Reminiscing over the 1989 and 1990 vintages, which I have followed from birth, there always seemed to be a dramatic difference in quality. Not that the 1990 was not a top wine, but in its infancy, I never thought it would come close to being as riveting and magnetic as its older sibling, the 1989. However, it has proven to be nearly as prodigious. One of the hottest years in Bordeaux, 1990, a vintage of enormous yields, even dwarfing yields in 1985 and 1982, produced a fabulously open-knit, seemingly fast track La Mission that, at age 22, shows no signs of fading or losing its grip. The color is slightly more mature and evolved than the 1989's, exhibiting a lighter rim and a less dark blue/ruby/purple hue. Classic La Mission-Haut-Brion aromatics of camphor, licorice, scorched earth, hot bricks, barbecue, cassis, blueberry and kirsch are well displayed. Broad, expansive, velvety-textured and opulent with high glycerin and perhaps slightly higher alcohol (I don't have the statistics to verify that), the 1990 is as delicious and open-knit as the 1989, with less density and possibly less potential longevity. Most 1990s have been quick to reach full maturity, and as brilliant as they can be, they need to be monitored carefully by owners. Currently in late adolescence, but close to full maturity, the 1990 should hold in a cold cellar for another 15-20 years. However, it is a fabulous wine to inspect, taste and consume, so why wait?
The Château La Mission Haut-Brion 1990 continues its epic trajectory. Here tasted in Holland, it has a scintillating bouquet with blackberry, black olive, warm gravel and touches of autumnal woodland that is just beautifully defined and gains momentum with each passing swirl of the glass. The palate is just wonderfully balanced, here with a slightly more powdery texture than before, but there is immense weight on the peacock's tail finish. This is a glorious La Mission and you know what? I think it is going to get even better. Drink 2014-2040.
Hint of orange at the rim though this wine looks much more youthful than most 1990 Bordeaux. Very winning, opulent, fleshy nose with a hint of raw meat decadence. Sweet start, utterly captivating, and (just) sufficient freshness to stop this being too dusty and ripe. There is a slight dustiness on the end of the palate but this is pure pleasure at the moment. Sweet all the way through. Hint of milk chocolate powder. Drink 2000-2016. Date tasted 23rd June 08.
DB Bistro, July 2009: the 1990 La Mission Haut Brion, whose bouquet represents a classic poster child for the northern Graves. Aromas of scorched earth, tar, smoke, camphor, blueberries, black currants, cedar, and smoke soar from the glass of this exquisite wine. While fully mature, it is capable of holding for another decade. Full-bodied and silky, it was the winner in terms of current accessibility and complexity
Much like its nearby rival, Haut Brion, the 1990 La Mission has always been relatively evolved, complex, and supple-textured. Even at age 3-4 it performed beautifully. The tannins are sweet, the acidity low, and the high levels of glycerin and concentrated fruit have always been present, and they show no signs of abating. A dark plum/blue/garnet color is followed by a sweet perfume of chocolate, rich, jammy, berry fruit, and hints of smoked herbs as well as meat juices. It remains a full-bodied, opulent, even ostentatious wine that should drink beautifully for two more decades. It really has not changed much over the last 6-7 years.
Like its more elegant and feminine sibling, Haut Brion, the 1990 La Mission has continued to build weight and richness and is now certainly one of the great La Missions of the last 25 years. The wine has a deep ruby/purple/plum color and a sweet nose of Provençal herbs intermixed with cedar, scorched earth, creosote, and black currant as well as blackberry. Very full-bodied, even viscous, with low acidity and layers of concentration, this is spectacular La Mission Haut-Brion that is already showing considerable complexity. Anticipated maturity: now-2025.