Vintage Guide


Vintage Guide

Claret Vintages


The indications are that 2017 is looking good in terms of quality but very short on quantity, following frosts in the Spring that decimated certain properties. 2016 is a worthy successor to 2015 looking very promising across all wine types. A hot summer but with cool nights has produced wines with fruit and freshness. 2015 is looking good across the region for reds, especially the Right Bank, Pessac-Léognan, dry whites (better for Sauvignon than Sémillon) and sweeties. It is certainly the best vintage since 20102014 is a very good Cabernet vintage, particularly in the Médoc where the wines are fresh with fine tannins. Overall ripeness levels are good and so are quantities. The 2013 and 2012 vintages were not particularly easy for the Bordelais, requiring dedication in the vineyard and modern techniques in the winery. Plenty of attractive short and medium-term wines have been made, but yields are low. Like 20082006 and 2001, the 2011s are fresh, well-balanced wines of good quality for the mid-term. The stand-out recent successes have been 2010 – a great vintage, the wines having concentrated fruit and complexity together with the tannic structure needed for long life – and 2009, an outstanding year without extremes of weather, now being spoken of as one of the very best: approachable early, yet with the density and structure to last. 2008 was a tricky vintage, initially dismissed by many, but the Right Bank in particular has come on well. Some very good mid-term wines were made, overlooked in the hype of 2009s on the horizon, whilst the 2007 vintage was not rated at the time but has provided some super drinking pleasure with relatively early maturing wines. Extremes of weather caused problems in 2006, but the best properties made very good wines and they look good value against 2005 which was acclaimed as a superb, possibly legendary vintage when everything came together. Concentrated, evolving into a classic, the top wines should age for a very long time. The Millennium vintage of 2000 was outstanding whilst 2001 and 2004 were very good and arguably more typical, while 2003 produced super, ripe wines, many drinking better than initially predicted. 1999 was overlooked as everyone waited for the Millennium vintage but the wines have great charm. The Right Bank did particularly well in 1998 while the wines of 1997 have, and continue to, provide attractive drinking. 1996 and 1995 make for an interesting comparison; the best wines will age longer but others are drinking well now. 199419931992 and 1991 – all but the best 94s are now fully mature, while 1990 remains the best vintage from this decade. Look out for top properties from 1989198619851983 (good value) and 1982 (expensive). Other ’80s vintages and lesser properties will need drinking up soon, whilst from the ’70s, just the top properties from the likes of 197819761979 and 1970 will carry on, though even they are now at their peak.

Sauternes Vintages


A favourable summer in 2017 has produced some very good sweeties concentrated by weather rather than botrytis but in small quantities. A warm 2016 vintage has given rise to excellent sweet wines mostly concentrated by the sun but with some boytrytis and good fresh acidity. Both 2015 and 2014 have produced excellent quality in a modern style, sweet but balanced with good freshness rather than overly sweet and rich. The 2013 vintage proved a good year for Sauternes; the wines have freshness and balance (keep). In contrast, the rains of 2012 meant the top châteaux did not release wines. The rich opulent wines of 2011 will be charming (keep), while those of 2010 are good but more irregular and less overt than the ‘11s which came after and the tremendous ’09s which came before. The wines of the small harvest of 2008 lacked concentration and are a contrast to the wonderful wines of 2007 – rich, pure, plenty of botrytis (keep). The challenging 2006 vintage suffered rain at harvest but some good wines were made (drink or keep). The wonderful vintage of 2005 – powerful and opulent but elegant too – are wines to keep. The small quantity of botrytised wines from 2004 are beginning to drink, while the sugar-laden, concentrated wines of 2003 are best kept. The 2002 vintage proved light and needs drinking soon compared with the superb wines of 2001 which will stand the test of time. The Millennium vintage of 2000 proved less than ideal so drink up. The classic wines of 1999 will cellar well while you reach for those of 1998 which, despite giving the growers plenty to worry about during the season, proved good in the end. 1997 is a very fine vintage, the best since 1990, drink or keep, but hot on its heels 1996 and 1995 make for great comparison. The good, rich wines of 1990 are drinking now, as are those of 1989, though no hurry here, while the outstanding wines of the 1988 vintage and the rich honeyed wines of 1986 are drinking well, as are the fabulous late-harvested wines of 1983.

Rhône Vintages


An early harvest has produced some intense wines in 2017 for both the North and the South of the region, though uneven flowering in both has reduced yields considerabley. 2016 looks very promising with both northern and southern Rhône have excellent results, the South has it by a whisker this year, the opposite of 2015. 2015 looks terrific here with no problems reported and decent yields too. An ideal growing season, that was even hotter than 2003 in the daytime but with cooler nights and just enough rainfall to prevent problems in the vineyards. Both whites and reds are reportedly excellent. The North probably has the edge overall with better balanced wines. 2014 is not an easy vintage to generalise about but whites are super, reds are very pure with lovely aromatics, and, in the South, as in 2013, Syrah and Mourvèdre have done better than Grenache. In common with most of Europe, 2013 started late but a dry second half of the season resulted in some excellent wines particularly Syrah from the North. 2012 was a return to a broader, richer style across the region, while the 2011s have more elegance and freshness – qualities you’ll find in the southern Côtes du Rhône in particular. 2010 is outstanding, particularly in the South where the balance is glorious. The previous vintage, 2009 was also packed with superlatives, with the North just trumping the South – very pure, rich Syrah with tremendous potential. 2008 was certainly a ‘curate’s egg’, where we were careful to buy only the best. One of the few dips in the ‘noughties’ really, since the fabulous 2007 vintage tops even the outstanding 20062005 and 2004s. A remarkable run, but tasting these wines has been an absolute pleasure in recent years, and these brilliant bottles will last, the top styles easily making 15-20 years, yet having the fresh fruit structure to enjoy in their youth. Otherwise, the hot 2003s are very rich, possibly better in the North. 2002 was rather disappointingly light and 2001 was uniformly excellent.

White Burgundy Vintages


In spite of a familiar and now all-too-frequent late frost in 2017 the growers in the Côte d'Or were better prepared and the vintage looks to have delivered some excellent results, with many domaines back to 'normal' yields. What there is in 2016 is very good but sadly frost and hail had a bigger than usual impact this year particularly in Chablis and the Mâconnais, but almost no-one escaped unscathed. 2015 has produced round, full whites with good, ripe fruit. 2014 started well enough with an early spring but a cooler than average summer, and hailstorms in the south, reduced yields. The resultant wines, however, have elegance and beautiful balance. A cold season in 2013 meant yields were low but good growers have produced some very drinkable wines. Another low-yielding vintage, 2012, gave some attractive wines but not much volume. The tricky conditions of 2011 gave some good juicy wines for short and mid-term drinking. While the Burgundians favour the ethereal style of the succulent 2010s, they contrast well with the much riper, fleshier wines of 2009. A cooler year in 2008 produced some super, fresh, zippy wines. Similarly in 2007, the whites are crisp and aromatic. Another year saved by September weather, the wines of 2006 have a little more flesh than the subsequent two years. Concentrated wines with good structure were produced in 2005, with 2004 providing a contrast with crisper but more long-lived wines. The hot year of 2003 produced some fascinating but atypical whites. The successful 2002 vintage gave us good quality and quantity, drink soon. Wines from 2001 were nice but for the short term, drink up. The Millennium vintage of 2000 was much better for whites than for reds.

Red Burgundy Vintages


Quantites in 2017 will be better than 2016 with equally good results. Early indications are the wines will be more red-fruited than black, showing great elegance. 2016 proved a rollercoaster of a season with everything thrown at the growers in the early season but what fruit survived through to harvest is very good, quantities, however, will be small. 2015 is looking to be a classic vintage for red Burgundy. The red wines of 2014 have a great combination of red and black fruits as well as being charmingly approachable in their youth. After a late start and a cool summer, a dry September saved the day in 2013. This followed another difficult year weather-wise though the resultant wines in 2012 are soft and attractive and this in turn was preceded by a year of tricky weather in 2011. The wonderful duo of 2010 and 2009 gave elegant age-worthy wines in the former, and bigger, riper, very drinkable wines in the latter. These followed the more difficult 2008, which produced fresh wines, and 2007 when a poor summer meant only the best growers did well. 2006 was also less than straight-forward but some attractive, pure wines have emerged. The fantastic 2005 vintage gave wines which will need time to show at their best. Before that, the 2004 vintage produced fresher, lighter wines, drinking well now, and the unusually hot vintage of 2003 continues to surprise, though ultimately the tannins may out-live the fruit. 2002 was a good vintage, giving some attractive mid-term drinking wines. The best growers had to be careful not to over-extract tannins in 2001. The Millennium year of 2000 proved tricky but some soft, easy wines were produced (drink up) while 1999 was a super vintage, giving wines which will stand the test of time but be approachable throughout their evolution. The 1998 vintage produced some good wines though some can be a little foursquare. If you still have some of the charming wines from 1997, drink up soon, whilst the 1996 and 1995s were rather good being fresher and darker respectively.

Spanish Vintages


Growers had a complex year in 2017 having to contend with frost hail and drought, Yields are down as a result but the picture overall is of good quality particularly in Galicia and the South, Penedés also seems to have performed well. The 2016 vintage looks pretty good on the whole with Ribera del Duero, Rioja and Rueda having excellent results. Most of the producers we have spoken to are heralding 2015 as the best vintage across Spain in recent years, but we will have to wait for the top Gran Reserva Riojas and Riberas to come on to the market. 2014 saw some good wines made with a little rain in the second half of harvest and low yields. This came after the potentially great 2013 vintage which has given fresh, vibrant, robust wines. The 2012 harvest is also very good, a dry year but yields are low. The run continues back to 2002, with 2011 being an early harvest in good conditions; 2010 a cooler year, which has delivered a more elegant style of wine; 2009 a warm year with a potentially big harvest of excellent grapes through the more elegant 2008s; the growing season of 2007 was more difficult but good, balanced wines emerged; the drought season of 2006 was moderated by cool nights giving elegant wines; the superb duo of 2005 and 2004, which will be compared for years to come and the powerful, super-ripe vintage of 2003. Poor bud-break and rain at harvest in 2002 spoiled the run of fine vintages but 2001 more than made up for it – a classic vintage, drinking well now. Frost at flowering and rain at harvest hampered the 1999 vintage, while 1998 was a fine year until rain at harvest forced some to pick early, although those who waited were rewarded with the warmth that followed.

Douro Vintages


2017 proved to be a hot, dry year with one of the earliest harvests on record and yields down about 35% but the quality looks to be very good for table wine. The growers report that 2016 was a complex but ultimately satisfying year with a wet winter followed by a drier and warmer summer than usual; the resulting wines showing great balance and concentration in both red and white. 2015 promises great things for both red and white. 2014 and cooler conditions produced some of the best whites yet. After a slow start, 2013 gave high quality wines in the end. 2012 was a low-yielding vintage which produced small, concentrated berries with good acidity. A drought year in 2011 gave great quality wines, whilst 2010 produced plenty of wine, some of which lacked a little definition. Another hot year in 2009 meant good ripeness but alcohols could be high, in contrast to 2008 and 2007 which were much cooler and the patient growers harvested in ideal conditions giving very good wines. 2006 was an unusual year in the Douro, being wet at harvest. The preceding 2005 vintage was, however, very dry and produced some excellent, well-balanced wines, and this in turn followed the hot summer of 2004, when rain in early September provided a much needed boost in the vineyards. The drought year of 2003 turned up some very good wines, which have aged well.

Italian Vintages


2017 saw a small crop of excellent wines; spring frosts and later heatwave nicknamed 'Lucifer' reduced yields but you'll find good results on the whole with excellent results in Piedmont. Yields were down in 2016 but quality is high with Piedmont and Tuscany at least as good as 2015. 2015 is generally an excellent vintage across Italy, perhaps reds have the edge over whites. A year that necessitated a lot of work in the vineyards due to the rains, 2014 has produced some surprisingly good results with elegant fresh wines across the country. The long, cool growing season of 2013 produced aromatic, well-balanced wines, whilst 2012 showed particularly well in Tuscany and in sheltered sites in Piedmont. A warm growing season in 2011 gave powerful wines with ripe tannins in contrast to the cooler season of 2010 which gave fresher wines for mid-term drinking. 2009 was another warm year with higher alcohol, ripe tannins and good aromatics. 2008 delivered approachable, soft, elegant wines. This followed the excellent pair of 2007 and 20062005 proved to be a difficult year with erratic weather patterns. Age-worthy, complex wines were produced in 2004 after the hot year of 2003 which seemed to suit Tuscany better than Piedmont. 2001 backwards, through to the latter half of the ’90s, proved something of a run of very good or excellent vintages, in which 1997 stands out, even in this company. 1994 gave lighter, fruity wines (drink up) while 1993 was patchy, 1992 was wet, 1991 was spoiled by rain at harvest, but 1990 was superb, starting the decade on a high.

German Vintages


An early harvest following frost earlier in the season means 2017 has produced excellent light, fruity wines with great finesse. Weather conditions were tricky in 2016 and growers had to earn their stripes; the early season was wet, which reduced yields, followed by a hot summer with cool nights bringing excellent aromatics but with wines a little lighter then 2015. The briliant 2015 vintage took place in ideal conditions and produced wonderfully ripe wines in all styles. Kabinetts are bit short in quantity but the dry wines especially are very approachable. 2014 saw a good crop of light, well-balanced wines with well-integrated acidity. This followed the rather lower yielding 2013 which afforded the wines good acid structure. 2012 and 2011 both produced high quality wines. Like 20132010 was another low-yielding vintage, giving concentrated wines with good acidity. On the other hand, 2009 was a great vintage with a warm, dry, consistent growing season. 2008 had a late harvest; Eiswein did well. The outstanding vintages of 2007 and 2005 sandwiched the rather more tricky 2006. Crisper in style, the 2004 vintage was nevertheless good, saved by a dry autumn. The unusually hot year of 2003 gave some interesting if atypical wines, best at the top end of the sweetness scale. The wines of 2002 are easy-going, soft and approachable – handy, coming after the stunning and long-lived wines of 20012000 was spoiled by rain at harvest, which also affected the 1999 vintage though not so badly. Eiswein shone in 1998 which generally produced easy, attractive wines. This came after the big crop of 1997 in which Spätlese wines showed particularly well. 1996 was a lighter vintage but some attractive wines were made. In 1995, fortune favoured the brave and growers who harvested late made some super wines. The 1994 vintage suffered variable weather but did improve to give some excellent BA and TBA wines. 1993 was a very good vintage in the Mosel in particular.