Dinner Chez Parker

I  was both chef and sommelier for a night of debauchery at my home while my wife and daughter were at the beach. This was a blind tasting with some friends who are terrific wine tasters as well as eaters. The Champagne and Chardonnays were palate teasers/cleansers. Most of the tasting was centered around the 1982 Bordeaux vintage, but I have always wanted to see what would happen if you took the same chateau's finest vintage after 1982, and drank them as pairs. That's exactly what we did. There were no surprises, but I was amazed by how many times the 1982s out-performed the younger vintages. The only exception was Cheval Blanc. The 1982 Cheval Blanc appears to have either hit full stride, and is not as opulent or flamboyant as it was in its youth, or it is clearly at its plateau of maturity and is not going to improve. I'm not sure I know the answer. Nevertheless, the wine is still spectacular, but not the perfection it was 5-7 years ago. It has another 10-20 years of life left. At this tasting, the 1990 Cheval Blanc revealed more exoticism as well as sweet, coconut, over-ripe plum and currant fruit notes, as well as great opulence and succulence.

The second flight was magical, with the brawny, powerful, extremely muscular 1982 La Mission Haut Brion still a young wine. The 1989 La Mission is pure opulence and voluptuousness with immense glycerin and concentration. Interestingly, 1982 was the last La Mission made by the old administration, and the 1989 was made by Jean Delmas under the new ownership. The terroir character of La Mission Haut Brion (creosote, melted asphalt, scorched rocks, and black fruit) comes through in both vintages, with the 1982 just a bigger, more burly style, and the 1989 pure silk. Lovers of La Mission (count me in) would be hard pressed to find two greater vintages, and that includes classics such as 1959 and 1961. I hope the 2000 turns out to be this compelling.

Aromatically, the wine that blew everybody away in the first flight was the 1982 Lafleur. It smells like a great vintage of Chateau Rayas ... on steroids. Kirsch liqueur aromas galore are followed by a wine of immense yet majestic proportions. The aromas seem more mature than the flavors, which reveal enormous concentration and high levels of tannin. It smoked the stunning 1990 Lafleur. I have always wanted to have the 1989 and 1990 Pétrus side by side. Both vintages are far superior to the 1982. They are rivaled only by the 1998. In recent tastings I have preferred the 1990 to the 1989, but on this night it was a dead heat, with the 1989 showing perhaps a bit more tannin and structure, and the 1990 more sweetness and opulence. Both wines are extremely young, with at least 2-3 decades of life remaining.

In the next flight, the 1982 Lafite Rothschild continues to remind me of a young and promising modern day clone of the 1959. It made the 1990 Lafite look somewhat pale in comparison, although that was a great vintage for this estate. The most surprising pairing was the 1990 and 1982 Chateau Margaux. I really felt 1990 would eclipse 1982, but to my surprise, 1982 performed incredibly well (one of the finest showings I have ever seen), and was close to perfection. The 1990 Margaux seems to be just shrugging off its dormancy and coming to life. It reveals sweet fruit, but, again, when comparing the 1982s and 1990s, it was interesting to see how much more dense and concentrated the 1982s are. That's not a criticism of 1990, which I believe is, overall, a far greater vintage top to bottom than 1982. It's just that in these pairings, the 1982s were awesome. The next pairing included two prodigious efforts from Mouton Rothschild. Both the 1986 and 1982 were pure crème de cassis, and almost black in color. The 1982 revealed a bit more aromatic development. Both are for long-term cellaring, as the 1982, even at age twenty, seems to need at least another 10 years of aging. I have always said this wine is a modern day clone of either the 1959 or 1945. It has done nothing to dissuade me of that impression. Lastly, the 1982 Latour is pure perfection. It has always been the most evolved and forward of the Medoc first-growths, yet in this tasting it seemed to be firming up and looking set for a far longer life than I would have predicted. Again, it appears to have more concentration and depth than the brilliant 1990 Latour (the finest Latour after 1982 and before 1996 and 2000).

Readers should note that all of the Bordeaux wines were double-decanted eight hours prior to serving them. What that means is that I pour the wines into a decanter, wash out the sediment in the bottle with non-chlorinated well water, and then re-pour the wines back into the bottle and cork them. Readers should also realize that I was able to taste all these wines the night after the dinner party, and not one of them had declined. In fact, some of them were actually better, particularly the 1982s. All of these wines had been purchased as futures and stored at 55 degrees with 80% humidity since they arrived in the United States. Again, storage is everything! Where well-stored, wines such as these all seem to have at least another 20-30 years of life. Some of the wines, such as the two vintages of Mouton Rothschild, as well as Pétrus and probably Lafite, have the potential to last another 4-5 decades ... at the minimum.

Finally, the 1966 Quinta do Noval Nacional was fully mature, very sweet, with aromatic fireworks to die for. It may have lacked a bit of concentration on the palate, but it is a beautiful, elegant port at the top of its game.

This was quite a night, and a resounding victory for the greatness as well as singularity of the finest 1982 Bordeaux.

P.S. My cooking, if I dare say, was in fine form.

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