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Senior editor James Suckling joined Wine Spectator in 1981 and retired in 2010. As European bureau chief, he was based in Tuscany and tasted the wines of Italy, Bordeaux and Port.
James Suckling

A Sleeper Vintage from the 1980s

Château Margaux Margaux 1988

James Suckling
Posted: February 3, 2009

I invited some Italian wine producers to dinner the other night, including Luca Currado of Piedmont's Vietti and Luca Sanjust of Tuscany's Petrolo. We were having roasted rabbit with sautéed spinach and potatoes. I wanted to pull something exceptional out of my cellar, and I found a bottle of 1988 Château Margaux.

I thought, "What the hell?" I pulled the cork on the 20-year-old first growth and decanted it for a couple of hours. The wine was fabulous and just starting to come into its own. It showed a nose of minerals, berries, currants and sandalwood with dried flowers. The palate was still full-bodied, with fine tannins and pretty fruit. There were mineral aromas with berries and hints of vanilla. It was still very young and fresh with wonderful fruit, yet the tannins were fine and beautiful. I scored it 96 points, non-blind.

If you can find a top-rated 1988 Bordeaux on the market, you are not going to be disappointed. Most of the best have lost their slightly hard edge, or an even angular or herbal character, and now are just beautiful clarets with complex aromas and fresh, bright palates. Moreover, prices at auction are a faction of the cost for reds from the higher-profile vintages of 1989 and 1990. (The 1988 Margaux is currently selling for $222 at auction.) 1988 remains one of the sleeper vintages of the 1980s, and the wines are very typical or claret-like in character—just like the Margaux.

Château Margaux Margaux 1988 (95 points)

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