Château Beauséjour, héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse, St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé 1990
This small, 6.75-hectare (ha) property partly on the St-Emilion plateau and partly on SSW-facing slopes, 30 metres from top to bottom, forms half of the Beauséjour estate (the other half is Beau-Séjour-Bécot), divided in 1869.
It has been in the Duffau-Lagarrosse family since 1847, and the domain is currently managed by family members and cousins Christophe Redaud and Vincent Duffau-Lagarrosse, who entrust direction to Nicolas Thienpont. The estate performed inconsistently until the first decade of the 21st century, but 1990 was always a spectacular success.
Parker gave it a perfect score in 1998, and the wine was described by him in 2003 as ‘one of the great modern-day legends in Bordeaux’, and in 2009 as ‘one of the most singular Bordeaux I have ever tasted, it verges on being port-like, but pulls back because of the extraordinary minerality and laser-like focus’.
Robert Parker’s view today: ‘A one-hit wonder during this era, but spectacular in 2020 where it remains a very rich, full-bodied, exquisite St-Emilion with 30 more years of life.’
Stockists: UK: £550 (ib) BI Wine and Spirits | US: $695 Cellar Raiders
Château Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac 1982
This 90-ha property shares, with Château Lafite Rothschild, one of the greatest of all the gravel mounds in the Médoc, and has belonged to the Rothschild family since 1853, at which point it had only 37ha of vines. Baron Philippe de Rothschild won its First Growth status after a long battle in 1973.
After the ‘uninspiring’ 1981 vintage, 1982 impressed Parker hugely from the outset as ‘the most backward and unevolved wine of the 1982 vintage’. In 2000, on its 18th birthday, he considered it ‘immune to oxidation … might be capable of lasting 100 years.’
By 2009, he felt it had ‘thrown off the backward, youthful style that existed during its first 25 years of life and … has developed such secondary nuances as cedar and spice box [though it] … is still amazingly youthful, vibrant and pure. … Thank God it is beginning to budge, as I would like to drink most of my supply before I kick the bucket.’
Robert Parker’s view today: ‘I thought this was pure perfection when tasted from the barrel in March 1983, reinforced by the then cellar-master Raoul Blondin’s comment that it was “the best since the 1945.” It took 15-20 years to shed its cloak of tannin, but today is a heavenly elixir.’
Stockists: UK: £1208 (ib) Berry Bros & Rudd | US: $1295 Clarets
Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan 1989
This is by far the smallest of the First Growths today, at just 51ha, and is arguably Bordeaux’s most historic property, the name being a familiar one in London from the mid-17th century (when it was mentioned by Pepys).
Haut-Brion lies within Bordeaux’s urban fabric, and in common with many Pessac-Léognan properties the blend marries almost equal quantities of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Cabernet Franc (41%, 50% and nine percent respectively in this vintage).
Robert Parker always considered this ‘one of a handful of truly profound wines from a vintage that tends to be over-rated’, as well as ‘one of the greatest first-growths that I have ever tasted’ and (in 2005) ‘undeniably one of the greatest wines made in Bordeaux in the last 25 years’.
In 2003, he noted the ‘brilliant symmetry of the wine, extraordinary purity and seamlessness … The levels of fruit, extract and glycerin in this viscous, full-bodied, low-acid wine are awe-inspiring … one of the immortal wines’.
Robert Parker’s view today: 'Another superstar that announced its perfection in its primary youth in March, 1990. Always opulent, yet racy and refined with incredible aromatic complexity, it continues to go from strength to strength.'
Stockists: UK: £1695 (ib) Cru World Wine | US: $1975 Blacksmith Wine
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Groth Reserve, Napa Valley 1985
Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, Tuscany 1985
Domaine Saint Préfert, Collection Charles Giraud, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007
Paul Jaboulet Aîné, La Chapelle, Hermitage 1990
Andrew Jefford for Decanter, June 29, 2020