Throughout the 1980s, Domaine Thalabert was one of my favorite wines, showing consistently fine Syrah fruit capable of improving for 20 years or more. Up until 1988, Thalabert was always aged in seasoned oak only--no new wood--and that may have contributed to some of the lovely animal/cured meat/black olive qualities that developed in the wine after 10 years or so in the bottle. A little more than 30 percent of this 1989 Thalabert was aged in new oak, and that may be the reason this wine is less appealing to me.
The color is a medium deep ruby with only a touch of amber at the rim. The bouquet shows purple fruits, lavender and concentrated tomato sauce, but it seems to come up a bit short and stunted. I find the same tannic toughness on the palate. The fruit concentration is good and some attractive berry flavors come and go but are stopped a bit short by a bitter tannic finish. Although tannins can be tamed with aging and aeration, this wine tasted oxidized and overly old after a night in the decanter. Aging is not what it needs.
It's interesting to note that Robert Parker gave this 1989 90 points, one of the highest ratings he's given to any Domaine Thalabert. John Livingstone-Learmouth, in Wines of the Northern Rhone, gives it two stars out of five and says, "drink soon." I agree with Livingstone-Learmouth.