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1982 Chateau Prieuré-Lichine still has attractive fruit

Alexis Lichine was a Russian born wine writer, salesman, and producer who played an important part in the expansion of the wine market in the United States.  In the 1930s, he was hired by Frank Schoonmaker and together, they promoted the selling of Californian wines by varietal.  After World War 2, Alexis Lichine left Frank Schoonmaker’s company and begin to both import and export wine.  It was in 1951 that he both published his first book Wines of France and purchased Chateau Le Prieuré in the commune of Cantenac in Bordeaux.

The chateau and vineyards were neglected so Alexis Lichine set about reconstructing and expanding the vineyards.  In 1953 he changed the name of the estate to Chateau Prieuré-Lichine and the following year the wines of Cantenac were entitled to the appellation of Margaux.  The estate originally encompassed some 27 acres of vines but this reached a peak of 157 acres with the 1982 vintage.  Remarkably, Frank Prial, former New York Times wine critic, attended the assemblage for this vintage.  There was quite a group present including Emile Peynaud director emeritus at the University of Bordeaux, Jacques Boissenot eventual consultant to four of the five first growths, and Jean Delmas, director of Chateau Haut-Brion.

According to Frank Prial in Decantations (2002) the 1982 crop was big and very good.    The wine from the different varieties and various vineyard parcels was largely kept separate in glass-lined cement vats.  The wines were largely Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  The crop was big enough that Alexis Lichine even received a one-time waiver to produce 90,000 gallons of wine from his vineyards under the Margaux appellation instead of his normal 55,000 gallons. Two-third of the crop would eventually make it into the final blend of the grand vin.

What were the wines like?  David Peppercorn noted that the 1982 was “good but not outstanding in the context of the year.”  Ben Giliberti as the wine critic for The Washington Post wrote in 1986 that this vintage was excellent but not as good as in the rest of Bordeaux.  This placed the wines of Margaux as among the more affordable of the vintage.  As for the wine itself, his “overwhelming impression” was of “ripeness…but this one appears to have the intensity and structure to keep going.”

Tasted nearly 30 years after Ben Giliberti published his comments, the wine is expectedly no longer all about ripeness but has certainly maintained itself.  True, the tannins are still ripe, but even if the fruit is not ripe it still has cherry fruit flavors!  Couple that with tobacco and spices, the wine is actually quite tasty.  In the end I was a bit on the fence about the wine, it tasted good but it was a bit gentle or soft with a modest finish.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1982 Chateau Prieuré -Lichine, Margaux
Imported by Calvert Woodley. Alcohol < 13.5%.  There was redy cherry fruit that mixed with attractive tobacco and moderate cedar flavors.  It still had a good, ripe tannin texture that matched the juicy acidity but the finish was modest.  With air this gentle wine developed spices, wood box hints, and floral/inky bit.  **/*** Now.


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