Odds are that in the spring of '83 you were borrowing money from your parents to pay for your college education rather than purchasing 1982 Bordeaux futures. Those of you lucky enough to have snagged the '82s en primeur, however, made the wine buys of a lifetime. Of course, you didn't do so badly if you invested in a bachelor's degree back then, before it too became a luxury product.
It's a major financial commitment to open '82s these days, as first growths now change hands for $1,500 to $4,000 a bottle, and even the so-called Super-Seconds and their Right Bank equivalents sell for $300 to $700. Wines of lesser pedigree are often a crapshoot, as many of them are beginning to fade, if not already Dead Freds. So I thought I'd give you the benefit of my recent tastings of some particularly successful '82s at the fifth annual Pebble Beach Wine & Food extravaganza in mid-April, supplemented with some '82s pulled from my cellar in recent weeks.
With the fullness of age, the '82s have become more classic and less exotic than most of us believed at the outset, even in cases where the wines have retained their silky textures and rich, ripe tannins. While the vintage is stellar on both sides of the Gironde, for my money it's at its finest in Pauillac and Saint-Julien, where the best wines still have many years of useful life ahead. Chateaux Mouton and Latour are among the handful of truly monumental 1982s. At a far lower price point, the '82 Ducru-Beaucaillou remains remarkably youthful, and Grand Puy Lacoste similarly shows excellent flavor definition and verve. Léoville-Las Cases is still a somewhat inscrutable if impressively dense youngster. Gruaud-Larose was rich, silky and deep when I tasted it recently--less complex and refined than the Médoc first growths but all in all remarkably full.
Very few Right Bank 1982s still need more time in bottle, and many are already tiring; but there's no rush to drink wines like Pétrus, Lafleur or L'Evangile. Among less pricey wines, I've just retasted a wonderfully scented, downright Burgundian bottle of L'Arrosée; a classic, firmly built Canon; and a shockingly satisfying Pavie.
Perhaps the greatest irony concerning 1982 Bordeaux today is that many collectors who loved--and perhaps overrated--the vintage back then aren't quite sure what to think about the wines right now, because they're less opulent and Californian in style than at the outset. On the other hand, early detractors who faulted the '82s for being too high in alcohol and low in acidity should really give them another try now that they (the wines, not the critics) have lost much of their youthful baby fat and sweet primary fruit. Can't we all get along?
Bottom line: If you're lucky enough to have bought these wines on day one, and smart enough to have stored them properly, they may be good candidates to sell at auction, even if prices are off their peaks of a few years ago. Better yet, enjoy them tonight. But if you don't own them, don't chase them at today's prices. There have been so many compelling clarets offered at every level of the Bordeaux hierarchy since 1990 that there's little reason to pay a special premium for the '82s. Besides, you'll be majorly disappointed if the wines you purchase haven't been snoozing in a chilly cellar these last 28 years.
Meanwhile, here are some far more reasonably priced wines to enjoy now and over the next couple of years.
Pale orange-pink. Lovely floral lift to the fruity aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and orange zest. Densely packed and dry, with terrific inner-mouth verve and minerality. I could gulp down this subtle, round, long, uncompromisingly dry rose on its own. Classic pink wine from a northerly climate.
(made from fruit grown in Vinsobres, Cairanne and Rasteau): Deep ruby. Pungent, spice-accented aromas of black and blue fruits, olive and cola, with a sexy floral quality gaining strength with air. At once deep and lively, with powerful blueberry and bitter cherry flavors given spine and lift by smoky minerality. Closes with excellent clarity and length, leaving notes of violet and berry preserves behind. This wine always punches well above its weight; Jean-Louis Chave told me he buys fruit "only from great appellations."
(60% grenache, 25% syrah and 15% mourvedre): Deep ruby. Red and dark
berry aromas are complemented by Asian spices and floral oils.
Energetic but deep in raspberry and blackberry flavor. Shows a
refreshingly spicy quality on the finish, which clings with very good
authority and length.
Light purple. An intensely perfumed bouquet evokes fresh red berries, spicecake, minerals and dried flowers. Juicy, focused and pure, with racy raspberry and cherry flavors and a hint of singed orange. Finishes with resounding spiciness and very good persistence. This elegant wine is a poster child for this vintage's graceful attributes.
Pale yellow. Riper and more powerful than the Aconcagua bottling, offering aromas of melon, tangerine, anise and spices. Shows a wild array of tropical and citrus fruits on the palate, picking up a refreshingly bitter quinine nuance with air. Closes with lingering honeydew and lichee notes and very good length.
(aged in French oak, 50% new; previously, half of this wine was aged in
new American barrels): Bright red-ruby. Smoky, slightly reduced nose
offers dark berries, chocolate and a whiff of game. Lush, creamy and
sweet, with dark fruit, chocolate and mineral flavors spreading out to
saturate the palate. Very attractive, seamless syrah with a broad,
fine-grained finish. The rootstock originally came from the Rhone
Valley more than 50 years ago. After it was propagated in a single
vineyard, a selection of the best vines was made for this 10-acre
vineyard in the Uco Valley. A very successful vintage for this
Very pale green-tinged yellow. Delicate aromas of citrus zest, graphite, lavender and dusty minerals. At once supple and bracing, with dense but penetrating flavors of lemon, tangerine and quinine. Very concentrated, extract-rich sauvignon with impressive palate presence. The bracing, tactile finish offers a refreshingly bitter quality and an impression of strong extract.
Bright, dark red. Crushed black cherry, blackberry and licorice pastille on the nose; one can smell the acidity here. Nicely delineated, firmly built barbera with strong acidity giving cut to the flavors of crushed dark fruits, violet and bitter chocolae. Finishes with excellent grip. "A classic vintage for barbera," notes Pietro Ratti.
(blended with 4% cabernet franc; 50% new oak, down from 100%
previously): Good medium red. Aromas of raspberry, milk chocolate and
graphite minerality. Dense, savory and energetic, with a restrained
quality to the berry, chocolate and graphite flavors. A serious merlot
with a classically dry finish. This is only the second merlot label Ed
Sbragia has made in his long and illustrious career, following the
Bancroft Ranch merlot bottlings he made for many years at Beringer.
Red-ruby. Highly aromatic nose offers currant, cherry, dusty Provencal herbs, licorice and a whiff of game. Juicy and downright gulpable, with noteworthy energy and lift to its intense flavors of dark cherry, spices, thyme and licorice. Finishes with firm tannins and lovely lift. This southern French blend would be great with grilled lamb chops.
Medium ruby. Captivating aromas of dark raspberry, violet, smoked meat, clove oil and licorice. Lush and broad but with harmonious acidity and a firm spine of tannins giving shape and lift to the dark fruit, violet and chocolate flavors. Finishes with broad, tongue-dusting tannins and a bit of medicinal reserve that argues for some patience. An excellent basic release from this top Central Coast source for syrahs, with the more expensive bottlings yet to come.
(39% syrah, 36% grenache, 22% mourvedre and 3% counoise): Bright purple. Highly expressive aromas of raspberry, mulberry and licorice, with a spicy overtone. Juicy and focused, offering lively flavors of red fruits and anise complicated by a touch of bitter chocolate. Finishes clean and nervy, with lingering raspberry and violet notes.
Bright ruby-red. Pungent red fruits and potpourri on the highly perfumed nose. Lithe and precise on the palate, offering pure strawberry and raspberry flavors complicated by notes of white pepper and candied violet. Closes with impressive energy, length and lingering florality.
Since 1985, Stephen Tanzer and his team of renowned, widely published regional experts have spent months of every year on the wine trails of the world, having their passports punched and tasting tens of thousands of wines annually, the best of which are reviewed in the independent, critically acclaimed, bimonthly International Wine Cellar (IWC).
Many wines featured in Second Tuesday will be selected from past, current and upcoming issues of the IWC. But Stephen and associate editor Josh Raynolds will also include superb recent discoveries that would otherwise slip between the cracks of IWC coverage.
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