I miss the old Bordeaux

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R. Somerville
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I miss the old Bordeaux

#1 Post by R. Somerville » January 4th, 2012, 4:57 am

I've noticed there is more than one thread relating to various goings on in Bordeaux right now and was just thinking how they may be related to the bigger picture.

When I first started drinking fine wine in the '70s I remember how different the wines were and attitudes towards them; people bought with the implicit understanding that the wines would be, generally, unapproachable, powerfully tannic, green, austere, almost harsh on the palate. These wines would be laid down for at least 20 years, if not more, before even a thought of opening a bottle occured to the owner. When, through trial and error sometimes, the time came for announcing a certain wine was ready for drinking, from thenceforth, was a cause for great celebration. I remember drinking great claret from the '50s, '60s and latter the '70s, all memorable, impressive, powerful, sometimes monumentally structured and usually wonderous.

Then came the '80s and two huge changes; modern wine making and Parker. Now don't get me wrong, neither of these changes are bad in themselves but, wow, the differences they bought to the wine world were huge. Suddenly the Bordelais said, "Who is this person Robert Parker"? While the consumer said two things; "Who does this guy Parker thinks he is"!? "What is happening to our beloved claret"?

Almost overnight claret started to change in style and the way it was drunk/tasted also changed. New wine making techniques, from the use of all stainless steel wineries to strict hygene rules from vineyard to finished bottle, saw a massive sea change in the style and therefore taste of Bordeaux wines. Parker added to the new mix with definitive observations, even proclamations, on tasting these new style wines - buyers, old and new, started to take note of new and old Chateaux like never before especially when wines were scored on the 100 point system. Wines that were usually expected to score highly often didn't and the reverse was true of the lesser growths and even cru bourgeois wines. As a result of all this Bordeaux saw an opportunity to revive flagging sales combined with virtually non-existent marketing strategy and now positively courted the young gun from America. To say things got shaken up was an understatement, including many irrate Chateau owners and equally happy one's!

Surely the biggest event of the '80s, when it comes to Bordeaux, would've been the 1982 vintage; Parker was now in his element and flying at supersonic speed throughout Bordeaux, his sonic boom shattering as many dreams of greatness as making them come true! Luckily for most it was fairly hard to make a less than good wine that year but before long some noticed that was not the entire picture. 1980 and 1981 had hardly been good vintages, barely even average and then came this vintage of the century apparently.

I laid down some wines from that vintage, not necessarily on Parker's advice but from tastings and discussion with other drinkers of claret. I do remember some big numbers Parker was throwing about and wondering if it could get messy when differing palates were taken into account. However, I could see the value in Parker for those that might be less sure and even those happily buying regardless; also, no doubt, he was single handedly sending prices all over the place. For investment for future purchases I went on his advice for PLL and D-B; in the end the PLL price went so silly I'd have been mad not to sell and hoped I might hang onto the D-B therefore. As it was, when I finally opened a bottle of D-B in the early '90s I was very disappointed; it had none of the power, depth or structure I expected and put it down to at a certain stage initially. In the back of my mind I could never get over the fact that, where structure is concerned, I've never come across a claret that can magically reverse the situation. For monumental structure and power to be there throughout the life of a wine it must be there in it's relative infancy. I tried another bottle at 20 years and still no joy - oh dear this wasn't looking good. Compared to the wines of '61, '66 and '70 it didn't even come close; it was medium bodied, the tannins had lessoned their balancing grip and the fruit, well, where was that going/gone? A decision was made and the remaining 10 bottles were sold for a huge price.

In comparison, I bought a case of Latour a Pomerol 1970 at around the same time at a local auction house; this was to prove a very wise purchase. For 20 years this blockbuster sat hugely tannic, massively structured and fruit straining to get out, in my cellar. On tasting the 3rd bottle I realised it had turned the corner and oh what a beauty it had become! Gone was any harshness to be replaced by exquisite perfume, complex fruit, balancing acidity and ever present but softened tannins; the massive structure was still there but now it was harmonious, glorious. I really miss that magnificent wine and wish I had some more plus some '61 in my cellar!

In summary, I'm not against the new style Bordeaux but neither am I enamoured with it. I don't believe my palate has changed so much over the years that the differences between old and newer wines is just a natural progression in my tastebuds. No, this is deeper a more profound change that has occured in Bordeaux over the last 30+ years. In fact, perhaps the same could be said of Burgundy and virtually every other historical wine region in the world?
Last edited by R. Somerville on January 4th, 2012, 11:14 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#2 Post by Mark Golodetz » January 4th, 2012, 5:05 am

I have no problem with the way that the 1982s have aged. Recently I have had GPL, Ducru and Gruaud,and they have all been wonderful wines and extremely transparent versions of their respective terroirs. The better vintages still require 20+ years to really show well; for example 1996 still needs ten years to reach maturity.

That being said, I agree that the wines have changed, but I think it is a little facile to just blame Parker for it. People are just not interested in buying wines that need 20 years to be drinkable; it's an expensive proposition, and also one that requires more space than the average urbanite has.The fact that Parker's taste coincided with a lot of other things, from, global warming which has meant that grapes can be picked later with less risk,to changing tastes in the market wants have resulted in wines that are easier to drink young. But having tasted most vintages since the late eighties, I see the pendulum beginning to switch back to wines that do need some time. Tasting both 2005 and 2010 reminded me how old fashioned, classic Bordeaux can taste. Especially 2005.



I am not totally satisfied with the compromises being made, Latour from the great 1990 vintage seems to have been made to be drunk within five years of the harvest. Long term, it will be OK, but I think compromised by market pressures to be an easier more polite version of Latour. Contrast that with 1928 Latour, which was apparently being drunk in the sixties as a house wine because nobody thought it would ever come round.



Since my taste also runs to mature Bordeaux, there is much to be found in the secondary market, and the prices do not reflect the cost of storage, insurance and opportunity cost. For example I picked up Giscours 1970 for just north of $100 a bottle. Rauzan Segla 1986 for $135, Du Tertre 1979 for $40, Calon Segur 1961 for $180 and best of all, a couple of cases of the stellar 1970 Magdelaine 1970 also for around $100 a bottle. These are all wines that range from really good to brilliant. If you know what you are doing, and can trust the provenance, there are plenty of bargains out there, and so far, the secondary market is a much better source to find good wines than buying young and keeping.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#3 Post by Neal.Mollen » January 4th, 2012, 5:40 am

I for one do not miss 1970s bordeaux in the slightest. The move to lower yields, more aggressive QC in the vineyard, and vastly more sanitary conditions in the cellar have been beneficial across the board. And if bordeaux never produces another vintage like 1986, it will be ok with me. High quality in theory, but in practice, the wines may never really mature. I have wines that are now a quarter century old and are not now, and for the foreseeable future will not be, pleasurable to drink. One might call, that a flaw.

I am less enthused by the post-82 move to more new oak, but that seems to be on the wane too. And yes, there are more overtly modern bordeaux available now, and fewer "traditionally made" ones. That just means that you have to be a more educated consumer. I have no problems finding new wines that appeal to me, that can be consumed with pleasure both in the near term and (at least I believe) in the distant future.

If every (or even the vast majority of) recent release bordeaux were flamboyant, sweet, and obvious, I would be disheartened. They aren't.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#4 Post by Paul Jaouen » January 4th, 2012, 5:44 am

I love the '82s. I can't say the same for most vintages from the '70s. If you think wines changed from 70s to 80s, what do you think of the wines since mid-90s?
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#5 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 6:31 am

I think you gave up on the Ducru too early. 10 years ago, I would have agreed with you that it was good not great. In 2011, I had it 3 times and it was fabulous all three times. In fact, I would say that the 82s are right now in the place you say you wanted the wines from the 60s and 70s to be - 30 years old and drinking fabulously. I had a whole bunch of them last week and they were fabulous. http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/vie ... 54#p779154 A whole bunch of the people at the tasting (myself included) are not fans of modern big, oaky, processed Bordeauxs. But these were awfully good.

I agree that 10 years ago some of these wines were too young, but don't think that helps your points.

Frankly, back in the 80s and early 90s, a lot of Parker calls were spot on, esp. with respect to Bordeaux.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#6 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 6:34 am

Paul Jaouen wrote:I love the '82s. I can't say the same for most vintages from the '70s. If you think wines changed from 70s to 80s, what do you think of the wines since mid-90s?
Really? I have had some wonderful wines over the years from vintages in the 70s. I love wines from 1970, have had a number of 75s over the last couple of years (including Pichon Lalande and LLC) that were really good, love some 1979s (e.g., Palmer, Ausone, Pichon Lalande) and have had a good bit of success with 78s. Certainly, in those days there were relatively few estates making great wines, but the ones that did made some wonderful stuff.
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Yup....And....

#7 Post by TomHill » January 4th, 2012, 6:36 am

Rich,
Pretty much agree w/ your points of Parker's impact on Bdx. Which is why I haven't bought one in probably 20 yrs.
And....he had much the same, but worse, impact on Alsace, where the Z-H style is much in vogue.
If I want a good GWT w/ my weenies & kraut, I have to go to the AltoAdige.
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Re: Yup....And....

#8 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 6:40 am

TomHill wrote:Rich,
Pretty much agree w/ your points of Parker's impact on Bdx. Which is why I haven't bought one in probably 20 yrs.
And....he had much the same, but worse, impact on Alsace, where the Z-H style is much in vogue.
If I want a good GWT w/ my weenies & kraut, I have to go to the AltoAdige.
Tom
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I think the list could go on and on of Alsace producers still making wine in a traditional way. Haven't a lot of producers been backing off from the sweeter style.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#9 Post by P Intag » January 4th, 2012, 6:48 am

R. Somerville wrote:As it was, when I finally opened a bottle of D-B in the early '90s I was very disappointed; it had none of the power, depth or structure I expected and put it down to at a certain stage initially. In the back of my mind I could never get over the fact that, where structure is concerned, I've never come across a claret that can magically reverse the situation. For monumental structure and power to be there throughout the life of a wine it must be there in it's relative infancy. I tried another bottle at 20 years and still no joy - oh dear this wasn't looking good. Compared to the wines of '61, '66 and '70 it didn't even come close; it was medium bodied, the tannins had lessoned their balancing grip and the fruit, well, where was that going/gone? A decision was made and the remaining 10 bottles were sold for a huge price.
Ok, I'm confused. I get your statement about structure not being what it was before the 82 vintage, but the modern style being less powerful and medium-bodied? I thought the criticism of modern Bordeaux was that the reds are too big and less nuanced. I can't be the only one scratching my head on this one.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#10 Post by k s h i n » January 4th, 2012, 6:56 am

The wines from the 90s and the 00s are a lot better than the wines from the 60 and the 70s. Please excuse me but it is absurd to think the 60s and the 70s wines are better in quality, eg 63, 65, 67 although good pomerol, 68, 69, 73, 74 and 77. I love the 70 and the 75 Giscour, 86 Rauzan Segla 1986, alot of the 78s and the 79s but you can find as many compelling wines with the similar aging potential from just one vintage, 2001. If you are looking aromatic wines with subtlety, you got 2001 and 2004. I don’t find any modern wine making signature in 2000 and 2005 FGs except perhaps Mouton. The advance in wine making helped the small wines more so than the big Chateaus. I happen to like Valandraud, La Mondott, Pavie and etc and am aware of the wines like the 09 Cos and the 10 Ducru but these are still the exceptions not the norms.

BTW, some of the 75s are coming around finally. The modern hygienic wine making is a great thing as the nose of some of the older Bordeauxs are unclean. I am not talking about the freshness/herbaceous note.
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Re: Yup....And....

#11 Post by k s h i n » January 4th, 2012, 7:00 am

TomHill wrote:Rich,
Pretty much agree w/ your points of Parker's impact on Bdx. Which is why I haven't bought one in probably 20 yrs.
And....he had much the same, but worse, impact on Alsace, where the Z-H style is much in vogue.
If I want a good GWT w/ my weenies & kraut, I have to go to the AltoAdige.
Tom
Tom,
The only major house that seems to fit Bob’s palate is ZH and not so sure whether the house style was ever changed for Bob, eg 89 and 90 still big monsters.
Kevin
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#12 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 7:24 am

Kevin Shin wrote:The wines from the 90s and the 00s are a lot better than the wines from the 60 and the 70s. Please excuse me but it is absurd to think the 60s and the 70s wines are better in quality, eg 63, 65, 67 although good pomerol, 68, 69, 73, 74 and 77. I love the 70 and the 75 Giscour, 86 Rauzan Segla 1986, alot of the 78s and the 79s but you can find as many compelling wines with the similar aging potential from just one vintage, 2001. If you are looking aromatic wines with subtlety, you got 2001 and 2004. I don’t find any modern wine making signature in 2000 and 2005 FGs except perhaps Mouton. The advance in wine making helped the small wines more so than the big Chateaus. I happen to like Valandraud, La Mondott, Pavie and etc and am aware of the wines like the 09 Cos and the 10 Ducru but these are still the exceptions not the norms.

BTW, some of the 75s are coming around finally. The modern hygienic wine making is a great thing as the nose of some of the older Bordeauxs are unclean. I am not talking about the freshness/herbaceous note.
I have largely stopped buying Bordeaux, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I like Bordeaux older and am already 56. I think I like the older style Bordeaux more than Kevin does. It was interesting, we once did a blind tasting at Dinos where we did two flights of wines - one pre-1982 and one 1982 and beyond (although most of the wines had some age and I doubt there was anything past about 1995). Both flights were excellent but very different in style. The older people at the tasting (Dean Gold, Ken Barr and me) seemed to like the older wines more and I think the younger people (which included Kevin and Ken Brown) liked the later wine flight better. Cannot remember where Randy and others came out. One of the wines in the new flight I think was Valandraud and it did not at all stick out as some nonBordeaux wine. I should emphasize that in both flights there were some real standouts like 79 Palmer and 82 Cos and Grand Puy Lacoste. So, I think preferences were more a matter of style than quality.

Last Thursday, we all loved the 1982s and while there were some differences along the margins as to which wines each person liked better, there was general agreement I think at the table as to the quality of the wines.
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Re: Yup....And....

#13 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 7:25 am

Kevin Shin wrote:
TomHill wrote:Rich,
Pretty much agree w/ your points of Parker's impact on Bdx. Which is why I haven't bought one in probably 20 yrs.
And....he had much the same, but worse, impact on Alsace, where the Z-H style is much in vogue.
If I want a good GWT w/ my weenies & kraut, I have to go to the AltoAdige.
Tom
Tom,
The only major house that seems to fit Bob’s palate is ZH and not so sure whether the house style was ever changed for Bob, eg 89 and 90 still big monsters.
Kevin,

I think I once brought an 89 ZH Gewurz to the Duckhouse a few years ago (I think you were there but am not sure) that was outstanding. These wines may start out sweet, but really age to be pretty classic beauties.
Howard

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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#14 Post by Rob Hansult » January 4th, 2012, 7:27 am

I'll just leave this here - in the active part of this thread >

The names of those who were initially responsible for the change to the "modern" style were Jean Ribéreau-Gayon, & his pupil, Émile Peynaud (& later his pupil, Michel Rolland).

These changes began in the 50's & 60's & took hold very slowly in the beginning.

Stylistic preferences aside, this sea change was without a doubt a change for the better overall for the wines being produced.

Using neutral stainless steel starting with Ch. Latour & Haut Brion. Picking riper fruit. Using some selection techniques to obtain better quality fruit.

In fact these changes were called Peynaudization before Parker came along.

The first wine of this "new" style I tasted was the '79 Ch. Margaux - an absolutely top quality wine from a much less than great vintage.

Obviously I'm in the so called "modern" camp. I have no doubt that many of the great wines being made today are the greatest red wines ever made.

How will they age? I also have no doubt that they will also age very well - the '82's are now 30 years old. Is it necessary for a wine to "need" 30 or 40 years to mature to be great?

Just a little of my 2 cents on modern Bordeaux.

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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#15 Post by k s h i n » January 4th, 2012, 7:30 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
Kevin Shin wrote:The wines from the 90s and the 00s are a lot better than the wines from the 60 and the 70s. Please excuse me but it is absurd to think the 60s and the 70s wines are better in quality, eg 63, 65, 67 although good pomerol, 68, 69, 73, 74 and 77. I love the 70 and the 75 Giscour, 86 Rauzan Segla 1986, alot of the 78s and the 79s but you can find as many compelling wines with the similar aging potential from just one vintage, 2001. If you are looking aromatic wines with subtlety, you got 2001 and 2004. I don’t find any modern wine making signature in 2000 and 2005 FGs except perhaps Mouton. The advance in wine making helped the small wines more so than the big Chateaus. I happen to like Valandraud, La Mondott, Pavie and etc and am aware of the wines like the 09 Cos and the 10 Ducru but these are still the exceptions not the norms.

BTW, some of the 75s are coming around finally. The modern hygienic wine making is a great thing as the nose of some of the older Bordeauxs are unclean. I am not talking about the freshness/herbaceous note.
I have largely stopped buying Bordeaux, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I like Bordeaux older and am already 56. I think I like the older style Bordeaux more than Kevin does. It was interesting, we once did a blind tasting at Dinos where we did two flights of wines - one pre-1982 and one 1982 and beyond (although most of the wines had some age and I doubt there was anything past about 1995). Both flights were excellent but very different in style. The older people at the tasting (Dean Gold, Ken Barr and me) seemed to like the older wines more and I think the younger people (which included Kevin and Ken Brown) liked the later wine flight better. Cannot remember where Randy and others came out. One of the wines in the new flight I think was Valandraud and it did not at all stick out as some nonBordeaux wine. I should emphasize that in both flights there were some real standouts like 79 Palmer and 82 Cos and Grand Puy Lacoste. So, I think preferences were more a matter of style than quality.

Last Thursday, we all loved the 1982s and while there were some differences along the margins as to which wines each person liked better, there was general agreement I think at the table as to the quality of the wines.
Howard,
I don’t think I had a Bordeaux dinner with Dean but I am a big fan of the 79 Palmer and most of other 79s. But in general the wines from the 60s and the 70s were not up to par with the modern wines. If you go back to the 40s, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50 and the 50s, 52, 53, 55, 59 these are comparable to the90s and the 00s.
Last edited by k s h i n on January 4th, 2012, 7:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Yup....And....

#16 Post by k s h i n » January 4th, 2012, 7:36 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
Kevin Shin wrote:
TomHill wrote:Rich,
Pretty much agree w/ your points of Parker's impact on Bdx. Which is why I haven't bought one in probably 20 yrs.
And....he had much the same, but worse, impact on Alsace, where the Z-H style is much in vogue.
If I want a good GWT w/ my weenies & kraut, I have to go to the AltoAdige.
Tom
Tom,
The only major house that seems to fit Bob’s palate is ZH and not so sure whether the house style was ever changed for Bob, eg 89 and 90 still big monsters.
Kevin,

I think I once brought an 89 ZH Gewurz to the Duckhouse a few years ago (I think you were there but am not sure) that was outstanding. These wines may start out sweet, but really age to be pretty classic beauties.
Howard,
I agree. My point is Bob’s influence in Alsace is pretty minor if exist at all. Sauternes, Alsace, Icewine, Lories sweets seem to settle with age not showing as much of sugar but Dal Forno’s nettare, TBA, BA, Madeira and Takaji seem to keep the sweetness.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#17 Post by Jay Miller » January 4th, 2012, 7:53 am

Rob Hansult wrote:I'll just leave this here - in the active part of this thread >

The names of those who were initially responsible for the change to the "modern" style were Jean Ribéreau-Gayon, & his pupil, Émile Peynaud (& later his pupil, Michel Rolland).

These changes began in the 50's & 60's & took hold very slowly in the beginning.

Stylistic preferences aside, this sea change was without a doubt a change for the better overall for the wines being produced.

Using neutral stainless steel starting with Ch. Latour & Haut Brion. Picking riper fruit. Using some selection techniques to obtain better quality fruit.

In fact these changes were called Peynaudization before Parker came along.

The first wine of this "new" style I tasted was the '79 Ch. Margaux - an absolutely top quality wine from a much less than great vintage.

Obviously I'm in the so called "modern" camp. I have no doubt that many of the great wines being made today are the greatest red wines ever made.

How will they age? I also have no doubt that they will also age very well - the '82's are now 30 years old. Is it necessary for a wine to "need" 30 or 40 years to mature to be great?

Just a little of my 2 cents on modern Bordeaux.

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My totally uninformed impression is that the main issues for ageability of modern-styled Bordeaux emanate more from things like micro oxygenation, spinning cones and reverse osmosis which seem to have become much more common as we moved through the '90s. Was there also an increase in the use of commercial as opposed to native yeasts in that time frame?
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#18 Post by Jeff Leve » January 4th, 2012, 8:05 am

Jay Miller wrote:My totally uninformed impression is that the main issues for ageability of modern-styled Bordeaux emanate more from things like micro oxygenation, spinning cones and reverse osmosis which seem to have become much more common as we moved through the '90s. Was there also an increase in the use of commercial as opposed to native yeasts in that time frame?
Jay... What pecific wines are you talking about? Are you saying the wines using those techniques are worse today than they were before they began using modern technology? As for wines not aging well that use reverse osmosis, I think Leoville Las Cases debuted that technique and based on tasting their wines, they remain amongst the longest lived wines from Bordeaux.

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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#19 Post by R. Somerville » January 4th, 2012, 8:07 am

Hang on people! Some of you seem to be jumping to conclusions immediately. [head-bang.gif] Attempting to encapsulate what I'm talking about in one short post is nigh on impossible.

Paul I should've clarified; re. the Ducru '82 I meant in relation to the the '60s and '70s blockbusters of which I'm fortunate to have drunk many. I'm not saying that generally the following vintages, through the '80s and '90s, where lighter and less structured just different. Maybe I should've given the D-B another 5 years but at 20 years old it just didn't say to me there would be any massive improvement with further time. For instance, I felt it would only get lighter in style as it already appeared to have passed the massive wine RP described early on - in truth I was expecting and looking forward to it being a much bigger wine in every sense, even at 10 years old let alone 20. I would drink the Latour a Pomerol '70 in preference any day.

I've never said anywhere that I don't like the relatively recent vintages through the '80s and '90s but with modern wine making comes a certain uniformity; I'm not saying that's a bad thing but is 'more' always an improvement? Yes there are still blockbusters emerging from Bordeaux but they are different and will perhaps mature sooner than the older style wines I refer to. As for dimissing the wines of the '60s and '70s that is pure nonsense; for those of you that haven't perhaps had a bottle of Palmer, Margaux, Latour or even Pichon Baron '61 and/or '66 you might change your tune if you had - same applies to '75, '78 and to a lesser extent '79. [bow.gif]

I had a bottle of '82 Montrose on Christmas day and it was very, very good but I wouldn't say better than similar wines of the '60s and '70s. Anyway, what ever your take on my post, whether you think it nonsense or not, it only goes to prove how divergent our palates are and just how damn subjective this wine drinking business is! [cheers.gif]
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#20 Post by Jay Miller » January 4th, 2012, 8:09 am

Jeff Leve wrote:
Jay Miller wrote:My totally uninformed impression is that the main issues for ageability of modern-styled Bordeaux emanate more from things like micro oxygenation, spinning cones and reverse osmosis which seem to have become much more common as we moved through the '90s. Was there also an increase in the use of commercial as opposed to native yeasts in that time frame?
Jay... What pecific wines are you talking about? Are you saying the wines using those techniques are worse today than they were before they began using modern technology? As for wines not aging well that use reverse osmosis, I think Leoville Las Cases debuted that technique and based on tasting their wines, they remain amongst the longest lived wines from Bordeaux.
Microoxygenation in particular makes wine taste friendlier young and concerns me as to eventual ageability. But I don't really follow Bordeaux these days (confining myself to buying older wines at auction as I'm not aging as well as those older Bordeaux) so I don't know who's doing what.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#21 Post by Panos Kakaviatos » January 4th, 2012, 8:14 am

Rich, your post intrigued me. I have been very critical of high alcohol, particularly Right Bank, Bordeaux in the last few years. The problem with high alcohol, beyond 14.5 especially, however balanced it may be by fruit, tannin, and acidity, is that it can glean more from new oak and thus dry out on the finish, and that drying out will get worse and more noticeable with time. It is also noticeable no matter what, and that sensation is something I do not seek in Bordeaux. Chateauneuf du Pape, perhaps.

So I do agree with you, perhaps, on the alcohol level, the "new balances" achieved in some Right Bank Bordeaux that remind me more of Zinfandel and port than .. Bordeaux.

I must say also that 1982, for many wines I have tasted, is a great vintage. As Howard pointed out, the Ducru Beaucaillou 1982 is drinking very well, so is the 1986, both of which I tried, respectively, on 29 and 28 December 2011. Try a cru bourgeois like Meyney 1982, and you will see what I mean. Your picking on 1982 seems odd to me, because the greats of 1982 are wines of much higher yields and much lower alcohol than most Bordeaux today. The Leoville Barton 1982 is barely 12 degrees, if that much, while most are more like 12.5.

And thanks in large part to my wine loving friends in Washington DC and to my visits to Bordeaux, I have also had some marvelous wines from the 1970s that Parker may have underrated. And some greats from the 60s. Figeac 1961 comes to mind, as do a slew of 66s, because that is my birth year :-).

But ...

The higher alcohol however cannot be based on just one reason.

There are many, sometimes very justified reasons. Later picking and lower yields per se have been largely a positive development for Bordeaux. Have they gotten out of hand in some quarters? Sure. The notion of "Parkerized" wine has nothing to do with 1982, but rather with the later 1990s early 2000s when the Garage Movement was in its heyday and resulted in some pretty big wines. Again, that movement affected more the Right Bank than the left. And the pressure, particularly in St Emilion, to revise their classification every 10 years has led to some extent of a "who can be the biggest" contest... To an extent. And Merlot is far more susceptible to gargantuan alcohol levels resulting from climate change (another factor) than is Cabernet. Hence in 2009, I only bought six bottles of Right Bank en primeur.

Kevin Shin makes an excellent point overall. Wines being made in Bordeaux today are far cleaner than in the 60s and 70s.

Finally, wines on the Left Bank are witnessing a golden age. Not just because of China, ha ha ha. But also qualitatively. A wine like Leoville Las Cases 1996, 2000? Both are amazing, as is the 2005. Or take the 2009, which registered something like 13.4 alcohol, nearly the highest ever for that estate, which is nothing less than an amazing wine that was, yes, "welcoming" en primeur, but hardly limp or flabby. On the contrary, the balance was sublime, and there was not a touch of sweetness on the nose. It may well close down, but it will also very likely live a very long time too. Or Calon Segur 2009. High alcohol for that estate, but almost all Cabernet and not AT ALL overripe.

In any case, Robert Parker has been - on balance - more a force for positive change for Bordeaux than negative. Sure, the man likes some rather big wines that annoy my palate sometimes - and underrates wines that I feel are more subtle and more "traditional" in style. But that is more a question of subjective taste. Just look at how different the tasting notes of Neal Martin, who works for Parker, are.

In the end, today, you can find more traditional wines like Figeac or Canon or Brane Cantenac or Leoville Barton and you can find more modern wines like Pavie and Pavie Macquin and Lascombes and Cos (certainly their 2009 is modern, to me). Point is, there is a tremendous variety in style in Bordeaux, whereas in the 60s and 70s, things were more monotone. And not as clean.

Now, as for prices, that is another story...
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Re: Yup....And....

#22 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 8:16 am

Kevin Shin wrote:
Howard Cooper wrote:
Kevin Shin wrote: Tom,
The only major house that seems to fit Bob’s palate is ZH and not so sure whether the house style was ever changed for Bob, eg 89 and 90 still big monsters.
Kevin,

I think I once brought an 89 ZH Gewurz to the Duckhouse a few years ago (I think you were there but am not sure) that was outstanding. These wines may start out sweet, but really age to be pretty classic beauties.
Howard,
I agree. My point is Bob’s influence in Alsace is pretty minor if exist at all. Sauternes, Alsace, Icewine, Lories sweets seem to settle with age not showing as much of sugar but Dal Forno’s nettare, TBA, BA, Madeira and Takaji seem to keep the sweetness.
I thought I was agreeing with you.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#23 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 8:18 am

Kevin Shin wrote:Howard,
I don’t think I had a Bordeaux dinner with Dean
I think the tasting notes are on the Parker board (I cannot check). This was several years ago. I thought you were there.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#24 Post by Eric Anderson » January 4th, 2012, 8:19 am

What I miss most are the old Bordeaux price levels!

That said, there's a whole lot of tasty petit chateaux on the market now -- due in no small part to the changes made in winegrowing/winemaking.

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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#25 Post by Jeff Leve » January 4th, 2012, 8:21 am

Jay Miller wrote:
Jeff Leve wrote:
Jay Miller wrote:My totally uninformed impression is that the main issues for ageability of modern-styled Bordeaux emanate more from things like micro oxygenation, spinning cones and reverse osmosis which seem to have become much more common as we moved through the '90s. Was there also an increase in the use of commercial as opposed to native yeasts in that time frame?
Jay... What pecific wines are you talking about? Are you saying the wines using those techniques are worse today than they were before they began using modern technology? As for wines not aging well that use reverse osmosis, I think Leoville Las Cases debuted that technique and based on tasting their wines, they remain amongst the longest lived wines from Bordeaux.
Microoxygenation in particular makes wine taste friendlier young and concerns me as to eventual ageability. But I don't really follow Bordeaux these days (confining myself to buying older wines at auction as I'm not aging as well as those older Bordeaux) so I don't know who's doing what.
Jay... What specific wines using Microoxygenation are worse today, than they were before they started using that technique?

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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#26 Post by k s h i n » January 4th, 2012, 8:22 am

R. Somerville wrote:I've never said anywhere that I don't like the relatively recent vintages through the '80s and '90s but with modern wine making comes a certain uniformity; I'm not saying that's a bad thing but is 'more' always an improvement? Yes there are still blockbusters emerging from Bordeaux but they are different and will perhaps mature sooner than the older style wines I refer to. As for dimissing the wines of the '60s and '70s that is pure nonsense; for those of you that haven't perhaps had a bottle of Palmer, Margaux, Latour or even Pichon Baron '61 and/or '66 you might change your tune if you had - same applies to '75, '78 and to a lesser extent '79. [bow.gif][cheers.gif]
Mr. Somerville,
I started my hobby relatively early in my life and was lucky enough to drink a lot of older wines. I still dismiss the most of the wines from 1965 to 1977 as poor and insipid, man I sound like Jeff Leve. The 61 Palmer is one of the greatest wines and during the 60s and 70s Palmer outshined Chateau Margaux. I don’t find the 61 Margaux all that compelling and that is the best Margaux until the 78. I have had multiple bottles of the 61 Pichon Baron and the 66, although aromatically compelling not great overall.

I believe the 82s and the 86s will age as well as the 59s and the 61s. I drank my fair of the 59 and the 82 Latours and the resemblance are uncanny. I also think that most of the 80s and the 90s Bordeauxs expresses the terroir very well based on my recent experiences.
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Re: Yup....And....

#27 Post by k s h i n » January 4th, 2012, 8:24 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
Kevin Shin wrote:
Howard Cooper wrote: Kevin,

I think I once brought an 89 ZH Gewurz to the Duckhouse a few years ago (I think you were there but am not sure) that was outstanding. These wines may start out sweet, but really age to be pretty classic beauties.
Howard,
I agree. My point is Bob’s influence in Alsace is pretty minor if exist at all. Sauternes, Alsace, Icewine, Lories sweets seem to settle with age not showing as much of sugar but Dal Forno’s nettare, TBA, BA, Madeira and Takaji seem to keep the sweetness.
I thought I was agreeing with you.
And I thought I was agreeing with you. [cheers.gif]
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#28 Post by Jeff Leve » January 4th, 2012, 8:28 am

Count me in as thinking Bordeaux is producing better wines on a more consistent basis than at any time in their history. Today, more producers from a wider range of terroir at all price levels are making great wine.

For romantics who consider the 60's better, I do not get it. Very few producers were making great wine on those days. From time to time, depending on the vintage, some absolutely stunning wines were produced in the 50's, 60's and 70's, but more often than not, the wines showed, green, rustic tendencies. 1982 is a great vintage. But the truth is, perhaps 2 dozen chateaux made sublime wine. The number of successful chateaux increased in 1990 and again in 2000 and even more producers made better wine in 2010! This rush to quality is not only at the top end. At least 100 small chateaux are making wines worth buying. This never took place in the past.

Something else to consider, during the 60's and 70's, Bordeaux enjoyed 2-3 strong vintages per decade, and that was when they got lucky! Today, due to better vineyard techniques and a willingness to sort and declassify, good wines can be produced in every vintage. Tannins are riper, fruit is fresher and the wines offer more complexity and a better textural experience. As for the ability to age, I do not get that argument. Did the modern age begin in 1982? The top wines remain fresh and 30 years of age. 1989 and 1990 are still young. 2000 is in its youth as well.

I recognize taste is nothing more than personal opinion. And some tasters prefer yesterday over today. But I do not see it that way.

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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#29 Post by R. Somerville » January 4th, 2012, 8:30 am

Kevin Shin wrote:
R. Somerville wrote:I've never said anywhere that I don't like the relatively recent vintages through the '80s and '90s but with modern wine making comes a certain uniformity; I'm not saying that's a bad thing but is 'more' always an improvement? Yes there are still blockbusters emerging from Bordeaux but they are different and will perhaps mature sooner than the older style wines I refer to. As for dimissing the wines of the '60s and '70s that is pure nonsense; for those of you that haven't perhaps had a bottle of Palmer, Margaux, Latour or even Pichon Baron '61 and/or '66 you might change your tune if you had - same applies to '75, '78 and to a lesser extent '79. [bow.gif][cheers.gif]
Mr. Somerville,
I started my hobby relatively early in my life and was lucky enough to drink a lot of older wines. I still dismiss the most of the wines from 1965 to 1977 as poor and insipid, man I sound like Jeff Leve. The 61 Palmer is one of the greatest wines and during the 60s and 70s Palmer outshined Chateau Margaux. I don’t find the 61 Margaux all that compelling and that is the best Margaux until the 78. I have had multiple bottles of the 61 Pichon Baron and the 66, although aromatically compelling not great overall.

I believe the 82s and the 86s will age as well as the 59s and the 61s. I drank my fair of the 59 and the 82 Latours and the resemblance are uncanny. I also think that most of the 80s and the 90s Bordeauxs expresses the terroir very well based on my recent experiences.
Sure but it also depends when you drank them too and their condition, apart from our different palates. [basic-smile.gif]

I can see now that I should've titled this thread, ' I miss the old Bordeaux...sometimes'....
Last edited by R. Somerville on January 4th, 2012, 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#30 Post by Rob Hansult » January 4th, 2012, 8:52 am

Jay Miller wrote:
Jeff Leve wrote:
Jay Miller wrote:My totally uninformed impression is that the main issues for ageability of modern-styled Bordeaux emanate more from things like micro oxygenation, spinning cones and reverse osmosis which seem to have become much more common as we moved through the '90s. Was there also an increase in the use of commercial as opposed to native yeasts in that time frame?
Jay... What pecific wines are you talking about? Are you saying the wines using those techniques are worse today than they were before they began using modern technology? As for wines not aging well that use reverse osmosis, I think Leoville Las Cases debuted that technique and based on tasting their wines, they remain amongst the longest lived wines from Bordeaux.
Microoxygenation in particular makes wine taste friendlier young and concerns me as to eventual ageability. But I don't really follow Bordeaux these days (confining myself to buying older wines at auction as I'm not aging as well as those older Bordeaux) so I don't know who's doing what.
Jay,

I have to agree with you on micro-oxygenation, but many of the swords technology bring can cut both ways.
It's no secret that many, or most of the top Chateau have, are, or at least experimented with using Reverse Osmosis &/or Entropy (low temp/vacuum concentrators). To good effect, I think, & I would even venture, enhancing overall quality, & even ageability.

These are just some of the things going on in the cellar. There have also been many improvements in viticulture - some even coming from the new world (OMG!) [wink.gif]

To Lovers of old school Bordeaux >>> Obviously there's nothing wrong with preferring wines with astringent, green tannins, funky bacterial-ridden old oak, & thin(er) palate presence & flavor, but to me, THIS is the Golden Age of Bordeaux - absolutely no doubt about it.

[cheers.gif]
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#31 Post by Pat Martin » January 4th, 2012, 10:01 am

From my standpoint, Panos nailed it.

Trends in stylistic changes are a pendulum, bringing needed improvements in the 80's, and taking things too far by the early '00's (especially on the Right Bank). I don't consider wines like the 2004 Lascombes or 2001/03/05 Smith Haut Lafite to be improvements, no matter how bad the wine used to be at those chateau (the 1975 Lascombes was lovely for the last 15 years, by the way).

I love 80's Bordeaux, loving many terrific wines from '82, '83, '85, '86, '88, '89 and '90 (I've had very little pre-1982 Bordeaux, a few cases all told). These '80's wines have brought far greater viniferious joy than any other wines I've had. Alas, I have my doubts that in general the Bordeaux of the '00's will develop as well as these (I don't care about the speed of development, as long as the finished product is as good). I think in some cases Parker's influence was the cause, as some estates chased points, made wines to be flashy in big tastings while young, etc. The irony is Parker is an incredibly reliable barometer for the 80's and even the 90's in Bordeaux (and beyond as well), for my palate.

I hope I'm wrong, as I have a lot of 2000, 2002, 2003, and most of all, 2005 Bordeaux in my cellar. I have little doubt these later Bordeaux will turn out good, but will they develop the complexity, nuance, character and power of the 80's wines (where much of the power comes from the rustic tannins now mellowed with age)? I hear the same discussion/concerns about '80's vs. '90's Cali Cab, where the early returns don't look promising (in my limited experience).
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#32 Post by R. Somerville » January 4th, 2012, 10:26 am

I remember thinking about the changes in Bordeaux in the early '90s and drinking some of the mid '80s wines; they were, in the main, fruit driven, high extract and relatively attractive when young - '85 Lynch B comes to mind. '86 was very tightly structured, tannic and generally unapproachable - you could tell it had been hot down there! I think it was around 2000 that I opened a bottle of GPL '86; wow what a wine it proved to be - this is how I like my claret! It's dimensions, perfume and length screamed of something much bigger; if it had a little more weight throughout I'd have guessed Latour maybe.

I now have '95s, some '97s(underated in my humble opinion) some 2000s, 2005s and 2009s to look forward to drink in the future. [cheers.gif]
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#33 Post by Howard Cooper » January 4th, 2012, 10:39 am

R. Somerville wrote:I now have '95s, some '97s(underated in my humble opinion) some 2000s, 2005s and 2009s to look forward to drink in the future. [cheers.gif]

I am now totally confused. [truce.gif] Was this post and post 1 written by the same person? [scratch.gif]
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#34 Post by R. Somerville » January 4th, 2012, 11:24 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
R. Somerville wrote:I now have '95s, some '97s(underated in my humble opinion) some 2000s, 2005s and 2009s to look forward to drink in the future. [cheers.gif]

I am now totally confused. [truce.gif] Was this post and post 1 written by the same person? [scratch.gif]
Why not?

If you look at my post I said I miss old style Bordeaux; where did I say that precluded me from enjoying more recent vintages but for different reasons? [head-bang.gif] How many times do I have to say it - I'm not against recent claret just pointing out some differences between then and now, some good, some not so in my view. deadhorse
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#35 Post by Brian Loring » January 4th, 2012, 12:42 pm

Jeff Leve wrote:Count me in as thinking Bordeaux is producing better wines on a more consistent basis than at any time in their history. Today, more producers from a wider range of terroir at all price levels are making great wine.

For romantics who consider the 60's better, I do not get it. Very few producers were making great wine on those days. From time to time, depending on the vintage, some absolutely stunning wines were produced in the 50's, 60's and 70's, but more often than not, the wines showed, green, rustic tendencies. 1982 is a great vintage. But the truth is, perhaps 2 dozen chateaux made sublime wine. The number of successful chateaux increased in 1990 and again in 2000 and even more producers made better wine in 2010! This rush to quality is not only at the top end. At least 100 small chateaux are making wines worth buying. This never took place in the past.

Something else to consider, during the 60's and 70's, Bordeaux enjoyed 2-3 strong vintages per decade, and that was when they got lucky! Today, due to better vineyard techniques and a willingness to sort and declassify, good wines can be produced in every vintage. Tannins are riper, fruit is fresher and the wines offer more complexity and a better textural experience. As for the ability to age, I do not get that argument. Did the modern age begin in 1982? The top wines remain fresh and 30 years of age. 1989 and 1990 are still young. 2000 is in its youth as well.

I recognize taste is nothing more than personal opinion. And some tasters prefer yesterday over today. But I do not see it that way.
I think I could replace Bordeaux with just about any region and this post would still ring true to me. [cheers.gif]
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I miss the old Bordeaux

#36 Post by Craig G » January 4th, 2012, 2:16 pm

Jeff Leve wrote:Count me in as thinking Bordeaux is producing better wines on a more consistent basis than at any time in their history. Today, more producers from a wider range of terroir at all price levels are making great wine.
If you word this as "high quality wine in the style they are making" then I think just about everyone here will agree. There is no question that many techniques and consistency have greatly improved. The question is really about style: When a winery makes a good wine in the style they are making in 200x, will I like that wine as much, and will it age as well as wines I liked from earlier decades?

A troublesome aspect of this is that many wines have changed style, yet you cannot tell that from most of the critics' notes, Gilman excepted. Some wines like Cos get a lot of attention in this respect but I suspect a lot are flying under the radar and consumers have no idea if the 200x vintages will turn out anything like older ones they liked, though they may be very good in their style.
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#37 Post by R. Somerville » January 4th, 2012, 2:31 pm

Craig Gleason wrote:
Jeff Leve wrote:Count me in as thinking Bordeaux is producing better wines on a more consistent basis than at any time in their history. Today, more producers from a wider range of terroir at all price levels are making great wine.
If you word this as "high quality wine in the style they are making" then I think just about everyone here will agree. There is no question that many techniques and consistency have greatly improved. The question is really about style: When a winery makes a good wine in the style they are making in 200x, will I like that wine as much, and will it age as well as wines I liked from earlier decades?

A troublesome aspect of this is that many wines have changed style, yet you cannot tell that from most of the critics' notes, Gilman excepted. Some wines like Cos get a lot of attention in this respect but I suspect a lot are flying under the radar and consumers have no idea if the 200x vintages will turn out anything like older ones they liked, though they may be very good in their style.
Thanks Graig [cheers.gif] - at last one or two of you seem to understand what I'm getting at. [thumbs-up.gif]
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Re: I miss the old Bordeaux

#38 Post by R. Somerville » January 5th, 2012, 2:24 am

Well folks some interesting responses to my thread which I had a feeling would stir up mixed emotions, my own included; it's a subject that'll long be debated by wine drinkers around the world and hopefully long into the future. Lets give the 2005/09s a twenty year head start though before looking at the subject a again. [wink.gif]
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