1982 Château Léoville-Barton

Writing about this wine is difficult, because it isn’t really my place to write about it. This wine, as my dad says, marks the end of his youth, a phase in life that somewhat cripples me for wine critiquing as I’ve no perspective to look back on it for the moment, looking forward as we speak. At 21, I lack the perspective of age but carry the potential of years to come, so my thoughts on this wine are, as always, tainted by my youthful exuberance and inexperience. Regardless, enjoy.Dad bought this when it was an easy $106- a case, that is. Nothing I say about the ’82 Bordeaux will revolutionize the vintage or change your opinion. It’s a highly regarded, controversial, head-turner of a vintage, the likes of which I hope to taste in its entirety. The 1982 Leoville Barton has a great smell. As an amateur, I immediately smelled the graphite and spice of sharpened Ticonderoga pencils on the nose and shouted into the kitchen, “Dad, is this Lafiiiiiiiiite?” In fact, this was served to us without its label, adding to the intrigue as we sipped.
The Barton carries a stately, if subdued nose, with musty leather book bindings floating around on top seceding to a fresh potting soil and bittersweet chocolate nose. Aging doesn’t wear it down completely but there are signs that the old girl isn’t what she used to be- most notably the brown tinge around the rim and a distinct and pervasive scent of wet leaves, which we later identified as a slight, slight essence of cork rot. A real bummer as this wine pushes 30 in a month. It’s a tannic son of a bitch, with an initial fruity, somewhat meaty pull on the tongue and a surprisingly vibrant rush of acidity and a sweet, but austere finish of raspberries and dirt. What seems quick lingers for a while with a very rounded, metallic aftertaste.While this was certainly not a bad wine, we could all feel the queer solemnity of tasting this just past its prime. The sepulchral flavors and scents only added to its haunting flavor. The flavors and textures had quieted down and while dignified, this just lacked the enthusiasm that I’d have expected from not only its vintage, but its varietal. In reading about Leoville Barton wines I typically hear that the best are shocking and bold, two aspects that really didn’t show in this particular wine at this time, but in retrospect, it’s easy to see that the wine hints at an illustrious past.
It’s delicious. It’s certainly not bad, but after hearing quite a good deal of hype about the ’82, I’d have rather consumed it earlier rather than later while it had the potential of youth, instead of the flaws of age. The cork rot really seals the deal for me. The mustiness that I expected to enjoy in a comforting, nostalgic sense, was a hair too overwhelming. Perhaps having a wine of this caliber at this age is best understated, for it leaves room to grow and enjoy rather than consume many more that fall in the shadow of greatness. For my father, a sad ending to a noble year, but for me, the mystery and potential of other ’82 Bordeaux awaits my nascent palate.

Château Léoville-Barton
MSRP $249
89/100

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About Jess
Rotten? Perhaps. Sweet? Without a doubt. Welcome to Nobly Rotten- the wine site that dares to be a little off.

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