Looking to pick up a bottle of 1981 wine (my birth year) to celebrate a big event or two. Any suggestions, open to a wide price range.
Rare Wine Co has the 1981 Lopez de Heredia Gran Riservas (all of them) available. You could do a lot worse.
In general, 1981 was a very good but not great year in Rioja, any decent bottling you can find should still be good. I’ve had good luck with the few 1981 bordeaux I’ve had, but someone else here would be a better guide in that department than I am.
I can’t think of any major region where 1981 was a really standout vintage, sadly.
Southern Rhône, though they’re difficult to find now.
There’s lots of good Bordeaux that still drinks well. Gruaud Larose is often available and pretty good value.
I had a surprisingly good 1981 Dom Ruinart last year for a friend’s birthday. It was still really fresh and vibrant. This year, we we did the Lopez de Heredia Tondonia GR blanco, which was interesting but had an odd mushroom quality.
1981 Krug Collection from Magnum is splendid. 1981 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune also very good. I have had a few very tasty '81 red Burgs (Dujac did particularly well). There is plenty of good drinking from Bordeaux left bank, Lynch Bages is particularly good. 1981 Château Coutet Cuvée Madame is awesome.
If you can get your hands on Beaucastel 1981, it is a must; absolutely stunning!
Chateauneuf-du-Pape … no doubt. Definitely the most successful region, almost no bad wines made in 1981 - and should also be not too expensive, except the stars like Rayas, Pegau(better than…), Beaucastel, Bonneau…
Yesterday I had an outstanding Fortia, btw…
GL 1981 is lovely stuff. As is 83.
What I remember about 1981 as a vintage in a few wine regions:
I never thought of 1981 as a very good vintage in California, but I admit that as a result of that belief, I did not drink many and have not had any in a very long time (in that era, bought 1978, a bit of 1979, 1980, 1984 and 1985).
1981 was a poorer year in Burgundy for reds (don’t remember for whites).
1981 was a decent but not spectacular year in Bordeaux - probably not quite as good as 1979 but better than years like 1984 and 1987. A friend and I split a case of 1981 Ducru Beaucaillou (my first Bordeaux future at $140 a case on futures) and it was quite good. I drank my last one up quite a number of years ago but I had one of his in the last 5-10 years and it was quite good then.
I don’t remember if any housed declared 1981 as a vintage Port. I remember from that era getting 1977s and 1983s.
1981 was not a great year in Germany although I remember having a few good Kabinetts, but that was a long time ago.
I would avoid Leoville Las Cases, a magnum was pretty dried out 10 +years ago. Agree 100% with Beaucastel and LdH. Also, if you want to try something unique and fantastic, try the 1981 Barbeito Verdelho. I think Rare Wine Co may have. My favorite young Madeira.
If not CdP but Bordeaux … I’d chose Pichon-Lalande or La Mission …
Definitely agree; and, though I do tend to buy/drink LdH’s Viña Tondonia GRs more often, in the case of vintage 1981, I prefer their Viña Bosconia GR.
Ps. Disclosure: I, together with a partner, used to distribute, among others, LdH Viña Tondonia GR in Manila.
For lesser options or bottles to stack onto your main bottle:
It has been easy to pick up Sauternes over time… .I have been able to find '81 Yquem and '81 Raymond Lafon (the latter at a reasonable price of $45 or so), '81 Lafaurie-Peyraguey for $60. The Yquem prices can vary widely (I sourced a good price), but the lesser labels are usually around/reasonably priced.
I recently picked up '81 Fontafredda Barolo and Barbaresco for ~$50 each on Winebid w/ commissions and tax; there were a couple bottles left of each lot as of a day ago (i.e. I assume they are still there, and I have not tried either). I have an '81 Oddero Barbaresco I likely overpaid for. And a '81 Tenute Lessona. Winebid I recall usually has a few '81 stragglers each auction. I enjoyed a '81 Bertani Amarone (not bought off Winebid).
I also own a '81 Beringer Private Reserve which I plan to open in coming months; I assume this may be a bit tired at this point, but I have no experience here.
On the high end of being “wide open as to price,” I love 1981’s Unico, and it tends to be virtually indestructible. Somewhat less pricey is the 1981 La Mission Haut-Brion (WS Pro shows one retail offering for <$200 and several not too far above that), which is generally considered to outperform the vintage and was well appreciated by our tasting group last week.
1981 La Mission and La Tour Haut Brion are very good, had they a few months ago side by side, as is Laville Haut Brion Blanc if you can find it.
The Lopez de Heredia suggestion sounds like a great idea.
Currently Spectrum has a number of lots of 81 Yquem splits that appear to be in excellent condition. I grabbed one a few weeks ago.
Definitely agree with Howard and Craig (above). I’ve now had an '81 Lafite and Haut Brion and both were highly enjoyable, classic robust Bordeaux. Probably just overshadowed by '82, and a great deal compared to other vintages.
Agree with the Lopez de Heredia recommendations. The '81 Bosconia Gran Reserva is phenomenal. But note that there is real bottle variation. I think I’ve had 2 or 3 majestic bottles and 1 or 2 duds.
From magnum it is easily the best Champagne of the vintage and one of my favorite Krug Collection vintages. Good call.