|Tasting Bordeaux from 1982. Hmmm, do we have a thread for wines over say $500? |
From today's New York Times: Eric Asimov
ANTICIPATION was keen as 16 of us took our seats around a long table in the lovely art-filled, 39th-floor apartment of Mark Taylor, a longtime Bordeaux drinker and collector here. The six wineglasses before each of us were already filled, the fragrances rising and mingling. Outside on this chilly March Sunday, a strong wind howled and the building itself hummed and vibrated like a giant tuning fork. I preferred to think it was a sign of high expectations.
What wine lover wouldn’t be thrilled with the extraordinary opportunity to taste 18 bottles from the celebrated 1982 Bordeaux vintage, including all five first growths and other rare and expensive selections? After all, the wines were now 30 years old, fully mature and, theoretically at least, in their prime. Eighteen in one sitting? Any one might be the thrill of the year.
It was an opportunity to taste history. The Bordeaux annals are replete with great vintages. Just in the last half of the 20th century, I might also cite 1990, ’89, ’85, ’70, ’66, ’61, ’59 and ’53. Yet 1982 was not just great but historic. One could easily make the case that the modern age of wine began with the 1982 vintage, or at least with the reception of the ’82s. The wines themselves represent the end of the old era.
The ’82 vintage is most famously associated with the rise of the American critic Robert M. Parker Jr., who was still working as a lawyer while in his spare time producing a newsletter, The Wine Advocate. The story of the vintage is often told as if Mr. Parker stood alone to exalt it against a legion of naysayers, but the fact is that with a few exceptions, most critics at the time acclaimed the wines. The difference was in how Mr. Parker praised them.
Not for Mr. Parker was the cautious hedging and equivocating of the typical wine critic. His praise was clear, certain and unqualified, and he urged his readers to buy all they could in wine futures, the Bordeaux system in which you pay now for wine that will be delivered in a year or two, gambling that prices will go up and availability down. The result was feverish excitement and a frenzied market that reached beyond professionals and connoisseurs to a new group of buyers in it for the curiosity, status and investment possibilities.
Simultaneously, the Bordeaux business itself was changing. Back then, many leading chateaus were still owned by families rather than by the corporations and wealthy individuals who dominate Bordeaux today. The business was far less glorified than it is now, and after several difficult decades and a sharp increase in French inheritance taxes, many families sold off their holdings.
New ownership and the brisk sales of the ’82s brought an infusion of cash into Bordeaux, inaugurating an evolution over the next 20 years into the modern Bordeaux of today. The 1982 Bordeaux were rich, ripe, opulent wines, reflecting the year’s long, hot and dry growing season. The popularity of the wines understandably gave producers an incentive to want to make similar wines in the future, which, beyond hoping for a similarly ideal year, required altering their methods.
Link to the rest of the article: nytimes.com