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Cellaring Bordeaux: Response to a Reader

A response to a query asking for cellaring information on 2008 Léoville-Barton and 2008 Pichon-Baron:

There’s no easy answer to this. I can tell you what I would do, then some caveats at the end.

I find Bordeaux suits my palate at >12 years of age. Despite the fuss many critics make about drinking windows, I find this is almost universally true, and that even in weaker vintages (e.g. 2002) or unusual vintages (e.g. the warm 2003) the wines are too young at < 12 years….for my palate. Sure, some can be drunk earlier (e.g. the rich 2003s are approachable now) but I still think they will be at their best after ~12 years (note some critics, such as Jancis Robinson, disagree on this). They then drink well for a very long time, at least 10 years, more like 20-30.

So if I had the two wines you possess (and you have two of the best left bank wines of the vintage there) I would be opening them in 2020 and being relaxed about drinking them thereafter, certainly no more than one bottle/year.


1. Storage has to be good.

2. Some wines drink well young, up to 4-5 years of age, so you could conceivably open one now. But why you would want to spend all that money only to open them before they are at the best (although see point 5)?

3. Some people seem to drink at any time, e.g. not only up to 4-5 years but also 6-11 years (when I would leave alone) and beyond. I can’t understand why – all my experiences with Bordeaux at the age have been negative.

4. Some people would find the wines I enjoy – at 15, 20, 25, 30 years to be dead. If you want fruit, drink young. If you want secondary development (as I do), drink older. If you want tannic force, drink young. If you like the silky integration of faded tannins (as I do), drink older.

5. Note that if you are still finding your way with Bordeaux you are probably best investigating earlier rather than later – after all, you have 12 bottles of each, so don’t be afraid to open one or two before 10-12 years to see when *you* think it should be drunk.

Any comments?

2 Responses to “Cellaring Bordeaux: Response to a Reader”

  1. I totally agree that higher-end Bordeaux should be cellared for a good 10 years and beyond for optimal drinking. Especially when you consider the pedigree of the 2 estates mentioned and a good to very good vintage like ’08. I just finished the last of my ’90 Leoville Bartons and boy where they beautiful. The tannins melted away and great Cab character in the aromas and flavors. Alas, I can’t afford wines like that anymore, but most great wines I’m sure are drunk way too young. Cheers.

  2. Hi Jonas. Thanks for those comments. Yes, I agree most wine is drunk oo young. I think many wines, reds especially but also a small number of whites, have a remarkable ability to age, more than many people realise.