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Clarets 1978 - 1991

by Tom cannavan, 02/98

I have recently been invited to help in sorting out a private cellar. The task is to taste my way through and inspect a large amount of wine, deciding on ageability and condition. The first session of this task took place on January 30th 1998. Two of us worked our way through the clarets, tasting only those which we thought might need drinking up, or which are held in large quantity (more than 4 cases) . The stock is mostly from the 1980's and has been bought well, mainly from '82, '83, '85, '88 and '89. There is a serious job to do, so I couldn't really find an excuse to open the '83 Latour, the '88 Lynch-Bages or the '89 Pichon-Lalande! The tasting was in the cellar, so rather cool, which means I was possibly judging a little on the harsh side. Purely as an aide memoire with so many wines, I awarded a very rough and ready score out of 100 to each.

part II - part III - part IV - part V

Flight One

Château Moulin la Riviere, Médoc 1985
Decent, browning ruby colour. Some oxidisation on the nose and a little vegetal. Thin on the palate too with little sign of fruit. Drink very soon, if at all. 78/100.

Château La Gorce, Médoc 1983
Pale, thin, tawny colour. Nose of dank, mushroomy aromas. Muddy and attenuated. Not very pleasant drinking. Best discarded on this evidence. 70/100.

Château Picon, Bordeaux Supérieur 1991
Decent colour - ruby, tinged brown to rim but fairly solid. A bit of cherry fruit on the nose and more on the palate, but rather astringent, tannic and a bit short on the finish. Drinking as well now as ever, I suspect. 83/100.

Château Chasse-Spleen, Cru Bourgeois, Moulis 1981
Good colour still, though browning. Elegant nose of sweet, flowery fruit. Lots of cedar on the palate makes it very savoury. Still suffused with black cherry, damsons and plum fruit. Nice, sweet finish too with fine, drying tannins. Excellent 1981, though needs drinking soon. 89/100
Label image.

Château Poujeaux, Cru Bourgeois, Moulis 1982
Excellent, deep ruby colour, alost purple, with rim just fading to brick. Huge whiff of cabernet fruit. Loads of cassis on the palate with lovely chewy texture. Beautifully structured and with fine integration of fruit, oak and acids. The wine stays lovely and focussed into a long, positive finish. Impressed by this. Drink now and for 5 years. 91/100

Château Branaire-Ducru, 4th growth, St-Julien 1983
Rather thin, light colour compared to the Poujeaux. Slightly dank note on the nose, but some nice fruit too. Maybe just starting to fade, and a cedary, woody component dominant. It has fine, sandy tannins and a decent finish, though a slightly inky note suggests it needs drinking up. 86/100.

Château Branaire-Ducru, 4th growth, St-Julien 1982
Ruby red with deep orange rim. Nose of cedar and spice, not particularly fresh. Palate is medium bodied, lacking fruit and dominated by spicy oak. Firm, robust and not unattractive. Presumably has shed some fruit. Needs drinking up. 86/100.

Château Gloria, Cru Bourgeois, St-Julien 1983
Very similar, thinnish, browning colour. Slightly more depth on the nose, cedary wood dominates again. On the palate it is very tannic and grippy, with a tough, spicy, meaty character and lacking a little finesse. There is some fruit too, but tannins appear to have won the day. I doubt if there will be any improvement, though might possibly last a few more years of cellaring. 85/100

Flight Two

Château Montbrun, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux 1983
Bottle shows signs of being out of condition. Solid, browning colour. Perfumed, sweet nose. A bit tough on the palate, lacking in fruit and not very attractive to drink. Short and uninspiring. 78/100.

Château Labégorce-Zédé, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux 1985
Good, solid, even, ruby colour. Slightly reticent nose, a little hint of fragrant cedar and caramel. Quite light-bodied, decent mouthful of blackcurranty claret though a little brusque. Rather short on the finish but stays together and quite harmonious. Drink up over next 2 to 3 years. 84/100.

Château Fourcas-Dupré, Cru Bourgeois, Listrac 1985
Solid ruby red, brick at rim. Nice on the nose - cassis and spice. Savoury on the palate, well integrated, with chunky, spicy character and developing, smoky nuances. Soft tannins and good, long finish. Very decent. Fully mature, but should hold for a few years. 86/100.

Château Lestage-Simone, Cru Bourgeois, Listrac 1988
Youthful, intense ruby/purple colour. Very young on the nose, giving little, but developing blackcurrant aroma. Bags of slightly jammy blackcurrant fruit on the palate, very juicy and inviting. Fine tannins lending weight to the rather flashy fruit, good acidity and richly spicy in the finish. Commercial, but nice and very drinkable. Should hold for 5 years. 87/100.

Château Batailley, 5th growth, Pauillac 1982
Solid, mature colour of ruby with a deep orange fringe. Lovely nose. No huge, but packed with ripe, sweet, cassis fruit. Beautifully soft and round on the palate, but well structured with perfectly balanced tannins and good, underpinning acidity. Plenty of alcohol and concentration too. Medium bodied. Very nice wine, with a generous character and fine, medium-long finish. Mature but no hurry to drink. 10 years ahead of it I guess. 91/100.

Château Croizet-Bages, 5th growth, Pauillac 1978
Brown, but deep colour. No fruit on the nose - rather dank and weedy. Some sweetness of fruit on the palate, though really rather austere and lifeless. Certainly needs drinking up. 78/100.

Flight Three

Château Carbonnieux, Cru Classé, Graves 1982
Light ruby colour, amber tinged. Fairly attractive, rich, open nose with spice and fruit-cake notes. Fruit not so evident on the palate, but pretty good concentration, and a spicy, warming nature. Fading slightly now I'd say, and pulls up rather short in the finish. Drink up soon. 85/100.

Château Moulin de Clairac, Graves 1982
Very mature colour with a wide amber rim. Big nose of stinky cabernet fruit. Decent claret, with plenty of cedary, spicy stuffing if no great finesse. Easy to drink too - quite mellow and generous on the finish. Must be drunk soon. 84/100.

Château Lafleur-Gazin, Pomerol 1983
Holding a nice, rich ruby colour with a little amber edge. Very nice plummy, spicy nose. Quite fat and rich on the palate with some nice fruit too and a little elegance about it. A little bit tart on the finish. Not bad, but not going to improve much. Drink over next 2-3 years. 86/100.

Château Clos-René, Pomerol 1983
Bright ruby red colour. A bit obvious and jammy on the nose, with bags of sweet blackberry fruit. Quite a flattering, bright, commercial style, with flashy oak and cedar and a fat style. A bit hollow on the mid-palate and the finish lets it down with an unpleasant, inky note. Past its best, but drinking OK. Don't leave too long. 83/100.

Château Beauvillars, Pomerol 1991
Medium density purple/black with some light on the rim. Very inviting, chocolatey, toffee richness on the nose. Lots of dense, chewy plum and plum-skin fruit. Astringent tannins overtake the finish. No real sign of dilution. I would keep a year or 2 and drink over the following 2 or 3. Quite good. 87/100

Château Drai-Merlet, Fronsac 1985
Deeply hued, ruby red fading to brick. Very poor bottle. Weedy, dank, backwater nose. Bad wood? Just as horrible on the palate as the nose. Check remaining stock. No score.

Château Tour-du-Seme, St-Emilion 1983
Thin, mahogany colour. Nose is spicy and oaky. Palate quite high and jammy with very commercial flavour - hints of tomato ketchup. Jammy and poor, and past its best. 77/100.

part II - part III - part IV - part V