Bordeaux 1986

By September 10, 2009Bordeaux, Fine Wine Market, Regions

The Bordeaux 1986 vintage – considered by many as one of the finest in history – has perhaps suffered from being too much of a good thing. The best wines of the vintage are notoriously tannic, brawny and backward – and can be easily overlooked in favour of the more immediately accessible. 

Mouton Rothschild, rated 100 points by Parker and given a window of 2011-2096 – “a huge, monolithic, totally unevolved wine” – is perhaps the ultimate example of this.

The good news is that nearly all the best wines from the vintage are now drinking beautifully and have the added bonus of a long life ahead of them. Neal Martin’s recent note (May ‘09) for Margaux 1986 is but one example: he gives the wine a drinking window of now to 2020 and describes it as “dense and structured” and “compelling” with a “glycerine-rich finish with touches of damson and tobacco. Superb length. Fabulous. 96 points.”

With many of the 1982s now hitting new price highs (most of which the 1986s will surely outlive), the time appears ripe for the vintage to garner greater attention. Indeed, the price of the five First Growths from 1986, in total, has increased 19.5% since the turn of the year (Liv-ex Mid Prices, 31/12/2008 – 31/08/2009). If we benchmark this against the performance of the Liv-ex Fine Wine Investables Index (of which all five wines are a member) which has increased 11% over the same period, we can see this is a very creditable performance. 

This number does hide a wide variation in performance, however. As you can see from the chart below, it has been Lafite 1986 that is in the most credit, with the aforementioned Margaux 1986 in arrears.


Margaux’s price fall is surprising. It is a wine that has always been considered of exceptional quality – Jancis Robinson MW rates it on a par with Mouton with 18.5 points – and it has recently benefited from an upgrade from Parker, who awarded it 98 points (up from 96 previously), in The World’s Greatest Wine Estates (2005).

Nevertheless, if we compare the performance of Margaux 1986 against that of Margaux 1996 – a vintage of similar quality – we can see it has lost touch with its peer. Below is a graph of the two wines’ price ratio over the last five years (the price of the first wine, divided by the price of the second). We can see that despite the 1986 being the more expensive wine for most of its lifetime it now trades at 15% below the 1996, and is someway off its historical price ratio of 0.95. (For more on price ratios, see the September Liv-ex Market Report)

Margaux 1986

If you are looking to pick up a 1986 and think the Lafite overpriced (or feel the Lafite bull run is drawing to a close ) the Margaux looks an excellent option. As well as being a very fine drop it would appear to have the most potential upside. It is currently available at around £3,500, which makes it the cheapest Margaux in the 98-100 score bracket by almost £1,000.