For every one blog on comparing Costco wine to Trader Joe’s wine, I feel I must write two blogs on the more snooty end of the wine spectrum. (Yes, I’m guilty, I can be a total wine snob.) I think this blog will be upping the snooty ante.
Late last year, my husband and I attended a 1982 comparative tasting of Bordeaux wines, including all five first growths. For those unfamiliar with the great years in Bordeaux, the consensus (to the extent such a thing is possible in the wine world) is that the greatest five vintages of the twentieth century in Bordeaux were 1927, 1945, 1961, and 1982. The large wine auction house, Hart Davis Hart, held a comparative tasting with 33 of the top Bordeaux wines from the year 1982. The tasting was held in Chicago, the day before one of their large wine auctions. For this tasting, they were opening and pouring such legendary wines as the 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild, the 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild, and the 1982 Château Cheval Blanc. Not being able to pass up a chance to taste such legendary wines, and side-by-side, we paid out the $1,200 a person (gulp) to attend such an extraordinary tasting. Here are the five things we learned, followed by our thoughts/ranking of the wines.
Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds
Standing in a room with many of the greatest wines in the world, from one of the greatest vintages in the last hundred years, with a wine glass in hand is just as fucking awesome as it sounds. Let’s be honest, I never thought I’d be able to say things like: “I’d like to revisit the 1982 Mouton,” or “honey, while I know the 1982 Latour was your favorite wine we drank tonight, my favorite was the 1982 Margaux.” Although $1,200 is a lot of money to say the least, it was worth every penny.
Hollywood only gets 1982 Bordeaux half right
In the movie, Thank You for Smoking, Aaron Eckert orders a 1982 Château Margaux for Katie Holmes at a restaurant, and when she asks if it’s good, he replies “it will make you believe in god.” And, in the Hong Kong gangster movie, Exiled, a young gangster says just before a shoot-out, “anything less than a 1982 Lafite is garbage.” Well, now that we’ve actually tasted both wines (it’s so cool we can say that), here are our thoughts. Thank You For Smoking is on the money. The 1982 Château Margaux was incredible and will still be incredible twenty years from now. On the other hand, the 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild was only mediocre. According to the fantastic documentary Red Obsession, wine fraud is such a problem in China that there are more bottles of 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild in China today than Château Lafite Rothschild ever produced back in 1982. The Chinese may be obsessed with 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild, but we were unimpressed. Pass the Château Latour over to us instead.
Some regions are holding up better than others
Hart Davis Hart had the wine tasting arranged geographically, with the first eight tables of wine going by Left Bank appellation from north (starting with St. Estephe) to south (ending with Graves), with the last two table hitting the right bank appellations of St. Emilion and Pomerol. This led us to an unexpected discovery – some regions still shine today while others are way past their prime. The Pomerol wines overall showed well, while the St. Emilion wines showed poorly. (For example, we would have never guessed that the 1982 Château La Fleur-Pétrus from Pomerol (a Parker 90 point wine) would be tasting better today than Château de Figeac from St. Emilion (a Parker 94 point wine). Sadly, this was true with almost every St. Emilion to Pomerol comparison. And, with the lone exception of Château Léoville-Poyferré, the St. Julien wines were generally over the hill, while the wines from Margaux and Pauillac were drinking great. We did not expect this.
Show up early and jeans are fine
We’ve never been to a tasting of this magnitude, and we weren’t sure what to expect. So, when we showed up right on time (to not miss a minute of drinking), we were surprised to see many other guests were already well into the tasting. Note to self, next time, show up early. And while the invitation said “business casual” dress, the tasters ranged in clothing from many men in suits and ties, to several folks in jeans and button downed shirts. Perhaps we’ll wear jeans next time, and we won’t worry, as people will just think we’re rich Silicon Valley wine-collectors.
We actually liked Château Haut-Brion
For anyone who knows us well, they’ll know that we mercilessly mock Château Haut-Brion. It’s a rough life we lead – where we make fun of a coveted $500+ bottle of wine. But, we’ve been on Château Haut-Brion’s snooty tour and have had a number of bottles. Historically we’ve just never been impressed. We expected to have the same reaction to the 1982 Château Haut-Brion – an okay wine, but not as good as Château la Mission Haut-Brion, and neither of them as good as their close-by winery neighbor, Château Pape Clément. (And yes, to our many snobbish friends, we know we just wrote the equivalent of saying we prefer driving a Hyundai to a Mercedes, and a Smart Car to a Hyundai. But let’s face it, we like what we like regardless of critical consensus.)
So, we were pleasantly shocked that the 1982 Château Haut-Brion was awesome. We were sure we were going to mock it, as we always do. Yet, it was one of the tastiest wines of the night. And, we preferred it to the Château la Mission Haut-Brion, which Robert Parker gave 100 points to. So, in the future, when we make fun of Château Haut-Brion, we’ll always add the caveat, “except for the 1982 vintage.”
Our thoughts on which 1982 Bordeaux wines are the ones to drink
Okay, we’re not professional wine critics (although not sure how much that matters) and the following is just our opinion. That said, for those thinking of buying a 1982 Bordeaux, here is our combined two cents on having drank virtually every great 1982 wine side-by-side. We’ve grouped the wines into five tiers, from our favorites to our least favorites, with our apologies to one of our fellow tasters who declared that the Château la Mission Haut-Brion was the best wine of the night – we put it into category 4. All wines listed below are in alphabetical order, not by order of any preference
Category 1 – The Make You Believe in God Wines:
The movie Thank You For Smoking, got it right. Tasting the 1982 Margaux will make you believe in god – though we’d certainly recommend decanting it for at least four hours before drinking. Here are the three wines to die for.
- Château Haut-Brion
- Château Latour
- Château Margaux
Category 2 – The Really Awesome Wines:
Just below the “to die for” wines were a number of almost as fantastic wines. We put Château Mouton Rothschild in this group, although it’s the only wine of the night that the two of us vehemently disagreed on. I would put it in Category 1 and Jordan would put it in Category 3. So, we chose Category 2. Here’s the list.
- Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste
- Château Le Bon Pasteur
- Château Léoville-Poyferré
- Château Montrose
- Château Mouton Rothschild
- Château Pontet-Canet
Category 3 – The Good Wines:
There were a number of good wines. Just because we’re in category three doesn’t mean we wouldn’t take the opportunity to have any of these in a heart-beat. In other words, don’t take the fact that they’re down in Category 3 to think we didn’t think these were still great.
- Château Canon
- Château Certan de May
- Château Cos d’Estournel
- Château La Fleur-Pétrus
- Château Lynch-Bages
- Château Palmer
- Château Trotanoy
Category 4 – The So-So Wines:
Some of the wines were just so-so, including the most expensive wine of the night – the 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild. So, here’s the list of the so-so wines:
- Château Calon-Ségur
- Château Gruaud-Larose
- Château Lafite Rothschild
- Château la Mission Haut-Brion
- Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
- Château Talbot
Category 5 – The Over the Hill Wines:
Unfortunately, many great wines were just past their prime. I bet they were great to drink back in the 1990s. But today, we can pass on them.
- Château Ausone
- Château Beychevelle
- Château Cheval Blanc
- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
- Château Figeac
- Château La Tour Haut-Brion
- Chateau L’Eglise Clinet
- Château Léoville Barton
- Château Léoville-Las Cases
- Château Pichon Longueville Baron
Wanna attend amazing tastings like this? Then check out Hart Davis Hart’s event page and see what they have coming up. The events are not cheap, but they are phenomenal! Cheers!
- Featured Image: Hong Kong Tatler
- Katie Holmes: Thank You For Smoking
- Red Obsession: Youtube
- Bordeaux Wine Map: Grape Occasions
- Glass of Red Wine: Men’s Health
- 1982 Château Haut-Brion: VinFolio