There are many, many advantages to collecting (and drinking) what some might describe as ‘bad’ vintages, although these days most would agree the term is slightly misleading, as winemaking methods have improved so much in recent years that every vintage has its own particular charms and eccentricities. Sometimes it is in the instance of a ‘bad’ vintage that the true character of the wine and its terroir, rather than that of the vintage, is allowed to assert itself. ‘Bad’ vintages are more approachable in youth, they are lighter and can be great with food and importantly they allow collectors to access wines from chateaux and domaines that are sadly now out of reach for the majority, in classic ‘good’ years.
1971 Bordeaux Vintage
The year 1971 was a small vintage in Bordeaux and came after the huge-famed 1970, which was seen at the time as a great success, and yielded muscular, long-lived wines, laden with tannin. The 1971s were overly expensive on release and offer very different drinking, so popularity waned. The wines are softer; lighter in structure and with a fresh mineral edge that’s missing in riper vintages. Trotanoy 1971 remains fresh in my memory as an exquisite reminder of an all-but-bygone style of Bordeaux.
1991 Burgundy Vintage
Not a bad vintage at all, really, but certainly one where relative value can be found. Long overshadowed by the legendary 1990s, the 1991s were thought of as poor relations in Burgundy. The growing season was tricky, but in the end, climactic conditions provided potential for excellence. Perhaps the wine world was over-influenced by the difficult, frost-affected Bordeaux vintage and this obscured the view of what is now justly recognised as a collectors’ vintage for red Burgundy; the wines are tightly coiled and precise as opposed to the wild, hot-vintage 1990s.
Often overlooked as a ‘bad’ vintage in Bordeaux, 1993 is seen as a washout that was ruined by the heavy rain in September and October. It’s true that rain did have detrimental effects on the harvest, but the autumn rain was preceded by a long, hot summer, so the Chateaux that picked early mastered the art of damage limitation. Generally-speaking, the Right Bank made better wines, Angelus and Ausone are both excellent, but careful buying can lead to pleasant surprises on the Left Bank: Sociando Mallet — tasted recently — offered unexpected depths.
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Illustration by Joe McKendry.
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