Five 1982 Bordeauxs

Had five wonderful 1982 Bordeauxs last night - Leoville Barton, Gruaud Larose, Ducru, Leoville Poyferre and Grand Puy Lacoste. Each wine individually was really good. Envoyed drinking them. But, there was a certain sameness to the wines. They all were variations on a theme, and very slight variations at that. Even after having tasted all five, if someone had poured me one of them blind in a glass, I doubt I could have picked out which one it was.

I would have expected the Gruard to stand out. Has always been rather distinctive to me during its 1980s run. Four of them from the same appellation of course.

Except for the GPL they are all St. Julien. They shouldn’t, of course, taste the same, but a certain kinship is perhaps expected?

GL no funk???

If u had an '82 Talbot in there it would have stuck out. It’s a freak that only the Gods could conjure.

The '82 Gruaud is a fantastic wine, but so are the '82 Poyferré and the '82 GPL (I haven’t had the Barton and I’ve had the Ducru only a couple of times with uneven results). Although I love the old “Cordier Funk”, I’ve never found the '82 GL to be particularly funky.

You sound disappointed. You just drank 5 bottles from a great vintage and they all were very good. That’s a good night of Bordeaux drinking in my book.

I was very happy. It was a fun evening. But, I remember David Schildknecht saying to me (more than once) that wines of distinction are wines of distinctiveness - I used to buy a lot of wine from David when he was in retail in DC. Obviously, this raises the issue of whether distinctiveness is more important or how it tastes in more important. Interesting philosophical question. But, I am disappointed when a bunch of wines, even good ones, taste too much alike.

But, I raised this more because I have had these wines before (except the Leoville Poyferre) and I have not felt this way about them. Makes me wonder if it is time to drink up most 1982s - if they are losing distinctiveness, will the next step to be to lose other elements of quality. I should say that I know the Leoville Barton was bought on a futures basis and well stored since delivery (it is what I brought). Did not ask the others at the dinner about how long they have had their wines.

I hear you Howard. Some of the great left bank 1982s are starting to converge with age. I don’t think they are OTH, but I like them old. In my experience, the Gruaud and Haut Brion remain distinctive. I was a bit surprised that you felt differently, but at this age each bottle is its own experience.

Howard - On Saturday night, I had an 82 Leoville Las Cases from a case that I bought upon release. It was a ok wine, but it was not nearly as good as the last bottle I had from the same case. It just seemed to lack something that I would expect to find in an older bordeaux. The color was still quite good, so I don’t think it is anywhere near over the hill. The nose was fine, perhaps a little more restrained than I remember, but still ok. After that, however, it just dropped off. On the palate, it was as if the youthful fruit had declined, but the wine had not developed any of the secondary flavors that I usually enjoy. I am hoping it was just an off bottle because I still have several more.

That is troubling. That wine has always seemed too young. A slightly leaky cork or something could always make a bottle taste worse than it should. But if this wine is an issue, time to drink up all my 1982s. I know that you bought yours on futures so it cannot be a storage issue on that bottle.

At this point in the game I’d want them ex cellar and would pay more for them. I’ve always noticed a difference in shipping later in life across the pond, even with all other conditions being equal (which I guess could be all in my head too…).
I find the 82s to be more rockin the farther up the medoc you go though.

Interesting question. I do think that there’s some truth in what you say. This vintage, which once looked brilliant across the board, is beginning to look more differentiated. Clearly the real stars of the vintage—Lafleur, La Mission, Latour, Mouton, La Tour Haut Brion and a few others—are profound wines, built for the ages and still youthful today. But my sense is that lower down the hierarchy a lot of the wines are fully mature, with the best days of a lot of the lesser right bank wines already behind them and the more short-term propositions from Margaux and the southern Médoc being next in the queue for the tumbril. There is also a certain rather burly, rustic character to quite a few of the wines which for me lends the 1982s as a set the sort of ‘sameness’ you’re commenting on, though of course you might have been identifying different commonalities.

The fact that 1989 is an excellent vintage, and also that the very elegant 1985s are, I’d argue, aging better than expected (whereas the 1982s are aging perhaps worse than expected) begs the question as to which is truly the best vintage of the decade when considered as a whole. The heights achieved by '82s “greatest hits” probably still give it the edge in any overall ranking (especially that 1982 Lafleur), but it is a moderately interesting conversation to have, given that the quality of '82 has been something of a shibboleth for several decades now. To me it seems clear that '82, while excellent, is not on the level of the great post-war vintages, especially 1961, but at this stage judgements like this will be heavily weighted by the good fortune or bad luck one has had when opening bottles, and I have been very lucky indeed with 1961.

I guess the question is whether how good it tastes at peak or how long the wine lasts determines the quality of a vintage. The 82s are now almost 35 years old, which is far from what the Finnigans and Robards predicted, which was that the wines would be dead in 10 years. They have been drinking very well for a long time. I was fortunate enough to buy a bunch on futures and have really enjoyed the vintage over the years. I now only have a relative handful left. I am taking this tasting as a sign that I should drink up what I have left while they still taste really good.

I find there are only a handful of 82s that could use more time. There are far more 82s that have begun to fade from a peak of 5-10 years ago (albeit usually slowly). No huge rush, but I’m opening my remaining 82s whenever a worthy occasion presents itself.

I’ve rarely had a disappointing '82 and I’m still a buyer of the vintage.

Maybe some of the lesser examples are tiring but there’s at least 15 - 20 that are peaking now or still on the way up.

Interesting proposition that some may be converging. I don’t often get to try more than one or two at a time, but I think Patrick will agree the trio we had in August were quite good and did not resemble each other.