2007 seemed like a perfect time to evaluate the legendary and getting-more-expensive-by-the-minute 1982s from Bordeaux. As the next universally ‘great’ vintage after 1961, 1982 represents the first big-time vintage of most of our wine lifetimes, and because of that fact it is hard to think of these wines as being ‘old,’ per se, yet these wines are now twenty-five years of age and approaching that thirty-to-forty year old sweet spot for great clarets where true greatness is achieved.
Originally, I was going to make this a weekend and have fifty or sixty wines from the vintage, but we ended up toning it down to twenty-five of the vintage’s best wines, both Left and Right Bank. It was a most enjoyable and fascinating evening, and I came out with a real perspective of this vintage and where it stands right now here in 2007. We played a bit of a spontaneous game and selected one word to describe each flight, and when you put all of these words together, I think it paints a clear picture of the vintage on its highest level, as well as two conclusions that are ‘can’t miss TV,’ so to speak. In addition, ten of the seventeen Left Bank wines were sourced directly from the Chateaux, creating an interesting side bar about provenance and wines being ‘ex Chateau.’ They weren’t cheap either. One of the two First Growths that we were able to get from the Chateaux came with a price tag of 1800 Euros! As far as getting Right Bank wines from the Chateaux, as Tony Soprano would say, ‘Fugghedaboudit.’
We started with three St. Juliens and a 1982 Ducru Beaucaillou. It had that classic Ducru nose of elegance, lead pencil and almost cardboard but not quite. There was nice spine, olive aromas and pungent fruit in this gritty ’82. It had a minerally palate with a nice spike of alcohol and a soft finish. Lush cassis eased on out in this smooth and stylish wine. Mike remarked how the 1982 Ducru is ‘amazingly consistent.’ It got more chocolaty and nicely spicy, gaining a point in my glass (94).
The 1982 Gruaud Larose (sourced from Chateau) was a contrast in style, possessing a beefy character and darker, deeper fruit. There was a touch of wild grass to this ‘pumped up Ducru,’ as King Angry, aka Ray, remarked, and a touch of cardboard as well. The Gruaud was spinier than the Ducru, both in the nose and on the palate, and its flavors were beefy and full of black fruits. There was a slight hole in the middle of the Gruaud, and Mike found it ‘a little square.’ John, our Australian ambassador, found ‘a touch of greenness,’ not that that was a negative in this case. It was Ray’s favorite of the flight; I guess big guys like big wines (93+).
The 1982 Leoville Las Cases (sourced from Chateau) had more noticeable oak in its nose along with supporting vanilla cream aromas. I actually did not mind the oak as much as I usually do when it is that noticeable. The palate clearly had the most structure and texture of the three, possessing class, length and style. Dan found it ‘seductive and violet.’ Ray found the Las Cases not as forthcoming and lush as the Gruaud. The more I tasted the three over and over again, the closer I found the quality to be amongst the three (95).
Speaking of lush, after Ray made that comment I wondered to myself, ‘Is the lushness of a great vintage like 1961 really here?’ Also, there was no real noticeable difference in the quality of the Ducru relative to the two wines sourced at the Chateau. We conferred for a minute about what single word could sum up this first flight and decided on ‘SEDUCTIVE.’
St. Estephe was next in line, beginning with an excellent 1982 Calon Segur (sourced from Chateau) , which had a great nose. There was excellent t ‘n a, chocolate, cassis and blackberry in this singing wine. It also had edge, spice and perfectly singed beef aromas. I was loving this wine. In the mouth, there were peanut flavors and solid t ‘n a to this long and minerally wine, but the nose was so exciting that the palate seemed almost a touch disappointing. Cassis and olive flavors came out in this still excellent wine (94).
The 1982 Montrose was extremely peanutty, also possessing ‘sesame,’ as Ray pointed out. It was aggressive in those regards, but I didn’t mind it. It had nice t ‘n a, and a little bull and its blood, too. There were more olive flavors in the mouth, a bit of brick and game, and a touch of that cardboard but excellent length. Australian John summed up the Montrose emphatically, calling it ‘a real prizefighter of a wine that will never give up. It will be there forever.’ Its spiny, alcoholic finish certainly said so (93+).
The 1982 Cos d’Estournel (sourced from Chateau) has always been one of my pet 1982s, and its nose was again a knockout. It had a little bit of every aroma that I have written so far in this article; just add tobacco. It was a rich, spiny wine with great structure. There was real breed here and despite a little burnt rubber in the nose, there was also gorgeous jasmine and spice. Long and stylish, the Cos had a nutty finish (95).
A few did guess the Montrose as being the one wine in this flight that was not from the Chateau, for what it’s worth. It did seem more mature in its profiles than the fresh Calon and Cos, but it was still what I would consider a sound bottle. When comparing the two ‘Saints’ of Bordeaux, I remarked how ‘St. Julien will kiss you while St. Estephe will spank you”¦and Ray will just beat you silly.’ I settled on ‘VIMFUL’ as the best word to describe this flight, which ruffled King Angry’s feathers, as he was quick to point out that vimful is not a word. Take it to Webster’s, buddy, because it’s in JK’s official dictionary of wine!
Pauillac was the next stop on our tour, beginning with a 1982 Grand Puy Lacoste. The GPL had a clean and pungent nose, a spiny edge with an indoor cleaner impression. There was a great, fat core of cassis wrapped in minerals and t ‘n a. It kept getting spinier. It had big, rich flavors of cassis and tea, as well as some tang without the citrus. Round, plush, smooth yet a bit square, the bigger, brawnier style of Pauillac made many stand up and take notice (92).
The 1982 Pichon Baron (sourced from Chateau) was a spectacular bottle of this wine. Its nose was noticeably sweeter with lilacs, lavender and purple honeysuckle aromas. There was a flamboyant intensity to its seductive nose, almost Right Bank-ish in its style. Dan called it ‘stony yet jammy,’ and referred to that combination as ‘the summit of Bordeaux.’ Long and stylish with nice spice and style, the wine was again more acidity than tannins, much like all of the wines so far. Dan found ‘fraise des bois’ flavors, and its finish was very stony. Ray and I quickly huddled for a consensus that 1982 was all about the acidity and had very soft tannins in general. Ray summed 1982 up already as ‘a Burgundian vintage for Bordeaux’ (95).
The 1982 Pichon Lalande (sourced from Chateau) was a disappointing bottle of this wine to me despite its perfect provenance. Its nose was full of animal and horse aromas and a healthy dose of wood like the Las Cases, but way too much so. This was not consistent with the greatest examples of this wine that I have had. It had some signature olive there, but this green, woody pungency dominated the wine’s aromatics. The pungency carried over to the palate, which did have a smooth and supple finish that also had a little ‘pop’ to it. However, in the end, this bottle was way too oaky for me, even though its texture was a redeeming quality. I will reiterate that I have had much better bottles, but this came from the Chateau (91)!
The 1982 Lynch Bages (sourced from Chateau) was classic Lynch all the way. I think it caused Australian John to whisper ‘oy oy oy’ under is breath! The wine was big, dark and almost medieval with a dungeon-like complexity. Beef and minerals dominated the nose, with supporting nominations to soy, salt and animal. Its earthy palate was salty and spiny with that indoor cleaner, fresh edge that reminded me of the 1989. Australian John commented how this flight was ‘a step up’ (95).
The flight of Pauillacs was summed up with ‘DRIVE’ as its word of the flight.
Graves was next, and a trio of Brions was on tap, beginning with the 1982 La Tour Haut Brion from the cellars of our own Dave Hamburger. The LTHB had a spiny, gravelly nose with lots of alcohol, cleaner and pungent intensity. There was a touch of pool chlorine and cinnamon stick spice, as well as some Cheerios in this complex wine. Cassis finally fought through and unfolded like origami once it did. Its palate was explosive, and this was the evening’s first, truly vigorous wine not only in acidity but also tannins. Flavors of cigar, plum, chocolate and dry minerals abounded in this superb bottle, although Australian John did not like that ‘varnishy’ quality (96+).
The 1982 La Mission Haut Brion got lots of oohs and aahs and such praise as ‘exceptional’ and ‘decadent.’ There was sweet perfume underneath a bed of cassis, plum and wildflower with a flash of ripe fruit. It was a bit coy on the palate, with its gravel buried in its fruit, and game and flower cased in tobacco and minerals. It was a great wine, but not the best bottle I have had, and I am a La Mission guy! Vigor came out with time in the glass on its minerally, stony and long finish (96).
The 1982 Haut Brion (sourced from Chateau) was very aromatic with a perfume of grape and cassis, also with peanut and game. There was that touch of Cheerios again, and Ray confirmed with ‘oats.’ The wine was spiny with a flash of ripeness, but the Haut Brion was definitely a step behind the other two Graves, but just a step, although it seemed on a faster evolutionary track than its two siblings. King Angry scoffed at that notion, saying that it has ‘been there for two decades.’ Australian John found it ‘fragrant and exotic.’ There was beautiful balance to this classy wine (94).
‘COMPLEX’ was the word of choice for our Graves flight.
We transitioned to the remaining four First Growths in the next flight, beginning with a phenomenal bottle of 1982 Margaux (sourced from Chateau). The Margaux had a pungent nose, and its t ‘n a jumped out at first. It also had cinnamon, iron, rock and gorgeous perfume. It was ‘beyond licorice’ according to Dan, and Australian John admired its ‘cherry liqueur.’ The palate was rocky without the horror but with the picture show, ‘not its usual feminine self,’ Ray observed. Though spiny and long, the Margaux was still stylish with a touch of that Maraux elegance. This was a great bottle of this wine, and it ended up being wine of the flight (97).
The 1982 Lafite Rothschild, most desirable Left Bank of the vintage according to the auction index, was, well, Lafite. Very shy at first (as always) , it was still stylish in a subtle way, long and penetrating. Its palate was smooth and soft with kisses of wood, leather and carob. Ray remarked, ‘It’s good but doesn’t ever blow me away.’ Australian John was a bit more optimistic, saying ‘it has to happen,’ meaning that it was not in a great spot just yet but will be (93).
The 1982 Mouton Rothschild (sourced from Chateau) had ‘coca cola’ in its nose per Ray. I saw what he was saying, and it was black cherry city. Its nose was divine with a great meaty perfume full of caramel, game, peanut, honey and decadent fruit. Rich yet more polished than I remember and expected, the palate seemed shut down relative to its orgasmic nose. Australian John found the palate ‘simple,’ but it kept gaining in the glass and was indubitably an outstanding wine (96).
The 1982 Latour was very vigorous and ‘mouthsearing,’ according to Ray. There was some barnyard in there to go with its deep, brooding walnut and pencil. It was a ‘metallic’ sentinel of a wine. Long and stylish on the palate, it was also a bit polished and ‘almost Barolo,’ someone noted. It gained in the glass as well but seemed shy (95+).
After a most heated debate where grace, finesse and polish were all nominated, we settled on ‘CLASS’ as the best word to describe these four First Growths.
It was time to cross the river to the Right Bank and experience a trio of St. Emilions. The 1982 Pavie had a nice nose full of spice, classic wintergreen and the redder fruits of St. Emilion. Delicious and classic, it was near outstanding with impeccable balance, great acidity and a nice kiss of olive. I may not like what they are doing now, but this was an impressive and classic ’82 (94).
The 1982 Ausone was slightly cooked, our nineteenth yet first affected or off bottle. Figgy and sweet with a yeasty and confectioners’ nose, there was nice spice and texture but the wine was clearly affected (91A).
The 1982 Cheval Blanc was also a touch figgy but also had a kaleidoscopic smorgasboard of aromatics. Despite its gamy edge, there was a lot of complexity behind it of very sweet red fruits and a caramel glaze. With a rich and round mouthfeel and a very concentrated palate, the Cheval was long and stylish with nice minerals, yet ‘consistently disappointing,’ as Ray observed, and I do concur with that. You know expectations are high when a 95-point rating is still disappointing (95).
We joked around that this flight needed two words to sum it up, ‘stay left.’ However, after the Pomerols that followed, we decided that ‘ACIDITY’ was more appropriate.
Last but certainly not least were a quintet of Pomerols; make that a quartet as the 1982 Vieux Chateau Certan was corked (DQ).
The 1982 La Conseillante had an incredibly exotic spice to its nose that blended in perfectly with its t ‘n a qualities. The wine had a cedary edge similar to that of a Left Banker, but its cassis and olive tapenade aromas were amazing and decidedly Right Bank. There was also great cinnamon stick, rose and stems to this complex nose. The wine had a rich and meaty mouthfeel with game, olive and vitamin flavors. Rich and smooth with nice dust and minerals, this ’82 was excellent and just short of outstanding (94).
The 1982 L’Evangile had sweet cherry jumping out of its nose with a nice forest-like complexity. Band-aid was also there in this daty, fruity wine. A touch of freshwater marked the palate, which had more alcohol and spice than the Conseillante and a vitaminy finish (94+).
The 1982 Petrus was a 1982 Petrus, which is not as easy a task as one might think since it is probably the most counterfeited wine of all-time. Thankfully, the Acker dilegnce came through (plug, plug). It was actually a great bottle of this wine with purple wildflowers and classic olive in its nose. Very classy, the Petrus also had ‘menthol’ (Ray) in a very light way. It was rich and meaty with tea flavors on its finish, but I do not think this vintage for Petrus will ever get better (95).
We saved the best for last with a great bottle of 1982 Lafleur. King Angry was very merry upon his first whiff of this wondrous wine. It had a unique nose with that signature, kinky, fleshy Rayas-like sweetness that the 1982 and other vintages of Lafleur have (but not all Lafleurs!) Its fruit was reined in with leather aromas suitable for a brand new Hermes bag. It had a super cherry and strawberry core of overripe Rayas flavors, exotic, vimful and oh so delicious (97).
That gamy, olive quality that all the Pomerols led us to select ‘KINKY’ as our word of the flight, although that word really only applies to the Right Bank wines. Or maybe, it was just that time of the night.
So, we summed up the vintage as:
What really jumped out about this vintage were its finesse, elegance and acidity. With its soft tannins, this is a vintage that is all about the acidity, which is why its best wines will continue to age well. However, despite its larger than life reputation, 1982 is not a vintage that produced powerful wines by any stretch of the imagination. These wines were graceful, stylish and long, but definitely not powerful. For one of the vintages of the century to not have any 98 or 99 point wines in my book says something as well.
In summation, there are two conclusions that I made. One, I doubt we will ever see wines like this coming from Bordeaux ever again. The concentration and extraction achieved in today’s world are much greater than those in 1982, and I am not saying that is a bad thing. It’s just that after tasting hundreds of 2000s-2006s in Bordeaux over the past year, I don’t see wines of this 1982 style being made anytime soon again. This is not to say that today’s wines lack finesse or style; it is just to say that they are being made differently, hopefully and easily arguably for the better. Two, I found it most ironic that the king of concentration and the world’s number one wine critic made his reputation on a vintage of such elegance and finesse. Life’s full of irony, huh?
In Vino Veritas,