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1982 versus 1990 Bordeaux

When you receive an invitation to a comparative tasting of all Premier Crus from the two great vintages of 1982 and 1990, you drop everything and clear your diary. 1982 and 1990 represent the beginning and end of perhaps the greatest era in the history of Bordeaux. During these nine years there were only two vintages that could be seen as disappointments: 1984 and 1987. It could rightly be stated that the period from 1945 to 1953 produced similarly great wines; this is true for the top wines, but the overall quality reached new heights during the 1980s.

1982 was a milestone for the Bordeaux trade, coming as it did after the difficult decade of the 1970s, which was marked by the Bordeaux crisis, and the ensuing collapse of the 1972 bubble, the oil crisis and rapid inflation. On top of this there were a series of disappointing vintages.The financial markets had stabilised by the time the 1982 wines were offered in the spring of 1983, and by this time there was a large new group of potential wine buyers. There had been an influx of new magazines about wine and good living, and the public was ready to spend money. The American Dollar was high against a weak French Franc and, most of all, the wines were spectacular.

There were several reasons for this.

An early, even flowering, a warm but unspectacular summer and an exceptionally hot period during the end of August and the first half of September. It was this heat that made it possible for the record harvest to not only to fully ripen, but also to concentrate the fruit.  The harvest started on September 14 and was finished before heavy rains commenced on October 2. Another reason for the success of the vintage was that most châteaux had invested in their cellars and were able to work such a large and hot harvest. It was now possible to control the fermentation temperatures better than in earlier hot vintages, such as 1947. The grapes produced wines with such high natural alcohol that chaptalization became unnecessary. They showed deep colour, high and unusually soft tannin levels and a better acidity than first thought, as well as great fruit concentration. The media hype was great, particularly thanks to the advent of new wine magazines - this was the vintage that cemented Robert Parker’s reputation. The prices rose rapidly and have not looked back since. I remember all Premier Crus (including Pétrus) being offered to end consumers for around 50 euros en-primeur in 1983.

The scene when the 1990 vintage came along was quite different. There was a surplus of very good to great wine on the market – for the first time there was talk of three great vintages following one another. This lead to most châteaux lowering their prices by about 20 per cent compared to their 1989 prices, even though the quality was outstanding. There had been a steady increase in prices during the 1980s, but they were now more or less back to the opening prices of the 1982s. It was again a record harvest, but because most châteaux had by now introduced a ‘second wine’ and due to the fact they were more selective with regards to quality, there was actually less wine being bottled as ‘Grand Vin’ than in 1982.

We have been following both these vintages from a comparatively early age, as they were both precocious and easy to drink from the start. The top wines from both vintages are spectacular, but the overall quality is much higher in 1990. Here the wines were equally successful on both sides of the river, and even minor châteaux produced something special. We have always found most 1982s from the right bank to be too alcoholic and lacking in structure; indeed many are now ageing rapidly.

So, which vintage would claim victory?

It was easy in the case of Château Mouton Rothschild to pick the winner, given their 1990 has always been the disappointment of the vintage. It is now maturing rapidly and should be drunk or, even better, sold to someone who only cares for the name on the label. The 1982, on the other hand, was always seen as one of the stars of the vintage. Deep coloured with a great concentration of up-front fruit. Good, fresh acidity and a long finish. The only thing that worries me a little is the massive amount of tannins still present.

The 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild is a lovely and charming wine, full of warmth and style. A classic, elegant Lafite. It is ready to drink now and will bring pleasure for some time to come. The 1982 Lafite is ‘The Superstar’ in the eyes of the Chinese and this has led to the wine reaching new record prices at every auction in Hong Kong and beyond. The wine is very good – more concentrated than the 1990 and still very youthful.  We would call this a draw.

1990 Château Haut Brion is one of our favourite wines – a heady nose of tobacco, spices and leather. Lovely, soft fruit and ready to drink now, but don’t be fooled – this will age forever, just like the 1959 and 1961 Haut Brions. The 1982 Haut Brion is also a beautiful, charming wine, offering great drinking pleasure, but it does not quite have the exotic charm of the 1990. 

Drink soon as we don’t see it improving with age. Victory for 1990.

The bottle of 1990 Château Margaux was not a good bottle; the wine had a mature colour and lacked the usual structure and freshness. This is normally a good, soft wine, so we assume that this bottle had been stored under conditions that were too warm. The 1982 was also now quite mature with soft fruit and needs drinking soon. In this case it is a win for the 1982, although normally we would call it a draw.

Château Latour is usually the wine that needs the longest of all the Premier Crus to show its true class. 1990 was unusually soft and not at all typical of a Latour at an early age. It is a very good wine with soft tannins and great balance. Château Latour produced, for me, the greatest of all 1982s. A fantastic, mind-blowing wine, which combined the classic Pauillac style and backbone with spectacularly concentrated and sensuous fruit. It was joy to drink now and will continue to be so for the next hundred years. Another win for 1982.

Both 1990 and 1982 Château Ausone showed mature colour, nose and fruit.Both were quite pleasant to drink but not really up to Premier Cru standard in either vintage. A draw.

We have often given the 1990 Château Cheval Blanc a perfect score in blind tastings, as this is one of the most hedonistic wines we have ever had the pleasure to drink. We have compared it to Sophia Loren in the 1960s – soft, round, voluptuous, sexy and not a hard edge anywhere in sight. This is the uncrowned successor to Cheval Blanc’s legendary 1947. 

We have, on the other hand, never quite understood the constant raving about Cheval Blanc’s 1982. A very overrated wine for us – too alcoholic and overripe. In fact, it is always lacking the structure necessary to be really good. Not bad, but certainly nowhere as good as its reputation. A clear victory for 1990.

1990 Château Pétrus is a fabulous monument of a wine. Indeed, it displays the deepest colour of all. Still quite closed, but a giant waiting to come out and blow us all away. Very, very long finish. A great wine! The 1982 Pétrus is a wine with a fantastic reputation that, similar to the Cheval Blanc, has never really impressed me. Soft, mature and attractive but lacking the structure of a great wine. Another clear victory for 1990.

The luncheon was rounded off in style with Château d'Yquem from both vintages. 1982 was a difficult vintage for Sauternes, being caught as it did by the copious rains of October. Lightweight and really not very good. The 1990 is an opulent, soft and forward Yquem. Attractive and ready to drink now. 1990 prevails again.

All in all a wonderful afternoon with marvellous wines where, in our eyes, this time 1990 showed itself to be the more complete vintage.

by Tb


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The Story

Drinking Pétrus may be an unforgettable experience. We has been lucky to have the opportunity to taste most of its great vintages. That is why wine enthusiasts often come to us for advice. First, WeI advise you to choose a good vintage, an excellent one if your wallet allows. If you taste a poor vintage, you will notice how it raises above most other wines of the same vintage, but you will miss the actual point of Pétrus.

Second, purchase wine that is at least 10 to 20 years old, because a young Pétrus is difficult to approach, besides which oak and tannins predominate in its taste. Young Pétrus may be impressive, but it ages fantastically and requires more time than any other Pomerol wine to reach its culmination. Finally, We would advise you to decant the wine with care and well in advance, and also to give it time to develop in the glass. Then you will have the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable experience.



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Vintage 1982

The vineyard of Pétrus is very small, only just over 11 hectares and the château is a small unspectacular building. This is typical for Pomerol. Whereas the top properties in Médoc were owned by nobility, wealthy financiers and powerful wine merchants who enlarged their vineyards over centuries adding impressive mansions to match the reputation of the wines and their owners, the typical properties in Pomerol were much smaller and owned by local families living and farming the wines themselves.
The phenomenal rise in reputation of the wines of Pétrus and its prices is quite recent –it did not obtain higher prices than a second or third growth from Médoc until the 1960s . It was the 1982 vintage that really set the prices for Pétrus soaring – in the spring of 1983 it was sold at the same price as the premier crus but only a year later it was traded at more than twice the price of these. It now sells at about four times that of Mouton or Cheval Blanc – two of the superstars of the vintage.


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Average Bottle Price

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2005 2000 1995
2 450€ -15.2% 2 890€ -12.2% 3 290€ -5.9% 3 498€ -12.7% 4 008€ +2.9% 3 894€ +0.1% 3 890€ +2.6% 3 790€ +116.6% 1 750€ +41.8% 1 234€ +25.9% 980€

This data comes from the FINE Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions in 20 countries. The average prices from each year have been collected since 1990. This chart plots the index value of the average price of the wines.

Latest Pro-tasting notes

46 tasting notes

Tasting note


Deep, Ruby red and Bright


Long, Lingering, Gentle and Sharp


Blackberry, Mint, Violet, Cedar, Mineral and Earthy


Complex, Ripe, Seductive and Intense




High in Acidity, Warming, Medium tannin, Complex, Well-structured, Concentrated, Youthful, Medium-bodied, Rich, Focused, Vigor, Dry and Silky tannins


Impressive and Masterpiece

Written Notes

lexander The Great noted ‘charcuterie’ in the meaty 1982 Petrus. There were lots of green olives as well in this open and gamy Petrus. Someone remarked this was ‘a perfect bottle of 1982,’ and it was similar to the 1980 with its openness. Free love, man, I told you Bordeaux only gets interesting 1982 and older! This was more serious than the ’80, and its palate was lush, tender, soft, delicious and gamy. The Mogul found this was in a ‘sweet spot’ and that ‘it melts in your mouth.’ More olive flavors emerged, and this certainly felt like a great time to be drinking this wine. I still think that while outstanding, it will always be in the second-tier of great Petrusés
  • 95p

Both Petrus and Lafleur in this vintage were made by Christian Moueix and Jean-Claude Berrouet, and the two wines showcase their typicity, brilliantly. We had a beautiful bouquet of plums, truffles, tobacco and some floral spices. Lush, tender, so sensually delightful, soft tannins with such sweet enticing fruit past the mid palate. The finish displays stratum of fairly lush appeal, but the essential elegance still shines through. This is sheer joy in a glass. 97 Points

  • 97p

I know the astronomical prices this wine has fetched at auction, but I tried very hard to put that out of mind when tasting. It was dense and well colored in the glass. The wine offered a superb nose of cassis with earth, mineral and smoke notes. Lush and ripe on the palate, lots of plummy-berry fruit. Long and lovely finish, very rich and flavorful. I liked every element of the wine, but if you were waiting to be bowled over, it’s not gonna happen; the wine is just too mature and laid back for that. This was a wine to linger over, contemplate and savor. Some of my table mates thought it good-not great, but the legendary collector’s status had expectations so sky high, I’m not sure any wine could have met them. On balance, I thought it very, very nice and scored it a 95. Parker downgraded the wine slightly from the 100 points he awarded upon release. At his last tasting, he scored it a 98.

  • 95p
Deep ruby-brick red colour showing some development. The nose is more welcoming and open than the nose of the 1985. Soft, spicy, rich and complex. Earthy and plumy with bell pepper and savoury notes. Voluptuous mouth-feel with a muscular body and tight back bone. Long and round yet refreshing. Drinking wonderfully today but there is no hurry. 2020-2025.
  • 95p



Bordeaux, Pomerol

Vintage Quality


Value For Money


Investment potential


Fake factory


Glass time


Drinking temperature


Inside Information

Wine Advocate #183
Jun 2009
Robert M. Parker, Jr. 93 Drink: 2009 - 2024 $4015-$8000
Given what I thought this wine would achieve, the 1982 Petrus has not turned out to be nearly as profound as expected. It reveals a certain herbaceousness, and there is significantly less concentration than I initially believed (too much filtration?) along with a cedary spiciness. Tasters who have had no previous experience with this wine will find it to be an outstanding effort that has reached full maturity much faster than some of its peers. It is capable of lasting a long time, but there is an underlying vegetal character, and the 1982 is far less concentrated than the vintages of Petrus that have been produced since 1989. I believe this wine is fully mature, and is capable of lasting another 10-15 years, but it is unlikely to improve. Release price: ($600.00/case)
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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Pétrus 1982  ( Château Pétrus )

"The Pétrus 1982 - very closed and "average" at the moment"

6y 1m ago

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Pétrus 1982  ( Château Pétrus )

"15 wines of the greatest Bordeaux vintage of the new era 1982 tasted, not impressed - is it me or the glasses that are not working"

6y 3m ago

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