It was around lunchtime when I finally arrived in Bordeaux in my English Charleston 2CV (black and Bordeaux colouring of course) onto the Quai de Bacalan. It was 21st August 1989. It was hot and there was not a soul to be seen. Little did I know that it was the hottest summer since 1949 and that the harvest was about to begin, the earliest since 1893. And it was lunchtime and it was August after all. I was the ‘jeune stagiaire’ reporting for my duties at Maison Sichel,19 Quai de Bacalan – a family run wine negociants run by the inimitable Peter Sichel who part-owned Chateau Palmer in Margaux and Chateau d’Angludet, who sold petit chateaux and blended and made wine themselves. Somewhere perfect to get a good understanding of how the Bordeaux wine trade worked for a few months. If I could find somebody that is.
So conditions were perfect that year for producing concentrated well ripened grapes with silky tannins. It turned out to be the second of a trio of great vintages (1988, 1989, 1990). Good timing for my ‘stage’ (work experience) which ended lasting a little more than a few months (my initial idea was to spend three months in the key wine regions of France, Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone – needless to say I never made it beyond the Dordogne and my heart has remained here ever since).
So how have these wines matured over the past 19 years? There were concerns that due to low acidity levels the wines might not have the potenital to age. But these initial fears have proved unfounded as these wines which are beginning to drink very well still have the concentration and complexity of a very good vintage.
At the age of 22 in a way my arrival in Bordeaux was the start of my true adult life, away from everything I knew. I cannot say I have matured as well. Tasted recently around the time of my 41st birthday.
1989 Gruaud Larose, St Julien 58% Cab Sauv, 31% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec. Quite evolved garnet colour and slight oranging at the edges. Intense sweet cherry nose. A purity of cherry fruit and liquorice and notes of truffle on the palate. The sweetness of the ripe fruit and the silky tannins give the wine a pleasant density (approx 85€ ex VAT) **
1989 Pavie, Premier Cru Classe St Emilion 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc. Deep garnet colour, less evolved. Nose of meat essences, coffee and truffles. Soft and round juicy cherry flavours in the mouth which end a little dry. Fleshy and attractive but lacking finesse (approx 60€ ex VAT)
1989 Cos d’Estournel , St Estephe 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine took a good hour and a half to open out. Exotic spicy intense nose of blackcurrant and caramel. Density of pure fruit and silky smooth tannins. Sweetness of ripe black fruit. Very long finish. Very complex wine with beautiful balance (approx 70€ ex VAT) ***
Fine and Rare wines from Cedric Manet of CM Vins: firstname.lastname@example.org