A study of Bordeaux vintages from the past century is very revealing and provides considerable insight for those who want to either invest in wines or lay them down for later drinking.
After considerable research through Liv-Ex, Vinous, Wine Cellar Insider, Decanter Magazine and our personal notes, we’ve come up with the following analysis:
Early Vintages: 1920-1959
There were quite a few stunners including the magical 1928, 1929, 1945, 1947, 1953 and 1959. Those who still own some of these extraordinary vintages can attest to their longevity and brilliance.
Although the 1961 harvest proved to be one of the very best ever, the other years qualified as some of the lowliest — kind of like the New Orleans Saints of yesteryear. If you own any 1960, 1963, 1965, 1968 and 1969, you may want to put a brown bag over the bottles and your own head. (Full disclosure: We enjoyed the Saints 2018-2019 vintage!)
The 70s were great for hippies and psychedelic music but not so good for Bordeaux. Rain, rain and more rain….The best vintage was 1970, with top ratings of 87-points. The second best was 1978, with ratings of no more than 85. If you own 1972, 1973, 1974 or 1977 it’s time to wrap them up as Christmas gifts for your least favorite neighbor.
The 80s were somewhat more favorable, beginning with the gorgeous 1982 vintage. (We wish we still had a few!) 1985 and 1989 were very good as well. At the other end of the spectrum, 1980 was pitiful and the rest of the decade simply mediocre.
Ouch! Only three years worth consideration: 1990, a fantastic year, 1995 and of course the exceptional 1998 vintage — well known for its Right Bank marvels. But this same decade also produced 1991 and 1993, considered some of the least desirable of any period.
Thus far, this has been the most prolific decade for great wines: 2000, 2005 and 2009 were some of the best vintages ever. In fact, 2000 and 2005 have both scored 100 points as vintages for their excellence across the board.
But 2003, 2006, 2008 and the superbly-drinking 2001 and 2004 vintages have also been over par. Eight very good to magnificent vintages in a decade — something never seen before! Only 2002 and 2007 were less than average.
In this most recent decade, the current one, there are four extremely well-rated vintages: 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2018. 2014 and 2017 also scored 93-points and better.
Only 2013 has been deemed a very poor vintage, and yet we have had some excellent wines from that year. Many wine experts strongly believe that had the 2013 production occurred 30 years ago, not a drop of good wine would have been produced — that’s how much improvement has been made in winemaking techniques in the past three decades.
Which brings us to the crux of our thesis:
In our opinion, the recent decades, beginning in 2000, have succeeded in being the very best as a whole. Not only did they include a never-before-seen string of amazing years, but these vintages were also beautifully diverse. You truly cannot compare 2010 and 2016 nor can you compare 2009 and 2015.
Why? Here are the reasons we believe this current era is so incredibly good:
Big Investors & Better Equipment
Bordeaux has benefitted from enormous financial investment over the past few years. LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) were at the forefront of this move in 1998 with their acquisitions of Châteaux Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem. Supposedly, Cheval Blanc went for $144.5 million which seems absurdly cheap now.
Other well-heeled investors include French investment company AXA, who owns Château Pichon-Baron and luxury fashion house Chanel, with three estates: Châteaux Canon, Rauzan-Ségla and Berliquet. Last year, Scor Global Investments acquired Château Troplong Mondot for $200 million.
Peter Kwok, Chairman of CITIC Resources has also invested heavily in Bordeaux’s Right Bank. His Vignobles K Group owns Château Tour Saint-Christophe, just across from Troplong Mondot. Additionally he has purchased six more estates: Château La Patache, Enclos Tourmaline, Enclos de Viaud, Château Le Rey and Château Haut-Brisson. In 2017, Kwok acquired Saint-Émilion, Grand Cru Classé Château Bellefont-Belcier. (For more information, see our interview with Peter Kwok.)
Christie’s International Real Estate reports that 48 château-vineyards were sold in Bordeaux last year. This compares to an average of 30 estate sales in the past few years. The value of the transactions also increased from $6.6 million in 2016 to $7.8 million last year.
New investors have built state-of-the-art wineries with individually temperature-controlled vats, optical sorters and sophisticated laboratories. The cash influx allows for more efficient tractors equipped with infrared cameras to verify the health of each vine. Drones fly over vineyards to send back daily reports for each individual plot. Professional consultants, armed with teams of geologists and other specialists identify and solve vineyard and winery problems. These are just a few of the many innovations available now to vineyards with large budgets.
A New Generation of Growers & Winemakers
In the old days, the primary goal was output — how many hectoliters could be grown per acre. What wasn’t sold as a grand wine went to negociants for bulk.
The current generation of growers is interested in producing the best wine possible. Quality is as important, if not more important, than quantity, particularly with second and third labels bringing in solid income as well.
These young winemakers are also exploring methods in biodynamic agriculture, bio diversity and natural ecological systems — ways to help the land survive and generate better products for the future.
Moreover, this generation of winemakers no longer works behind the scenes. Increased media attention has them squarely in the spotlight. And if a winemaker manages to get great ratings, he or she can become quite a celebrity. Another incentive for producing good wine.
Finally, changes in weather, particularly hotter summers and earlier harvests, have transformed Bordeaux wines. Some 40 years ago, Bordeaux vintages carried 11 to 12% alcohol. Modern wines in the region now average 13.5 to 14% alcohol, with the occasional 15% — too much for our liking but, that’s the subject of another blog.
The cause of the climate and weather changes is the object of endless speculation. Whatever the reasons, it is a documented occurrence and for now Bordeaux benefits, as producers generate wines that display remarkable balance, fruit, acidity, ripeness and freshness.
What future weather shifts might bring is again the subject of debate. Also speculative are the world economy, future investment in Bordeaux and interest in winemaking — all areas that will evolve over the coming decades.
For now, we should enjoy this amazing string of great wines from the Petits Châteaux at $20 to the multitude of Classified $40 to $80 and of course the upper crust of First and Super Second Growths. Bordeaux is indeed the brightest star in the wine galaxy.
At Michel Thibault Wine, we are committed to these great vintages. Of course, it is important to let Bordeaux wines mature until they are in the fullness of their beauty. But then, you can’t drink them if you don’t own them, which is why we will again be in Bordeaux this Spring, buying and buying and…buying!
If you’d like to hear more on Bordeaux, click here and listen in to our conversation with Mark Rashap, Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and Director of Wine Education for the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. We discuss trends in winemaking, along with the many changes and improvements in Bordeaux City, i.e. new hotels, restaurants, shopping and the recently-launched wine museum La Cité du Vin.
Here is our current offering of these top vintages…..while they last. Order at [email protected] or call 850-687-1370.
2005 Château Latour à Pomerol. 94 PTS. 1b. $94.99
2009 Château Latour à Pomerol. 93 PTS. 3b. $89.99
2010 Château Clinet. 97 PTS. 34b. $149.99
2015 Château l’Evangile. 100 PTS. 56b. $208.99
2015 Gravette de Château Vieux Certan. 93 PTS. 12b. $63.99
2015 Château Gazin. 97 PTS. 10b. $72.99
2015 Château Montviel. 92-93 PTS. 10b. $41.99
2015 Château Fleur de Gay. 95 PTS. 20b. $89.99
2015 Château l’Eglise Clinet. 99 PTS. 3b. $225.99
2015 Château Petit Village. 96 PTS. 43b. $72.99
2016 Château la Violette. 96-97 PTS. 12b. $249.99
2000 Clos Dubreuil. 91 PTS. 2b. $75.99
2005 Clos de l’Oratoire. 94 PTS. 3 magnums. $199.99
2005 Tertre Roteboeuf. 98 PTS. 8b. $269.99
2009 Clos de l’Oratoire. 94 PTS. 10b. $77.99
2009 Château Beauséjour Duffau. 100 PTS. 4b. $369.99
2010 Château Beauséjour-Bécot. 95 PTS. 12b. $76.99
2015 Château Pavie. 100 PTS. 27b. $329.99.
2015 Château Angélus. 99 PTS. 36b. $329.99
2015 Château Fleur Cardinale. 96 PTS. 12b. $39.79.
2015 Château Franc Mayne. 95 PTS. 9b. $32.99
2015 Château Grand Mayne. 95 PTS. 10b. $42.99
2015 Château Magrez Fombrauge. 96 PTS. 10b. $109.99.
2015 Château Beauséjour-Bécot. 96 PTS. 12b. $68.49.
2015 Château Valandraud. 99 PTS. 7b. $164.99
2015 Château Bellevue. 97 PTS. 24b. $59.49
2015 Château Bellevue-Mondotte. 99 PTS. 7b. $148.99
2015 Château Teyssier. 91-92 PTS. 12b. $22.99
2015 Château Poesia. 94 PTS. 27b. $45.99
2015 Château Barde-Haut. 95 PTS. 19b. $36.99
2015 Château Berliquet. 96-97 PTS. 12b. $38.99.
2016 Château Bellefont-Belcier. 94-95 PTS. 24b. $42.99
2016 Château Quinault l’Enclos. 93-95 PTS. 24b. $35.99
2016 Tertre-Rôteboeuf. 100 PTS. 9b. 189.99
2003 Château Haut-Bergey. 91 PTS. 9b. $39.99
2009 Château Pape Clément. 100 PTS. 5 magnums. $369.99
2010 Château Haut-Bergey. 92 PTS. 36b. $38.79
2010 Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. 98 PTS. 8b. $142.99
2015 Château Haut-Brion. 100 PTS. 12b. $535.99
2015 Château la Mission Haut-Brion. 100 PTS. 36b. $379.99
2015 Château Pape Clément. 99 PTS. 9b. $94.99.
2015 Petit Haut Lafitte. 92+. 12b. $28.99
2015 Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. 97 PTS. 11b $89.99.
2016 Château Haut-Brion. 100 PTS. 71b. $569.99.
2009 Château Palmer. 98 PTS. 9b. $325.99
2009 Château Lascombes. 94 PTS. 5b. $89.99
2010 Château Cantenac Brown. 95 PTS. 9b. $72.99
2015 Château Giscours. 97 PTS. 17b. $59.99
2015 Château d’Issan. 96 PTS. 18b. $57.99
2015 Château Lascombes. 96 PTS. 14b. $74.99
2015 Alter Ego de Chateau Palmer. 96 PTS. 32b. $74.99
2015 Château Brane Cantenac. 96 PTS. 7b. $63.99
2015 Château Cantenac Brown. 95 PTS. 10b. $54.99
2015 Château Dauzac. 94 PTS. 12b. $48.99
2016 Château d’Issan. 96-97 PTS. 24b. $64.99
2016 Château Palmer. 100 PTS. 77b. $299.99
2009 Château Langoa Barton. 93 PTS. 7b. $69.99
2009 Château Branaire-Ducru. 96 PTS. 2b. $78.99
2009 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. 100 PTS. 12b. $264.99
2010 Château Langoa Barton. 94 PTS. 17b. $69.99
2015 Château Beychevelle. 95 PTS. 4 magnums. $168.99
2015 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. 98 PTS. 6 magnums. $359.99
2016 Clos du Marquis. 93-96. 9b. $56.99
2016 Château Lagrange. 95-96. 8b. $49.99
2016 Château Saint-Pierre. 95 PTS. 2b. $64.99.
2009 Réserve de la Comtesse de Pichon-Lalande. 91 PTS. 11b. $56.99
2010 Château Grand Puy-Lacoste. 95 PTS. 7b. $97.99
2015 Château Pichon Lalande. 98 PTS. 12b. $159.99.
2015 Château Clerc Milon. 95 PTS. 8b. $64.99
2015 Château Duhart-Milon. 93 PTS. 16b. $67.99
2016 Château d’Armailhac. 95-96 PTS. 12b. $46.99
2016 Château Mouton Rothschild. 100 PTS. 33b. $629.99
2009 Château Lafon-Rochet. 95 PTS. 10b. $59.99
2010 Château Phélan Ségur. 92 PTS. 9b. $54.99.
2015 Château Cos d’Estournel. 98 PTS. 6 magnums. $347.99
2016 La Dame de Montrose. 93-95. 24b. $33.99