Médoc and Graves, 1998

1998 was an irregular year, with some absolutely stunning wines produced on the right bank, and particularly Pomerol, which was the star of the show. Meanwhile, many left bank Cabernet blends tended to be a little overly tannic and austere.

The summer ripening period was one of extreme heat, storms and cooler periods. It was the intense heat that shrivelled many grapes, resulting in excessive tannin in the Cabernet Sauvignon. This together with heavy rains at the end of September made a dearth of characterless, austere wines in the Médoc, although producers at the top end had the technology to make the best out of a bad year.

Meanwhile for Merlot, some rain respite in early September followed by a nice warm few weeks ensured that it was picked in optimum conditions on both sides of the Gironde, ensuring a very good year for Péssac-Léognan and the Graves.

In terms of pricing, there are some very good buys to be had in something of a forgotten vintage, especially looking on the right bank. There were some exceptional wines from the Graves and a cluster of very good offerings, but a poor year for Sauternes which suffered with the weather. 

The wines

1998 was an average year in the Médoc, due to the extremes in weather and a downpour prior to the harvest, particularly in the northern Médoc which is usually consistent. Margaux had a reasonably good time of it with a plateau of good wines with some delicious sweet fruits. Meanwhile, the Merlot-based Graves had a very good year, where good drainage on gravel soils saved many from the deluge.

Médoc and Graves, 1998

1998 was an irregular year, with some absolutely stunning wines produced on the right bank, and particularly Pomerol, which was the star of the show. Meanwhile, many left bank Cabernet blends tended to be a little overly tannic and austere.

The summer ripening period was one of extreme heat, storms and cooler periods. It was the intense heat that shrivelled many grapes, resulting in excessive tannin in the Cabernet Sauvignon. This together with heavy rains at the end of September made a dearth of characterless, austere wines in the Médoc, although producers at the top end had the technology to make the best out of a bad year.

Meanwhile for Merlot, some rain respite in early September followed by a nice warm few weeks ensured that it was picked in optimum conditions on both sides of the Gironde, ensuring a very good year for Péssac-Léognan and the Graves.

In terms of pricing, there are some very good buys to be had in something of a forgotten vintage, especially looking on the right bank. There were some exceptional wines from the Graves and a cluster of very good offerings, but a poor year for Sauternes which suffered with the weather. 

The wines

1998 was an average year in the Médoc, due to the extremes in weather and a downpour prior to the harvest, particularly in the northern Médoc which is usually consistent. Margaux had a reasonably good time of it with a plateau of good wines with some delicious sweet fruits. Meanwhile, the Merlot-based Graves had a very good year, where good drainage on gravel soils saved many from the deluge.

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  1. Château Lynch-Bages, 1998

    Château Lynch-Bages, 1998

    Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

    Optimum Drinking: 2017-2020
    Reviewer Rating: 90 - Wine Spectator

    “...notes of new saddle leather, tobacco, olives, and black fruits. Although not a big, concentrated Pauillac, it is graceful, elegant, with character and style.” Robert Parker

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