A Century of Bordeaux: The Eights

“One of Bordeaux’s greatest virtues is its ability to transcend time,” writes Neal Martin in his article “ A Century of Bordeaux: The Eights ” on Vinous. He continues, “Enjoyment is derived not only from the quality of the wine, but also a sense of visceral experience of history and marvelling at the passage of time between insertion and extraction of cork. Nothing compares to the joy of mature Claret.” Travel through a one hundred years of Bordeaux history, as Neal Martin tastes wines from vintages ending in “8.”

Château Trotanoy

Pomerol Red Bordeaux Blend 2008

Delectable Wine

The 2008 Trotanoy is a ferociously backward Pomerol that did not engage at Farr’s horizontal. Another bottle served over lunch that had undergone a long decanting was far more representative. It has a gorgeous bouquet with raspberry and menthol, a little dark chocolate and cedar. The palate is medium-bodied with ample freshness and vigor although it clearly demands a long aeration to really click into fifth gear. This is a multi-dimensional Trotanoy that probably needs another couple of years in bottle. Tasted blind at Farr Vintners’ 10-Year On tasting. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend 1978

Delectable Wine

The 1978 La Mission Haut-Brion is a candidate for the greatest Bordeaux wines produced during the 1970s. Without question, it is the highlight of the vintage. I have tasted it several times over the years and each time, my appreciation is heightened further. Still youthful in appearance, the bouquet soars from the glass with almost high-toned blackberry, cigar humidor, warm gravel and that signature trait of black olive. You could nose this all day. The palate is medium-bodied yet there is much more density than you will find on other 1978s. Notes of black fruit, bay leaf, graphite and earthy tones, the latter emphasized with aeration. Decanting is strongly advised because it responds to a long opening, deepening all the time, developing a sustained cedar tincture that lingers in the mouth. It is a fabulous La Mission Haut-Brion that at 40-years continues to give so much pleasure. Tasted at a private dinner in London (ex-château bottle). (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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Domaine de Chevalier

Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend 1928

Delectable Wine

The 1928 Domaine de Chevalier is an utterly sublime expression of a legendary vintage and at 90-years of age, continues to entrance. This bottle, ex-cellar, offers a cornucopia of aromas, red cherries, kirsch, sandalwood, balsam and pressed red rose petals that become more tertiary with aeration. There is a warmth to these aromatics, like warming your hands on an open fire. The palate is medium-bodied with a surprisingly sweet entry. There is a little rusticity, forgivably of course, but the texture is so smooth and refined. Entrancing in terms of harmony and with considerable depth and persistence, it bids adieu with a long, tobacco-tinged aftertaste. It is one of the finest 1928s that I have encountered. Tasted at the Académie du Vin dinner. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018)
— 5 years ago

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Château Haut-Brion

Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend 1998

Delectable Wine

The 1998 Haut Brion has long been a favourite vintage of mine and consumed with pleasure several times. Now at 20-years of age I feel it is one step ahead of the 1998 La Mission: there is great fruit intensity with almost precocious blackberry, raspberry coulis, pastilles, tobacco and hints of olive. It has exquisite delineation and focus. The palate is medium-bodied with fuller in the mouth than the La Mission: deeper fruit (blackberry, mulberry and a touch of strawberry) intermingling with sage, cedar and a touch of hung game. It is not quite as precocious or as glossy on the finish as I remember previous bottles, but it is certainly turning into one of the finest wines of this vintage. Tasted at the château. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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Château Canon-la-Gaffelière

Saint-Émilion Red Bordeaux Blend 1958

Delectable Wine

Ancient vintages of this Saint-Émilion have a tendency to impress and the 1958 Canon-la-Gaffelière is no different. Quite pale in colour, it has a wonderful, heart-warming bouquet with red cherry, strawberry and burning embers/ash-like aromas. It is clean and well-defined. The palate is medium-bodied with surprising fruit concentration, harmonious and gentle, the acidity pitch perfect. Whilst not a complex wine it has a sense of purity that catches you off guard. I love the piquancy on the finish. Wonderful. Tasted at the Académie du Vin dinner. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018 — 5 years ago

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Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Pauillac Red Bordeaux Blend

Delectable Wine

The 1938 Pichon-Lalande is one of only two Clarets that I have tasted from this forgotten vintage, the other being Rauzan-Ségla. Presumably from a similar source, this had a frail, antique shop bouquet with nary a fruit in sight. The palate is balanced and dusty, a little hollow but nothing offensive. It is simply long past its sell-by date. Tasted at a private dinner in London. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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Château Citran

Haut-Médoc Red Bordeaux Blend 1918

Delectable Wine

The 1918 Citran came from a bottle recorked in 2003, one of those left-field ancient wines that throws a curveball not just by defying but ridiculing your expectations. At a century old, it looks around one-third of its age with just a thin tawny rim. The bouquet is light with remnants of dusky red fruit, tomato vine and as it responds to aeration, a touch of beetroot just. The palate is medium-bodied, balanced and remarkably fresh. Sure, it fades after 10 to 15 minutes but for a brief window it entranced. To think that it was made most likely by the women remaining at the vineyard at the end of the First World War. Tasted blind at Domaine de Chevalier. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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Château d'Yquem

Sauternes Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend

Delectable Wine

The 1988 d'Yquem is almost identical to the bottle I tasted in 2016. This is almost Barsac-like in style on the nose with scents of barley sugar, complemented by marmalade and mandarin, fresh and vibrant with a palpable sense of energy. The palate is medium-bodied with a viscous texture but it is not, and has never been, as unctuous as either the 1989 or 1990. However, what the 1988 does possess is a surfeit of vitality and tension. There are layers of blood orange, quince and marmalade towards the finish that as the aromatics suggest, comes across as quite Barsac in style. Superb. Tasted at Château Batailley. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

Domaine de Chevalier

Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend 1968

Delectable Wine

A bottle of 1968 Domaine de Chevalier was served blind by Olivier Bernard to celebrate my wingman, Johan Berglund's 50th birthday, admittedly with no expectations given how poor the vintage was. But my word, it surpasses all expectations. It has a fresh leafy bouquet with vestiges of black fruit mixed with cedar. The palate is not powerful but fresh and balanced, rustic in style but with a surprising sense of vitality on the finish. Provenance will have played a part but it proves how this Pessac-Léognan can surprise in the most maligned vintages. Tasted at Domaine de Chevalier. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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Château Cheval Blanc

St. Émilion Red Bordeaux Blend 1948

Delectable Wine

The 1948 Cheval Blanc may well constitute the most unheralded legendary wine of the 20th century, in no small part because it precedes the 1947. However, after years of several mavens lionizing this vintage and after one impressive but not convincing bottle, I encountered a 1948 Cheval Blanc that frankly, blew me away. This third bottle originates from the same source as that and mirrors its performance. Deep and lucid in color, it has a quite astonishing bouquet that is high-toned and decadent: kirsch, blueberry and a hint of liquorice, all beautifully defined. But it is the power that knocks you sideways. The palate is exquisitely balanced with supple tannin, velvety in texture with a multi-layered smorgasbord of glistening red fruit towards the finish – wild strawberry, Morello cherry, and cranberry all mixed with subtle ferrous and tobacco notes. It is a wondrous Saint-Émilion that I would dearly love to compare with the 1947 one day! Tasted at a private dinner in London. (Neal Martin, Vinous, May 2018) — 5 years ago

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