To know whether or not your vintage wine is of great quality you will probably first check the reputation of the vineyard. This is always a good start but you might also want to check the weather conditions of that particular year. Even with the greatest vineyard bad weather may spoil the whole production.
France has three types of climate: the oceanic climate in the western part of the country, the continental climate in eastern and central France and the mediterranean climate in the south. So a ‘good wine year’ might not count for each one of the seventeen wine regions spread over France.
In a previous blogpost we discussed the year 1964, a good year for both Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. In this blogpost we take a closer look at the year 1986, in which Burgundy produced slightly more better wines than Bordeaux.
1986 a warm and stormy year
The lucky left bank of Bordeaux
‘Hot hotter hottest’ is the best way to characterize the weather in Bordeaux in 1986. Although early spring was cool and damp the heat went up when summer arrived and vegetation caught up. The land was actually scourged by heat and drought from the beginning of the growing season right until the end.
The bud break occurred late but the flowering was normal. As the summer of 1986 was particularly sunny and without refreshing rainfalls the grapes stopped maturing. September rains brought some relief but not for long. The rains were followed by a heavy storm that flooded some vineyards in Bordeaux. The water made the Merlot grape, which had to be picked at the end of September, diluted and bloated.
But after the storm there was sunshine in Bordeaux and the next three weeks the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, which is picked later, enjoyed perfect weather conditions. The vineyards on the left bank of Bordeaux produce wines in which the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is the main or only grape and they really got lucky that year. Their 1986 wines are truly great classic vintages, and in particular the appellations Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien. The size of the crop was huge and still is one of the largest ever recorded. To date the 1986 vintage wines of the Crus Bourgeois Classification are also perfect to serve. The classification is a level below the 1855 Wine Classification but nevertheless of high quality.
A slow start in Burgundy
After a cold winter spring wasn’t much better. The cool and wet weather lasted until early June. Luckily the weather turned around just in time for the late flowering to happen in almost ideal conditions. The sun came out and the vines flourished during summer. Unfortunately thunderstorms at the end of August pushed also in Burgundy the sun away. Rainfalls in September made the winemakers nervous as grey rot threatened to ravage the vines. Many winemakers were forced to pick the grapes before they were fully matured. But just like in Bordeaux the temperatures picked up after a long period of rains and those who had to harvest late did so under perfect conditions.
1986 was a difficult year for the appellation Côte de Beaune due to the grey rot. The vines grow on sun-drenched hills yet are exposed to lower temperatures than those growing at lower elevations. The Côte de Nuits appellation on the other hand benefited from a better harvest and the wines taste relatively fresh. The white Côte de Nuits wines of 1986 score even higher than their red sisters.
Bordeaux wines of 1986
Château Mouton Rothschild 1986
This Premier Cru Classé is produced in the wine region Pauillac, where the Cabernet Sauvignon grape reaches its finest expression. Château Mouton Rothschild is acclaimed worldwide for its exquisite wines with original labels by great artists. The 1986 Château Mouton Rothschild tastes complex and rich and has a powerful layered bouquet. In 1996 Robert Parker claimed this wine required a minimum of 15 to 20 more years of cellaring, and that’s today! But it has also the potential to last for 50 to 100 years.
Château Margaux 1986
Another truly exceptional Premier Cru Classé is Château Margaux. Their Cabernet Sauvignon vines grow in a rich gravel soil with clay, sand and limestone. Since 2012 Château Margaux’s Grand Vin is made by using 100% organic farming techniques. The 1986 Châteaux Margaux is a very full-bodied wine with rich mature flavours and an earthy complexity. This masculine yet elegant wine received a 98 score by Robert Parker.
Château Lafleur 1986
Château Lafleur is located in Pomerol, on the right bank in Bordeaux. The wines of Château Lafleur exist of equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot, which results in a truly unique character. The quality of Château Lafleur was a best kept secret for quite a while but Robert Parker’s visit in 1975 changed everything. From tying up the vines to bottling the wine: every stage of the winemaking process is done by the same people. The 1986 Château Lafleur is a medium-bodied wine with firm tannins. It has hints of black fruit and a certain earthiness. The wine can easily age further for another 15 to 20 years.
Burgundy wines of 1986
Vosne-Romanée 1986 - Domaine Jaboulet-Vercherre
Domaine Jaboulet-Vercherre is an established winery located in Vosne-Romanée and today included in Domaine Faiveley. It is located in the Côte de Nuits, a wine region in the northern part of Côte d’Or. 1986 Vosne-Romanée by Domaine Jaboulet-Vercherre has a lovely bouquet and notes of red fruit.
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1986 - Domaine Newman
By name Domaine Newman may be the odd man out in Burgundy but the quality of their wines is just exquisite. In 1952 American Robert Newman bought the ‘Mazy and Latricieres-Chambertin’ and the ‘Bonnes-Mares’ parcels at an auction. Since then he has been working hard on making great Pinot Noir wines in Côte de Beaune. He was actually one of the first foreigners to become a winemaker in Burgundy. The 1986 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru has a complex aroma mixing notes of cherry with tobacco and truffle. It has a beautiful tannic structure which is powerful and mellow at the same time.
Santenay Premier Cru 1986 - Jean Luc Aegerter
Jean Luc Aegerter has been producing wine in Burgundy since 1988. He passed on his passion to his son and since 2001 they lead Domaine Aegerter together. They always try to achieve a perfect balance between tradition and innovation and produce fruity red wines. The 1986 Santenay Premier Cru is a rustic wine with finesse and subtlety.
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