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When I first tasted the 1990 Red Burgundies from barrel over 20 years ago (Underground Wineletter Volume XIII, Numbers 1 & 2, August-September 1991), I thought it was the greatest Burgundy vintage I had ever tasted from barrel. Today I would also include 2005 and 2009 on the list of greatest Red Burgundy vintages that I have tasted from barrel. But, what must always be remembered is that wines tasted from barrel may be quite different after they are bottled.

After the wines were bottled I tasted several hundred of them and bought a lot for my cellar. Since the very beginning out of barrel, I have loved the 1990 Red Burgundies. But, as is often the case, many of them started to close up after 5-10 years This led many to proclaim the vintage not great and some even declared it a failure. However, this is simply not true. The fact is that nothing could be further from the truth. A period of hibernation is very common in the aging of most great red wines. Yet, balanced wines will always show their true colors with time. What is required is patience.

Today the 1990 Red Burgundies are fully developed and delicious to drink. However, I believe that the best of them will hold for at least 10-20 more years. Recently with friends I drank the 1990 George Lignier Bonnes-Mares and the 1990 Leroy Clos de la Roche. I first tasted both of these wines  from barrel with Outstanding Potential ratings. And, they certainly have more than lived up to expectations. I have enjoyed both of these wines over the years, but had never tasted them together. This was a real treat! Both wines were extraordinary and very similar. The Bonnes-Mares had a deep color with just a touch of amber and a stunning perfume. It was soft and velvety with foresty, spice, and dried rose petal nuances. The fruit was there and the overall impression was one of great elegance and complexity wrapped in a seamless structure. The Clos de la Roche was a bit darker in color with a compelling perfume that showed an exotic tinge. Rounded, deep, and lush, it had great stuffing, balance, and flavor with a long finish. Both wines were delicious and a real pleasure to drink. As I was savoring the wines I had a big smile on my face and said simply “This is why I love Burgundy!” For there can be no question that drinking a great old wine is one of life’s great pleasures. And, there is nothing in the world like a great old Red Burgundy!