I would love to live in Hong Kong; it is already a home away from home for me, full of great friends, great memories and a great future. At the rate which I eat and drink there every time I am there, however, I think I might double in weight in a few years if I was a permanent resident! This trip was no exception; I am like the wine world’s version of War Horse when it comes to consumption lol. I must be at least plus ten after this trip, although I don’t look at scales much anymore. I actually spent three, wine-filled nights in Taipei before arriving in HK, but I’ll get to that later, maybe.
Welcome to Hong Kong
I landed in HK Monday afternoon, and the first event on tap was an evening of 1982s thanks to the sale’s largest consignment. I had missed two previous opportunities this year to attend an ’82 tasting, and I was looking forward to checking in on this heralded vintage on its 30th anniversary.
The angels were definitely singing from first sip, which was a 1982 Grand Puy Lacoste. This was classic Pauillac in the nose with aromas of cedar, nut and mineral backed by rich cassis fruit. I found the palate to be soft and lush, in a delightfully drinkable window that felt like it could stay open for a while. Its acidity was low, and one commented that ‘it doesn’t have the weight,’ but I was charmed by its tasty and fruit-filled personality. This really seemed ready to go and enjoy, and that isn’t a bad thing (93).
A Distinguished Gathering
A 1982 La Dominique was the only St. Emilion on tap tonight and a real surprise. The A-Train found it ‘minty and grassy’ in a good way, and I added wintry spice and ‘classic St. Emilion,’ as in the opposite of that garage…I guess one could technically call it wine. But I digress, as the La Dominique seduced with its great yeast and game aromas, and the palate delivered an excellent experience, full of great spice, more acid than the GPL and nice minerality. Flavors of green olives tickled my palate on its finish. This was ‘good juice,’ as Bad Boy likes to say, and reminded me how a price tag isn’t always an indicator of pleasure (94).
The 1982 Beychevelle, increasingly popular in China due to its ‘Dragon Boat’ label, had a lot of glue and paint in its nose at first, but there was rich and saucy fruit behind it. The glue and paint stuck to the palate as well, and I wasn’t quite sure if this was a typical or an atypical bottle, but I liked the wine overall despite these unusual qualities (91).
The 1982 Gruaud Larose was on the lips of many as a standout at the end of the evening, but at first I didn’t feel it as much. Its nose was sexy, noticeably fuller and bigger with deep, nutty fruit and secondary carob and yeast. The palate was a bit square and very shy, with cleaner and violet flavors just scratching at the surface. While smooth, it was shut down and a touch green. Fast forward two hours later, as an extra bottle of this was open and un-consumed at the end of the dinner. I couldn’t let that go to waste, so we polished the bottle off after dinner up by the pool. After a couple hours of aeration, the Gruaud starting coming into its own, like a star athlete no one thought would be one. It got richer and more powerful, and its palate started to talk back. Not every wine is ready to go once we pull the cork just because we are ready for a drink. I pounded the last of that Gruaud Larose until we were finished, and it pounded me accordingly the next morning (94+).
The 1982 Calon Segur was also quite popular amongst the crowd due to its ready, willing and able nature. Its nose was open and brothy with yeast, game and nut aromas. The palate was tasty and gamy, a bit more jammy than the others with lots of cherry flavors. The minerals and slate came out, and the finish strengthened (93).
1982 Cos d’Estournel has always been a pet ’82 of mine ever since it smacked down an anonymous First Growth one wine-filled and fueled weekend years ago. I should note that the ‘Any Given Sunday’ rule applies, which is not to say that the other result could also happen on another given day, whether it be then or now. There was great spice to the Cos’ nose, with sweet caramel and honey glazes. The palate was nutty and smooth, super chocolaty and lush. This was tasty in a no need to be hasty way (95).
The 1982 La Mission Haut Brion was more graceful in its nose, a bit reticent like orchestrated movements of a veteran ballerina, hinting at things to come. It was still classically nutty and obviously deep, its pockets bulging out of its well-tailored pants. Game and smoke slithered out of its nose, and while its palate was meaty, it, too, was reticent. Tight and ‘austere,’ this was another beast from the vintage that needed more than the two hours of airtime we gave it, four would have probably been better. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an extra bottle to revisit after dinner, but I will plan on revisiting this wine soon (95+).
The evening kept progressing in the right direction, and we were in First Growth territory, beginning with 1982 Latour. Having had this wine three times in the last three months (including another later this past week), I think I have a good handle on this wine, and my opinion of it is that it is the greatest of all the Firsts in this vintage, at least for now. In March, it even outperformed a 1959, which is not easy to do, especially since I am an old wine lover. The Latour was once again ‘so good,’ chunky and actually open with rich, chocolaty and coffee aromas backed by oceanic fruit. Rich, dense and decadent, the Latour was also ‘leathery’ per The Poet. I kept writing heavy, dense and lush over and over again in my notes, as if I was either star-struck, hypnotized or both. Wheat added some secondary complexity to this big, black stallion of a wine. This wouldn’t be the last spectacular showing for Latour during the week, but it was still one of the best (98).
1982 Chateau Latour
What did we have here? A 1982 Lafite Rothschild? Yes, we don’t only sell Lafite, we actually drink it, too. Can’t let it all go to the Mainland now, can we? The Lafite was tight, similar to the La Miss, with lots of cedar, minerals and iodine. Cedar dominated its gritty palate, with fireplace and brick flavors joining the party. It, too, might have benefitted from a couple extra hours. Later in the week, a client from the Mainland told me he had eight bottles of this in one night during the same week. Damn, I thought opening two bottles was impressive lol (95).
While we probably should have served the Lafite before the Latour, we definitely should have served the 1982 Mouton Rothschild last, which we did J. This was clearly great wine. The nose first exuded some barn, hay and animal, but meat, chalk and perfume became equally as important. There was great, lingering spice to its nose. The palate had both garden goodness and citrus fruit, with classic flavors and enormous power. There were even some exotic melon edges to this monstrous wine. It indubitably had the biggest finish and its snow-capped fruit added date and game. While the Latour’s forward and decadent personality is more pleasing now, I think the Mouton might ultimately surpass it as the wine of the vintage. The 1982 Mouton might be tight, mean and still square to some, but for me, it was cubic (97+).
1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild
So what do I think now of the 1982 vintage? I think it is a great vintage, no question. I think many wines will be in a sweet spot over the next decade, ready to drink and enjoy, which is not to say they won’t continue to age, but I don’t see wines like Grand Puy or Calon Segur etc getting any better. At the top level, there is true greatness. Will the vintage continue to reach for the stars like 1928, 1929, 1945, 1947, 1959, 1961 and other great vintages from before? The beautiful thing is there is only one way to find out: keep drinking ’em, and I plan on doing so for years to come, as I am not worried about missing the boat here any time soon.
In Vino Veritas,