Our opinion on the 1990 vintage

by Lou Heriche
155 views

1990, one of the best vintages of the 20th century in France.

All the experts agree that 1990 was an exceptional vintage in France, producing an abundance of rich wines. It was also the consecration of the “Three Glorious Years”: 3 exceptional vintages 1988 – 1989 – 1990.

In 1990, weather conditions were excellent, with a hot, dry summer followed by a cool, sunny autumn, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and develop complex aromas.

The red wines of this vintage have great concentration, with rich, powerful tannins and low acidity giving excellent aromatic balance.

Wines from this vintage are often highly prized by wine lovers and collectors.

Bordeaux 1990, a vintage with exceptional ageing potential

In terms of climate, 1990 was the second warmest year of the century after 1947, and the sunniest after 1949 in the Bordeaux region.

The 1990 vintage produced exceptional red wines of great maturity and ageing potential that can still be enjoyed today. These include the wines of the Médoc’s left bank, the Grands Crus Classés of Château Margaux, Latour and Mouton Rothschild, as well as the great estates of prestigious right bank appellations such as Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.

This year’s wines are generally rich, powerful and well-structured, with ripe tannins and balanced acidity. The greatest successes came from red wines with a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (Médoc left bank).

Bordeaux whites also stood out in the 1990 vintage, particularly sweet wines such as Sauternes and Barsacs. The quality is superb and the ageing potential exceptional.

Château La Tour (Pauillac)
Château La Tour (Pauillac) ©️Benjamin Zingg

Burgundy 1990, a vintage of the highest quality

That year was exceptional for Burgundy’s red wines, especially those from the Côte de Nuit.

Domaine de la Romanée Conti
Domaine de la Romanée Conti ©️Flickr

Climatic conditions were favorable for the production of high-quality grapes, and the choice of harvest date had a significant impact on the aromatic profile and structure of the wines. Indeed, wineries that harvested later than the region’s starting date (September 17, 1990) were rewarded with fuller, more characterful red wines, with firm yet silky tannins and great ageing potential. This is particularly true of Domaine de la Romanée Conti wines.

Burgundy whites from the 1900 vintage are also of very high quality, particularly Chablis 1990 (cooler area), and in the Macônais (Pouilly Fuissé 1990).

Chardonnays from the Côte de Beaune. These wines are often richly aromatic, with aromas of ripe yellow fruit, citrus, butter and hazelnut. On the palate, they are rich and complex, with lively acidity giving them good structure.

Rhône Valley 1990, a remarkable, sunny vintage

The 1990 vintage was also a remarkable success in the Rhône Valley. Although the vineyards suffered from drought, the sunshine helped produce rich, concentrated, well-balanced red wines with excellent ageing potential.

The northern Rhône Valley produced particularly successful wines in the Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage appellations. The wines are interestingly complex, both dense and tannic, with an ageing potential of up to several decades.

In the southern Rhône Valley, the Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras appellations produced powerful, aromatic wines for ageing.

White wines from the 1990 vintage are of higher quality in the Northern Rhône Valley than in the Southern. The exceptional late harvests in Condrieu produced wines with fine minerality, complexity and good acidity for ageing.

Vignobles of Vacqueyars
Vignobles de Vacqueyars ©️Horizon Provence

Champagne 1990, a benchmark vintage

Champagne is no exception, and the 1990 vintage is known to be a benchmark.

Chardonnay grape variety

In terms of climate, the early part of 1990 was complicated by the frosts in April, which affected over 40% of the vineyards. Fortunately, that year the region enjoyed record levels of sunshine, which favored the growth and ripening of the grapes.

The result was very fine wines with a perfect balance between potential alcohol and acidity, as well as great aromatic richness.

The 1990 vintage produced powerful, vinous Champagnes with great acidity. They have great ageing potential.

Are you looking for a 1990 wine for a tasting, to celebrate a birthday or to build up your wine cellar to maturity? Discover our favorite wines below.

Our favorites from the 1990 vintage

CHÂTEAU HAUT BRION 1990

CHÂTEAU HAUT BRION 1990

Rated 100/100 by Falstaff

“Powerful ruby garnet, good depth of color, violet highlights, delicate rim. Delicately spicy, black and red berries, candied mandarin peel, spicy tobacco notes. Juicy, extremely fresh and elegant, structure rich in finesse, chocolatey tannins, very long persistence, mineral notes on the finish, tense, sweet juniper, definite future potential. Great class.”

Tasted in June 2020

CHÂTEAU MONTROSE 1990

CHÂTEAU MONTROSE 1990

Rated 100/100 by Robert PARKER – The Wine Advocate

“The wine is remarkably rich, with a distinctive nose of sweet, jammy fruit, liquefied minerals, new leather and grilled steak. On the palate, the enormous concentration of extracts, high glycerin and soft tannins glides easily over the palate. This is a huge, corpulent, incredibly endowed wine that remains relatively affordable, as it hasn’t yet begun to close its doors and lose its baby fat. It completely embarrassed the 1989, itself an exceptional wine.”

Tasted in February 1997

GUIGAL La Landonne 1990

GUIGAL La Landonne 1990

Rated 100/100 by Robert PARKER – The Wine Advocate

“La Landonne 1990 is a perfect wine! Fortunately, over 800 cases were produced. It has an opaque black color, and a huge nose perfumed with truffle, licorice, blackcurrant and pepper. While it’s one of the most concentrated wines I’ve ever tasted, it’s perfectly balanced, with sufficient acidity, huge extraction of ripe fruit, tannin, and a phenomenal finish of 70 seconds or more. Such is the essence of Syrah! “

Tasted in January 1997

You may also like…