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.


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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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.

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After a particularly rapid spurt in vegetation growth, the Champagne region is hit hard by spring frosts in April. Blossoming is therefore difficult in the cold and rainy conditions. Blossom drop and uneven grape development are only compensated by the large number of bunches and the wide branches. A heat wave summer then sets in and remains until the generous downpours in the days leading up to the harvest, (on 11 September). The musts boast an exceptional composition and homogenous quality; throughout the Champagne region.

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In 1990, Napa Valley recorded a season of cool growing conditions and low crop yield, promising an outstanding wine. Cooler-than-normal winter weather led to a late bud break. Bloom and berry set were delayed by the season's conditions and rain in late May. Normal summer temperatures were followed by ideal harvest conditions.

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With the advent of the 1990s, Italian wine production finally entered the modern age. The pioneers of modern winemaking had succeeded in their efforts to show the world, not to mention politicians, the potential of Italian wine production. This was demonstrated in 1992 with the implementation of the new IGT classification, whose purpose was to lift the super wines out of the Vina da Tavola category from the disgraceful Italian quality classification system. Conversely, a number of producers gave up their DOC or DOCG classifications and marketed their wines as IGTs, such as Angelo Gaja’s Barbaresco and Barolo cru wines and Roberto Anselmi’s Soave wines.

1990 was the ideal kickoff for this stunning decade. A hot and dry summer with cool nights and light rain set the stage for a small, but exceptional crop, perhaps the finest seen since the 1940s. Piedmont brought in an excellent crop for the third year in a row. However, the rains were distributed considerably more evenly in 1990. Tuscany enjoyed similar weather conditions, and, as in Piedmont, the grapes ripened earlier than usual. Overall, 1990 produced very elegant, nuanced, ripe fruited and concentrated wines, which still have great maturation potential.

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Vintage Report

Bordeaux: The beginning of the last decade of the century had a perfect start. Vintage 1990 continued the series of great vintages since 1988. Mild winter encouraged the early budding which was threatened by the cold and icy temperatures in late spring. This caused prolonged flowering with uneven berry set causing especially challenges for Cabernets at the end of the season. The rains in April stocked the reserves for the dry and hot summer and ensured that the ripening was progressing perfectly. Merlot succeeded better anyway while uneven bunches of very small Cabernet grapes had high skin ratio compared to fruit making wines concentrated but very tannic. Thus this vintage was more attractive right bank vintage than left bank.

In Médoc, the northern appellations succeeded better. Margaux has had the most quality sags. Graves wines are in general flexible and elegant. St. Emilion and Pomerol are more refined and delicious than the "muscle" vintage of 1989. Pétrus is the best wine for the second consecutive year. Other excellent wines are Cheval Blanc, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Latour and Pichon-Baron. Montrose was expected to be better as it has been considered the icon of the 1990 vintage. Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild were generally disappointments for such a great vintage. White wines both dry and sweet were excellent. Sugar levels in Sauternes were at the highest level since 1929. Sauternes had a superb vintage with Yquem shining as the brightest star

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Vintage Report

California and New Zealand


Napa Valley by Bob Levy / Harlan Estate:

In 1990 we received about half the normal amount of rainfall and recorded well-below-average winter temperatures. The cool weather continued into mid-March, delaying budbreak until the middle of April. On several days in early May temperatures rose to between 80°–100°, the rest of the month cooled considerably, leading to a bloom starting in the last week of May when temperatures hovered around 70°. Summer weather was mostly even and moderate, with a few bursts of heat in June, July, and August. A compact harvest began on August 31 with the young-vine merlot and was completed by September 17. Yields were skimpy, averaging just 1.6 tons per acre.


Napa valley: Soaking spring rains during bloom reduced the size of the crop somewhat, but the long, warm summer that followed allowed grapes to ripen uniformly and achieve near-perfect fruit maturity, acid levels and sugar content. Mild weather during harvest allowed picking to proceed at a normal pace and late rains came too late in the season to do much damage. With both red and white varietals showing excellent balance, the vintage was judged overall to be one of higher quality and slightly lower quantity.


New Zealand by Te Mata Estate

Vintage was in mid-season as far as timing went, starting in late March and finishing on the 3rdMay.  We had only 30mm of rain in April and providentially were missed by the deluges that hit Taranaki and Wanganui.  The relative merits of 1989 and 1990 compare to those of 1983 and 1982; 1989 and 1983, being years of drought giving intense, big weighted and slow developing wines; 1990 and 1992 giving more fruitiness and suppleness, slightly lower alcohols and mid to long term ageing capabilities.

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Vintage Report

Following the Iraq invasion of Kuwait on August 2nd Desert Shield Begins as the United States and UK send troops to Kuwait. The US enters a bad recession which will have repercussions over the next few years throughout the world. This is also the year "The Simpsons " is seen for the first time on FOX TV. Following the Berlin Wall falling East and West Germany reunite. In technology Tim Berners-Lee publishes the first web page on the WWW and it shown that there is a hole in the Ozone Layer above the North Pole, also the First in car GPS Satellite Navigation System goes on sale from Pioneer. 

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Vintage Report

BURGUNDY 1990 by Leflaive / As in 1989, 1990 was characterised by early growth due to exceptional climatic conditions, comparable to 1941, 1948 and 1961. 

Winter was very mild and spring was rainy. Vegetation developed quickly, and the first blossoms appeared on 21 May in the Clavoillon vineyard. The humid and changeable weather during the flowering period brought problems such as "coulure" and "millerandange" (poor fruit set), reducing a harvest that had appeared to be abundant. 

Thanks to warm, dry conditions in July and August, the vines benefited from some hundred hours of sunshine more than the average of the previous 40 years. The harvest at Domaine Leflaive started on 19 September. An excellent harvest of healthy grapes with natural degrees of between 12.5° and 14° was brought in. 
The acidity, which was even higher than in 1985, gave the wines exceptional balance, and incomparable richness and fruitiness. A classic wine for long bottle ageing, already showing aromas of honey. 

One of the great vintages of Domaine Leflaive since 1978.

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Vintage Reports by Richard Geoffroy, Dom Pérignon and Salon + Italy 1990 by Tb

After a particularly rapid spurt in vegetation growth, the Champagne region is hit hard by spring frosts in April. Blossoming is therefore difficult in the cold and rainy conditions. Blossom drop and uneven grape development are only compensated by the large number of bunches and the wide branches. A heat wave summer then sets in and remains until the generous downpours in the days leading up to the harvest, (on 11 September). The musts boast an exceptional composition and homogenous quality; throughout the Champagne region.


Champagne Vintage Report by Salon / A mild and humid winter, spring frosts, spring drought, exceptional sunshine. Early bud- burst arrived early in the wake of a mild winter. Because of this prematurity, spring frosts were dreaded by all - a concern realised on the 5th and 19th April. 12,000 hectares (45% of the area under vine) were affected more or less seriously. However the frozen vines astonished yet again by the miraculous fertility of the base buds. A disruptive start to July gave way to hot weather, although with temperatures and rainfall close to the norm; however, atmospheric pressure was exceptional. The Chardonnays opened between 11th and 15th September. The ripeness of the grapes was remarkably uniform. The total sugar/acidity ratio was close to perfect. Superb wine.



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Rhöne Vintage Report by Jaboulet: The wines will be of exceptional quality, especially the Hermitage “La Chapelle” which will come close to the famous 1961.

The summer drought continues until the 19th November. The first rains follow and bring the dried up rivers back to life. Cold weather and the first frosts from the 25th November to the 10th December, when the southerly wind brings a mild period with temperatures unusually high for the season. A few violets are to be seen at the end of the year!
The cold returns on the 1st January and lasts throughout the month. A mild, rainy period sets in at the beginning of February with the appearance of the first almond blossom. This weather continues throughout the end of the winter, triggering the flowering of the apricot and peach trees on the 26th and 27th of February.

The spring is cool and wet, with rains that help growth. Flowering of the vines is almost over on the 30th May. The summer is very dry with a heat wave. At the end of July, the evening temperature reaches 38°C.
Light rains (3 to 20 mm.) fall just before the harvest, which starts on the 19th September, in ideal weather, and finish on the 1st October. The maturation of the grapes and their harvest take place under ideal conditions.




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The best wines of the 1990 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 La Tâche 100 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
2 Romanée Conti 100 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
3 Le Pin 100 Le Pin Bordeaux, France
4 Cheval Blanc 100 Château Cheval Blanc Bordeaux, France
5 Château Haut-Brion 100 Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
6 Krug Collection 100 Krug Champagne, France
7 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réservé 100 Château Rayas Rhône, France
8 Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin 100 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
9 Vintage 100 Pommery Champagne, France
10 Pétrus 99 Château Pétrus Pomerol, France
11 Château Latour 99 Château Latour Bordeaux, France
12 Montrose 99 Château Montrose Bordeaux, France
13 Lafite-Rothschild 99 Château Lafite-Rothschild Bordeaux, France
14 Cristal 99 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
15 Château Margaux 99 Château Margaux Bordeaux, France
16 La Mission Haut Brion 99 Château La Mission Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
17 Château Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse 99 Château Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse Bordeaux, France
18 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 99 Château Rayas Rhône, France
19 Millésimé 99 Jacques Selosse Champagne, France
20 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 99 Henri Jayer Burgundy, France
21 Trotanoy 99 Château Trotanoy Bordeaux, France
22 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 99 Jacques Selosse Champagne, France
23 Richebourg 99 Méo-Camuzet Burgundy, France
24 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 99 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
25 Château Gilette 99 Château Gilette Bordeaux, France
26 Cristal Vinothèque 99 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
27 Barbaresco Bricco Asili 99 Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
28 Clos du Mesnil Vinothèque 99 Krug Champagne, France
29 Dom Pérignon P2 Rosé 99 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
30 Hermitage La Chapelle 98 Paul Jaboulet & Âiné Rhône, France
31 Dom Pérignon 98 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
32 Dom Pérignon P3 98 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
33 Krug Vintage 98 Krug Champagne, France
34 Hermitage 98 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
35 Chambertin 98 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
36 Richebourg 98 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
37 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 98 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
38 Krug Clos du Mesnil 98 Krug Champagne, France
39 Musigny 98 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Burgundy, France
40 Chambertin Clos de Bèze 98 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
41 Lafleur 98 Château Lafleur Bordeaux, France
42 Dom Pérignon Rosé P3 98 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
43 Dom Pérignon Rosé 98 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
44 Barolo Monfortino Riserva 98 Giacomo Conterno Piedmont, Italy
45 Dominus 98 Dominus Estate Napa Valley, United States
46 Clos-de-la-Roche 98 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France
47 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 98 E.Guigal Rhône, France
48 Sir Winston Churchill 98 Pol Roger Champagne, France
49 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 98 E.Guigal Rhône, France
50 Montrachet 98 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
51 Richebourg 98 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
52 Tertre Roteboeuf 98 Château Tertre Roteboeuf Bordeaux, France
53 Batard-Montrachet 98 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
54 Clos-de-la-Roche Vieilles-Vignes 98 Domaine Ponsot Burgundy, France
55 Echezeaux 98 Henri Jayer Burgundy, France
56 Hommage à Jacques Perrin 98 Château de Beaucastel Rhône, France
57 Clos des Goisses L.V. 98 Philipponnat Champagne, France
58 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 98 Méo-Camuzet Burgundy, France
59 Chevalier-Montrachet 98 Domaine Michel Niellon Burgundy, France
60 Chevalier-Montrachet 98 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
61 Hermitage Red 98 E.Guigal Rhône, France
62 Barolo Gran Bussia Riserva 98 Poderi Aldo Conterno Piedmont, Italy
63 Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain 98 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Alsace, France
64 Vosne-Romanee Le Clos Goillotte 98 Domaine Prieure Roch Burgundy, France
65 Vieux Chateau Certan 98 Vieux Château Certan Bordeaux, France
66 Dom Pérignon P2 98 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
67 Chapelle Ausone 98 Château Ausone Bordeaux, France
68 Salon Collection 98 Salon Champagne, France
69 Comtes de Champagne Rosé 98 Taittinger Champagne, France
70 Clos de la Roche 98 Maison Leroy Burgundy, France
71 d'Yquem 97 Château d'Yquem Bordeaux, France
72 Hill of Grace 97 Henschke Eden Valley, Australia
73 Montrachet 97 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
74 Château Cos d'Estournel 97 Château Cos d'Estournel Bordeaux, France
75 Château Climens 97 Château Climens Bordeaux, France
76 Clos des Goisses 97 Philipponnat Champagne, France
77 Cristal Rosé 97 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
78 La Grande Année 97 Bollinger Champagne, France
79 Vieilles Vignes Françaises 97 Bollinger Champagne, France
80 Clos des Papes 97 Clos des Papes Rhône, France
81 Clos St-Denis Grand Cru 97 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France
82 Château de Figeac 97 Château de Figeac Bordeaux, France
83 Chambertin 97 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
84 Echézeaux 97 Emmanuel Rouget Burgundy, France
85 Musigny 97 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Burgundy, France
86 Blanc de Millenaires Vinothèque 97 Charles Heidsieck Champagne, France
87 Maya 97 Dalla Valle Napa Valley, United States
88 Château Léoville Poyferré 97 Château Léoville Poyferré Bordeaux, France
89 Montrachet 97 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Burgundy, France
90 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Rosé 97 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
91 Cuvee des Enchanteleurs 97 Champagne Henriot Champagne, France
92 Musigny 97 Domaine Georges Roumier Burgundy, France
93 Echézeaux 97 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France
94 Reserve des Célestin CNP 97 Henri Bonneau Châteauneuf du Pape, France
95 Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart 97 Billecart-Salmon Champagne, France
96 Barolo Le Vigne 97 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
97 Grand Siècle ’Lumiere du Millénaire’ 97 Laurent-Perrier Champagne, France
98 Beaune Clos des Mouches 97 Joseph Drouhin Burgundy, France
99 Clos De Vougeot 97 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
100 Riesling Pettenthal GG 97 Weingut Keller Rheinhessen, Germany


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