Top 7 Vintages For Your Tasting Room
In the world of French wine, “Millésime” indicates a vintage harvest year for the grapes. This is an important reference point for distinguishing the most exclusive and valuable wines, as the best vintages reveal a blend of aroma and flavors that never repeat.
A winemaker’s experience is only part of what makes amazing reds and whites. The soil, climate and weather also impact the unique characteristics of each varietal, which can vary greatly. The wine can be gorgeous one year and ordinary another. Exceptional vintages often occur when the weather conditions are optimal – between flowering and harvest – and the grapes are picked at just the right time, after slow and steady ripening.
French wines have vintage rankings, and premium wines come from top-notch millésime, when perfect grapes bring unique bouquets. Each French region has its own natural landscape, so the same vintage might be excellent in Bordeaux but average in Burgundy. However, history has seen vineyards across France join in outstanding vintage years. These millésimes are proudly stamped on labels as a declaration of excellence that wine collectors recognize and cherish.
1945 is often referred to as a victory vintage and deserves its well-earned fame. The weather was perfect from start to finish. A scorching and dry summer allowed great châteaux in Bordeaux and Burgundy to produce deep, rich, powerful reds with extraordinary longevity.
Many of these wines still continue to improve because their tannins require 50 years before they soften. This period’s most legendary and rare bottle is Château Mouton Rothschild with crushed strawberries, smoked violets, cinnamon and saffron flavors. Other outstanding grands crus come from Palmer, Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Haut Brion, Petrus, Gruaud Larose and Gruaud Larose.
1959 was another remarkable year for French winemakers. The vineyards experienced optimal climatic conditions, allowing them to produce exceptional reds (Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley) and whites (Loire, Burgundy, Sauternes), many of which still offer superb tastings. Some bottles became mythical, like Pauillac and Château La Mission Haut Brion. Wines from the Château Lafite Rothschild, Haut Brion, Montrose, Yquem and the appellations Chambertin, Musigny, Richebourg and Hermitage were particularly successful.
The 1961 harvest was tiny but of extraordinary quality. As a result, the wines of this vintage became luxurious and rare. Top examples of Bordeaux continue to shine, offering ripe fruit fragrances, with unique and legendary grands crus from Mouton Rothschild, Latour, Haut Brion, Petrus and Palmer. In Burgundy, the reds from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Clos de la Roche and Armand Rousseau remain lavish, characterized by a gradually unfolding bouquet.
1982 entered the history books of Bordeaux wines as another great vintage. Opulent, rich, sensuous and incredibly complex reds have tannins that are now softened. Bottles from Petrus, Mouton Rothschild and Cheval Blanc remain legendary, with prices to match. However, there are 1982 reds that can offer immense pleasure for competitive value, such as Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Gruaud Larose and Leoville Poyferre.
1990 is a sublime vintage brimming with charm and distinction. The best Bordeaux grands crus come from Calon Segur, La Conseillante, Petrus and Grand-Puy-Lacoste. The Sauternes whites, such as Château Guiraud, are full of sweetness and richness. There is also a wide range of Burgundy wines – brilliant, beautifully colored and with a developed complexity. In the Rhone Valley, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage and Gigondas taste like a million berries floating on the surface, and are still showing forward and fresh.
2005 grapes ripened slowly and perfectly, giving birth to top-quality wines around France. Bordeaux reds offer lively cranberry, red cherry, crunchy blackcurrant leaf character and an extended cellaring capacity. The sweet whites are spectacular with perfectly balanced sugar, alcohol and acidity, delicious confit, and woody nuances. Among the greatest successes of this vintage are Cos d’Estournel, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Margaux, Angelus and Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux, Clos Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée in Burgundy, and an exquisite Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley.
2015 is among the most recent millésimes, with exceptional qualities and long-term potential. There are plenty of options, both for drinking now or laying down. For instance, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion offer opulent fruit-forward wines. In Burgundy, the whites from Pouilly-Fuissé are very promising. In the Rhône Valley, Côte Rôtie, Hermitage and Condrieu offer intense and deliciously vibrant tastes.
Many of these wines will continue to age spectacularly in the cellar. Beyond these landmark millésimes, many other exceptional vintages exist. Every French wine-producing region has vintage grids to summarize the quality and character of each wine. While small vintages are pleasant in their youth, the grands crus from prestigious millésimes are designed for a high-end tasting experience. But for seasoned and novice wine-lovers alike, the world of vintage wines offers a lifetime of exploration, learning and – above all – unforgettable flavors.