The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage

If a year marked a new age for Bordeaux wine, it was 1982. Wines produced this year took the wine industry by storm due to their fantastic quality. The wine was like no other produced after the second world war. The year’s harvest was historic, ushering in the modern era of Bordeaux wines. Only in 1961 were wines of almost similar consistency produced.

The 1982 Bordeaux vintage has been compared to the 1945 vintage, which earned itself acclaim for its quality. The French have always compared wine vintages before and after the war. Vintages at the end of the war are considered good and those before the war bad. For instance, in the second world war, the 1939 vintage was bad while the 1945 vintage was the best. However, the 1982 vintage was historic and has been one of the most revered vintages in the world to date.

The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage, The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage

Figure 1: Bordeaux wine: chateau la commanderie 1985, pomerol by Thierry Llansades

The vintage experienced a golden period from plantation to wine production. The vintage vines flowered during the summer, the perfect period. The 1945 vintage vines also flowered in the summer marking the importance of summer flowering in producing high-quality wines. The conditions surrounding the vintage were near perfect, producing pitch-perfect red wines. The 1982 vintage offered elegant wines never experienced since the 1961 vintage.[1]

The 1982 vintage harvest started on September 13, 1982, with ideal harvesting weather conditions. Winegrowers were delighted to harvest large quantities of grapes in these conditions, except for sauternes which were affected by torrential rains on the last two days of the month. Most of Bordeaux’s red wines were top-notch except for Graves and Margaux, which were affected by heat due to light soils. The region’s 1982 vintage success was reflected in the large harvest and high prices of the vintage collected in the market.

The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage, The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage

Figure 2: Chateau Gloria St. Julien 1982 by Ethan Palenchar

Significance & Cult Wines

The 1982 Bordeaux vintage has been associated with the rise of the modern wine age. While there were other vintage reclaims, such as the 1959 and the 1961 vintages, the 1982 vintage is historic and legendary. One could argue that its reception set up the modern wine industry. After the 1982 Bordeaux vintage, other great vintages followed in 1983, ’85, ’89, and ’90.[2] These vintages also alleviated Bordeaux’s standing in the world wine industry. The rising prices the 1982 Bordeaux vintage commanded led to the introduction of ‘cult’ wines.

The year thus grounded the ‘cult’ mentality in the wine industry.[3] Cult wines have since been the most sought yet rare to find. The 1982 vintage is considered to have ended the old wine era while introducing the modern era. The vintage built a reputation for Robert Parker, a revered wine critic, and changed the dynamics across the world as many regions sought to please him through his wine rating technique. Besides, the 1982 Bordeaux vintage disrupted the region’s wine dynamics as the less desired Pomerol wine rose to prominence compared to the 1855 Classified Growths.

Robert M. Parker

Robert Parker is an acclaimed wine critic whose fame dates back to Bordeaux’s 1982 vintage. Parker praised Bordeaux’s 1982 vintage wines leading to his and the wines’ rise to prominence; he published the “Wine Advocate” newsletter, where he critiqued these wines, drawing the world’s attention. Parker worked as a lawyer for ten years before switching entirely to the wine industry in 1884. One of his most significant contributions to the wine industry is developing the wine rating he used on the 1982 Bordeaux vintage. The rating ranges between 50 and 100, with 50 being unacceptable and 100 extraordinary.

Other Regions

The 1982 success was not only experienced in Bordeaux but also in other regions of France and the world. While Bordeaux experienced a legendary year, other regions also experienced great vintages, such as Champagne. However, other regions, such as Alsace, Beaujolais, and Burgundy, harvested average vintages. The effect of the harvest was also felt in other parts of Europe, including Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Spain’s 1982 vintage, for instance, was extraordinary.

Like France, some places, such as Austria and Germany, were also average.[4] In the United States, there were mixed outcomes, with a few regions producing outstanding vintages. Other countries that experienced legendary vintages in 1982 include South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Generally, many great vintages were produced in 1982, making the year historical; it has since been referred to as a legendary year.

The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage Today

The 1982 Bordeaux harvest is considered legendary and extraordinary. Its legacy lives on today as its wines are revered and command high prices in the market. These wines are rarely accessible and maintain consistency in taste and enjoyment. As a result, the 1982 Bordeaux vintage has become a luxury due to its high prices that cut off most wine consumers. See more articles here

This Day in Wine History

July 23, 1947 – On this day, Robert McDowell Parker was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Parker is a famous wine critic whose review of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage mapped it on the world’s wine industry. Parker, a lawyer by training, started his wine business by publishing a wine newsletter where he focused on Bordeaux’s 1982 vintage. The “Wine Advocate” newsletter gained accolades and started being widely distributed in the wine trade. Parker had a unique rating style, rating wines on a scale of 50 to 100.

Besides, he used a rich vocabulary and rated wines based on style. “Suddenly, wines were jammy or leathery; they tasted of herbs, olives, cherries, and cigar boxes.”[5] Parker’s wine rating was that no wine was rated below 50. Most wines between 50 and 70 were considered average. Wines had to score above 80 to warrant serious attention. Parker’s attention to the 1982 Bordeaux vintage and his “Wine Advocate” newsletter contributed significantly to the wine industry. Modern wine rating companies have adopted the rating method, albeit with a few modifications.

December 24, 1947 – Michel Rolland was born in Libourne to a winemaking family on this day.[6] He grew up in the family estate, learning and involving himself in wine activities. Rolland has made several contributions to the wine industry, including mapping Bordeaux in the global market. Rolland has gained vast experience in winemaking and viticulture and consults for 13 organizations worldwide. The 1982 Bordeaux Vintage has been credited as his breeding ground setting him as one of the world’s most influential people in the wine industry. He has devoted his life to helping other people make outstanding wines and runs a revered laboratory in Bordeaux.

September 13, 1982 – The harvest of the 1982 Vintage grapes started in Bordeaux on this day. Coincidentally, it is the same date that the harvest for the 1945 vintage started. The gravest took place in the favorable September sunny weather. The weather has been likened to 1989 and 2005, during which great vintages were also produced. Due to ideal weather, the 1982 Bordeaux harvest was one of the largest concerning quality grapes. Most of the wines produced from this harvest experienced success in the market and continue to attract high prices in the modern wine market. These wines were stunningly rich, with tannin, opulence, ripe fruit, and complexity essential for longevity. Besides, during this year, several other locations experienced success in their vintages that are considered legendary and extraordinary in wine history.

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Reference

  1. Robert M. Parker and Jr, “WINES 1982: It Was a Very Good Year,” Washington Post, December 29, 1982, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/food/1982/12/29/wines-1982-it-was-a-very-good-year/381d56d7-4943-4f64-a296-e667f9bc317d/.
  2. Parker and Jr, p. 1
  3. Oz Clarke, History of Wine in 100 Bottles – from Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond. (Pavilion Books, 2015).
  4. Wine-Searcher Editorial, “1982 Wine Vintage Report, Bordeaux | Vintage Wines & Spirits,” Wine-Searcher, December 11, 2020, https://www.wine-searcher.com/vintage-1982-bordeaux.
  5. Ian Tattersall, Rob Desalle, and Patricia Wynne, A Natural History of Wine (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).
  6. Wine Spectator, “Michel Rolland | Leaders of Wine | Wine Spectator’s 40th Anniversary,” Wine Spectator, 2016, https://www.winespectator.com/anniversary/leaders/id/michel-rolland.

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