Vintage Guide: Bordeaux

By Marc Malouf - @wineworthwritingabout

Vintages are the most important, unpredictable and volatile part of winemaking. One year can gift the most perfect conditions for the vineyards, resulting in wines of pure perfection, when other vintages can quite literally present mother natures worst and destroy a whole years worth of wine.

You see, if you are into collecting, the last wine you want in your cellar is one from a bad vintage. Hard times can make for hard wines and tough vintages tend to produce wines of lesser quality to great vintages...it's just facts.

The only exception to the rule is this: A big, wealthy Chateau, like a first growth, will generally make quality wine each vintage, even in the bad ones, because they have the resources to do what is necessary to uphold a standard.

Here's our guide for the last 50 years of vintages in Bordeaux. If you find a year that falls outside those mentioned here, you can assume those wines are made for early consumption and should not be cellared with too much hope.

Exceptional: Vintages of pure perfection. Everything surpassed expectations and produced exceptional wines often referred to as the Holy Grails. These are the most age-worthy and most sought after. Cellar for 40+ yrs.

1982, 1989, 1995, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016

Excellent: Text book vintages where things went beautifully. Some minor weather events may have occured, but the resulting wines are of excellent quality and are nipping at the heels of perfection. Cellar for 30-40yrs.

1980, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1996

Very Good:  These vintages produced high quality wines during vintages that threw some curveballs. A heat wave, hail, a cold snap or low crops, regardless the wines are wonderful but will reflect the conditions of the vintage. Cellar for 15-30yrs.

1970, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1988, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2014, 2018, 2020, 2021

Good: Sometimes all you can do is pray to the gods that challenging vintages will come through with the goods. The wines from these vintages have shown those prayers were answered and produced high quality wines when the odds were against them. Cellar for 10-15yrs.

1973, 1976, 1977, 1984, 1987, 1991, 1999, 2002, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2019

Uneven and Variable: This basically means, buyer beware. These vintages show some extremes and plenty of variability in terms of quality. The top producers may have pulled off something special, you could be lucky...

1971, 1974, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2011

Don't see the vintage you're looking for? That means it's a solid bypass!