x
  • Country ranking ?

    3 746
  • Producer ranking ?

    48
  • Decanting time

    3h
  • When to drink

    now to 2035
  • Food Pairing

    Spring lamb served pink with fresh herbs

1982 versus 1990 Bordeaux

When you receive an invitation to a comparative tasting of all Premier Crus from the two great vintages of 1982 and 1990, you drop everything and clear your diary. 1982 and 1990 represent the beginning and end of perhaps the greatest era in the history of Bordeaux. During these nine years there were only two vintages that could be seen as disappointments: 1984 and 1987. It could rightly be stated that the period from 1945 to 1953 produced similarly great wines; this is true for the top wines, but the overall quality reached new heights during the 1980s.

1982 was a milestone for the Bordeaux trade, coming as it did after the difficult decade of the 1970s, which was marked by the Bordeaux crisis, and the ensuing collapse of the 1972 bubble, the oil crisis and rapid inflation. On top of this there were a series of disappointing vintages.The financial markets had stabilised by the time the 1982 wines were offered in the spring of 1983, and by this time there was a large new group of potential wine buyers. There had been an influx of new magazines about wine and good living, and the public was ready to spend money. The American Dollar was high against a weak French Franc and, most of all, the wines were spectacular.

There were several reasons for this.

An early, even flowering, a warm but unspectacular summer and an exceptionally hot period during the end of August and the first half of September. It was this heat that made it possible for the record harvest to not only to fully ripen, but also to concentrate the fruit.  The harvest started on September 14 and was finished before heavy rains commenced on October 2. Another reason for the success of the vintage was that most châteaux had invested in their cellars and were able to work such a large and hot harvest. It was now possible to control the fermentation temperatures better than in earlier hot vintages, such as 1947. The grapes produced wines with such high natural alcohol that chaptalization became unnecessary. They showed deep colour, high and unusually soft tannin levels and a better acidity than first thought, as well as great fruit concentration. The media hype was great, particularly thanks to the advent of new wine magazines - this was the vintage that cemented Robert Parker’s reputation. The prices rose rapidly and have not looked back since. I remember all Premier Crus (including Pétrus) being offered to end consumers for around 50 euros en-primeur in 1983.

The scene when the 1990 vintage came along was quite different. There was a surplus of very good to great wine on the market – for the first time there was talk of three great vintages following one another. This lead to most châteaux lowering their prices by about 20 per cent compared to their 1989 prices, even though the quality was outstanding. There had been a steady increase in prices during the 1980s, but they were now more or less back to the opening prices of the 1982s. It was again a record harvest, but because most châteaux had by now introduced a ‘second wine’ and due to the fact they were more selective with regards to quality, there was actually less wine being bottled as ‘Grand Vin’ than in 1982.

We have been following both these vintages from a comparatively early age, as they were both precocious and easy to drink from the start. The top wines from both vintages are spectacular, but the overall quality is much higher in 1990. Here the wines were equally successful on both sides of the river, and even minor châteaux produced something special. We have always found most 1982s from the right bank to be too alcoholic and lacking in structure; indeed many are now ageing rapidly.

So, which vintage would claim victory?

It was easy in the case of Château Mouton Rothschild to pick the winner, given their 1990 has always been the disappointment of the vintage. It is now maturing rapidly and should be drunk or, even better, sold to someone who only cares for the name on the label. The 1982, on the other hand, was always seen as one of the stars of the vintage. Deep coloured with a great concentration of up-front fruit. Good, fresh acidity and a long finish. The only thing that worries me a little is the massive amount of tannins still present.

The 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild is a lovely and charming wine, full of warmth and style. A classic, elegant Lafite. It is ready to drink now and will bring pleasure for some time to come. The 1982 Lafite is ‘The Superstar’ in the eyes of the Chinese and this has led to the wine reaching new record prices at every auction in Hong Kong and beyond. The wine is very good – more concentrated than the 1990 and still very youthful.  We would call this a draw.

1990 Château Haut Brion is one of our favourite wines – a heady nose of tobacco, spices and leather. Lovely, soft fruit and ready to drink now, but don’t be fooled – this will age forever, just like the 1959 and 1961 Haut Brions. The 1982 Haut Brion is also a beautiful, charming wine, offering great drinking pleasure, but it does not quite have the exotic charm of the 1990. 

Drink soon as we don’t see it improving with age. Victory for 1990.

The bottle of 1990 Château Margaux was not a good bottle; the wine had a mature colour and lacked the usual structure and freshness. This is normally a good, soft wine, so we assume that this bottle had been stored under conditions that were too warm. The 1982 was also now quite mature with soft fruit and needs drinking soon. In this case it is a win for the 1982, although normally we would call it a draw.

Château Latour is usually the wine that needs the longest of all the Premier Crus to show its true class. 1990 was unusually soft and not at all typical of a Latour at an early age. It is a very good wine with soft tannins and great balance. Château Latour produced, for me, the greatest of all 1982s. A fantastic, mind-blowing wine, which combined the classic Pauillac style and backbone with spectacularly concentrated and sensuous fruit. It was joy to drink now and will continue to be so for the next hundred years. Another win for 1982.

Both 1990 and 1982 Château Ausone showed mature colour, nose and fruit.Both were quite pleasant to drink but not really up to Premier Cru standard in either vintage. A draw.

We have often given the 1990 Château Cheval Blanc a perfect score in blind tastings, as this is one of the most hedonistic wines we have ever had the pleasure to drink. We have compared it to Sophia Loren in the 1960s – soft, round, voluptuous, sexy and not a hard edge anywhere in sight. This is the uncrowned successor to Cheval Blanc’s legendary 1947. 

We have, on the other hand, never quite understood the constant raving about Cheval Blanc’s 1982. A very overrated wine for us – too alcoholic and overripe. In fact, it is always lacking the structure necessary to be really good. Not bad, but certainly nowhere as good as its reputation. A clear victory for 1990.

1990 Château Pétrus is a fabulous monument of a wine. Indeed, it displays the deepest colour of all. Still quite closed, but a giant waiting to come out and blow us all away. Very, very long finish. A great wine! The 1982 Pétrus is a wine with a fantastic reputation that, similar to the Cheval Blanc, has never really impressed me. Soft, mature and attractive but lacking the structure of a great wine. Another clear victory for 1990.

The luncheon was rounded off in style with Château d'Yquem from both vintages. 1982 was a difficult vintage for Sauternes, being caught as it did by the copious rains of October. Lightweight and really not very good. The 1990 is an opulent, soft and forward Yquem. Attractive and ready to drink now. 1990 prevails again.

All in all a wonderful afternoon with marvellous wines where, in our eyes, this time 1990 showed itself to be the more complete vintage.

by Tb

 

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The Story

Château Mouton Rothschild A Premier Cru Classé in 1973, Château Mouton Rothschild, owned by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, consists of 205 acres of vines near Pauillac, in the Médoc, North West of the city of Bordeaux. This Premier Cru benefits from exceptionally good natural conditions, both in the quality of the soil, the position of its vines and their exposure to the sun. It is regarded today as one of the world's greatest wine. 


The name Mouton is said to be derived from the word „Motte“ meaning mound or elevation of the ground. It was bought in 1853 by Philippe de Rothschilds great-grand father it was in a fairly bad shape and when the classification of 1855 was set up it was not deemed to be good enough to be qualified as a first growth but put in first place amongst the second growths. An injustice it took Philippe de Rothschild until 1973 to rectify. 1920s Philippe de Rothschild called together the owners of Haut Brion, Latour, Lafite, Margaux and Yquem to talk about the idea of bottling and marketing their wines on their own.

The first vintage to be bottled exclusivly at the château was the 1924 vintage. To commemorate this, the cubistic painter Carlu was asked to design the label, yet another revolutionary idea in this most conservative of surroundings. The idea of an artist designing the labels was dropped until 1945 when Philippe Jullian was asked to design a label commemorating the victory over nazi Germany. Since then works of such famous artists as Picasso, Miró, Dali, Chagall and personalities like John Huston and Prince Charles have been used for the labels.
In 1988, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who had already been associated with her father's work for some time, succeeded her father. She has in turn become the guarantor of the quality of an illustrious wine whose motto proudly proclaims : "Premier je suis, second je fus, Mouton ne change". First I am, second I was, I Mouton do not change

Vineyard soil: very deep gravel on a limestone base Production area: 82.5 ha Grape varieties: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot Average age of vines: 48 years Harvest method: hand picked. The grapes from the younger vines are harvested first and vinified separately.

Winemaking: Before destemming, the grapes are hand-sorted then selected one by one. Vinification depends on each vintage and the characteristics of each vat. All the relevant parameters, such as temperature, pumping over, aeration, vatting time and running off, are monitored by the technical manager, the cellar-master and the laboratory.
Ageing: 19 to 22 months in oak barrels (almost all new, the percentage varying according to the vintage)
 

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Vintage 1990

Château Mouton Rothschild 1990
Climatic conditions:The vegetation cycle started early following a mild winter. Budbreak took place between 7 and 17 March depending on the variety. Changeable weather in the spring – cold weather in March and April followed by high temperatures in May – caused early but slow flowering. Mid-flowering was observed on 21 May for the Merlot and Cabernet Franc and on 26 May for the Cabernet Sauvignon. June and July were dry; August remained dry and very hot, with several days of heatwave conditions.

Veraison, like flowering, took place early but slowly; mid-veraison was observed between 3 and 11 August depending on the variety, causing the grapes to mature unevenly on some bunches. After elimination of the unevenly matured bunches, the crop showed exceptional potential. The grapes were in perfect condition, very ripe and deeply coloured. Fine weather in September meant that the harvest could take place under ideal conditions both for the maturity of the grapes and for picking.

Harvest18 September to 3 October
Varietal mix
Cabernet Sauvignon 81 %
Cabernet Franc 10 %
Merlot 9 %
Tasting notes
The wine has a clear, glittering colour with a slightly brickish tint, while the open and expressive nose offers well-developed aromas of blond tobacco and game together with some very pleasant mineral notes.

The attack is gentle and gradual, while the refined and silky tannic structure suggests that this Mouton Rothschild has reached full maturity.
The fruit, relatively discreet on the nose, comes into its own on the palate in flavours of macerated fruit and prunes in alcohol. An attractive, acidulated and airy finish.

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

15 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Full, Ruby red and Clear

ending

Long, Lingering and Vibrant

flavors

Blackberry, Licorice, Violet, Cigar-box, Mineral and Floral

nose

Intense, Complex, Ripe and Generous

recommend

Yes

taste

Average in Acidity, Low alcohol content, Medium tannin, Balanced, Concentrated, Multi-dimensional, Developing, Medium-bodied, Elegant, Silky, Vivid, Dry and Silky tannins

Verdict

Sophisticated and Impressive

Written Notes

A moderately rich looking, purple wine with no real sign of age around the rim. Really strong nose with blackcurrant, coffee and spice aromas. Firm, structured body, with not a lot of character. Seems quite tannic and dry on the palate, although it has decent acidity and some smoky, burnt fruit to match. Not as sweet or as full as other First Growths of this vintage, but has plenty of mouth-feel. No great length. This Mouton may come around with time in the cellar - or it may fall apart. Good luck!
  • 89p
Green has always been the first word to come to mind when it comes to the 1990 Mouton Rothschild, and this was no exception. It wasn’t a bad wine, and it was more balanced than the 1989, as well as fleshier. Bryan found it ‘fresh and succulent but less complex’ than the ’89. Many preferred the open nature of the 1990 (90).
  • 90p
Usually a disappointing Mouton, it showed very attractively on this evening. Blackberry and smoke on the nose, it is nicely balanced from its opening notes, some acacia flowers provided an appealing mouth perfume, fairly high acidity (which has led to an experience of imbalance in the past, but not this evening) that interacted here harmoniously with the floral flourishes and the fairly resolved tannins. The Cab Franc again quite evident past the mid palate, the smokiness (a Mouton signature) emerges again, then a well composed, suave finish. This was either a very positive outlier as a bottle, or this wine “may” deserve revisiting. 91 Points
  • 91p

Information

Origin

Pauillac, Bordeaux

Vintage Quality

Outstanding

Value For Money

Good

Investment potential

Very Good

Fake factory

None

Glass Time

1h

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

 Anton Panasenko / Best Sommelier of Russia 2003, Pro (Russia)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

1990 Château Mouton-Rothschild – was having not the first time in my life but the first time it was a wine in perfect condition, two or three previous times (in different places and times) the wine was far over it’s prime, and I started to think it was about wine itself, not just particular bottles.

7m 19d ago

91p
 Omar Khan, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

"Usually a disappointing Mouton, it showed very attractively on this evening. Blackberry and smoke on the nose, it is nicely balanced from its opening notes, some acacia flowers provided an appealing mouth perfume, fairly high acidity (which has led to an experience of imbalance in the past, but not this evening) that interacted here harmoniously with the floral flourishes and the fairly resolved tannins. The Cab Franc again quite evident past the mid palate, the smokiness (a Mouton signature) emerges again, then a well composed, suave finish. This was either a very positive outlier as a bottle, or this wine “may” deserve revisiting. 91 Points"

1y 1m ago

91p
 Markus Del Monego MW / Best Sommelier in the World 1998, MW (Germany)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

"Garnet red colour. The nose is rather restrained, hints of maturation aroma, discreet toasted aroma and restrained fruit, eg blackcurrants and candied fruits. On the palate distinct acidiy, mild tannins and rather soft finish. A quite pleasant character in a lighter style. "

1y 8m ago

89p
 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

"A moderately rich looking, purple wine with no real sign of age around the rim. Really strong nose with blackcurrant, coffee and spice aromas. Firm, structured body, with not a lot of character. Seems quite tannic and dry on the palate, although it has decent acidity and some smoky, burnt fruit to match. Not as sweet or as full as other First Growths of this vintage, but has plenty of mouth-feel. No great length. This Mouton may come around with time in the cellar - or it may fall apart. Good luck!"

1y 10m ago

90p
 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

"Green has always been the first word to come to mind when it comes to the 1990 Mouton Rothschild, and this was no exception. It wasn’t a bad wine, and it was more balanced than the 1989, as well as fleshier. Bryan found it ‘fresh and succulent but less complex’ than the ’89. Many preferred the open nature of the 1990 (90)."

3y 4m ago

91p
 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

"Ruby. Starts out a bit herbal, later classic bell peppers, licorice, blackcurrant's leaf and some exotic spices. Easygoing Mouton, lovely texture, feels a bit rich, but subdued by the herbs. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, good length. But I have had more complete bottles."

4y 6m ago

88p
 Totte Steneby, Sommelier (Sweden)  tasted  Château Mouton-Rothschild 1990  ( Château Mouton-Rothschild )

"1990 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Bordeaux, France
(Gothenburg, Sweden, Okt 2012)
D1,5h, G1h

Open but not entirely pleasant nose with lots of sweet dark fruit but with disturbing green notes and hints of burned rubber. Even a touch of brett. Didn’t get better with air.
Displays both super young fruit and note that would suggest early maturity.

Better on the palate with big bodied dark fruit attack and spicy components such as, black pepper, licorice, leather and more developed notes of barnyard and brett.
However the somewhat green acidity wins on the surpisingly short finish and leaves more a sour than fresh feeling.
Tasted twice with consistant notes. Not sure how or if this will develop.
Drink 2015-2025
88p."

4y 7m ago

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