In the last few years, wine enthusiasts have paid less and less attention to Bordeaux. Hype for great vintages seems to roll around every other year and prices continue to increase dramatically for new vintages laden with high scores.
In the meantime regions such as the Loire, Beaujolais, Rhône Valley and many areas outside of France, such as Washington State or Chile attract more and more attention, often offering far better value-priced alternatives.
There’s been some criticism about how Bordeaux may need a reality check, with more consumers buying at various price levels seeking newer, fresher alternatives. Even as a serious Bordeaux fan, it’s hard to not agree with a lot of these criticisms, or pieces such as this article by Eric Asimov. Wines from the top estates and vintages have become increasingly expensive, more often treated as goods for conspicuous consumption rather than wines that can be enjoyed at the table.
And yet… the wines remain compelling, when they are opened at the table and enjoyed as wine. A bottle of 1986 Gruaud Larose that I opened a few nights ago at dinner was one of the most thrilling red wines I’ve enjoyed in some time; powerfully fragrant, layered, rich and so complex.
Bordeaux can provide experiences that just reinforce why we’re so into wine in the first place; thrilling, complex, powerful yet elegant wines that resonate in a way that few other wines can. Those experiences don’t always have to come from the ‘great’, critically acclaimed vintages, yet – it’s a remarkable experience when they do.
Over the last few months, I’ve had multiple opportunities to look back into some of the 1982 Bordeaux; one of the much heralded ‘vintages of the century’ now thirty years on. Provenance at this stage does become a question, as so many of these wines do tend to be frequently ‘flipped’ at auctions and resold as the case price of a 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou, for instance, continues to increase. A few of the ’82s I’ve enjoyed recently have been concerning with some signs of possible heat damage (for instance, a bottle of ’82 Magdelaine showed surprisingly stewed and disjointed), yet a number have been thrilling.
Some, such as the ’82 Certan de May, may not have the ‘wow’ factor one may expect from such a heralded vintage (and one carrying such a price premium over other vintages). A rising tide doesn’t always float all boats, and there are plenty of less regarded vintages (such as 1988 or 1979) that have produced a number of great Bordeaux that I’ve enjoyed as much, if not more than some of the ’82s – usually at a fraction of the price. Yet other ’82 Bordeaux I’ve had recently, such as the ’82 Pichon Lalande, have been extraordinary.
Tasting notes follow below the fold:
Review: 1982 Château La Tour Haut-Brion
Really elegant and finessed; drinking beautifully right now though I don’t see this getting much better. This is remarkably light on its feet with the fruit relatively restrained and framed by mature smoky, earthy, iodine and tobacco elements. There’s a lovely polished texture with tannins fully integrated, and striking persistence to the flavours.
Review: 1982 Château Branaire (Duluc-Ducru)
Very nice, medium weight and savory with rich red and dark fruit framed by mature smoky, earthy and cedary elements. It’s not particularly complex and struggles a little in a flight with a couple of other truly outstanding Bordeaux, but this is very enjoyable, drinking nicely now though I suspect there are still quite a few years ahead.
Review: 1982 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
Starts out a little reticent, but quickly opens out aromatically with air to show a stunning fragrance combining cigar smoke and savoury earth with sweeter fruit and herbal elements. Incredibly layered and polished in the mouth with fantastic depth and balance. Great wine.
Review: 1982 Château Léoville Las Cases
While it’s certainly very rich and ripe with plenty of structure, it doesn’t have the balance or charm of the other St. Juliens I’ve had in this vintage. There’s a high toned quality to the fruit, spicy oaky and kirsch-like accents and while it’s very enjoyable to drink, it doesn’t show the depth or finesse of the other ’82s.
Review: 1982 Château Gruaud Larose
Absolutely spectacular. An amazing fragrance combining rich fruit, developed smoky, cedary and other savoury notes, a faint touch of Cordier funk and more flamboyant spicy elements into a scent that’s hard to move away from. There’s tremendous depth and power here with remarkable intensity and persistence to the flavours. It still feels remarkably youthful with the fruit still quite rich; the mouthfeel’s remarkably dense, almost chewy, and the structure and balance suggest this has a very long time ahead of it.
Review: 1982 Château Lynch-Bages
Richer and more flamboyant than what I normally expect from Lynch-Bages; there’s a bright spicy topnote that gives this an exotic quality, and layers of cedar, graphite, cigar smoke and rich fruit beneath. There’s a sense of real power and intensity here, superb balance and a long, resonant finish. Fantastic.
Review: 1982 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Wow! This certainly lives up to its hype. It’s incredibly fragrant, flamboyant and amazingly complex with layers of rich fruit, developed earthy, tobacco and earthy elements, and more exotic spicy, lavender and green herbal notes coming together seamlessly in a powerful yet very finessed whole. The balance is flawless; the scent’s hard to move away from and the flavours resonate long after each sip. Utterly stunning.
Review: 1982 Château Canon
Lovely; a core of plummy and red fruited flavours framed by mature cedary, tobacco and savoury earthy elements all conveyed with a sense of power and grace on a medium weight frame. There’s lovely balance here, a silken mouthfeel and great length, an outstanding bottle.
Review: 1982 Château Certan de May
Poured alongside the Canon, and shows much more herbaceous and green in its flavours with the fruit thinner and not a whole lot of depth. It’s pleasant enough to drink with bright acids keeping it lively and fresh, still some grainy tannin at the back end, but after the prior two flights and next to the Canon, it comes across relatively thin and simple.