Dinner at Veritas - '82 Bordeaux Magnum Blowout

Chef Scott Bryan's flavorful, soulful, very pure cooking is obviously designed to make wines show well, and certainly he proved that time and time again at this brilliant tasting of a baker's dozen of pristinely stored 1982 Bordeaux in magnum. Tasting wines that are nearly 20 years old when they are not from one's own cellar is always fraught with risk. (For example, a recent dinner in Bordeaux with France's former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, now the dynamic mayor of Bordeaux, included a tasting of a dozen 1982s. Most of these wines were hardly recognizable as 1982s, tasting more like tired 1985s. If anyone does not realize it, proper wine storage is everything. People buying fine wine who do not store it properly are throwing their money away.) These wines were in fabulous condition and came from ideal cellar conditions, given their youthfulness and very pure flavors, a tribute to the professionalism at Veritas.

The night started with the superb 1990 Dom Pérignon in magnum, followed by a tight, dense ruby/purple-colored, extremely youthful 1982 Léoville-Las Cases. The wine seemed to taste like a six-year-old wine, as opposed to one that is nearly 20 years of age. Minerals, black cherries, and striking depth and intensity characterize the wine, but it, along with the Mouton-Rothschild, was one of the two most backward wines of the night. The sumptuous La Mission-Haut-Briongets better and better every time I have it, and on occasion now seems capable of fetching a perfect score. Asphalt, tar, gravel, roasted notes, and huge quantities of fruit and glycerin make for a gigantic, oversized La Mission-Haut-Brion very much in the style of the 1959. I keep waiting for the magical 1982 Pichon Lalande to go into decline, given the fact that this is not one of the longest-lived wines of Bordeaux given its high Merlot content and winemaking style. It just seems to always be one of the most sumptuous, decadently rich, and hedonistic as well as intellectually pleasing wines of the vintage. No matter when I have had it, it is still superb and, to my thinking, the greatest Pichon Lalande I have ever tasted. Sadly, Canon is no longer making wines as good as it did in 1982. The terroir is there, and it is just a matter of time before they come back. The 1982 is an earthy, mineral-dominated, structured, but forceful wine that can be cellared for 10-20 more years. Today, Cheval Blanc seems to be variable from bottle to bottle, but the magnum was pure perfection - an unctuously textured, gloriously port-like wine with huge concentration of flavor. That was followed by three Pomerols, with the disappointment being the always irregular and frequently deceptive 1982 Pétrus. The fact that this wine sells for about $25,000 a case at auction makes me wonder what people see in it. I have had some great bottles, as evidenced by some other notes in the Hedonist's Gazette, but this one was plagued again by a certain green tea herbaceousness and just a lack of concentration and depth, particularly when compared to the sumptuous, very thick, viscous, juicy L'Evangile and structured, masculine, powerful, formidable Certan de May. I do think the emperor of Pomerol is a bit naked in 1982. And why is it so irregular?

The famous quintet of first growths included a very strong showing for Haut Brion, a wine that is outstanding and very Haut Brion-ish, but not one of the greatest examples of the château. The Margaux seemed to be the underachiever of the night, but Lafite-Rothschild is a perfect wine, very young and a dead ringer for a modern-day clone of the 1959. The Mouton-Rothschild, of course, was the most backward, most concentrated, and probably least approachable wine at the tasting, but wow, what upside potential. At age 20, it behaves like a six-year-old wine, and I do think more and more that this wine is a modern-clone of the 1945 with a touch of the 1959 included. Again, Latour stole the show with its opulence, richness, flesh, and very accessible, port-like style that seems so out of character for this château, known for its firmly structured wines. Dinner finished with a caramelized apple galette with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce and a remarkable 1983 Château d'Yquem that was still an infant but very honeyed, with notes of crème brulée, spice, and very rich, chewy, full-bodied flavors. A marvelous night for sure.

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