written by nick jackson, mw (2023-2024)

Vintage Charts by Region

Red Bordeaux

Shop Red Bordeaux – Highlights

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2022 a rich, opulent vintage, the product of a hot and dry summer. The wines are expansive in every way: full of fruit, tannin, alcohol and body, with considerable complexity conspicuous from the beginnings of their lives. The loose-knit character and velvety tannins mean the wines are likely to drink well from the beginning, just like the 2009s did, without ever shutting down. The unexpected freshness may originate from the (perfectly legal) inclusion of 15% of the 2021 vintage, a much cooler year.

2021 breaking up the run of hot, ripe vintages, 2021 is an appealing throwback to the wines of the 1990s, in its freshness, modest alcohols and midweight style. For drinkers accustomed to the warmer years, the limited fruit and fine grained tannins may reduce the appeal. But for lovers of classic Bordeaux vintages like 1988, 1996 or 2001, there is much to enjoy in 2021, especially on the Left Bank, where the later-ripening Cabernet fared well. In spite of the cool year, the tannins are supple, meaning the wines will drink well early in their lives, even if they will not last forever.

2020 the Covid summer was another warm one in Bordeaux, producing wines of considerable power and depth of fruit. Compared to 2018 or 2022, the tannin structure is a bit more classical: firm and authoritative, suggesting the best wines will need a few years in bottle to soften. This tightness also lends an excellent precision and tension to wines that could otherwise be soft due to their generosity of fruit. An excellent vintage, where the Left Bank probably triumphs over the Right; in the latter, high alcohols and over-ripe fruit can be in evidence.

2019 another warm year and one in which the region’s red wines succeeded gloriously. Drinkers will argue for decades about the relative merits of 2018, 2019 and 2020, but for me, the concentration of fruit, firm but ripe tannins, excellent freshness and overall purity of expression elevate the 2019s above their neighbors on either side. The 2019s will need several years in bottle, but will then reward drinkers with a ‘modern classic’ style of Bordeaux: rich but fresh, ripe but pure. 

2018 a difficult year in the vineyard, plagued by mildew, reduced yields in 2018. The grapes were further concentrated by a hot summer. The resultant wines are on a huge scale: vast depth of fruit, tannin structures and alcohol levels. This is a decidedly Mediterranean rather than an Atlantic-style vintage, with all the hedonism that implies. The wines cannot be called classic, but they dazzle by their sheer intensity and scope.

2017 a somewhat forgotten year, which gave wines high both in tannin and acidity, and rather limited in fruit. This combination has not in general appealed to the market, but that is not to say that all the top names did not make good wines: they did. Further down the quality ladder, quality remains more variable.

2016 a glorious year for classically-styled Bordeaux: fresh, bright wines, with moderate body weights and alcohol levels, and great purity and delineation of flavor, permitting every terroir to express itself. The tannins remain tight-knit for now, and the best wines should not be touched until at least 10, and ideally 15, years old. 2019, to compare another more classically profiled vintage, is more fruity and approachable and for that reason some tasters prefer it. But the best 2016s are simply archetypal red Bordeaux, resplendent in their effortless complexity and class.

2015 much excitement greeted the 2015s, after a run of so-so vintages. And the wines in general live up to it, especially on the Right Bank, where the Merlot was excellent. In the final analysis, 2015 is a fruit-led vintage and lacks the purity of terroir expression of the 2016s. But this should not be held against it; the succulent, generous 2015s are irresistible and already offer so much pleasure.

2014 a year of fresh, mid-weight wines, lacking the concentration of the best years, but nonetheless offering attractive, classically-styled Bordeaux for immediate consumption. Certainly a good option if spotted on a restaurant wine list; less so for long term aging.

2013 the only real ‘write-off’ vintage in the century so far; a very weak vintage due to a cool, wet summer. The wines lack fruit and should be drunk up now.

2012 2012 is similar in some respects to 2014, in that it yielded very correct, authentic Bordeaux, but without the concentration or excitement of the best years. The Right Bank is probably the pick in this vintage, where the Merlot achieved decent concentration. The top Right Bank wines can be very good.

2011 a difficult year featuring high levels of tannin and acidity, but without the concomitant depth of fruit to match (or mask). These have always been very firm and slightly joyless wines, although as always in Bordeaux, age is the cure; 15 years after the vintage will see some softening to give solid if not spectacular wines.

2010 the second in the ‘twin peak’ vintages of 2009 and 2010, both yielding exceptional wines. 2010 lacks the hedonistic, sumptuous fruit of 2009 and is instead more tightly wound, with a sturdy tannin structure and an overall sense of haughty grandeur, yet to relax. In fact, the 2010s may be the longest-lived wines of the century so far, although 2005 might compete; the precision and purity of fruit, the balance and glorious harmony of the wines limited only by the stubbornness of the wines to yield to the effects of time. In 2023, the best 2010s still taste like barrel samples, but when they come right, they will be astonishing.

2009 in contrast to the 2010s, the 2009s have been glorious from the beginnings of their distinguished lives. The warm summer produced opulent, rich wines, full-bodied, with melting tannins and plush finishes. By no means are these wines classical Bordeaux, but the overall hedonism of the style is hard to resist; a comparison with the 1982s, similarly accused of being too fruity or too soft, reveals the potential here. Latour may be the wine of the vintage, but virtually no château put a foot wrong, at all quality levels. A handful of wines on the Right Bank suffered from over-ripeness or over-extraction; the Left Bank is virtually faultless.

2008 an ‘ugly duckling’ vintage, in which the late ripening vines produced grapes full of tannin and acidity, but less fruit, especially on the Left Bank. But in recent years, the wines are achieving better balance, with good depth of flavor and concentration, and an overall elegance of style. The Right Bank is very good or even excellent; insiders suspect the 2008 may eventually be considered the equal of the two succeeding vintages in Pomerol. Right Bank 2008s can represent excellent value.

2007 a light vintage across the board, rarely seen today; perfumed but largely lacking the concentration for further aging.

Older notable vintages

1998 an unequivocally excellent Right Bank vintage; at 25 years old, the best Right Bank wines are drinking wonderfully today. The Left Bank, with the exception of the Merlot-heavy Pessac-Léognan (the Haut Brion stable is outstanding in 1998), are a bit drier and more severe than the pleasurable Merlot-led wines.

1996 a lovely, refined, Left Bank vintage, showcasing gravelly, cedary Cabernet in top form. Lafite and Margaux lead the way, with honorable mentions to the Pichons and Montrose; all are drinking well today. The Right Bank was far less successful.

1995 the obverse to 1996, where the Right Bank excelled. These can be superb wines today. On the Left Bank, the tight grip of the Cabernet tannins persists today, but the wines are very enjoyable in a strait-laced, linear, fresh style, and the tannins ensure they will last forever.

1990 a high yielding vintage, for a long time considered the best of the 1988-1989-1990 trio, but now grudgingly yielding superiority to 1989. The wines are rich and fleshy, soft and luxuriant, but should probably be drunk in the next ten years.

1989 a superstar vintage, but arguably only recently appreciated as such; potentially the rival to 1982. Indeed, 1989 can often show more concentration, focus and consistency than that year. These are brilliant, complete wines, with ample fruit, huge aromatic and flavor complexity and beautifully softened tannins, on both banks.

1988 and 1985 – grouped together for showing similar profiles: good but not exceptional concentration, with lovely balance, easy harmony and excellent Bordeaux finesse. Both, however, are fading now and should be drunk up.

1982 a, perhaps the, legendary vintage of the last fifty years, important as much for putting Bordeaux on the map for the American consumer (thanks to Robert Parker) as for the outstanding quality of the wines. At this age there is a lot of bottle variation, but the best wines combine sumptuous fruit with spectacular exotic aromas and a warm embrace of a finish. At this age the Left Bank wines are more reliable, but the Right Bank also made great 1982s.

White Burgundy

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2021 a difficult, small, frost-ridden vintage means these wines will always be hard to find, but the few there are, achieve good quality. A generally cool year yielded light to mid-weight wines, with moderate alcohols and a firm core of minerality. These are resoundingly classical white Burgundies although perhaps lack the stuffing for long term aging.

2020 in spite of the warmth of the year, these wines are excellent representations of the likely future of white Burgundy: ripe but dry, with excellent phenolic grip and linear acidity. There is ample tension and energy without the occasional over-ripeness witnessed in 2018 and 2019. 2020s are certainly the best wines since 2017, and succeed particularly well in capturing terroir differences.

2019 a warm summer yielded attractive, concentrated white Burgundies, with focused fruit and sufficient acidity and minerality. They lack the drive or purity of the 2017s or 2020s, but most drinkers will enjoy the combination of fruit and freshness that the wines show.

2018 too hot a year for really successful white wines; the best nonetheless show considerable concentration of ripe, even sweet-tasting fruit, pleasant structure and some acidity. Most of the 2018s should be drunk on the younger side while the fruit remains fresh; finish them by 2026.

2017 a gorgeous white Burgundy vintage, showing freshness, tension, minerality and terroir expression; second only to 2014 in this decade. You can certainly drink the Premiers Crus today, although wait until 2025 for the Grands Crus.

2016 a small, frost-affected vintage produced a small crop of slightly sweet-tasting, soft wines; drink up.

2015 quite a warm vintage, but the whites are very respectable, with pleasant terroir expression although a little heavy. Drink now.

2014 a benchmark white Burgundy vintage; the wines are of excellent concentration and finesse, with a searing mineral core and linear tension. Premiers Crus are going strong today, while the Grands Crus are just getting into their stride.

2013 some botrytis among the grapes give this vintage a strange profile, at once sweet tasting but with conspicuous acidity. Any wines still remaining should be drunk up.

2012 a powerful, structured vintage for the whites (as for the reds). The sheer concentration makes these wines impressive, although they lack the lissome profile of the 2014s or 2017s. Nonetheless, the aging potential is certainly there for the Grands Crus.

2011 for many years a very attractive drinking vintage, with excellent freshness and terroir expression. Many wines are beginning to tire now, but Premiers and Grands Crus from the best producers will keep for another five years at least.

2010 long thought of as a great white vintage, the wines have disappointed in recent years. They simply lack the concentration to be numbered among the best years, and are tiring rapidly. Drink up.

Older notable vintages

2008 excellent across the board; concentrated, powerful and fresh.

2004 the success of Chardonnay in Champagne in this vintage is replicated further south; well stored 2004s can be stunning wines today.

Red Burgundy

Shop Red Burgundy – Highlights

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2021 – a small, frost-affected season, with a rather cool summer. The wines are light to medium-bodied, sapid and dry, with excellent freshness and delineation of flavor. An attractive, classical style of red Burgundy, rather rarely seen today. Sadly, due to tiny quantities, these wines will be hard to find. The lack of power will ensure attractive drinking when young, and they are unlikely to last beyond 20 years.

2020 – a gorgeous set of wines has emerged from the warm Covid summer; concentrated, ripe and with wonderful freshness and fine-boned structure. The sumptuous fruit makes them accessible now, but the best wines may shut down until they are over 10 or 12 years old, when they will re-emerge in full bloom. 2020 is certainly the best vintage since 2015, and possibly since 2010, in a contemporary style that may become typical of the region: lots of ripeness, but with excellent energy and detail.

2019 – 2019 is a kind of cross between the vintages on either side. It has much of the freshness of 2020, along with the very concentrated fruit of 2018. The best wines combine these facets very successfully; while some taste too sweet and alcoholic for pleasurable drinking. In that sense it is very much a winemaker's vintage: for best results, stick with the top domaines.

2018 – a hot summer has yielded very ripe, concentrated and at times rather heavy wines. The juicy fruit, especially lower down the quality pyramid, is pure pleasure, but can obscure terroir differences. At higher levels, the wines can be attractively loose-knit and aromatic already, but can tire the palate after a while through a lack of freshness. Cooler terroirs, such as parts of Gevrey-Chambertin, may have fared best. But overall, I suspect early acclaim of this vintage as a great was misplaced.

2017 – 2017 is a charming vintage of mid-weight, supple wines; fresh, pure and elegant. The moderate summer did not yield great structure or huge concentration in the wines, meaning the Premiers Crus can be broached at the ten year mark, and the Grands Crus not far behind. In this climate, it seems unlikely we will see many more of these almost archetypal Burgundian vintages; 2017 is a lovely example.

2016 – the frost ensured that the quantities available of this vintage were small; the warmth of the summer then concentrated the reduced number of berries to yield very concentrated, sweet tasting wines. In their youth these wines were atypically sweet and candied, but they will become more harmonious with age. Nonetheless, this small vintage is unlikely ever to be considered a Burgundian great.

2015 – hailed at the time as an important, potentially historic year, the wines have generally lived up to their reputation albeit many of them are quite tightly shut down and inexpressive at the time of writing. A warm summer ensured plenty of ripeness and concentration in the wines, but the magic of 2015 is the luminous acidity which delineates the flavors so well, and the terroir expression in spite of the ripeness (ripe fruit can sometimes occlude terroir). The higher levels 2015s will be wonderful, but need time; the Premiers Crus ideally 15 years after the vintage, and the Grands Crus a further five years.

2014 – recent tastings of 2014s have been somewhat underwhelming (as in 2014 red Bordeaux, earlier tastings were more hopeful); comprising mid-weight, red-fruited wines which are attractive and easy drinking, but lack great complexity and concentration. Mugnier and Roumier, however, made excellent wines.

2013 – a cool growing season ensured light to medium bodied wines, with prominent acidity, which can deter neophytes. But for committed Burgundy lovers, the slightly eccentric 2013s can be a joy. The pleasure lies in their intense, high-toned aromas and their purity of terroir expression. Yes, they lack the fruit of warmer years, but for Burgundy diehards, the style of the 2013s is an intellectual delight. The wines are particularly open today, but lack the concentration to improve beyond 20 years.

2012 – a rich, concentrated year, with ample fruit, body and tannin, yet without any suggestion of over-ripeness. All this implies a very good, potentially excellent vintage; the jury remains out, however, because of how closed these wines have been in recent years, making reliable judgements unsafe. Nonetheless, all the substance is present and correct. Wait at least 15 years after the vintage for the Premiers Crus, and longer for anything grander. The analogue here may be with 1999, a similarly concentrated, slow-maturing year.

2011 – a difficult year in the vineyard, which manifests in the finished wines, notorious for their green notes, high acidity and dry tannins. Perhaps time will cure some of those ills, but vintages like 2004 argue against it. One for purists only.

2010 – to my mind probably the best year since 1985 if you value purity, precision, finesse and terroir expression in red Burgundy. The wines have an effortless sophistication, an irresistible marriage of complexity and beauty, and all with more than enough concentration and structure to age for decades to come, although anything below grand cru level is already drinking disarmingly well. With more time, the wines will only improve further.

2009 – in 2023, anything below grand cru level is already delicious; the effects of the warm summer rendering the fruit generous, the acidity and the tannins mellow and the style plush. As in the Bordeaux 2009s, the style is hedonistic and not traditionally profiled red Burgundy, but the effects are pure pleasure. Purists may object that some terroir notes are obscured by the abundant fruit, but on the other hand, the relatively rapid aging of this vintage means the tertiary notes are already satisfyingly present.

2008 – the 2008s were a little hard and angular in their first decade, but they are coming into their own beautifully now, with sufficient fruit, and the acidity granting great precision and purity to the flavors. The result is archetypal fresh, balanced red Burgundy, expressive and pure. The Premiers Crus are only just hitting their stride, suggesting this vintage has many years ahead of it.

2007 – a light, very Burgundian vintage of airy fruit, freshness and perfume, to be drunk (with great pleasure!) today. The wines are very pretty but lack the depth for much longer aging.

2006 – like Bordeaux 2006, rather firm and dry, even today; further aging should improve these wines, since they are well structured with adequate fruit concentration. 2006 is hard to love, however.

2005 – 2005 is a glorious vintage of juicy fruit, powerful but ripe tannins, excellent freshness and terroir expression. Similarly to Bordeaux 2005s, the only question concerns their glacial aging.  Premiers Crus approaching 20 years old are still tight and often inexpressive. Forget about the Grands Crus for another 10 years, at least. There is almost unlimited potential in this vintage, but for the most part, it remains just that: potential.

2004 – 2004 is the infamous ladybird vintage, in which the bugs proliferated and tainted the musts during fermentation. The wines as a result usually have a conspicuous green streak. Best avoided.

2003 – the heatwave vintage was too much for the grapes and the winemakers; stewed, pruny, heavy wines that aged fast were the results. Any remaining 2003s will not improve.

2002 – 2002 is a gorgeous vintage and an outstanding expression of classically-profiled Burgundy. The 2002s are mid-weight, with fine, supple tannins, particularly elegant fruit and perfumed finishes. The vintage has long been admired, not least because the wines have been so drinkable for the past 5-10 years. The best wines will continue improving at least until their 25th birthday, but there is no shame in opening any 2002 today.

2001 – a mid-weight, fresh vintage, 2001 among the best producers is still going strong today, producing beautifully perfumed, elegant, high toned styles: quintessential Burgundy. Less successful wines (or bottles) can be rather earthy, dry and underwhelming. Worth trying at all levels, although the Grands Crus from the best producers will hold for another decade.

2000 – this vintage can be a joyful surprise among the very top producers, where the loose-knit style of the wines results in flashy, perfumed expressions, full of spice and personality. The wines of lesser producers are unlikely to have the concentration to age much longer and should be drunk now.

1999 – a celebrated Burgundy vintage, renowned for its brooding concentration and slow maturation. There is no doubt about the raw material; these are wines of vibrant fruit, powerful structure and terroir expression. Approaching 25 years old, the Grands Crus are finally beginning to open, although they would still benefit from a further five years.

1996 – a notoriously high acid vintage, which held back some wines from greatness for decades. However, as so often in Burgundy, time is the cure; in 2023, the 1996 grands crus are among the most consistently exciting wines to drink today. They remain very fresh, with more than sufficient levels of fruit, glorious perfume and transparency to their origins. At their finest, the 1996s are everything we hope for from the region.

1993 – 1993 is an earthy vintage, with its feet much more squarely in the ground rather than its head in the air (that's 1996). It is no wonder that this style of vintage suited the northern Côte de Nuits, Gevrey in particular.  The wines were rugged and powerful for a long time; in recent years, they have become expressive and accessible, with attractive tertiary notes. The rewards of patience!

Earlier notable vintages: 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1978


Vintage Champagne Highlights

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2014  a difficult year in the vineyards, with a variety of challenges presented by a forgettable summer. A dry, warm September saved the vintage, however. The wines lack the concentration or power of the best years, but they are enjoyably fruity and supple, with plenty of acidity for medium-term aging. Cristal is predictably the best of the already-released prestige wines.

2013 – The amplitude of 2012 is nowhere to be seen in the cool, saline year of 2013; the two years are a study in contrasts. 2013 started very late, but was rescued by a warm summer. Harvest extended into October – a throwback to a different era of Champagne. The wines, too, lack the generous fruitiness of recent vintages and instead manifest a chiseled, racy purity and fine delineation of flavor. A more understated, intellectual style perhaps; these are exquisitely fine-boned, energetic wines of huge sophistication, and they show medium to long term aging potential.

2012 – For a variety of meteorological reasons, 2012 suffered from low yields. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, and certainly deserves a place on the ledger of excellent recent years. Thanks to a hot August with cool nights, the wines unusually benefit from both excellent ripeness and ample acidity. The style, then, is one of rich fruit concentration allied to zest and energy. Many 2012 vintage wines are ready to drink in 2023, but the density of the year will require another 5-7 years for the prestige cuvées.

2009 – A warm vintage gave rich, fruity, loose-knit wines that drank well from the beginnings of their lives – a stark contrast to 2008. The 2009s probably lack the acidic spine for a long life, but they have always been delicious and remain so today. There is, however, little reason for much further aging for most wines; enjoy them in their fruity generosity of today.

2008 – While 2005, 2006 and 2007 all failed to convince in differing ways, 2008 marks a resplendent return to quality in Champagne. This is a breathtaking vintage of huge concentration and structure, allied to great poise and energy. The wines have a classical profile, but are simply ‘extra’ in every way, especially in their capacity for aging. This manifests negatively in how shut down many of the prestige cuvées remain 15 years after the vintage, although the vintage wines are beginning to drink well now. If I could choose one vintage in the last 30 years to cellar, it would be 2008. These should be some of the great wines from the region for at least another two decades.

2004 – A large crop does not always spell quality, but it did in 2004. These are mid-weight, easy-going wines of excellent freshness and finesse, particularly when Chardonnay-dominant. Approaching their 20th anniversary, their expressive, flattering character means that most should be drunk – with immense pleasure! – over the next five years. Candidates for longer-term drinking include a range of Blanc de Blancs such as Dom Ruinart, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires and Salon.

2002 – The most hyped vintage since 1996, 2002s are excellent, balanced, joyful wines, although in retrospect, lack the absolute concentration and structure that characterized subsequent brilliant vintages such as 2008. At 20 years old, almost all 2002s are drinking wonderfully well, some in fact maturing rather rapidly; probably only the prestige cuvées have time in hand. Now firmly in the modern era of winemaking, the star names could not fail to make great wines: Cristal, Dom Pérignon P2, various Billecart-Salmon cuvées, Dom Ruinart and Krug all succeeded brilliantly.

2000 – The millennium vintage produced some good wines, but never quite lived up to the level the producers may have wished for. Most wines feel quite soft and opulent today, and quite advanced both in color and in flavor terms. In other words, drink up!

1998 – 1998 is a good but not great year, with some excellent prestige wines such as Dom Pérignon P2, Rare and Krug Clos de Mesnil. There is, however, no particular upside in waiting longer to drink these or any other 1998s, most of which are now fully mature.

1996 – Long considered a legendary vintage in Champagne, drinkers have been reassessing that reputation in recent years. The soaring acidity and sometimes unripe, green notes on the finish of the wines have diminished the reputation of 1996. But from the top houses, the 1996s are gloriously complete wines that have simply needed this long to show in full bloom. The radiant quality of the fruit (thanks to that acidity), the concentration and complexity are a sight to behold, and among the best wines, the 1996s should shine for at least another decade.

1995 – 1995 has long lived in the shadow of 1996, but really deserves its own stage: these are elegant, pure, balanced wines, many of which are still drinking beautifully today. It perhaps lacks the concentration of the very best vintages, but that is nit-picking. Any of the top prestige cuvées are drinking well today if well stored, especially the glorious Roederer Cristal Vinothèque releases, Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires and Dom Pérignon P2. Lower down the quality ladder, the 1995s should be drunk now.

Earlier notable vintages: 1982, 1988, 1989, 1990

Rhône Valley

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2022 – 2022 was the hottest vintage ever recorded in the Rhône, but mercifully the wines do not betray their record-breaking origins. Rain in August and, speculate many growers, adaptation of the vines to hot years, means ripening was slower in 2022. The wines are rich and juicy certainly, but with plenty of freshness and purity of terroir expression. This will be a lovely vintage for a long time.

2021 – In keeping with elsewhere in France, 2021 was a challenging vintage: wet and cool. If that were not bad enough, there were also April frosts, reducing yields. The whites enjoyed the cool year, producing perfumed, fresh styles. The reds are light, aromatic and easy-drinking, but should probably be consumed within their first decade or so. They lack the concentration and complexity of other recent vintages.

2020 – 2020 is an excellent Rhône vintage. It is another hot, ripe year, but in spite of it all, the wines have an appetizing freshness and balance, with lower alcohols and less density of fruit than the two preceding vintages. While potentially this renders them a little shorter-lived, the 2020s should appeal to purists, with their supple tannins and elegant fruit.

2019 – 2019 was a hot and dry year which produced many outstanding wines across the region, in a rich, powerful style. Expect well-structured reds, with excellent depth of fruit and perfume, and sufficient acidity. Most will take a decade to unwind but will then last for many years to come. Côte Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are particularly successful.

2018 – 2018 was a small vintage of very ripe, concentrated wines from a baking summer. There are some very good wines from the top producers, but in general the heat was too much for many, and the wines too often lack freshness or definition. Acidity is in short supply while alcohols are universally high. It is a poor vintage for white wines.

2017 – 2017 was a warm vintage, especially in the southern Rhône. Here, some wines lack acidity to balance their rich, concentrated fruit and soft tannins. In the north, the wines show greater balance, with lower alcohol levels, higher acidities and more precision. In fact, some winemakers believe that 2017 is among the great recent northern vintages, in a dense, powerful style.

2016 – 2016 is a classic and outstanding vintage in the Rhône Valley. In the north, a wonderful second half of the growing season yielded bright, vibrant wines with great perfume and succulent fruit. The wines show superb transparency to terroir and ageworthiness, thanks to their firm but ripe tannins. In the south, the fruit is generous and mouth-coating, the tannins soft and the wines already alluring. These are hedonistic but controlled wines and beautiful examples of their origins.

2015 – 2015 is an excellent vintage in the northern Rhône, and a very good one in the south. A hot summer gave rich, powerful, abundantly fruity wines which have always appealed for their sheer ‘come-hither’ quality; their irresistible bounty and outgoing style, somewhat reminiscent of 2009, albeit with more structure. The top northern appellations will certainly be better after their 10th birthday while the southern wines have been delicious for a long time. Arguably the southern reds lack the complexity of the 2016s, however.

2014 – 2014 is not likely to be a vintage that lasts long in the memory of collectors; a wet, cool summer gave way to a warm but wet September (there’s nothing worse than harvesting in the rain!) with the concomitant effects on quality. In the north, the wines are at most medium-bodied, with some pleasant perfume but lacking fruit concentration. In the south, the wines are a little more juicy but most should be drunk now and over the next few years.

2013 – A generally cool summer across the Rhône valley led the sun-loving Grenache to suffer in the south, leading to blends which include an unusually high proportion of Syrah and Mourvèdre. While these varieties gave excellent freshness, the reduced proportion of Grenache gave lighter wines, and probably not for long-term aging. In the north, September sun allowed better ripening. The northern wines are fresh and balanced with moderate alcohols; a pleasingly classical style for drinking over the next decade.

2012 – In the north, 2012 is a mixed vintage, with some wines lacking acidity to compensate for the generous fruit. Others are more firmly structured, but in general the late summer sun has resulted in an hedonistic, opulent style. In the south, the 2012s may lack a little acidity, but they compensate by their easy-going, succulent fruit. There is a lot to like here, although there would be little advantage holding them beyond their 15th or 20th birthdays.

2011 – Generally speaking, 2011 is a weak vintage for the region, blighted by rain, including at harvest. The best wines show a pleasant perfume but rather limited fruit and should be drunk now.

2010 – In keeping with elsewhere in France, 2010 is a monumental vintage for the Rhône, producing remarkably complete wines, with outstanding balance between concentrated fruit, supple tannins and good acidity levels. Moreover the precision and detail to the flavors allows wonderful terroir expression: the wines are object lessons in the difference between appellations. The southern wines are drinking well today and for another decade. So too most northern wines, other than the most muscular, where another decade will reward patient drinkers.

2009 – 2009 is a generous, all-embracing vintage in the northern Rhône, where the warm summer yielded powerful, sunny wines of great stature. They show more overt richness of fruit than their 2010 peers and softer tannins; this gives them a hedonistic quality similar to that of 2009 Bordeaux. The southern wines in some cases suffered from the heat; results here are more variable than the great 2010s, and should be drunk now. The northern wines will drink beautifully for another decade at least.

2008 – 2008 was a difficult vintage across the region, with rain shortly before harvest. Most southern wines should be drunk up; only the best northern wines are still going strong.

2007 – 2007 was a famously rich and succulent vintage in the southern Rhône, celebrated by producers and critics alike at the time. The juiciness of fruit is now beginning to fade however, and remaining bottles should be drunk. In the north, the vintage is much lighter and all but the very top wines will benefit from short term drinking.

2006 – This is another good vintage in the northern Rhône, where the wines combine structure and depth of fruit to good effect. The top wines will continue to drink well for another 5-10 years. The south similarly enjoyed a successful year, with the best wines at their glorious peak today.

2005 – 2005 is an excellent, ripe but fresh year across the Rhône Valley; while most of the southern reds are at their peak now, the more brawny northern wines have at least another decade left to run.

2004 – 2004 was a good southern year, with plenty of fruit and attractive freshness, although the wines are approaching the ends of their lives now. The conditions were cooler in the north, and the wines rather light. They should be drunk now.

2003 – 2003 is the infamous heatwave vintage which produced wines of syrupy concentration, sweet-tasting fruit and baked notes, obscuring terroir expression. Very few of these wines have aged well and should be drunk up now.

2002 – A wash-out vintage, producing very dry, fruitless wines. For traditionalists only.

Older excellent vintages in which the top wines are still drinking well in 2024: 2001, 1999, 1998, 1995, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985


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2020 a complicated vintage in the vineyards of Piedmont, yielding light to mid-weight wines for relatively early consumption. The fruit is very pretty and accessible; these wines are delightful already. Just don’t expect extended aging to yield great improvement. 2020 is a better vintage in Tuscany, offering ripe, concentrated wines which are already attractively open and expressive.

2019 an excellent year in Piedmont, with comparisons made to other important recent vintages such as 2016, 2013 and 2010. In Barolo and Barbaresco, the wines have a stunning purity and poise; all the elements of each wine are beautifully balanced. The wines are already thoroughly enjoyable, a testimony to the suppleness of the tannins and modern winemaking. But they will age effortlessly. 2019 is likewise excellent in Tuscany, giving bright, concentrated wines with good aging potential.

2018 more difficult in Italy than its successor; a difficult growing season in Piedmont has resulted in very perfumed Nebbiolo wines, mid-weight and fresh, but lacking the concentration of fruit or tannins for anything more than mid-term aging. In Tuscany there are many good (if not great) wines, but also many lighter, rather acidic styles. It is a vintage to stick to the top producers.

2017 notorious across Italy for its heatwave conditions, the wines from 2017 are perhaps rather better than one might imagine. In Piedmont, there are plenty of good wines, with lots of freshness, concentrated (but not stewed) fruit and ample tannins for long aging, especially from terroirs that tend to produce more robust styles. Outside of those locations, the wines should be enjoyed while the fruit remains fresh. In Tuscany, the sheer power of the wines will require some bottle age, but the rich, generous fruit will easily hold up to yield sumptuous renditions of each terroir.

2016 already a legendary vintage in Piedmont and Tuscany. In Piedmont, the classical elegance of the style showcases purity and terroir expression, while also maintaining excellent fruit concentration and ample tannin for aging: it deserves a place in every collector’s cellar. In Tuscany, the freshness of the year combined with depth of fruit and particularly gorgeous aromatics has created compelling wines.

2015 a very good year in Italy. In Tuscany, ripe, concentrated, juicy wines emerged. They lack the grace and sophistication of the 2016s, but it seems unfair to complain when only the most severe drinkers would criticize them. The style is similar in Piedmont, where the wines are rich and powerful, but remain balanced. The top crus will age gloriously for two decades.

2014 a wet vintage across most of Italy, resulting in light, early drinking wines in most of Tuscany and Piedmont. A noble exception is Barbaresco, which produced plenty of very good wines. These can represent excellent value on restaurant wine lists.

2013 a lovely vintage in a mid-weight, particularly aromatic, fresh, terroir expressive style, in both Piedmont and Tuscany. The Piedmont wines can be thrilling, combining wonderful fruit purity with concentration and structure. The Tuscany 2013s can be a bit lighter than years like 2010 or 2011, but what they lack in density, they make up for in verve and detail.

2012 an attractive vintage for accessible, juicy wines in Piedmont, although lacking the structure, complexity and concentration of the best years. In Tuscany, a warm season gave rich, generous wines that are drinking well today, but without the x factor of superior vintages.

2011 a torrid year in Tuscany, resulting in concentrated, sometimes alcoholic or heavy wines. Chianti, with its naturally high acidity, may have been the most successful area. Piedmont was not dissimilar, with some Barolo wines heavy and lacking their usual high-toned qualities. Barbaresco fared well, however. Apart from the single vineyards from the top producers, most 2011s can, and probably should, be broached today.

2010 a wonderful vintage across much of Italy. In Piedmont, superbly classic wines emerged from Barolo; structured, terroir-specific and elegant, these are gorgeous wines which will continue to delight drinkers for at least another 15 years. Barbaresco, however, was less successful and those wines should largely be drunk now. In Tuscany, Chianti and Brunello reached new heights, producing wines showing outstanding transparency to their origins, and combining freshness and fruit concentration admirably.

2009 a hot year in Italy, producing fast-maturing, ripe and even over-ripe wines in Tuscany. In Piedmont, the Barolo vintage is quite successful, however, with rich, generous wines. Barbaresco is less consistent.

2008 in Piedmont, a vintage of sturdy tannins and acidity, which is slowly coming good. So much so, in fact, that some drinkers wonder if this could become one of the great vintages for Barolo. In Tuscany, a relatively cool year supplied medium bodied wines with plenty of tannins and acidity. They are largely accessible today.

2007 a hot year in Italy. From Tuscany, the wines have always been lush and generous while retaining just about enough acidity. In Piedmont, the wines are aromatic, rich and delicious, if possibly lacking the complexity of the best years.

2006 a balanced year gave wines of great concentration and tannic power in both Tuscany and Piedmont. The best of these will continue improving for at least another decade.

2004 an important year in Piedmont, producing benchmark wines of huge aromatic class, complexity and high quality tannins, and with years yet to run. In Tuscany, Brunello, Chianti and the Super Tuscans all produced outstanding wines that are drinking beautifully today.

2002 an extremely difficult, not to say disastrous, vintage across Italy. Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino is a particularly noble exception, however.

2001 a very good year in Tuscany and Piedmont, but to be drunk now.

Earlier notable vintages: 1999, 1996 (in Piedmont, 1997 is better in Tuscany), 1990, 1985