Jane Anson gets a rare chance to taste eight Bordeaux 1982 wines from top Left Bank estates and hands out three 100-point scores. Read her report below...
In this column:
- Overview to the tasting
- Eight Left Bank Bordeaux 1982 wines rated
- Bordeaux ’82 on the market
- Who was in charge in 1982?
It was one of those tastings when you can feel the emotions rising in the room; a horizontal of eight Bordeaux 1982 wines.
The full line up of the Left Bank First Growths, plus Léoville Las Cases, Pichon Comtesse and La Mission Haut-Brion – and all tasted blind.
Scroll down to see Jane Anson’s Bordeaux 1982 ratings
Setting the scene
We were in the private cellar of American financier Robert Dow, who four years ago joined the ranks of Bordeaux owners with the purchase of Château Pabus in the pretty commune of Sadirac.
It might only be an AOC Bordeaux Supérieur (or very supérieur as his website puts it), but this is clearly a man who knows what he wants.
He bottled no 2013 under his château name because didn’t believe the quality was there. He uses 100% new oak, he intends to keep his wines back for release only when they are ready to drink, and he has enlisted Michel Rolland as consultant.
And he happens to have a rather beautiful cellar of Bordeaux 1982 wines.
‘It’s a vintage that has always been enjoyable to taste,’ says Hubert de Boüard, co-owner of Château Angelus, present at the tasting alongside Rolland.
Both were making wine back in 1982 and remember the vintage first hand.
‘It’s why it was so deceptive at first. But just look at the tannins – they are still here today, 34 years later.’
So, how were they? They spoke of a different era in many ways. The average alcohol in 1982 was 12.5%, grape sorting would have been far less precise and cellars more basic.
And yet to a bottle, they were still full of life, their complexity showing a different facet each time I returned to them.
There were the aromas and tastes of age of course, but these were wines that were still firmly in their prime.
A few of them tasted like they were barely getting going. It was a line up that left all of us shaking our heads at our luck to be part of it.
Bordeaux 1982 Left Bank tasting
Listed in the order of tasting. All wines were tasted blind.
Background: Bordeaux 1982 on the market
Bordeaux 1982 was not only among the vintages of the century – part of that tiny select group that includes 1929, 1945 and 1961 – but the ‘jackpot of the century’, as French auction house IdealWine puts it.
It signaled the entry of the Americans to the Bordeaux marketplace in a big way, and set the region firmly on the road to recovery after the financial hardships of the 1970s.
The continued mythology is reflected in today’s prices.
As a rough guide, because prices vary hugely due to bottle condition, the retail prices would be around:
- Latour: £1,500 (now $1,800)
- Lafite: Upwards of £2,500
- La Mission Haut-Brion around £1,300
- Mouton Rothschild £1,000
- Pichon Comtesse around £900
- Margaux and Haut-Brion north of £800 – but prices on the Place de Bordeaux for Margaux look like they are shooting up
- Léoville Las Cases around £400
And the beauty of older 1855 Bordeaux is that, although it is almost impossible to find certain Right Bank 1982s like Lafleur or Petrus, the size of the Left Bank estates makes things considerably easier.
As yields in 1982 were almost double that of 1959, and higher than in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1990, it’s possible to still find good examples on the market, as well as in châteaux and collectors’ cellars.
These bottles from the very generous Dow were not all bought en primeur, but through reputable merchants over ‘recent’ (his words) years, and all have been stored under perfect conditions in Bordeaux itself.
We were tasting from bottle, not magnum, opened around four hours before the tasting but then re-corked, and finally opened just 30 minutes before we lined up in front of them.
Who was in charge in 1982?
For these specific wines, 1982 was the year before Charles Chevallier began working at Lafite-Rothschild and the late Paul Pontallier at Margaux.
It was also the year before La Mission Haut-Brion was sold to the Dillons over at Haut-Brion and was still with the Woltner family.
It was Corinne Mentzelopoulos’ second year as owner at Margaux.
Latour, now owned by Francois Pinault, was still with the Pearson Group under Lord Cowdray, with Henri Martin and Jean-Paul Gardère as co-directors.
Baron Philippe was reigning at Mouton Rothschild and was celebrating, rather astonishingly, his 60th harvest. This would be reflected on the label with a water colour painting of a dancing ram by John Huston, together with a written tribute.
May-Eliane de Lencquesaing was at Pichon Comtesse, Joan Dillon, Duchess of Mouchy, was at Haut-Brion and Michel Delon at Léoville Las Cases.
Only two estates have the same people in charge today – Lafite with Eric de Rothschild and Margaux with Corinne Mentzelopoulos.
More Jane Anson columns:
Tasting 150 years of Lafite Rothschild wines
Tasting Léoville Poyferré wines from 1961 to 2016
The wine maps making waves in Bordeaux