Leoville, Pichon, Mouton (long)

By Ray Isle Posted June 19, 2007

An article about Baroness Philippine de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild defending the ever-escalating prices of classed growth Bordeaux on Decanter's website today brought to mind my final hour at the F&W Classic in Aspen this year. I had the great good fortune to sit in on Sunday's reserve tasting of 1982 Bordeaux, or at least part of it—essentially I dashed from my own seminar to the 1982 tasting, left the tasting with twenty minutes to go and dashed to my hotel room, and then zoomed off to the airport, and thence to NYC. 

The lineup included—perhaps you ought to sit down, if you're a Bordeaux fanatic—the 1982 Pavie, 1982 Cos d'Estournel, 1982 Gruaud-Larose, 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou, 1982 Leoville-Las Cases, 1982 Pichon-Lalande, and 1982 Mouton-Rothschild.

After tasting them all and pondering them for some time, I can report that they are all good.

Just kidding. They were a whole host of things, of course. For me, the two underperformers were the Pavie, which had lost most of its fruit and resolved into an austere, tobacco-weedy shadow, and the Ducru-Beaucaillou, which while interesting—orange pekoe tea and leather in the nose, reserved currant flavors and drying tannins in the mouth—seemed to be on the downhill side.

On the other hand, Cos d'Estournel was impressive, with Asian spice notes (cumin, too), sweet, long cassis and currant flavors, and a kind of regal structure, as was Gruaud-Larose—particularly impressive, intensely aromatic with peppercorn, cedar and resinous notes and then tart cherry and currant fruit with fine, firm tannins on the end.

The three best, though—and this is not really a surprise—were Leoville, Pichon-Lalande and Mouton. For my money (as if), the Mouton was the least impressive of these (it was somewhat controversial among the panel, too). While extraordinarily opulent with its deep cassis fruit, with an intriguing mint overtone, it also seemed a bit disjointed at the end, overly tangy, and somehow, taken all together, less than profound. The same, of course, could be said of me, so perhaps I'm not the one to judge...

Anyway, any weaknesses in the Mouton were more than made up for by the Leoville-Las Cases and the Pichon. They couldn't have been more different, with the Las Cases so seamless and elegant (gorgeous aroma of tobacco, cigar box, flowers, plums; pure plum-black cherry fruit laced with dark chocolate notes) and the Pichon extravagant and truly exotic (spicy red currants, green tobacco, and cedar notes in the aroma, velvety but firm tannins, and intense savory flavors of red currant, red cherries and herbs). It seemed stupid to decide between them—like having to decide between Catherine Deneuve and Ingrid Bergman. 

And in case you’re interested, at the June 2nd Hart Davis Hart auction the Gruaud Larose sold for $275, as did the Ducru; the Pichon-Lalande for $550; the Leoville for $585 and the Mouton for $1,000. Whoof! Ouch. What did I just do, bang my fingers with a hammer?

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