Bordeaux Drinking Advice for 2012

As I was constructing my list of top wines for 2011, I realized a few things about Bordeaux wine that you may want to keep in mind for 2012 as you look at your own cellar:

1989 is shining right now: As I was going through my tasting notes from the last year to construct this list, I was surprised to find that most of the wines I liked best this year came from 1989!  Of course, this could simply be an indication that I like my Grand Cru Classé wine mature, but it could also be that this legendary vintage is at its peak right now – which is just another example that great wines need time to develop to their fullest potential.  So, please, please, please, only drink your Bordeaux when it is ready.  Do not commit infanticide. . .

General Drinking Advice:  Here are some suggestions on what to pull from your cellar to drink this year:

  • Drink your 1989s!  They are as good right now as they ever going.
  • Leave your 1995s. They are either awkward or closed right now and some have even acquired a slightly ‘stewed’ profile – so I suggest leaving them in the hope that they recover.
  • Drink your lower end 1996s. Some of the lower growth Grand Cru Classé wines are just stunning right now – for example, 1996 Lafon-Rochet.  Structure, power, and beautiful fruit with a hint of complexity.  These won’t disappoint.  If you have the big boys – keep those for a while.
  • Drink your 1999 Right Bank wines:  These wines are drinking really well right now.  This is a more elegant right bank vintage – so go for the elegant styled wines like: Ch. La Gaffliere, Ch. Quinault L’Enclos, etc.  1999 Ch. La Tour Figeac will probably surprise you.

Restaurants are screwed: Another thing that I noted is that with Bordeaux prices soaring (some wines have tripled in the last year) – only two of the wines on my Top Ten list were consumed at restaurants:  2002 D’Yquem and 1999 Kirwan (surprisingly, both were offered by the glass).  Prices of good quality Bordeaux have made it next to impossible to still offer good Bordeaux by the glass in restaurants.

 If you have a wine in your cellar and you want to know whether now is a good time to drink it – feel free to e-mail me ( – if I have tasted it recently, I would be delighted to offer you an opinion.


My Top Ten Bordeaux Wines of 2011


(picture from Peter Wylie Fine Wines)

This is my list of the top ten Bordeaux wines I tasted last year.

My list includes wines from any vintage and any appellation.  They are chosen and ranked based on how they are drinking right now – not on their potential or estimated peak.  Value also plays a role.  You will notice that a surprising number were from 1989 . . .

1. 1986 Ch. Gruaud Larose:  Unbelievable. So youthful looking. This wine looks like it has only been in the bottle for a few years! It was more youthful, structured, and powerful than the magnum of 1989 that I had at the Chateau.   One of my all time favorites.

2.    1989 Ch. Leoville Barton: This wine was the most elegant and balanced of the 1989s I tasted this year.

3.    1989 Ch. Montrose:  Bigger, stronger and more burly than the other 1989s.  Darker than would be expected and still quite a bit of structure on it.  This could go a while longer – not as elegant as the Leoville-Barton but still outstanding.

4.    1989 Ch. Gruaud Larose: Out of Magnum at the Chateau during a vertical tasting.  The star of the tasting.  Quintessential Gruaud Larose nose.  Full, complex, and intoxicating. 

5.    2002 Ch. d’Yquem 2002 – Had this at Bar a Vins in Bordeaux by the glass.  One word: Wow.

6.    2010 Ch. Troplong Mondot: I still dream about this wine.  I feel the same way about the 2010 as I did about the 2005.  This wine is sexy.  Really. There is something erotic about it. This will be highly allocated. Buy as much as you can and then send it to my house.

7.    1989 Ch. Mouton Rothschild – Consumed at the Commanderie de Bontemps dinner in Bordeaux. This is the annual dinner in Bordeaux to celebrate the official launch of the new vintage. I personally refer to it as the chaotic wine bartering dinner where Chateau owners compete to prove that they have the biggest  . . . Anyways – if you like crazy Bordeaux wines – this is the dinner for you and this was the wine of the dinner.  I only got about two sips but it was enough to leave an impression.

8.    1996 Ch. Broustet – Sauternes: This wine surprised me.  It is from a lesser known Chateau but it was big, full, concentrated and balanced.  Reminded me of Suduiraut and Giraud.  And the price was ridiculously low.  BTW – I think I have a few cases of this wine left – if you are interested check here.

9.    1996 Ch. Lafon Rochet  – I had this wine 4 times this year. I had a case and we tried a bottle every year for the last 4-5 years, but this year it reached a new level and so – we gladly finished the case.  This wine is drinking perfectly right now.  Fruit, power, body, finish – and a great value in an over-heated Bordeaux market.  This is what affordable Bordeaux should be.

10.  1999 Ch. Kirwan: Not an amazing wine in and of itself – but what was amazing was that this was being offered by the glass at Brasserie Bordelaise in Bordeaux during en primeur week for 16 euro per glass (read $22).  I wish this was possible in Vancouver. . . BTW they also had 2002 Ch. Pontet-Canet and 2004 Ch. Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande by the glass. . .


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