Do Bordeaux Blends Age?

We find out with minor Bordeaux of the 1980s


With my recent tasting of 2008 Bordeaux fresh in my mind, it is the perfect time to revisit a tasting from early this year of what can only be described as minor Bordeaux of the 1980s. Truth be told, I don’t recall the exact pricing for many of these wines, though they were mostly under $10 a bottle. Accounting for inflation, that means about $20 in 2011 dollars.

To put things in perspective, both Meyney and Poujeaux are still minor Bordeaux and tend to be good values, but are priced in the $30 to $40 range these days. That’s just one thing that has changed in Bordeaux over the years. They’ve become more expensive, but they’ve also seen many “improvements” over the years as well. I say “improvements” primarily because some of the progress we’ve seen has been primarily in making the wines bigger and bolder, to satisfy the bigger-is-better camp of wine drinkers and reviewers.

Photo courtesy Skazama via Flickr/CC
It’s actually hard to find wines that are similar to these Poujeaux and Meyney vintages, which makes this tasting all the more interesting. Could value Bordeaux stand ageing for 20 to 30 years? Were they even designed for this sort of time in the cellar anyway? One thing is for sure, they no longer are. One of the main differences between what I’ll call modern Bordeaux and their predecessors is the accessibility of the wine while young.

Back in the day, Bordeaux tended to be a bit unfriendly on release. They were wines that demanded some time in the cellar. Today that is less of the case. Though they continue to reward cellaring, minor Bordeaux in particular are built for early accessibility. They are fruitier, less tannic and with softer acidity. This is a gross generalization and in an odd twist, might actually have greater validity as such. There are still plenty of Bordeaux that demand cellaring, but almost all plateau sooner than they once had.

These wines from the 1980s reflect a different mind set. They lean towards accessibility but also toward ripeness, fruitiness and the general ideal profile of Bordeaux. They are wines that were leaner and more structured than today’s versions, which might not be ideal for a modern marketplace, but do help forgotten bottles stand the test of time.

I’ve owned all of these wines since release and while they weren’t quite forgotten, they certainly were forgotten about for some time. I’ve been working through them over the years and while many have their best days behind them, they continue, for the most part, to drink well and have certainly rewarded me handsomely for my modest investment!

These all turned out to be good wines, some very good and punching well above their weight-class. In fact the 1988 Meyney, which was corked tonight, continues to improve and is a potential knockout among these wines. The 1982 Bordeaux on the other hand is a sentimental favorite, the first solid case of Bordeaux  I purchased for my cellar and one of my epiphany wines. It was the first wine that I drank in its youth while able to see its future potential. It was an exciting moment in my wine life and one I remember fondly.

Of course, 1982 was also a fabulous vintage. Even though this particular 1982 has faded quite a bit since its peak, about 5-8 years ago, it still delivers a delicious Bordeaux drinking experience. That unfortunately has become hard to come by today, at least at this price point. Minor Bordeaux today is a wine for now, quite fittingly a wine for the moment.

We no longer want to wait for what may come, even though there is nothing better, and instead we prefer what we can certainly have. It’s a pity. With so few wines at these price points promising this type of development in the bottle, we risk loosing a part of our culture. That part that understands that what happens in the bottle cannot be otherwise replicated and that often the best results come from ugly ducklings.

So below you’ll find my tasting notes on some truly lovely wines. I’m not sure what Bordeaux I should be cellaring today to get these types of results, but I remain open minded. What are your suggestions?

Aged Poujeaux and Meyney

Chateau Poujeaux (1982)
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Château Potensac Médoc Château Potensac Tinto (1983)
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Château Meyney Red Bordeaux Blend St. Estèphe (1983)
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Potensac Medoc (1985)
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Château Meyney Saint Estèphe Cru Bourgeois (1985)
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Chateau Potensac Cru Bourgeois Exceptionne Medoc Cl (1986)
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Château Poujeaux Moulis En Médoc (1988)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: teddz
    880703 39

    Ooohhh. You missed the 1989 Meyney. Almost certainly the best wine for the money that I ever bought. Of the other 1989s I purchased (Branaire Ducru, La Dominique, Lynch Bages) it's only surpassed by the Lynch Bages which cost 3 times as much.

    Apr 27, 2012 at 4:45 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    That made me smile. I didn't miss it, I just didn't share it! You are right on the money, I also bought the lynch Bages in 1989, one of the greatest Bordeaux I've ever enjoyed. That La Dominique is also pretty attractive, rather exotic though mine are beginning to tire.

    You have excellent taste in wine my friend!

    Apr 27, 2012 at 6:12 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    Somewhat Off Topic -- Three nights ago opened my last bottle of Rodney Strong 2000 cab, his basic wine, and it was much better than I remembered. I bought a case at Costco for about $9 or 10 a bottle in 2002 or 2003. Now the same wine is about $11.50 at Costco. Haven't bought any since 2003 or so as I didn't care for its tannic and somewhat acidic structure, but thinking of buying some again. OK, it is only 12 years old, but lots of progress over that time. Costco also sells Louie Martini Sonoma cab for $10.49, let it sit for a few years and it is much better. I bought some value Bordeaux recently at 10-20 price points and I just don't care for them.... I am going to try to keep them for another 5 years to see if they improve. steve

    May 01, 2012 at 9:02 PM

  • This was a very encouraging artilce to read! I have about two mixed cases of value of inexpensive or as you say "minor" Bordeaux from about 1993 to about 2002 that I've been saving to drink with friends who would appreciate sharing such an experience. However, those friends are harder and harder to coordinate with do to everyone's expanding family and professional obligations. I've been fearful that these wines would fade but your article makes me feel hopeful that they'll still be enjoyable. I'll have to re-double my efforts to make this tasting happen this summer or fall.

    May 02, 2012 at 6:00 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    Invite your Snooth friends, we will be sure to express our appreciation :-)

    May 02, 2012 at 7:27 PM

  • Now that's an idea:)

    May 02, 2012 at 7:37 PM

  • the 89 meyney is still superb if well kept, 89 branaire whilst v chocolately yrs ago is a bit tired now. 82 and 83 chasse spleen are still excellent. have an unopened case of 86 Poujeaux i must get to some time.1986 Tour du By in magnum great
    86 De Pez finished recently took 20 yrs to peak. 88 Fieuzal still good
    .Mostly the 89s,82,85s tired .the 86 high cab blends holding up best.
    80,81,84,87 forget. some int 83s and 88s but tannins often outlived fruit.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:39 PM

  • beautiful

    Sep 09, 2013 at 3:19 PM

  • Snooth User: cglaw2013
    1341096 33


    Sep 11, 2013 at 4:05 AM

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