1982 Bordeaux at Age 30

Odds are that in the spring of '83 you were borrowing money from your parents to pay for your college education rather than purchasing 1982 Bordeaux futures.  Those of you lucky enough to have snagged the '82s en primeur, however, made the wine buys of a lifetime.  Of course, you didn't do so badly if you invested in a bachelor's degree back then, before it too became a luxury product.
It's a major financial commitment to open '82s these days, as first growths now change hands for $1,500 to $4,000 a bottle, and even the so-called Super-Seconds and their Right Bank equivalents sell for $300 to $700.  Wines of lesser pedigree are often a crapshoot, as many of them are beginning to fade, if not already Dead Freds.  So I thought I'd give you the benefit of my recent tastings of some particularly successful '82s at the fifth annual Pebble Beach Wine & Food extravaganza in mid-April, supplemented with some '82s pulled from my cellar in recent weeks.

With the fullness of age, the '82s have become more classic and less exotic than most of us believed at the outset, even in cases where the wines have retained their silky textures and rich, ripe tannins.  While the vintage is stellar on both sides of the Gironde, for my money it's at its finest in Pauillac and Saint-Julien, where the best wines still have many years of useful life ahead.  Chateaux Mouton and Latour are among the handful of truly monumental 1982s.  At a far lower price point, the '82 Ducru-Beaucaillou remains remarkably youthful, and Grand Puy Lacoste similarly shows excellent flavor definition and verve.  Léoville-Las Cases is still a somewhat inscrutable if impressively dense youngster.  Gruaud-Larose was rich, silky and deep when I tasted it recently--less complex and refined than the Médoc first growths but all in all remarkably full.

Very few Right Bank 1982s still need more time in bottle, and many are already tiring; but there's no rush to drink wines like Pétrus, Lafleur or L'Evangile.  Among less pricey wines, I've just retasted a wonderfully scented, downright Burgundian bottle of L'Arrosée; a classic, firmly built Canon; and a shockingly satisfying Pavie.

Perhaps the greatest irony concerning 1982 Bordeaux today is that many collectors who loved--and perhaps overrated--the vintage back then aren't quite sure what to think about the wines right now, because they're less opulent and Californian in style than at the outset.  On the other hand, early detractors who faulted the '82s for being too high in alcohol and low in acidity should really give them another try now that they (the wines, not the critics) have lost much of their youthful baby fat and sweet primary fruit.  Can't we all get along?

Bottom line:  If you're lucky enough to have bought these wines on day one, and smart enough to have stored them properly, they may be good candidates to sell at auction, even if prices are off their peaks of a few years ago.  Better yet, enjoy them tonight.  But if you don't own them, don't chase them at today's prices.  There have been so many  compelling clarets offered at every level of the Bordeaux hierarchy since 1990 that there's little reason to pay a special premium for the '82s.  Besides, you'll be majorly disappointed if the wines you purchase haven't been snoozing in a chilly cellar these last 28 years.

Meanwhile, here are some far more reasonably priced wines to enjoy now and over the next couple of years.