A Médoc and Graves vintage guide back to 1961.

2008

Keep

Classic, ripe Bordeaux, though lacking ultimate wow factor and quality does vary. Dry whites more uniformly successful. Very low yielding and earlier maturing than usual.

Weather Conditions

A dull, wet, stormy March brought slow, uneven budburst, with the patchy development compounded by a severe frost 6-7 April. Pessac-Léognan was hit hardest losing up to half its white crop in places. Uneven flowering and poor berry set typified a dreary May (second wettest since 1946) and a hail-hit June, with mildew an added problem. At least July’s dry sunny weather permitted extensive green harvesting, to remove the many stunted berries.
Brakes were still on progress during a cool, sodden August, but then came sunshine. From mid-September to mid-October daytime temperatures averaged 22 degrees C and warm Atlantic breezes hastened ripening and kept grapes healthy. Sauvignon Blanc was mostly picked ahead of the Indian summer, but growers hung on to harvest reds a good fortnight later than usual.

Best Appellations

Uneven fruit set and high rainfall meant success came easier to those producers with the resources to rigorously sort the fruit, both on the vine and in the winery. And quality does vary, particularly in Haut-Médoc and more southerly appellations.
Yet 2008’s late sunshine came at just the right moment in the grapes’ hitherto sluggish development for reds to achieve full ripeness, and the best wines are deeper coloured, richer and more concentrated than anyone expected.

Later-ripening Cabernet reaped most benefits, and it’s the high Cabernet Sauvignon blends of Pauillac and Saint-Julien that set the red standard: densely ripe, vibrant, powerful and fragrant, with a fleshy firmness and strong but not hard tannins. The dry whites, too, are a relative success story: fresh, floral, citrussy with zippy acidity and terroir evident.

Best Producers

Reds: first growths, particularly châteaux Latour and Haut-Brion. Pauillac: châteaux Pontet-Canet, Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Lynch-Bages; Margaux: châteaux Palmer, Rauzan-Ségla, Clos des Quatre Vents; Saint-Estèphe: châteaux Cos d’Estournel (with its smallest yield ever barring frost-beleagured 1991 vintage), Calon-Segur, Montrose; Saint-Julien: châteaux Léoville-Las-Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville Barton, Saint-Pierre, Léoville Poyferre; Haut-Médoc: châteaux La Lagune, La Tour Carnet; Graves: châteaux La Mission-Haut-Brion, Malarctic-Lagravière..
Pessac whites: châteaux Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Laville Haut-Brion, then Malartic-Lagraviere & Pape-Clement.

2007

Drink soon

Mixed rather than great. The best wines (from top châteaux) are soft, fruit-forward and charming, but with limited ageing potential. Lowish yield.

Weather Conditions

After a mild February, budburst arrived 10 days earlier than usual, at the end of March. Temperatures soared in April – it was the warmest since 1949 – but then sunk in May and flowering was a week later than the norm. Rain and May’s chronic lack of sunshine endured until August, bringing the constant threat of mildew. Unceasing work (and treatment) in the vineyards was needed to maintain healthy grapes and then reduce yields in the harvest run-up.
Although August began warm and sunny, rain and cooler weather soon returned, swelling the berries and creating huge variety in the relative development of various plots and vineyards. By September growers were desperate, but then came 64 days of unbroken sunshine – and a long, drawn-out harvest at last got underway. Picking dates were crucial.

Best Appellations

Some of the top châteaux, with the means – and will – to do rigorous work in the vineyards, have produced soft, charming, fruity red wines for drinking earlier than usual. Others, though, were less successful, and even top wines can lack depth and have a herbaceous, even vegetal, edge. Whites are perhaps the more exciting: the Indian summer providing the requisite sugars while the previous months conserved acidity.
Margaux is the most consistently impressive. More variation in Pauillac (style and quality) and the appellation’s lauded density is less obvious. Similar pattern in Saint-Estèphe, where many châteaux failed to get sufficient ripeness, while Saint-Julien tends to lack density and follow-through, though overall quality is acceptable. Pessac whites have lovely pure and delicate Sauvignon-dominant fruit, perfect for early drinking, but may not have the acidity or fruit concentration to be long-lived.

Best Producers

Red – Margaux: châteaux Palmer, Boyd-Cantenac, Kirwan, Marquis d’Alesme, d’Issan, Durfort-Vivens; Saint-Estèphe: châteaux Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Calon-Ségur; Pauillac: châteaux Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Bages, Libéral, Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Latour, Pontet-Canet, Croizet-Bages; Saint-Julien: châteaux Langoa-Barton, Leoville Las Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Talbot; Pessac: châteaux Mission-Haut-Brion, de Fieuzal, Haut-Bergey; Haut-Médoc: La Tour Carnet.
Pessac whites: Châteaux Haut-Brion, Laville Haut-Brion, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Pique-Caillou.

2006

Keep

Potentially hard and tough but good for people who like their wines tannic. Doesn’t have the flesh or ripeness of 2005 or 2003 but is better than 1999. May turn out to be a more classic vintage like 1996 – but with less ripeness

Weather Conditions

A very tricky vintage marked by highly variable weather from beginning to end. A cold, wet winter that was welcome after the searing and dry conditions of 2005 gave way to dry weather from spring through mid-summer, which was marked by prolonged scorching heat in July and a soggy September which interrupted harvest and caused concerns about mildew and rot.

Best Appellations

Red Graves, northern Médoc cabernet sauvignons, most whites.

Best Producers

reds: Clerc-Milon, Haut-Bailly, Leoville Barton, Boyd-Cantenac, Duhart-Milon, Pontet Canet; whites: Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Laville Haut Brion

2005

Keep

All indicators point to an exceptional vintage.

Weather Conditions

This year was very dry with little rainfall from May to August. Showers broke the drought in September then drying winds coming by harvest time. The acidities, sugar and extract of the grapes all look quite good. Unlike 2003, there was no heat damage in the form of heat-shrivelled or stunted berries.

2004

Médoc and Graves 2004

Drink soon

Whites of good fruit concentration and refreshing acidity; classic reds with some ageing potential

Weather Conditions

The weather returned to a more typical pattern after the excesses of 2003. The harvest was nearly a month later but more in keeping with the norm. A dry, sunny June assisted with a swift and uniform flowering. Temperatures for July, August and September were above the 30-year average while sunshine hours were below (but on a par or better than 2001 and 2002). Rainfall was consistent for the region and without surfeit except for the 71mm that fell in August putting initial doubts over the potential of the year. A relatively warm, dry sunny spell through September and early October compensated. The Merlot was mainly harvested in ideal conditions 1-8 October. Intermittent rain from 11 October hampered the Cabernet harvest and resulted in a degradation of quality in Sauternes (the quality botrytised grapes were picked 15 September-8 October).

Best Appellations

Pauillac and St-Julien

2003

Drink soon

A good year for reds from the Northern Médoc. Expect wines of finesse and structure with some aging potential

Weather Conditions

In the best areas of the Médoc, the Cabernets, the majority grape on the left bank, showed exemplary ripeness with great aromatic finesse, high alcohol content and good extraction of the anthocyanins (colour). The harvest was officially declared on September 8, generalised by September 15, completed by the first days of October, about the date picking began last year.

According to Allan Sichel (Palmer – d’Angludet) this might be called a terroir year since vine-growing or winemaking techniques will have little impact. There were contrasting situations, but oddly this year the so-called ‘lesser’ (heavier) soil areas appeared to do better than poorer terroirs normally expected to produce the great wines.

Ideal conditions in September tended to favour the later ripening Cabernets over the earlier Merlots. Generally on soils which retain humidity, the wines show deep, rich colour, very up-front, with low acidity. Complexity and balance must be judged when the wines are tasted.
With extremely low yield – in Margaux the average was a mere 25 hectolitres/hectare – due to vine stress from the heat, production is well below average. However this shortfall coupled with remarkable quality from those terroirs best suited to the vintage could be a godsend in present soft marketing conditions.

Best Appellations

Pauillac and St. Estèphe

2002

Drink now

Crisp fruity whites and well-structured, stylish reds with aging potential

Weather Conditions

In the Médoc, weather was unpredictable. November and December were harsh but spring and early summer showed above average temperatures. Bad weather in June hampered fertilisation (coulure and millerandage), especially on the Merlot, and the soft north-east wind in September, by drying the grapes, further reduced volume by 15-20%. With 52+ hours of sunshine, September was the sunniest month in 12 years. Finally, violent storms on September 20-21 caused considerable damage, fortunately very localised.
Bright, warm and sunny weather throughout the harvest period, together with a drying north-east wind, ensured optimum ripeness, especially of the Merlot. Small in quantity, berries were also small in size, but very clean and healthy otherwise. Potential alcohol, due to exceptional ripeness, is around 12.5%.
Jean-Dominique Videau, at Médoc classed growth La Tour Carnet, describes 2002 as ‘the wonder vintage’. ‘Up until 10 September,’ he says, ‘we were seriously worried, but from then on superb weather turned the situation round. Three weeks of bright sunshine with a warm north wind dried out the grapes and helped them achieve optimum maturity. It’s a small vintage, but of excellent quality.’
In Graves, quality was excellent for the dry whites. Despite inclement weather this year, Dominique Haverlan of Vieux Chateau Gaubert and president of the Graves Syndicate, is confident of a good harvest. ‘The grapes are showing excellent aromatic savours,’ he says. ‘Also, acidity is high which means the wines will be fresher and livelier.’ He compares the situation with 1992, a wet year unfavourable for the reds but an excellent white vintage.

Best Appellations

Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Margaux, Listrac, Moulis and Pessac-Léognan

2001

Drink now

Mixed vintage for reds, but dry whites are wonderfully aromatic with lively acidity.

Weather Conditions

The preceding winter was the wettest since 1982/83, and the season went on to be particularly mild. It meant that the vines responded early, though a short period of frost in mid-April caused damage locally.

May and June were dry, so that flowering in June was early, rapid and uniform. Though July started out wet and cool, it ended warm and dry, and August was hot with average rainfall for the month, though alternate heat and rain prevented the grapes from maturing consistently. September was rather cool, with average rainfall for the month. It provided excellent conditions for ripening, and vintners were able to wait for full maturity before picking. Nonetheless, careful monitoring was required and only the most meticulous growers achieved truly first class results.

The overall quality of the reds was better than 1999 but not so great as 2000. Quantity was down. For dry whites conditions were ideal. Wines are powerfully aromatic with remarkably fresh, fruity flavours sustained by excellent acidity.

Best Appellations

Slow ripening helps wines achieve finesse and elegance, and those vineyards that exercised tight control throughout the season produced excellent Cabernets. Top terroirs with low yield show excellent richness and complexity, especially in Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. Pauillac produced the best overall quality, with some star performers. The best growths in Margaux, Saint Julien and Pessac-Léognan (Graves)achieved wines with great potential wherever vintners waited to pick at full maturity. For the most part, wines range from deep and rich to lean and insipid.

Best Producers

Pauillac
Mouton outperformed the other first growths, just ahead of Lafite and Latour, with Lynch-Bages, Clerc-Milon and the two Pichons close behind.
Margaux
Ch Margaux achieved the top rung, with Brane-Cantenac, Giscours and Rauzan-Ségla a step down.
Saint Julien
The three Leovilles, Beychevelle, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Gruaud-Larose were all excellent.
Graves
Haut-Brion and Pape-Clément came out ahead, with Fieuzal and La Mission runners-up.

2000

Drink now

Possibly the finest vintage since 1990

Weather Conditions

The growing season began shakily after a mild winter, with a hot rainy spring and early summer, bringing considerable problems with mildew. From mid-July, however, there was almost uninterrupted sunshine, and heavy rain on 19 and 20 September did no damage and in some places rescued vines affected by stress. Rainfall was heavier in the Médoc than the Graves. Harvesting took place in ideal conditions over a three-week period until 11 October, and there were no problems during vinification. A handful of properties picked too early and may show unripe tannins; another handful picked rather late and may exhibit overripe jammy flavours. But overall, this is an outstanding vintage, arguably the best since 1990 in the Médoc and Graves.

Best Appellations

The classic regions have fared best, with a consistently high level of quality in Margaux, St Julien, and Pauillac. More northerly regions such as St Estèphe are marginally less successful, as are Moulis and Listrac. There are a few disappointments from the Graves, although the top wines are excellent.

Best Producers

La Mission Haut-Brion is a star in the Graves, as are Margaux, Latour, and Léoville-Barton in the Médoc. But bear in mind that many less well known properties, including crus bourgeois, enjoyed the same excellent conditions at harvest and made superb wines.

1999

Drink soon

Rain complicated matters but some very good wines look set to emerge

Weather Conditions

Normal flowering after a warm May. The summer was warm and humid, and green- harvesting was essential to reduce the high crop. Damp weather provoked mildew and some rot. There was hot dry period until rain fell on the Médoc from 13 September. Careful viticultural practices ensured that overall, and after selection in the vineyard, bunches were ripe and reasonably healthy. White Graves were picked at high sugar levels and are very attractive. As for the reds, they have attractive fruit but only a light tannic structure thanks to high yields. At this stage there is no consensus about whether the vintage is better overall than 1998.

1998

Drink now

Difficult vintage for the Médoc; better in Graves

Weather Conditions

Flowering took place in normal conditions, and a dull July was followed by a hot dry August which thickened the skins, which were then able to resist the rains that fell in early September. White grapes were harvested in mid-September, followed by Merlot, which was often of high quality. Cabernet was more problematical, as not all the bunches were fully ripe by the time rot appeared in October.

Best Appellations

Some Graves reds lack excitement, but there are some good classic wines from the Médoc, although some show harsh tannins. Some of the best wines are from Pessac-Léognan. The Graves whites are characterised by a distinct fruitiness.

1997

Drink now

A varied year for red Bordeaux generally

Weather Conditions

The winter was mild, but May was unstable, leading to uneven flowering, especially for Merlot. There was more rain in the early summer, and tropical conditions in August. It was important to remove any bunches that were failing to ripen properly. Harvesting began on 10 September, and was prolonged, although some Cabernet had to be picked early as rot was setting in. White grapes were picked early, but here too there were problems with rot and dilution.

Best Appellations

The best reds came from the northern Médoc, but overall this is a light year with few well-structured wines. Strict selection was essential, leading to a glut of second wines.

Best Producers

No producers recommended.

1996

Drink now

A first-rate vintage with many wines of distinction

Weather Conditions

After a mild spring, flowering was in mid-June. Early July was cool, but then it warmed up, although the Graves was troubled by August rains. Dry weather returned on 26 August, but temperatures were moderate, conserving acidity as well as helping the ripening process. There was some rain from 18 September, but by then the whites had been picked after any rotting bunches had been eliminated.

Best Appellations

A great year for Cabernet, especially in the northern Médoc, and most, though not all, tasters believe 1996 is even better than 1995. Many outstanding whites from the Graves, with firm acidity.

Best Producers

Ch Margaux is probably the wine of the vintage.

1995

Drink now

A good vintage across Bordeaux, with a number of well-structured wines

Weather Conditions

A mild winter and warm spring led to flowering from 20 May. A hot summer, but the water table was high so there was no drought stress. There was light rain in mid-September, followed by dry weather well into October. Despite occasional dilution, the grapes were ripe and healthy; yields were high but not excessive. A few producers picked too early, fearing a repetition of the deluges of previous years. The wines overall are rich and firm, but lack a little flair. White and red Graves were mostly picked before the rain, and are of very high quality, though a touch lighter than the best Médoc reds.

Best Appellations

Best in St-Julien and Pauillac. All wines need at least 3-5 years in the bottle.

1994

Drink now

Another rainy vintage, producing rather thin and dilute wines

Weather Conditions

A promising start, with a rapid early flowering, followed by a hot summer with occasional rain. Once again rain in September marred what could otherwise have been an exceptional vintage. There was little rot, and overall quality was higher than in 1993, although the wines in the Médoc and Graves lacked the finesse and grip of a great year.

Best Appellations

Merlot-dominated wines fared best, and St Julien and Pauillac were probably the most successful districts. Since the rain fell from 7 September, many white grapes in the Graves were picked before the downpours, and some very well balanced white wines were made. St-Estèphe and St-Julien perhaps made the best wines

1993

Drink now

A vintage spoiled by too much rain across Bordeaux

Weather Conditions

The spring was damp, but a warmer May led to swift flowering. The summer was warm, and August hot. Growers were all set for a very fine vintage, when the clouds burst on September 6. Fortunately cool weather kept rot at bay, but dilution was inevitable.

Best Appellations

The conditions favoured Merlot over Cabernet. Quality in the Médoc is patchy, but there were many underrated wines. In the Graves the reds were attractive medium-bodied wines for medium-term consumption, and the whites, which had quite good acidity, were generally superior to the reds. St-Julien is best.

1992

drink now

A very difficult year with light, occasionally dilute wines

Weather Conditions

Despite a cold winter, a warm May led to an early flowering. But the summer was the wettest in fifty years. Yields shot up and green-harvesting became essential. Steady rain at harvest proved the last straw, and the wines were inevitably mediocre, light and with little structure.
Much Cabernet failed to ripen properly, giving wines a vegetal flavour. The best of them could be drunk with a little pleasure during the first five years.

Best Producers

No producers recommended.

1991

Drink now

A small and difficult vintage

Weather Conditions

The year of the frost. Plummeting temperatures on the night of 20 April wiped out up to 70 percent of the crop. Second buds complicated the ripening process of what remained, and rain in late September provoked much rot, resulting in many wines that were dilute as well as not entirely clean.

Best Appellations

Nonetheless the most ruthlessly selective properties in the northern Médoc made good, slightly beefy wines, generally superior to 1987 or 1992. Merlot fared better than Cabernet. Graves was less badly affected by frost, and some good medium-bodied wines were made. White Graves tended to be light but attractive.

Best Producers

In the Médoc Cos d’Estournel and Pichon-Longueville were both excellent.

1990

Drink now

A very hot, dry year produced some truly magnificent wines

Weather Conditions

After a very mild winter, spring was cool, but warmed up in May, leading to early flowering. July and August were the driest since 1961, but welcome September showers helped the grapes to ripen to levels similar to 1989, although sugar levels for Cabernet were slightly lower. Yields were high, so many estates green-harvested. Tannins were ripe and acidities sound, so the wines emerged as rich and beautifully balanced.

Best Appellations

Classic Bordeaux should keep very well, although a handful of wines showed some dilution. Outstanding in the Graves too, with Haut-Brion exceptional, and many delicious whites, although acidities levels were not that high and overall reds were better balanced.

Best Producers

In the Médoc, Latour is probably the wine of the vintage.

1989

Drink now

A vintage which produced fruity, opulent claret

Weather Conditions

Due to the above-average temperatures that were the norm during the spring of 1989, flowering took place earlier than usual under ideal conditions, leading to the production of a larger than average crop. June, July and August witnessed temperatures higher than any since the 1940s. The occasional rainfall helped to swell the crop, which otherwise would have shrivelled in the heat. The earliest harvest for nearly a century.
Whites (dry): Temperatures were so high that harvesting took place in late August/early September to avoid excessive ripening of the grapes.
Whites (sweet): The exceptional summer promoted the development of high levels of sugar, and September’s morning mists provided the ideal conditions for the growth of botrytis. An exceptional vintage.

Best Appellations

An enormous (and exceptionally early) vintage produced a good number of rich and fleshy wines. Some lack sufficient acidity for longer term keeping. Margaux performed relatively poorly. The best wines are from St Estephe, Pauillac and St. Julien.

Best Producers

(St Estephe) Cos d’Estournel, Meyney, Montrose. (Pauillac) Clerc-Milon, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lafite, Lynch-Bages, Mouton, Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande. (St Julien) Beychevelle, Branaire, Gruaud-Larose, Lagrange, Leoville-Barton, Talbot.

1988

Drink soon

First of a run of three classic vintages in Bordeaux

Weather Conditions

An exceptionally damp winter and spring, although there were no frosts during the latter. These conditions were prolonged right through June, and flowering took place under less than ideal conditions. Temperatures throughout summer were close to the average, but there was less rainfall than usual. Harvesting conditions were fine, but the uneven ripening of the different grape varieties caused problems for many of the growers. This was the first in a run of three very good years in Bordeaux. Many Médoc properties picked Cabernet Sauvignon early, producing wines with relatively high levels of tannin and acidity. Those with sufficient fruit to see them through will last for another ten-15 years.

Best Producers

(Pauillac) Lafite, Latour, Lynch-Bages, Mouton, Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande. (Graves) The finest wines of the vintage come from the Graves, especially Domaine de Chevalier, Haut-Bailly, Haut-Brion, La Louviere, La Mission, and Pape-Clement.

1987

Drink now

An average year, producing light, early-maturing wines

Weather Conditions

A particularly long, cold winter that dragged on well into spring, adversely affecting the flowering. July and August were both cool and there was little sunshine. September was very hot, but the rains set in towards the end of the month, affecting the harvest.
Whites (dry): The weather conditions resulted in a marginally more successful white vintage, but this is still not an exceptional year.
A good, but under-rated vintage which favoured Merlot. The wines were attractive and highly approachable but never destined for long term ageing and should have been drunk by now.

Best Producers

The Graves generally produced better-structured wines than the Médoc. Bahans-Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Haut-Brion, La Mission, and Pape-Clement all rated highly.

1986

Keep

A particularly good vintage in the Médoc, with a number of fine wines

Weather Conditions

Winter was harsh, although the frosts were not as sharp as the previous year. Growth was slowed by a cool, damp spring, but the vegetation caught up as a result of the fine weather in late spring/early summer. Flowering took place in exemplary conditions, and conditions continued hot and dry until the middle of September, when heavy rains fell, particularly on the 23rd, when some 10cm of precipitation fell during the course of one day. Temperatures picked up for the October harvest.

Best Appellations

A great Cabernet vintage, particularly in St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe. The size of the crop was colossal – one of the largest hitherto recorded. Cru Bourgeois wines are still drinking nicely but the finest of the Grands Crus have yet to reach full maturity.

Best Producers

(Pauillac) An exceptionally good vintage throughout; Haut-Bages-Liberal, Lafite, Latour, Lynch-Bages, Mouton, Pichon-Longueville Baron and Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande all produced wines notable for their depth and intensity. (St Julien) Beychevelle, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Gruaud-Larose. Lagrange shows excellent form under new ownership. Leoville-Barton and Leoville-Las-Cases are also good. (Margaux) Margaux, Palmer, Rausan-Segla. (Graves) Domaine de Chevalier, Haut-Brion, La Mission, Pape-Clement.

1985

Drink soon

A wonderfully consistent and seductive vintage

Weather Conditions

The vines suffered heavy frost damage in winter, and spring was stormy and wet. May and early June saw violent hailstorms, but this was followed by a period of good weather during the crucial flowering period. July saw hot temperatures alternate with periods of rainfall, while August was somewhat cooler and drier. September was one of the hottest and driest on record, promoting good ripening, and late September onwards through October saw good conditions for the harvest.
Whites (sweet): The very weather conditions that promoted a fine vintage of red wines had a deleterious effect on the Sauternes crop, the lack of rain, in particular, preventing the development of botrytis.

Best Appellations

A consistent and seductive vintage with a number of excellent wines at all levels. The finest come from the top properties where the most rigorous fruit selection was carried out.

Best Producers

(St Estephe) Cos d’Estournel performed strongly, outshining many first growths. (Pauillac) Lafite, Mouton, Lynch-Bages and Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande produced rich, perfumed and elegant wines of great poise. (St Julien) Ducru-Beaucaillou, Gruaud-Larose, Leoville-Barton and Leoville-Las-Cases have evolved nicely. (Margaux) Lascombes shows an impressive return to form after a period in the doldrums. Margaux, Palmer and Rausan-Segla stand out among classed growths, but d’Angludet is also excellent. (Graves) Haut-Brion, La Mission.

1984

Drink now

A generally disappointing vintage

Weather Conditions

Unpredictable weather in 1984 resulted in a poor crop. This is especially true of the Merlot, and this had a profound impact on the wines produced in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. Early spring conditions were not particularly notable, but April was exceptionally warm, which promoted the growth of the vines, but this development was halted as a result of a cold and very wet May. A hot June saw an over-enhanced flowering. July and August were sunny and hot, but the crucial ripening period at the end of summer was ruined by
heavy rainfall. A hurricane on the 5th of October, towards the end of the harvest period, did not help matters.

Best Appellations

The poorest vintage of the decade, in which the Merlot crop largely failed, leading to hard, charmless, Cabernet-based wines, overpriced from the start. The properties which picked late fared best.

Best Producers

(St Estephe) Cos d’Estournel is comparatively rich and supple for such a difficult year. (Margaux) Margaux stands out, but Palmer is also good.
(St Julien) Leoville-Las-Cases. (Pauillac) Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande. (Graves) Haut-Brion, La Mission are particularly noteworthy.

1983

Drink soon

Another outstandingly good vintage

Weather Conditions

An unexceptional winter was succeeded by a cool, damp spring. The flowering had a good start in a warmish early June, but cool weather followed. The temperatures picked up in early July and carried on through August but, even though the weather was particularly hot, a good deal of rain fell as well. Drier conditions took over in the latter half of August, but temperatures dropped too. A fine September led into a good harvest in early October.
Whites (sweet): The fine warm conditions of late summer led to the development of a crop of particularly fine botrytis-affected grapes.

Best Appellations

Over-ripening caused problems, especially in St Estephe and Pauillac. Margaux outperformed all other appellations but the northern Médoc was considerably less successful. Quality in Graves was irregular.

Best Producers

(Margaux) Margaux, Palmer, and Rausan-Segla are the stars of their commune. (Pauillac) Quality here is variable with the best wines coming from Mouton, Lafite, and Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande. (St Julien) The three Leoville properties stand out. (Graves) Haut-Brion, La Mission and Haut-Bailly demonstrate the superiority of Pessac-Leognan in this vintage.

1982

Drink soon

A long hot summer produced the greatest Bordeaux vintage since 1961

Weather Conditions

Spring was mild and dry, with little frost. An early flowering took place under perfect conditions. The start of summer saw a good deal of fine, sunny weather. Light rain fell towards the end of July and continued on, in bursts, throughout a coolish August. Early September, in contrast, was exceptionally hot and dry, promoting a ripening that was so fast that the start of the harvest was one of the earliest in many years. The last week or so of September saw temperatures fall somewhat for the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest in the Médoc.
Whites (sweet): The hot summer resulted in a crop with a very high sugar content, and the change in late September promoted the growth of Noble Rot. Unfortunately, however, high levels of rainfall in October washed away the botrytis and the disappointing harvest took place in terrible weather.

Best Appellations

An outstanding vintage, with a large number of wonderfully rich and opulent wines of remarkable intensity. All appellations, except Margaux and Graves, produced wines of great complexity, with the ability to age.
St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe performed particularly well.

Best Producers

(St Estephe) Calon-Segur, Cos d’Estournel and Montrose are notably good. (Pauillac) Latour, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Haut-Batailley, Lafite, Latour, Lynch-Bages, Mouton, Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande all produced exceptional wines.

1981

Drink now

A very good vintage inspite of rain

Weather Conditions

The weather conditions in 1981 resulted in the production of rather lean wines. Spring was unremarkable, but the flowering was successful, despite a lack of sunshine. Early summer was, again, rather cold and wet, although conditions improved in August, which was dry and sunny, and continued through until late September, when heavy rains fell, bringing the harvest to a temporary halt.
Whites (sweet): The warm conditions from August onwards pushed sugar levels up, and the botrytis was well developed.

Best Appellations

The wines from this vintage were rapidly overshadowed by those of 1982 but nevertheless were attractive and classically built, though destined for relatively early drinking. St Julien and Pauillac both did well.

Best Producers

(Pauillac) Lafite, Latour, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. (St Julien) Ducru-Beaucaillou, Gruaud-Larose, Leoville- Las-Cases (Margaux) Giscours, Margaux.

1980

Drink now

A difficult vintage, producing light but attractive wines

Weather Conditions

A cool spring followed an unexceptional winter, and the conditions did not promote a good flowering. The weather did not improve much as spring turned to summer, and both June and July were damp and lacking in sunshine.
Temperatures picked up in August and it remained warm throughout September. However, there was little sunshine, and ripening was delayed. Rain fell during early October, but conditions improved somewhat for the late harvest.
Whites (sweet): The Sauternes crop benefited from the dry conditions towards the end of the year, and was successfully harvested in November.

Best Appellations

A generally mediocre vintage producing light, dilute wines of little distinction. As usual in a wet year, properties with porous, gravelly soils made the best wines. Margaux and Graves fared best but some Pauillac was of reasonable quality.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Latour, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. St Julien: Talbot. Margaux: Chateau Margaux. Graves: Domaine de Chevalier, La Mission.

1979

Drink now

A large harvest of good quality wine

Weather Conditions

The extremely wet conditions of winter lasted well into spring, although conditions improved in time for a successful flowering. Little rain fell during July and August, and temperatures were low. September fared little better. The result was an abundant crop of poorly ripened grapes.

Best Appellations

This was the third October vintage on the trot, and the largest vintage of the decade, setting a new record for the quantity of red AC wine. The wines in general have not fulfilled their early promise, because of the problem of maturing the Cabernets. As a result many wines which promised well when 10 years old have declined and now show rather lean tannins while lacking fruit. Graves produced by far the best wines, which are delicious today, all other … have problems.

Best Producers

Graves: superb rich delicious wine from Haut Brion and La Mission, while excellent and perfectly matured wines are to be found from Domaine de Chevalier and Haut Bailly. Margaux: while many front runners in Medoc have stumbled, Chateau Margaux and Pauillac have lasted the course better than most. St.Julien: Leoville Lascases and Leoville Barton are probably the best survivors. Pauillac: some big disappointments here. Lafite, which seemed so promising, has not really gone anywhere, and Pichon Lalande is one of the few vintages in 20 years not to live up to its early promise.

1978

Drink now

An excellent year for both red and white wines

Weather Conditions

The weather conditions in spring and summer – damp and dreary – did not augur well for the vintage. However, things picked up in mid-August, which saw the start of fine, sunny weather that prevailed throughout the harvest,
which started late.

Best Appellations

A classic Bordeaux vintage of average size, so much smaller than those of the vintages of the 80s & 90s. While they never had the pretensions of ’70 or ’75, the have probably given more pleasure for longer than either. What they lack in power there is more … made up for Chasson and Head. The best wines are Lefont in Paulliac, St.Julien, Margaux Graves and St.Estephe.

Best Producers

Pauillac-Latour is outstanding and has stood the test of time, the charming stylish wines from Pichon Lalande, Grand Puy Lacoste and Lynch Bages. St.Julien – Leoville Las-cases is outstanding and still has plenty to give, Gruand Larose … Leoville trotanoy and Talbot are delicious. Margaux is beautiful … celebrates the renaissance of this great growth, and Pichon is excellent. Graves – very good wines from Haut-Brion, La Huission and Domaine de Chevalier. St.Estepher – impressive wines from … and Cos d’Estournel.

1977

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A very small harvest of variable quality

Weather Conditions

In contrast to the previous year, 1977 began with heavy frosts in spring. The late flowering was not helped by a cold, damp June, which was followed by an unusually high level of rainfall in July. The beginning of August saw
a period of warm, dry weather, but the rains and cool conditions returned during the latter half of the month.
Reds: The driest September on record since 1851, and the hot conditions continued throughout the harvest, which began during the first week of October.

Best Appellations

This was the first of four unusually late vintages, saved only by an exceptional September and decent harvesting conditions in October. The resulting wines were generally light and weak, generally lacking any particular vintage character. They are serviceable wines for early drinking. The best wines were made in Pauillac and Graves.

Best Producers

It would be misleading to suggest there are any discoveries to be made. For the record the two wines which stood out, and were still enjoyable after 20 years, were La Mission and Pichon Lalande.

1976

Drink now

The second of two reasonably successful years, with fine wines in abundance

Weather Conditions

The drought that affected much of Western Europe throughout spring and summer made its impact felt in Bordeaux. The hot, dry weather continued until storms began in mid-September, interrupting the harvest, which had
started early.

Best Appellations

The great heat of the summer ensured very thick skins so massive tannins, initially masked by very pleasing fruit. But rain during the vintage caused dilution so that the tannins seemed to separate out in many wines and their evolution has not been as favourable as at first hoped. Most wines showed better 10 years ago. The best-balanced wines appeared in Pauillac, St.Julien and Graves, but everywhere the wines today are very mixed in quality.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Lafite is the best, but Latour and Pichon Lalande have come through well. St Julien: Leoville Lascases has held up well. Graves: La Mission is better balanced than most Haut-Médoc. Sociando-Mallet recently showed extremely well.

1975

Drink now

A very uneven vintage but Pomerol, Saint-Julien and Pauillac performed well

Weather Conditions

After a rough three years, the weather settled into a more predictable pattern. Winter was mild and rainy, but spring started fine, although the warm weather was punctuated by a few cold spells and occasional frosts. The summer months were hot and dry, so the showers that fell in September were
particularly appreciated. The harvest, which began during the last week in September, was mainly sunny, although there were a few hailstorms.

Best Appellations

Low yields and real heat produced concentrated tannic wines of a style not seen since ’61, but the fruit/tannin ratio has often produced overtly dry tannic wines. Where the fruit does come through, the wines now look majestic and classic. The best-balanced wines are found in Pauillac, St-Julien, Margaux and Graves.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Pichon Lalande is the most attractively drinkable at present, Latour is very impressive but the fruit is struggling; Mouton and Lafite are worth exploring. St Julien: Leoville Lascases is majestic but Gruaud Larose is now a little dry. Margaux: Palmer is one of the best balanced wines now, Branaire is good. Haut-Hadoc: Sociando-Mallet is most impressive. Graves: some fine, well- balanced wine especially Haut Brion, La Mission and Haut Bailly.

1974

Drink now

A good year in Graves. Elsewhere, the wines lacked ripeness

Weather Conditions

Conditions in spring promoted a healthy flowering. Summer was hot and dry, but September saw the start of intermittent periods of heavy rainfall. The rainy, cold weather continued throughout the harvest period, which started early in October.
Whites: The Sauternes crop was particularly badly affected by the conditions.

Best Appellations

Even 10 years ago the top growths had nothing to offer. This vintage produced a large crop of thin, dilute, charmless wines. Only the colour was better than 73. In every other way it was inferior, and even poorer than 72.

Best Producers

No producers recommended.

1973

Drink now

A large harvest of generally light wines

Weather Conditions

The weather was dry and warm throughout most of spring, providing good conditions for flowering. Heavy rain fell during much of July, but the month that followed was hot and dry. September began fine, but wet conditions returned from the middle of the month onwards.

Best Appellations

A very large crop – only 1979 produced more in the decade – of attractive, early maturing wines, full of succulent fruit but with few exceptions requiring early drinking. Only a few top wines are still holding up. The best examples are likely to come from Pauillac and Graves.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Latour is exceptional, still full of life and charm. Graves: Haut-Brion was always one of the outstanding wines of the vintage and should still be worth drinking if well stored.

1972

Drink now

Overall, a poor vintage throughout Bordeaux

Weather Conditions

Poor weather throughout the year resulted in a poor vintage. Winter and spring were cold, and flowering was late. Although July was warm, the rest of the summer suffered from prolonged periods of rainy, cold weather.
September was warm and sunny, although by then it was too late for the quality of the crop to improve much.
Whites: The crop did not thrive under the prevailing climate. Many Sauternes were declassified and the quality of the Graves was uneven.

Best Appellations

No appellation escaped the lack of ripeness and high acidity of this vintage. When bottles occasionally come to light the colour is often good, but the wines are dry and one-dimensional.

Best Producers

No producers recommended.

1971

Drink now

A small but stylish vintage

Weather Conditions

The cold, damp spring did not clear until towards the end of June. The weather picked up during summer, which, on the whole, was warm and sunny, although punctuated by showers. Good conditions prevailed for the harvest, which started early in October.

Best Appellations

These wines were much more flattering in their youth than the 70s, but have mostly not stayed the course. Then low acidity has made for quick maturing and premature ageing. The best wines come from Pauillac.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Latour has developed well and is still drinking well. Mouton is good in large bottles (magnums and larger) in spite of disappointments in bottles when much younger.
Margaux: Palmer was one of the most successful of all Médocs and well-kept bottles could still give pleasure.

1970

Drink now

A great year for rich and complex claret

Weather Conditions

Although wintry conditions lasted until relatively late in the year, by the time flowering took place, the weather had improved. July saw drought conditions in the area. August was changeable, with rainy, cool periods punctuated by hot intervals. A stormy and cold start to September was followed by run of hot, sunny days that lasted into the start of the harvest in October.

Best Appellations

It was one of those years when everything seems to go right and quality was consistent in all the regions. But many new vineyards were coming into production and there was precious little selection. Result: many of these are now lean, dry and mean. Pauillac produced some outstanding wines that have stood the test of time. Saint-Julien is more variable than usual, and some Margaux have developed very well.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Latour is a classic which seems to go on improving and opening out. Mouton is spicy and elegant but drier, and Pichon Lalande has lovely fruit and harmony, now at its best.
Saint-Julien: Today Ducru Beaucaillou shows the best fruit and harmony. Beychevelle is very stylish and long. Gruaud Larose is now drying out.
Margaux: Palmer is consistently powerful and rich. Brane Cantenac still has body sweetness and freshness, and Giscours has done exceptionally well.

1969

Drink now

Bordeaux did not match the quality achieved in other parts of France

Weather Conditions

An unexceptional winter was followed by bad spring weather. June continued cold, but July and August saw a rise in temperatures and reasonable amounts of sunshine. Rain fell throughout the first fortnight of September, but warm, sunny weather afterwards continued until the harvest – of a very small crop – in early October.

Best Appellations

The reds proved to be a great disappointment, dry, short and acid.

Best Producers

No producers recommended.

1968

Drink now

A poor vintage throughout Bordeaux after a persistently rainy summer

Weather Conditions

One of the worst vintages of the century, exacerbated by the weather. A cold winter and spring saw flowering take place under conditions that were far from ideal. There was little sun throughout summer, and August was the coldest and wettest for nearly 20 years. The weather did not help to promote adequate ripening, and the abundant, poor-quality crop was harvested in early October.

Best Appellations

This was the last vintage to be seriously affected by rot, but lessons had been learnt and some selection was attempted, so this is a vintage which should have been enjoyed in the initial 10 years of its life. Only a few survivors today, and this is a question of crus rather than appellations.

Best Producers

Pauillac: Latour is better than in ’63, and still good today if carefully decanted. Graves: Haut Brion is still sweet and charming and La Mission should be equally good.

1967

Drink now

A large but unexciting vintage of fast-maturing wines

Weather Conditions

Flowering took place slightly behind schedule after a relatively mild winter. The weather warmed up by summer, and July and August were both hot and dry. The pattern was reversed in the first three weeks of September, with cold, damp conditions, although the end of the month saw a return to sunshine. Reds: The harvest, which started in October, was plagued by intermittent rain.

Best Appellations

In general, less consistent than ’62 or ’66. Many Médocs suffer from a slightly bitter after-taste and are past their best.

Best Producers

No producers outstanding enough to mention.

1966

Drink now

An inconsistent vintage with some good Saint-Julien and Pauillac

Weather Conditions

The mild conditions of winter and early spring were followed by fine weather in late spring, producing a good flowering. Most of summer was cool and dry, although July saw some rains. August was mostly dry, but the sun failed to shine. This was compensated for by a return to hot, sunny weather in September. Despite intermittent rain just before the harvest, the crop survived intact, with no rot. Early October saw the start of the harvest take place in perfect conditions.

Best Appellations

Across the region this was the best and most consistent year between ’61 and ’70. Pauillac produced classic wines which have lasted well. St Julien: again very consistent and fine. Margaux: some fine long-maturing wines. St Estephe produced some classically long-lived, powerful wines. Graves produced outstanding wines from its best vineyards.

Best Producers

Pauillac: an outstanding Latour, still in its prime. Very good Mouton. Lafite is fine, in lighter mode. Pichon-Lalande and Lynch-Bages are the pick of the rest. St Estephe: classic long-lived wines are to be found at Cos d’Estournel and Montrose. De Pez is also very good. St Julien: Leoville Las Cases and Beychevelle are outstanding in quite different ways. But Gruaud Larose, Leoville Barton, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Talbot are also very fine and have matured well.
Margaux: Chateau Margaux produced a very good wine. Palmer is excellent and there is a very good Giscours. Moulis Poujeaux produced one of the best of the un-classified wines. Graves: La Mission and Haut Brion are both classics. Haut Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier and Pape Clement are very good.

1965

Drink now

A rainy summer produced wines of indifferent quality

Weather Conditions

A disastrous year, for which the blame can be fully laid on the weather. The cold winter conditions were prolonged throughout much of spring, and summer was washed out with heavy rains. The final straw was a wet September, which resulted in rot and irregular ripening. What few grapes there were, were harvested in October.

Best Appellations

Rain during the harvest led growers to pick unripe grapes, so less rot than ’63, but green, acid wines. Nothing to recommend.

Best Producers

No producers recommended.

1964

Drink now

A mixed vintage of inconsistent quality

Weather Conditions

A mild, wet winter led into a warm spring. Summer continued hot and dry, resulting in the development of a well-ripened crop by mid-September. The harvest started well, but the latter part of it was badly affected by the heavy rains that fell without respite for a fortnight. Red: The impact of the bad weather was particularly heavy in the Médoc.

Best Appellations

St Julien, Pauillac, Haut-Madoc, Graves

Best Producers

St Julien: Leoville-Las-Cases, Beychevelle and Leoville Barton are very good, closely followed by Ducru-Beaucaillou and Branaire-Ducru. Pauillac: Latour was probably the best wine in Médoc, but the other Firsts were badly affected by the rain, and only Pichon-Lalande, Batailly and Grand-Puy Lacoste made good wines, although now past their best. Haut Madoc Cantemerle and La Lagune deserve mention. Graves: Some of the best left bank wines come from Haut-Brion, La Mission, Domaine de Chevalier, Haut-Bailly and Pape Clement.

1963

Drink now

A very poor vintage with no wines of note

Weather Conditions

Winter was harsh, but there was little frost damage to the crop in spring. The weather did little to promote successful flowering, and the weather continued cold and damp right through to September, resulting in rot and delayed ripening. Reds: Finally, the sun began to shine at the start of the late harvest, 10 October.

Best Appellations

Rot spread across the region as rain and warm conditions affected ripe grapes. This damaged the pigmentation of the skins – resulting in a tell-tale orange colour in the wines. No area escaped.

Best Producers

Pauillac: The Latour was the only acceptable wine in the Médoc, but has been in decline for some years.

1962

Drink now

An elegant, fast-maturing vintage

Weather Conditions

Conditions were cold and rainy from winter onwards right through to the end of May. June’s good weather developed into an extremely hot summer, although a reasonable degree of rainfall prevented drought from developing. Reds: good weather continued throughout the late harvest, which began on 9 October.

Best Appellations

The highest strike rate was in St Julien, followed by Pauillac. Graves was excellent for the top crus. There were many good lesser crus.

Best Producers

St Julien: Ducru-Beaucaillou, Leoville-Barton, Gruaud-Larose, Beychevelle and Talbot were all excellent and tasted well. Pauillac: Lafite, Latour (the last produced before the sale to the Pearson Group), Mouton are outstanding. Pichon Longueville Comtesse Lalande, Lynch- Bages, Mouton-Baronne-Philippe are very good. St Estephe: Cos d’Estournel and Montrose have eloquence and depth after a slow start, while Haut-Marbuzet shows how good a cru bourgeois can be when as well made as this. Margaux: a classic Palmer is preferable to a rather below par Margaux. Graves: La Mission, Haut-Brion, Haut-Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier and Pape Clement were the best.

1961

Drink soon

A classic vintage, producing concentrated yet finely-balanced claret

Weather Conditions

The weather played a major part in the production of what is generally accepted to be a great vintage for Bordeaux‘s red wines. Despite a frosty spring, vegetation was advanced, but as the months progressed cold conditions reduced the flowering and rain washed away the pollen, reducing the potential crop. At the end of July persistent rain fell, and drought conditions prevailed in August, which was followed by a warm, sunny September. This pattern effectively ‘pruned’ the crop, then ripened the remaining fruit thoroughly. The harvest began at the end of September.

Best Appellations

The outstanding feature of this vintage was its consistency across the board, from first growths to Crus Bourgeois. But on the right bank, although some crus seemed to re-capture their pre-’56 form, many actually did better in ’64. On the left bank every appellation produced some outstanding examples. The wines were in most cases very attractive drinking by the end of the first decade, because of their fine harmony and depths of flavour and have lasted splendidly.

Best Producers

The front runners are Latour, Mouton, and Palmer. Then come Haut Brion, La Mission, Margaux, Leoville-Las-Cases, Cos d’Estournel, Calon-Segur, Gruaud-Larose, Lynch-Bages, Leoville-Barton, Leoville-Poyferre, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Brane-Cantenac, Haut-Bailly and Pape-Clement. Lafite shows big bottle variations. But second-line crus like Batailley and Croizet-Bages were also excellent.