Bordeaux 1994 - 2000

Château Léoville-Poyferré (St-Julien) 2nd growth 1994
This still has a vivid ruby colour, with a little browning. Very attractive on the nose, it has plenty of full, earthy spice and a rich, ripe raspberry and redcurrant fruitiness. It seems very harmonious, if a touch one-dimensional. On the palate it has a good attack of keen, crisp raspberry fruit that is quite lean and sinewy, with plenty of acidity and incisive tannins. Perhaps this lacks a little flesh, especially on the mid-palate, but there is plenty more spice, tobacco and stuffing on the finish. Very good indeed. £38.99 Oddbins.
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Malescot-Saint-Exupéry (Margaux) 3rd growth 1995
Darker and fuller in colour, the nose is quite deep and perfumed with earth and a touch of cedary, bloody quality. Plummy fruit and a touch of coffee starts to dominate. Quite a ripe, plummy palate too, with a dry, savoury, quite arresting flavour of damson and blackcurrant. A real grippy edge of plum skin acidity takes quite a hold, together with firm tannins that dry the finish. I'd say this needs time, and is very good indeed. £39.99 Oddbins.
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Le Bahans du Château Haut-Brion (Pessac-Leognan) 1996
Nice dark crimson colour, with a touch of brown at rim. Very ripe, rich and dense on the nose; almost Porty, with thick blackberry fruit, black cherry and a little animal note. The palate is quite subdued by contrast, and very harmonious, with lots of blackcurrant and deeper, plummy fruit. It is very dense, with well-integrated toasty oak and lots of spice. The tannins are supple and fine, and this is very well balanced and has good length. Very good indeed/excellent. £43.99 Oddbins.
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Château Pichon-Baron (Pauillac) 2nd growth 1997
Seems a slightly lighter colour, but more vibrant. Big coffeeish nose, flooded with dark, toasty oak and deep-set fruit that is quite fat and generous. Very rounded and harmonious on the palate. Again there is good attack, with a sweet, ripe blackcurrant and raspberry edge to the fruit and balanced acidity. There is a really tart, bitter dark cherry acidity and quite a liquoricy grip. Good length and very nice drinking. Very good indeed. £36.49, Oddbins.
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Château Latour (Pauillac) 1st growth 1998
This was a stand-out success in a recent tasting, showing real authority and class. It has a terrific density of colour: an almost opaque crimson/black, with just a chink of pink on the rim. Very rich, fat and open (decanted two hours) at first, with a big, supple nose of coffee and chocolate, thick cassis fruit and a little dank undergrowth warmth. There is plenty of polished, cedary aroma too. It is pretty massive on the palate: a great, thick slab of meaty, concentrated black fruit with a searing backbone of fine-grained tannins. There is terrific structure, and balancing acidity that is broad and quite generous, but decisive. This has excellent concentration of bittersweet black fruits and fine length too. Excellent, and a relative bargain with 20 years ahead of it. £99.99 Oddbins, limited availability.
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Château Margaux (Margaux) 1st growth 1999
This has a dark, vibrant crimson colour with a nose dominated by coffee bean espresso and a huge, dark toastiness. There is masses of cassis and bright, polished, very attractive fruit tinged with violet and blueberry. Lovely fruit sweetness on the palate, wrapped for now in marzipan, but that core of really pure, ripe cherry and blackcurrant runs through the mid-palate. A little more elegant than the Latour perhaps, but then the acids and tannins really do grip. This is complex and concentrated, and will improve over 15 years. Excellent. £94.99 Oddbins, Limited availability.
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Tourelles de Château Pichon-Baron (Pauillac) 2000
A step down from the heavyweights of Latour and Margaux, to the second wine of Pichon-Baron. It is very dark, and almost an opaque purple. It displays lots of dense, concentrated fruit and little sign of oak, but a restrained, sweet-edged, slightly floral quality. Sweet, ripe and jammy on the palate, there is plenty of raspberry and blackcurrant and a chocolaty plushness about the mid-palate. Plenty of fruit here, and plenty of polish and class with a nice edge of tannin and good balance. perhaps lacks a little complexity, but very good indeed. £23.99 Oddbins.
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Les Fiefs de Lagrange (St-Julien) 2000
The second wine of 3rd growth Lagrange is a very vibrant purple/crimson in colour, with quite a cedary, gamy quality on the nose and some meaty, dark coffee and tobacco too. On the palate the fruit is submerged for now in toasty, chocolaty, rich and Porty character, though there is a cherry freshness. The finish is quite powerful, with dry tannins and a raft of grippy acids. This has lots of character at a good price. Very good indeed. £18.99 Oddbins.
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