In the last few years, wine enthusiasts have paid less and less attention to Bordeaux. Hype for great vintages seems to roll around every other year and prices continue to increase dramatically for new vintages laden with high scores.
In the meantime regions such as the Loire, Beaujolais, Rhône Valley and many areas outside of France, such as Washington State or Chile attract more and more attention, often offering far better value-priced alternatives.
There’s been some criticism about how Bordeaux may need a reality check, with more consumers buying at various price levels seeking newer, fresher alternatives. Even as a serious Bordeaux fan, it’s hard to not agree with a lot of these criticisms, or pieces such as this article by Eric Asimov. Wines from the top estates and vintages have become increasingly expensive, more often treated as goods for conspicuous consumption rather than wines that can be enjoyed at the table.
And yet… the wines remain compelling, when they are opened at the table and enjoyed as wine. A bottle of 1986 Gruaud Larose that I opened a few nights ago at dinner was one of the most thrilling red wines I’ve enjoyed in some time; powerfully fragrant, layered, rich and so complex.
Bordeaux can provide experiences that just reinforce why we’re so into wine in the first place; thrilling, complex, powerful yet elegant wines that resonate in a way that few other wines can. Those experiences don’t always have to come from the ‘great’, critically acclaimed vintages, yet – it’s a remarkable experience when they do.
Over the last few months, I’ve had multiple opportunities to look back into some of the 1982 Bordeaux; one of the much heralded ‘vintages of the century’ now thirty years on. Provenance at this stage does become a question, as so many of these wines do tend to be frequently ‘flipped’ at auctions and resold as the case price of a 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou, for instance, continues to increase. A few of the ’82s I’ve enjoyed recently have been concerning with some signs of possible heat damage (for instance, a bottle of ’82 Magdelaine showed surprisingly stewed and disjointed), yet a number have been thrilling.
Some, such as the ’82 Certan de May, may not have the ‘wow’ factor one may expect from such a heralded vintage (and one carrying such a price premium over other vintages). A rising tide doesn’t always float all boats, and there are plenty of less regarded vintages (such as 1988 or 1979) that have produced a number of great Bordeaux that I’ve enjoyed as much, if not more than some of the ’82s – usually at a fraction of the price. Yet other ’82 Bordeaux I’ve had recently, such as the ’82 Pichon Lalande, have been extraordinary.