Hard to believe those amazing 1982 red Bordeaux wines will be celebrating their 40th birthday this year in 2022. Remember trying barrel samples that were rather delicious which we reckoned would provide wines for wonderful earlier consumption. At the time too much emphasis was being placed on historical higher acid and hard tannin levels needed for aging Bordeaux and not enough also on the important factor of intense concentrated ripe balanced fruit. There was an early buzz about this vintage and many tastings were held during 1985 after bottling and release. One of the first and most memorable was at the every Thursday blind tastings of the Vintners Club in San Francisco on June 13, 1985. Invited as a guest of Haskell Norman, that remarkable unmatched leader of IWFS Marin County, to taste blind twelve red wines was so exciting for this budding wine aficionado . Even more so when they turned out to be all fantastic 1982 St. Julien properties showing so impressively right out of the chute. Scores were collected by rankings from about 27 keen participants and Leoville Poyferre (LP) was declared first at 143 (3 firsts & 7 seconds) with Leoville Las Cases (LLC) second at 145 (actually more firsts with 8 – including mine – & 2 seconds for equal first & seconds but a little less support further down the scoring). My 3 clear favs were LLC, Ducru Beaucaillou (DB) and Branaire Ducru (BD). Speaking highly for the consistency of the vintage was that all properties were well supported and all received a first place vote (except Gloria). On June 22, 1985 eighteen more excellent 1982s in Bellingham, Washington including the First Growths where Mouton and Grand Puy Lacoste shone brightest.along with that early legend Cheval Blanc. Another opportunity arose on September 26, 1985 at a Commanderie de Bordeaux event in Vancouver to try 12 more 1982. Again LLC & DB (the only St. Juliens) were most prominent though Lynch Bages (82 impressive at June 20, 1985 vertical back to 1953) and value La Lagune also shone brightly yet again. Don’t forget to check out Beychevelle as it surprises with quality in 1982. Detailed hand written notes by your scribe on two of these tastings are attached. This exposure focused my early attention on collecting 1982 Bordeaux – especially St. Julien (though the later release of LLC was harder to find) and Pauillac. A pleasure to monitor these wines over the many years with many more 1982 tastings including special ones at 10/20/30 year anniversaries has been most educational. More recently have been fortunate to update my 82 St. Julien knowledge. LLC a RMP 100 probably remains my current fav with outstanding fruit and complex nuances matched so beautifully with a roasted duck leg dinner but DB is lovely more forwardly showing textbook St. Julien terroir. Decided to try 5 top 1982 St Juliens for 5 home dinners last week and was pleased with the overall results of 40 year old wine:
LEOVILLE POYFERRE is very full and deeply concentrated but has a touch of that “dank wet dog & cardboard” I noted way back in 1985. Bottle variation.
LEOVILLE BARTON has that expected earthy iodine character in an almost rustic style. Bottle variation too. Can be excellent. Very good but probably prefer the cleaner 1990.
BRANAIRE DUCRU continues to be a delightful surprise. Ranked my 3rd in 1985 and though lighter bodied is so balanced and elegant that is a pure joy to drink. Underrated.
TALBOT is also under the radar as 82 & 86 both are showing brilliantly at present. Less celebrated Cordier sister to Gruaud Larose (GL) but dense buckets of fruit and improved from early days.
GRUAUD LAROSE – Admit a bias for this property because of so many marvelous bottles of the 1961 – but also the successful 1966 (and 64 & 62) – though a leaner period from 1967-1980. They bounced back in 1981 and especially 1982 & 1986. Solid St. Julien fruit that often needs time to show its best. Showed harder in 1985 tasting where noted “will age well” but now really excels with open cedar cassis with awe inspiring luxurious texture plus complexity. Competing with LLC now.
Hope you too still have some of these remarkable 1982s to cherish and bring back fond memories!
Your Ask Sid feature has worked out pretty well in 2021. Some most interesting topics were raised! Enjoy the challenge of dealing with such a knowledgeable wine & food audience out there. Please keep your stimulating questions coming! Information on current buzz happenings (#1 Frost, #2 Smoke Taint, and #3 Revised St. Emilion classification) were the most viewed, not surprising. Yet quite a wide range of subjects were most popular in your Top Ten. A couple of #fav or #fave of mine that didn’t make it were: When to describe a wine as “Crunchy?” & “What is the meaning of “Petrichor?”. Looking forward to more discourse with everyone in 2022.
Pleased to learn there still are a lot of wine and food aficionados out there checking out our weekly IWFS Blog. Even though there are lots of postings about old wine rarities we do try for diversity with our main focus being on education. This aim is reflected in your Top Ten with the spotlight shining on Burgundy (#4 Grands-Echezeaux), Bordeaux (from top #5 Lafite Rothschild to unknown #10 Montlabert and #7 Older 80s), California (#8 Robert Mondavi) and Okanagan BC (#6 Moon Curser). Food is easier to relate to so not surprised that your Top 3 are restaurant and wine & cheese orientated plus #9 on chocolate. Your scribe encourages members to add more input with their comments!
Question: What wine should I serve this year with my Christmas dinner?
Answer: Receive lots of these same questions in late December every year. Impossible to give you a specific bottle answer. With the Omicron variant presently being so prominent it probably means the family and friends get-togethers will be smaller in number. You may need less wine than previous years so serve better quality. Depends on so many factors from what foods you are serving for dinner, your own tastes, your own wine cellar or access to wine in your home community, your budget etc. Also nice to support your local wine producer in the region where you reside. Just Google “best wine for the holidays” and you will be overloaded with a plethora of questionable choices. Check out here for an answer by your scribe two years ago on December 18, 2019. Wine choices should be vastly expanded for sure. Lots of wines that should pair well including improved versatile Rose wines from everywhere. Sparkling Rose is ideal as are any other festive “bubbles”. Also find that Cru Beaujolais, fruity Gamay, and easy drinking Malbec match-up well on these occasions. Most whites will be ideal. Explore and discover your own nirvana. The search is a big part of the fun. Enjoy your holiday season!
Those were two challenging horizontal blind tastings written up last week on this Blog. Easier this week with a non-blind vertical of nine vintages of that outstanding Chateau Palmer Third Growth Bordeaux from the Margaux AC. A similar event of a Chateau Palmer vertical was spotlighted on January 16, 2017. Check it out here. Your scribe reflecting back has enjoyed more verticals of Chateau Palmer than any other wine property (though Pichon Lalande is right up there too). Several earliest visits there in the seventies with Peter A Sichel or John Salvi resulted in my admiration for this most elegant wine and the special unique terroir of their 55 hectares of vineyards. Wonderful dinner at the Chateau on May 2, 1983 with Franck Mahler-Besse (and his father Henry who acquired a part of the Chateau Palmer property in 1938) resulted in an inspiring discussion on 3 bottles of 1959 Chateau Palmer each opened an hour or two apart. All showed lovely styling but quite differently. Was that because of bottle variation of 24 year old wine as advocated by your scribe or length of airing in the decanter as submitted by our hosts? Most interesting debate. Franck conducted a tasting in Vancouver a few months later at The Four Seasons Hotel on July 7, 1983 for our popular wine club Les Chevaliers des Vins de France. He was so proud they had not produced any Palmer in those terrible vintages of 1963, 1965 (a few bottles), or 1968. Franck liked his 1978 “showing character” that “will age” while 1979 will be “ready sooner”. Compare the comments by Peter on the 1978 being “not as deep red colour” as 1979 which has a “brighter younger look because of the higher acidity level”. At Gourmet of the Year September 1989 by Society of Bacchus celebrations in Vancouver your scribe served a vertical back to 1966 and 1961. Close friend Peter so kindly provided those pristine bottles directly from the Chateau at the unbelievable price of 600FF and 1000FF per bottle respectively. Good storage is so important for aged wine!
David Spurrell held an amazing blind vertical on August 5, 2001 from 1989 back to 1970 with details posted below. Your scribe was hot that night in solving the theme with the 1970 an open star with outstanding depth and complexity as it showed on November 1, 2021 Blog here. 1989 and 1983 were both solid but 1989 had more lively balance and length while 1983 showed mint, spice, and forwardly.
On December 14, 2021 at Blue Water Cafe some 20 years later nine wines previously tasted showed similarly even the Mystery Wine which was 1975 a bigger atypical year for Palmer with floral drier notes. This time though the clear group vote (including me) was for 1989 for Wine Of The Night followed by 1983. The 1978 was a tad musty and not the best bottle. 2004 a nice surprise with 47% merlot, 46 cab sauv and 7 petit verdot (almost identical to the vineyard plantings) using 1/3 of the crop in the Grand Vin. Big and also a bit atypical but impressive indeed. The 2000 was very good but less ripe and full than expected from the vintage and 1996 harder big fruit. 1988 a hard tannic acidic year but more accessible here.
A big salute to Chateau Palmer for their sensual so elegant complex wine yet with depth. Admire that special smoothness delivered from those merlot grapes grown on choice gravel soils usually saved for cab sauv plantings. Thanks for the memories. Property still is going from strength to strength over many vintages including presently.