Know your Bordeaux Vintages

Knowing your vintages can help you decide when to drink your wine

Whilst the weather determines the quality of the vintage, it is ultimately the winemaker who makes the wines. This means, that if a 'bad' producer makes wine in an exceptional vintage, the wine would still be poor, whereas a top wine producer can still make great wine in a poor year.

However, assuming that the winemaker knows what he's doing, the weather will indeed affect the wine in different ways and as a consumer, we can often get a lot of information based on the vintage.

In general the difficult or poorer years that produce lighter style wines are more approachable in their youth. If the wine was carefully made, these wines are often good-value for money and can still give the consumer top-notch enjoyment. These vintages such as 2002, 2007, 2013 and 2017 are sometimes referred to as 'restaurant vintages' because they are on the cheaper end of the scale and are enjoyable in the youth, thus the wine would enter its drinking window earlier and the restaurant would not need to keep in their cellar for several years before serving. Win-win?

Winemaker Benjamin Sichel tasting from the Barrel at Chateau Angludet

In exceptional years such as (2000, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020) the wines are fuller, richer and more robust. Whilst these wines will develop to be extremely complex and delicious, they would need more time in the cellar to develop. They can often be found to be rather austere or 'closed' in their youth. The wine flavours would not have developed into different layers and the tannins may still be rough. The wine may even be disappointing if drunk too young (even after decanting for several hours). Many of the better vintages would need a minimum of 10 years for the tannins to become better integrated and the flavours to shine. These wine would, however, continue to develop and gain complexity for many more years - sometimes the top wines can even continue to develop up to 30 or 50 years.

We have gone back as far as 1990 and rated the vintages out of 10 (10/10 being the best).

1990: 10/10

Great wines produced in a beautiful style from every appellation. Reaching over 20 years of age, most are ready to drink, but some can be aged further for more complexity. The smaller (petit) chateaux should have been drunk up a few years ago. The wines have are rich, round and a beautifully pure. The vintage is consistent on both banks. Wines are ready to drink or held for several more years.

1991: 5/10

A very difficult vintage. Most wines are past their prime

1992: 4/10

A very difficult vintage. Most wines are past their prime

1993: 5/10

A very difficult vintage. Most wines are past their prime

1994: 6/10

Whilst a tad better then the two previous vintages, still a lean and un-exciting vintage. Wines with a higher proportion of Merlot may still have some life left in them

1995: 8/10

Big, powerful, tannic and rather austere. Definitely needed time to develop. Right bank St Emilion and Pomerol performed particularly well. Wines are ready to drink or hold

1996: 9/10

In contrast to the previous year, the left bank Medoc and in particular Cabernet Sauvignon, performed particularly well. Many of those Cab-based on the left bank are stunning. Drink or even hold for a couple more years

1997: 5/10

A year that was marred by rain in summer. The wines are lighter and matured early. These wines are either ready to drink or have past their prime

1998: 8/10

A interesting vintage all round. Right bank St Emilion and Pomerol are wonderful. The left bank was more of a mixed bag, but Pessac Léognan was particularly great. A vintage to buy and enjoy now. The better wines can continue to be cellared

1999: 7/10

The wines are of a decent quality, but they have matured rapidly. The vintage was a difficult one, but vineyard techniques had improved and many managed to bring out some great quality wines despite the weather. The wines are ready to drink and we do not recommend to holding further

2000: 10/10

A exceptional vintage. Plush and opulent wines with great freshness, purity and character from all over Bordeaux. The prices are skyrocketing, but the quality is stunning. We believe prices will continue to increase. If you have 2000's in your cellar you're a happy chap

2001: 8/10

After the great millennial, 2001 was never going to match it. It's still a charming vintage that has not had the same recognition or price increase as the 2000. Maybe a clever purchase for your next celebration? The wines are ready to drink or can hold for several year to come.

2002: 6/10

A pretty average vintage, but some Medocs are drinking well. Prices are fair, but the wine will not better with any more age. Drink now if you have any in your cellar

2003: 7.5/10

Many left-bank Pauillac and St Estephe's are sublime, but the right bank Pomerols left much to be desired. St Emilion wasn't as bad as pomerol and some really great wines emerged. A pretty good vintage all in all. Wines are ready to drink or held for longer

2004: 7/10

Some very charming wines, but no outstanding wines that really shine. We'd suggest drinking rather then holding.

2005: 10/10

A stunning vintage all round. A vintage to buy and put in your cellar - you won't regret it! Similar to the 2000 vintage these wines will give you great enjoyment and will continue to increase in price. Though many are drinking fabulously, we strongly suggest you hold a couple of bottles of cases.

2006: 8/10

Lots of power, tannins and rather austere wines that require cellaring. Pauillac and Péssac Léognan produced some exceptional wines but they need time to shine. They probably wont outshine the 2005's but they are sure to provide spectacular enjoyment. Some may already e ready to drink, but hold other for some years to come

2007: 6/10

Early drinking wine. Prices are on the high-side for the quality. Drink up

2008: 7/10

This is a mixed vintage with some good wines, but not great wines. Pomerol and Pauillac were the most successful regions. Prices remain pretty fair for the quality. Drink now or in the next couple of years

2009: 10/10

What a wonderful vintage. Wines are sexy, lush and plush. Pomerol, Pauillac, Pessac Léognan, and St. Estephe produced the best Bordeaux wines. Many of these wines are already drinking well, but you can easily hold on for years to come

2010: 10/10

Another exceptional vintage. Similar to 2000 and 2005, these are big powerful and austere wines that need time in the cellar and even up to 15 years till they even start to shine. Margaux, Pauillac, Pessac Léognan and St. Emilion are the best regions. Sauternes was also very successful

2011: 5/10

An average year. Mainly seek out St Emilion and Pomerol from right bank which could be described as classic, fresh and bright. Wines are of an early drinking style, so we suggest drinking up soon. Another great year for Sauternes however

2012: 8/10

A good, classical vintage better known for the right bank wines of Pomerol. St Emilion also had some great wines, but the Merlot in Pomerol was a tad riper. Medoc wines struggled with the Cabernet Sauvignon finding difficulty to achieve ripeness, but there we some successes in Pessac Léognan

2013: 5/10

Early drinking, light vintage with a focus on red fruit as opposed to black fruit. Pomerol and St Julien were the best perfroming appellations, but the dry white wines from Pessac are great. Sauternes produced another great vintage. Drink the reds sooner rather then later

2014: 8/10

Medoc produced some stellar wines in this vintage. The wines are soft, velvety and elegant and we are big fans of this vintage, especially from the regions of Margaux, St Julien & Pauillac. The wines have good aging capabilities, but are already delicious. You can easily drink a couple of bottles now and hold other for more years. The dry whites and Sauternes were also of great quality in this vintage.

2015: 9.5/10

A beautiful vintage. The Merlot & cabernet Franc were particularly great and thus St Emilion and Pomerol produced some incredible wines - Bright, sexy, lush and voluptuous wines. Margaux was superb and Pauillac and St Julien have some lovely wines, but St Estephe suffered a bit. Sauternes had another top notch year. Hold these wines for the best results.

2016: 10/10

Pomerol and St Emilion made some of their best wines ever, whilst there were some Stunning wines from Pauillac, St. Estephe and St. Julien. other appellations slightly mixed, but the vintage was top notch. The wines are inky and luscious and somewhat more approachable and lower in alcohol than 2015. It's a vintage to hold onto.

2017: 7/10

A typical 'restaurant vintage'. 2017 was marred by an early frost, but northern Medoc produced some really good quality wines. Many wines are fresh and elegant with soft tannins that make the wine extremely approachable in its youth. It's a vintage that can be drunk now, but can also age for quite a few year (10 or so). This is a vintage that is perfect to drink in the next few years and will be incredibly enjoyable. A value-vintage?

2018: 9/10

A very good vintage with extraordinary wines of great character. The wines are inky, with opulent textures and silky tannins. Due to the warm and dry summer, many are high in alcohol, but equally high in acidity. There are many wines from 2018 that are the best ever from several chateaux. The top wines come from St Estephe, Pauillac, St, Julien, Margaux, the Plateau of Pomerol and the limestone plateau of St. Emilion. The vintage should age well, yet be accessible early, with just a decade of aging. Hold for now

2019: 10/10

A fantastic vintage. The wines are opulent, silky, aromatic, floral, and pure. Not quite as concentrated and opulent as the 2018, but the wines are more balanced, fresh, and very sexy. The dry white wines were successful with good freshness but it was a difficult vintage for Sauternes. Forward in style, (with some exceptions) many will be drinking well by 10-12 years after the vintage.

2020: 10/10

The last vintage of the incredible trio (2018/2019/2020). Never had Bordeaux produced three successive spectacular vintages. A year also know for being entirely produced during the pandemic. Often described as 'classic - Modern', the wines are dark, rich and aromatic and the tannins are already soft. This is a terrific vintage to hold for the long term.

2021: 7.5/10

After the incredible trio, 2021 never stood a chance. The excessive rain, frost, rot and lack of sunshine added to its woes, but some wines produced are exceptionally classical and elegant. Many say it's a Cabernet Sauvignon year, but we feel its just a mixed bag really. Some of the top wines were outstanding, but it's not consistent. The White wines are exceptional and worth seeking out. Hold.