1945, 1966 & 1982 Gruaud Larose


I recently participated in two tastings connected with one of the most famous dynasties in Bordeaux: the Cordier family. One vertical was examined at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, purchased in 1917, and the other at Château Talbot, acquired a year later. Désiré Cordier embarked on a shopping spree for Bordeaux estates in that era, when real estate prices were depressed by a run of poor vintages and World War I. Readers should expect extensive reports apropos of both properties in the future. Amongst Cordier’s acquisitions, the other famous property purchased is Gruaud Larose, which came into their hands in 1917 and 1935, since back then, the estate was divided. I thought this would be an opportune moment to have a look at three magnums served at the aforementioned Lafaurie-Peyraguey tasting.

I adore old bottles of Gruaud Larose. Having tasted around 80 vintages over the years, back to the oldest Bordeaux that I have ever tasted (1831), I can vouch for how beautifully they can age. That said, the oldest of these three vintages has always left me a bit cold, much to my surprise. The 1945 Gruaud Larose, served from magnum, is my third encounter. It is amazingly deep in colour with very little ageing on the rim. The bouquet is backward (backward after 73 years!) with black fruit, undergrowth, cedar and fresh mint aromas that feel tightly bound and never seem to release. The palate is medium-bodied with firm grip and density. This Saint-Julien finally feels more open, albeit reluctantly, with tightly coiled black fruit, melted tar and cedar, very good weight in the mouth and a stern, stoic finish that threatens to suck the pleasure out of the wine. Maybe it just needs a very long decant, but otherwise, there is something saturnine and aloof about this 1945 that is inexplicable given the reputation of the vintage. 92/Drink: 2023-2040

The 1966 Gruaud Larose from magnum is much better than the solitary bottle previously encountered. It has a beguiling nose that shows up the curmudgeonly 1945: black fruit, cedar and touches of licorice and mint make up one of the most vivacious bouquets you will find in this vintage on the Left Bank. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, and maybe a little foursquare, like many 1966s, yet fresh and vital, offering good tension and notes of pencil lead, autumn leaves and a touch of black pepper towards a finish that feels very assured. This is a great 1966 Saint-Julien that is chugging along nicely. 93/Drink: 2018-2032

The 1982 Gruaud Larose has long been one of my favourite Saint Julien wines from that vintage. From magnum, the exquisite bouquet of black fruit, leather and hints of game and antique bureau is fully mature yet vigorous and so joyful. The palate is medium-bodied, with fine tannins that have melted in recent years. Here, there is more red than black fruit, suffused with tobacco, sage and cedar notes, impressive in terms of grip and fanning out gloriously towards the finish. Bottles with sound provenance are à point and will continue to give pleasure for another 20, perhaps 30 years. 95/Drink: 2018-2040