1981 Help!

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Jeff L
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1981 Help!

#1 Post by Jeff L » October 17th, 2020, 5:00 pm

Hoping the wisdom of this board can help me with my brothers birth year wine for his 40th next year. I’ve done some historical searches and it appears 1981 wasn't particular special for bordeaux but are there any outliers? Would spend as high as $1k for something special. I’m open to anything we just normally drink Napa or Bordeaux.

Also, any specific recommendation where to buy? It’s hard to buy a bottle with such age online...

Appreciate all the suggestions in advance! champagne.gif
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Tomás Costa
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Re: 1981 Help!

#2 Post by Tomás Costa » October 17th, 2020, 5:24 pm

My very first thought was Madeira... Maybe Blandy's Malmsey, or D'Oliveira Sercial or Verdelho. Both well south of 1k.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#3 Post by Jud Reis » October 17th, 2020, 5:24 pm

I think you can find Vega Sicilia Unica for less than a grand and that should be spectacular. I would also look for some López De Heredia from that year. As always, provenance is key.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#4 Post by John Chapman » October 17th, 2020, 5:32 pm

Was just posting on the 81 Unico as well. Excellent wine. A couple of bottles in the US for $900-1000, but with patience and checking auctions and retailers you could possibly find better.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#5 Post by lleichtman » October 17th, 2020, 5:34 pm

Jud Reis wrote:
October 17th, 2020, 5:24 pm
I think you can find Vega Sicilia Unica for less than a grand and that should be spectacular. I would also look for some López De Heredia from that year. As always, provenance is key.
The LDH from 81 is superb. I would highly recommend it but finding it may be a bit expensive. Wine searcher shows it at $311-350.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#6 Post by RyanC » October 17th, 2020, 6:08 pm

Rioja. LDH is great—I really love the Bosconia GR—but there’s significant bottle variation.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#7 Post by Kris Patten » October 17th, 2020, 6:18 pm

Maybe Grange...well stored.

Outside of that I'd probably be on lookout for magnums to reduce risk and/or German Riesling.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#8 Post by maureen nelson » October 17th, 2020, 7:12 pm

Ditto Grange. Opened a bottle 2.5 years ago for my nephew’s bday and it had bags of life. Of course, I had purchased it Upon release (from david schildknect at pearson’s) and properly stored it so that helped.

I gave my nephew the other bottle I owned.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#9 Post by ericskitei » October 17th, 2020, 7:35 pm

81' baby here. Always a struggle to find solid Birth Year stuff. I've found that Rioja is a really good option. Hit and miss on Bordeaux, Old Napa Cab can be surprisingly great. Diamond Creek & Dunn HM can kick butt. Had an 81' DHM last year with some friends on the board and it was arguably the WOTN and there were some killer bottles that night.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#10 Post by Joel Deutsch » October 17th, 2020, 8:15 pm

81 Cheval Blanc really nice wine.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#11 Post by jrozes » October 17th, 2020, 8:29 pm

Pegau
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Re: 1981 Help!

#12 Post by John Morris » October 17th, 2020, 9:02 pm

Ch. Beaucastel '81 was a great wine. Also Ch. Gruaud-Larose '81 was very good. No idea how either is doing now, but I'd guess that well-stored bottles are still a pleasure.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#13 Post by Keith Levenberg » October 17th, 2020, 9:47 pm

Bosconia

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Re: 1981 Help!

#14 Post by jordan jacobs » October 17th, 2020, 10:27 pm

Ditto on the 81 Dunn HM. Great wine. For Bordeaux 81 Haut Brion and LMHB were good but that was 10 years ago since I had them.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#15 Post by Craig G » October 17th, 2020, 11:08 pm

It was actually a pretty good vintage in Bordeaux but tends to be lighter than the best years of the 80’s. I just opened a 1981 La Conseillante tonight and it’s an excellent, Burgundian styled wine. In the recent past, I’ve also enjoyed both Pichons, Haut Bailly, and Gruaud Larose. Farther back, Cheval Blanc, Margaux and La Mission were all very good.

Great vintage in Chateauneuf du Pape, though hard to find now.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#16 Post by HenryB » October 18th, 2020, 1:04 am

as someone born in a basically uniformly terrible year for wine, i personally prefer a decent bottle frmo a decent year than a top producer in a bad year's best effort
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Re: 1981 Help!

#17 Post by Robert Sand » October 18th, 2020, 1:26 am

Chateauneuf du Pape, even minor wines are stiĺl good

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Re: 1981 Help!

#18 Post by Jeff L » October 18th, 2020, 6:23 am

Thanks for all the ideas! Many bottles I haven’t heard of so I’ve got homework.

Much appreciated.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#19 Post by Marshall Manning » October 18th, 2020, 8:58 am

Vieux Telegraphe Rouge.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#20 Post by ybarselah » October 18th, 2020, 9:20 am

1981 Heitz Martha's is stunning.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#21 Post by Mel Knox » October 18th, 2020, 10:00 am

This was a very good vintage in Bordeaux if overshadowed by 82. Ducru and las cases are not expensive.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#22 Post by Arv R » October 18th, 2020, 12:21 pm

1981 was a declared vintage year for Taylors, and I've gone through almost a case of that. It's a solid citizen but needs decanting for the heat to dissipate. Most port shippers didn't declare that year though.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#23 Post by Scott Jameson » October 18th, 2020, 12:27 pm

We were married in 1981 and have regularly celebrated with a California Cabernet. In recent years we've enjoyed some of those mentioned, such as Dunn HM, the Diamond Creeks, and the Heitz Martha's Vineyard. Others that have shown well include Mayacamas, Heitz Bella Oaks, Caymus - both Special Selection and Grace Family, as well as less likely suspects such as Hanzell and Ridge York Creek. Note that we've had mixed results with Monte Bello. Some bottles have been fine while others, from the same case, have offered green, stewed tomato, veggie flavors.

I don't know where you're located, but I'd look at Benchmark and K&L as possible sources. Both regularly deal in older wines and understand provenance. Neither are the cheapest (usually) but I've dealt with both over the years and have been pleased.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#24 Post by Jerry Hey » October 18th, 2020, 3:36 pm

'81 Margaux is good.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#25 Post by Chris Kravitz » October 19th, 2020, 7:41 am

Another vote for 81 Unico, this was served to me blind at an 81 Bordeaux dinner where it outperformed everything by a huge margin. I used to LOVE 81 PLL but its best days are behind it.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#26 Post by R. Frankel » October 19th, 2020, 7:51 am

Plenty of good suggestions here, but what does the birthday boy like? You’ve got some good variety among reds, sweeties, or port.

A quick look at K&L and Winebid show lots of choices easily available. Want a few bottles of Pichon Comtesse? It’s there.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#27 Post by Matt Latuchie » October 19th, 2020, 8:07 am

'81 birth year here too. Here are a couple favorites of mine:

Gruaud Larose
BV Latour
La Mission
Palmer
Musar
Montrose
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Re: 1981 Help!

#28 Post by David Kaufman » October 19th, 2020, 8:18 am

I too am '81 and appreciate these suggestions. Question on the LDH recommendations - looking up on CT I see many different versions of the 1981s. I assume the reccos are for the Gran Reserva, but there appears to be multiples of that too. What is the difference b/w the Bosconia and Tondonia? Is one better that the other?

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Re: 1981 Help!

#29 Post by Greg K » October 19th, 2020, 9:54 am

Chris Kravitz wrote:
October 19th, 2020, 7:41 am
Another vote for 81 Unico, this was served to me blind at an 81 Bordeaux dinner where it outperformed everything by a huge margin. I used to LOVE 81 PLL but its best days are behind it.
I’ve had a few recently, and I think the 81 PLL is still in a pretty good place.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#30 Post by Jayson Cohen » October 19th, 2020, 10:41 am

The best Bordeaux I’ve had from ‘81 is probably Haut Brion among a few dozen others, but I don’t recall trying the other First Growths or Ausone/Petrus.

But it really was a killer vintage in Rioja as others have mentioned. Gran Reservas from Lopez de Heredia (reds and Tondonia Blanco) and CVNE are outstanding. For CVNE, it was maybe the last great Viña Real Gran Reserva. Fabulous wine.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#31 Post by Charlie Carnes » October 19th, 2020, 11:57 am

Robert Sand wrote:
October 18th, 2020, 1:26 am
Chateauneuf du Pape, even minor wines are stiĺl good
Clos du papes was/is amazing!
So shines a good deed in a weary world!

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Re: 1981 Help!

#32 Post by Mark Thompson » October 19th, 2020, 3:21 pm

Best 1981 Bordeaux wines for me all from the last year in rough descending order (falling from mid 90’s for the HB to maybe 89 for the Branaire): Haut Brion, Conseillante, Magdelaine, Ducru, PLL, Margaux (good but handily beat by the HB in the same week), Branaire. Gruaud and Talbot were both great a few years ago if you like the “funk”.

Mayacamas Cab really good recently as well. LdH Gran Reserva great about a year ago.

So mostly reinforcing previously mentioned wines, but hopefully it helps that these are almost all very recent check-ins.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#33 Post by Vince T » October 19th, 2020, 5:53 pm

The LdH Tondonia GR blanco is great as well. If you like the style, $1000 should be enough to get the whole trifecta of Tondonia GR red, white and Bosconia GR. That sounds pretty great to me.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#34 Post by Patrick T a y l o r » October 19th, 2020, 8:14 pm

The other way to look at it is to get a bottle the year your brother turned 21.

On Winebid, the 2002 Harlan Estate is looking pretty good, among other things.

https://www.winebid.com/BuyWine/Items/2 ... Descending
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Re: 1981 Help!

#35 Post by Keith Levenberg » October 19th, 2020, 8:52 pm

David Kaufman wrote:
October 19th, 2020, 8:18 am
I too am '81 and appreciate these suggestions. Question on the LDH recommendations - looking up on CT I see many different versions of the 1981s. I assume the reccos are for the Gran Reserva, but there appears to be multiples of that too. What is the difference b/w the Bosconia and Tondonia? Is one better that the other?
No, it's just a style difference. Bosconia is the one in the Burgundy bottle and Tondonia is the one in the Bordeaux bottle, which is a pretty good shorthand for the difference.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#36 Post by Mark Henderson » October 20th, 2020, 2:02 am

I'd also join the chorus suggesting the Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco or Tinto. It has been a long time since I last tried either, but knowing their track record I would imagine them still to be drinking well.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#37 Post by Mark Henderson » October 20th, 2020, 2:13 am

Another thought could be the Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha. Since the inaugural 1952 release there have been fewer than 20 releases of Barca Velha: years not deemed of sufficient quality are released as Casa Ferreirinha Reserva Especial. They released a 1981. I opened a 1991 late last year and it was in stunningly good form. Decanter magazine tasted the '81 a while back but I don't have Decanter Premium to look at the review though Sarah Ahmed of the Wine Detective website (a Portugese specialist) reviewed the 1981 back in 2016. https://thewinedetective.co.uk/blog/new ... velha-1981

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Re: 1981 Help!

#38 Post by Andy Sc » October 20th, 2020, 2:50 am

Best wines with at least 5 reviews on Cellartracker (from at least 5 different users):

Red Wines
1) DRC La Tache
2) La Rioja Alta Gran Reserve 904
3) Bodegas y Vinedos del Contino Rioja Contion Reserva
4) Guigal Hermitage
5) Vega Sicila Unico
6) Penfolds Grange
7) Beaucastel CDP
8) Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva
9) Guigal La Mouline
10) Heredia Gran Reserva Tondonia
11) CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva

Rioja seems to be the budget friendly way.
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Re: 1981 Help!

#39 Post by Robert Sand » October 20th, 2020, 4:00 am

Andy Sc wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 2:50 am
Best wines with at least 5 reviews on Cellartracker (from at least 5 different users):

Red Wines
1) DRC La Tache
2) La Rioja Alta Gran Reserve 904
3) Bodegas y Vinedos del Contino Rioja Contion Reserva
4) Guigal Hermitage
5) Vega Sicila Unico
6) Penfolds Grange
7) Beaucastel CDP
8) Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva
9) Guigal La Mouline
10) Heredia Gran Reserva Tondonia
11) CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva

Rioja seems to be the budget friendly way.
This is good proof that group or community ratings are problematic.
La Tache 81 is good but far from exciting and not worth the bucks. But I had it 15 years ago, might not have improved.
Only one CdP is a clear failure.
Some good Bordeaux are missing like PL, Gruaud-L, Las-Cases ... and Sauternes !

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Re: 1981 Help!

#40 Post by Jay Opperman » October 20th, 2020, 4:04 am

La Mouline and La Landonne are still in their prime!

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Re: 1981 Help!

#41 Post by Andy Sc » October 20th, 2020, 4:36 am

Robert Sand wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:00 am
This is good proof that group or community ratings are problematic.
La Tache 81 is good but far from exciting and not worth the bucks. But I had it 15 years ago, might not have improved.
Only one CdP is a clear failure.
Some good Bordeaux are missing like PL, Gruaud-L, Las-Cases ... and Sauternes !
Tell your 15 year old La Tache story to Keith Levenberg, Burgundy Al and DCWino (kshin here on Bersekers) who had it in the past 4 years and scored it 97, 93 and 97 (combined number of DRC bottles consumed and reviewed on CT of the three guys stands at 727 across all bottlings and vintages, so even though I hadn't had the 81 one myself, you must understand that I would trust these guys reviews a tad more than your experience more than a decade ago).

Re you're Bordeaux names: Bordeaux had indeed a few good wines. On Cellartracker there are 28 wines with average ratings of 90 to 93 and Pichon Lalande (#14), Gruaud Larose (#23) and Las Cases (#25) are indeed among them. Sauternes is good too (my list above was red wines only - as labeled).
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Re: 1981 Help!

#42 Post by Vince T » October 20th, 2020, 5:16 am

Andy Sc wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:36 am
Robert Sand wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:00 am
This is good proof that group or community ratings are problematic.
La Tache 81 is good but far from exciting and not worth the bucks. But I had it 15 years ago, might not have improved.
Only one CdP is a clear failure.
Some good Bordeaux are missing like PL, Gruaud-L, Las-Cases ... and Sauternes !
Tell your 15 year old La Tache story to Keith Levenberg, Burgundy Al and DCWino (kshin here on Bersekers) who had it in the past 4 years and scored it 97, 93 and 97 (combined number of DRC bottles consumed and reviewed on CT of the three guys stands at 727 across all bottlings and vintages, so even though I hadn't had the 81 one myself, you must understand that I would trust these guys reviews a tad more than your experience more than a decade ago).

Re you're Bordeaux names: Bordeaux had indeed a few good wines. On Cellartracker there are 28 wines with average ratings of 90 to 93 and Pichon Lalande (#14), Gruaud Larose (#23) and Las Cases (#25) are indeed among them. Sauternes is good too (my list above was red wines only - as labeled).
It's an interesting data point, albeit not statistically significant. If you include non-reds, Krug CdM and Krug Vintage float to the top of the list... and by a wide margin.
T s 3 n g

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Re: 1981 Help!

#43 Post by Andy Sc » October 20th, 2020, 5:30 am

Vince T wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 5:16 am
Andy Sc wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:36 am
Robert Sand wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:00 am
This is good proof that group or community ratings are problematic.
La Tache 81 is good but far from exciting and not worth the bucks. But I had it 15 years ago, might not have improved.
Only one CdP is a clear failure.
Some good Bordeaux are missing like PL, Gruaud-L, Las-Cases ... and Sauternes !
Tell your 15 year old La Tache story to Keith Levenberg, Burgundy Al and DCWino (kshin here on Bersekers) who had it in the past 4 years and scored it 97, 93 and 97 (combined number of DRC bottles consumed and reviewed on CT of the three guys stands at 727 across all bottlings and vintages, so even though I hadn't had the 81 one myself, you must understand that I would trust these guys reviews a tad more than your experience more than a decade ago).

Re you're Bordeaux names: Bordeaux had indeed a few good wines. On Cellartracker there are 28 wines with average ratings of 90 to 93 and Pichon Lalande (#14), Gruaud Larose (#23) and Las Cases (#25) are indeed among them. Sauternes is good too (my list above was red wines only - as labeled).
It's an interesting data point, albeit not statistically significant. If you include non-reds, Krug CdM and Krug Vintage float to the top of the list... and by a wide margin.
True, true. Not so many ratings out there for the 81s - hence always a bit a wild card to only look at such a ranking in such a vintage. And true, if you include all wines, not only the reds, three Champagnes would be at the top of the list (Charles Heidsiecks Cuvee Charlie would join both Kurgs you mentioned on the podium).
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Re: 1981 Help!

#44 Post by Robert Sand » October 20th, 2020, 6:57 am

Andy Sc wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:36 am
Robert Sand wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:00 am
This is good proof that group or community ratings are problematic.
La Tache 81 is good but far from exciting and not worth the bucks. But I had it 15 years ago, might not have improved.
Only one CdP is a clear failure.
Some good Bordeaux are missing like PL, Gruaud-L, Las-Cases ... and Sauternes !
Tell your 15 year old La Tache story to Keith Levenberg, Burgundy Al and DCWino (kshin here on Bersekers) who had it in the past 4 years and scored it 97, 93 and 97 (combined number of DRC bottles consumed and reviewed on CT of the three guys stands at 727 across all bottlings and vintages, so even though I hadn't had the 81 one myself, you must understand that I would trust these guys reviews a tad more than your experience more than a decade ago).

Re you're Bordeaux names: Bordeaux had indeed a few good wines. On Cellartracker there are 28 wines with average ratings of 90 to 93 and Pichon Lalande (#14), Gruaud Larose (#23) and Las Cases (#25) are indeed among them. Sauternes is good too (my list above was red wines only - as labeled).
Well, I won´t argue with the rating of Keith and others, however I had the LT ´81 among 3 other vintages of LT then, and it was clearly the weakest (after ´80, 82 and 88). Not a bad wine itself, but it did not convince the group as great or even outstanding for LT. Given the price of close to 3.000 or above nowadays it´s not really a recommendation. I haven´t had a ton of 1981 Burgundies, and no really great one among them, I would rather stick to Rhone, Bordeaux or Spain for this vintage.
VS Unico is great, and some other Spaniards, too, and Guigal LM, and more than a dozen outstanding Chateauneuf-dP can be found for 50-200, so why buy a questionable vintage of La Tache?
I have no problem tasting 81 LT if it crosses my way in a tasting where I have to pay my fair share for a glass, but won´t buy a bottle at the present prices.
Moreover I do not want to convince you, but want to help Jeff who asked the question -

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Re: 1981 Help!

#45 Post by Keith Levenberg » October 20th, 2020, 7:42 am

Appreciate the vote of confidence & the kind words, but I should mention that the '81 La Tache I have a note on was 1) pristinely stored and never moved since release and 2) the same bottle as Al's note, so you can count that as one data point instead of two. It was magnificent (and far superior to an '88 I had earlier this year) but I have doubts that any bottle acquired on the open market today could be as good.

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Re: 1981 Help!

#46 Post by Vince T » October 20th, 2020, 7:53 am

As far as retailers, blacksmith wines also carries a lot of old inventory, including the above mentioned La Mouline:

https://www.blacksmithfinewines.com/search?q=1981
T s 3 n g

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Re: 1981 Help!

#47 Post by Andy Sc » October 20th, 2020, 8:24 am

Robert Sand wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 6:57 am
Well, I won´t argue with the rating of Keith and others, however I had the LT ´81 among 3 other vintages of LT then, and it was clearly the weakest (after ´80, 82 and 88). Not a bad wine itself, but it did not convince the group as great or even outstanding for LT. Given the price of close to 3.000 or above nowadays it´s not really a recommendation. I haven´t had a ton of 1981 Burgundies, and no really great one among them, I would rather stick to Rhone, Bordeaux or Spain for this vintage.
VS Unico is great, and some other Spaniards, too, and Guigal LM, and more than a dozen outstanding Chateauneuf-dP can be found for 50-200, so why buy a questionable vintage of La Tache?
I have no problem tasting 81 LT if it crosses my way in a tasting where I have to pay my fair share for a glass, but won´t buy a bottle at the present prices.
Moreover I do not want to convince you, but want to help Jeff who asked the question -
Totally agree, I wouldn't buy the La Tache either. The list was just based on the average score. I recently had a Margaux vertical and the 06, 08 and 12 showed really well, still I wouldn't buy them for my cellar as you get better wines for less money from better vintages.
Andrew Scheppler - I make wine disappear

Barry L i p t o n
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Re: 1981 Help!

#48 Post by Barry L i p t o n » October 20th, 2020, 8:32 am

Rioja!

Muga Prado Enea Riserva as well as those already mentioned. Montecillo (a lower cost producer) made several from the 80s that were great.

Jayson Cohen
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Re: 1981 Help!

#49 Post by Jayson Cohen » October 20th, 2020, 12:07 pm

Andy Sc wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:36 am
Robert Sand wrote:
October 20th, 2020, 4:00 am
This is good proof that group or community ratings are problematic.
La Tache 81 is good but far from exciting and not worth the bucks. But I had it 15 years ago, might not have improved.
Only one CdP is a clear failure.
Some good Bordeaux are missing like PL, Gruaud-L, Las-Cases ... and Sauternes !
Tell your 15 year old La Tache story to Keith Levenberg, Burgundy Al and DCWino (kshin here on Bersekers) who had it in the past 4 years and scored it 97, 93 and 97 (combined number of DRC bottles consumed and reviewed on CT of the three guys stands at 727 across all bottlings and vintages, so even though I hadn't had the 81 one myself, you must understand that I would trust these guys reviews a tad more than your experience more than a decade ago).

Re you're Bordeaux names: Bordeaux had indeed a few good wines. On Cellartracker there are 28 wines with average ratings of 90 to 93 and Pichon Lalande (#14), Gruaud Larose (#23) and Las Cases (#25) are indeed among them. Sauternes is good too (my list above was red wines only - as labeled).
Keith and Al’s bottle was the same bottle of ‘81 La Tache 2 years ago. A few of us were there, and it was mind-boggling good as Keith’s note suggests. But generally I actually agree CT is not the best way to make this call on an ‘81 unless it’s someone who is trusted.

Added: I’ve caught up on posts now and see that Keith also responded.

Jeff L
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Re: 1981 Help!

#50 Post by Jeff L » October 20th, 2020, 4:56 pm

R. Frankel wrote:
October 19th, 2020, 7:51 am
Plenty of good suggestions here, but what does the birthday boy like? You’ve got some good variety among reds, sweeties, or port.

A quick look at K&L and Winebid show lots of choices easily available. Want a few bottles of Pichon Comtesse? It’s there.
So many great suggestions from regions I've never explored. Really appreciate all the feedback. I believe the bday boy's 2 favorite bottles were a '12 Le Petit Mouton and a '12 Stag's Leap Fay. If I had to pick a 3rd he really enjoyed the '12/'13 Corison Cabs. Hard to put into words but I think fruit forward with nuance, not overpowering bombs if that makes sense.
L e & i * e

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