Bordeaux Vintages of the ‘60s

 

1960: The decade began with a rather light year, and one of my first as a wine lover and collector. These were good but not great wines, and gave much pleasure at the table in their youth, but they lacked the weight and structure to make old bones.

1961: An astounding year – candidate for vintage of the century, and one of the greatest vintages of all time! The wines are intense, concentrated, and taste immortal. Half a century on, the finest of them are still in full flight, but they will be hard to come by. If you get that rare chance, pay any price for the experience. The array of flavours will overwhelm all your senses, the concentration will command your attention and dare you to taste it!

1962: Were they not forced to live in the shadow of their illustrious predecessor, this vintage’s reputation would probably rank higher. The wines were solid, balanced and well structured, with good fruit and weight. They gave great pleasure through two decades; by now most will have passed their peak.

1963: Really not a very good year – some pundits called it a disaster, although I found one or two examples that were elegant but light in their youth. None had the stuffing needed for long life or development into fine old wines.

1964: A very good year across Bordeaux, particularly on the right bank (Pomerol and St. Emilion). Certainly nothing at all like the ‘61s, and maybe better overall than the ‘62s, these were classic Bordeaux that needed close to a decade to open up and reveal their finer qualities, and lasted well into their third decade.

1965: A very bad year overall. Today, winemaking technology might rescue some of these wines, but in the ‘60s, if nature dealt you a bad hand, you made bad wine. Most of the wines were thin and green, lacking fruit and mass. A few bottles from the better chateau were pleasant when young – that’s about the best I can say.

1966: This was a very good year indeed – it might even qualify as great. The wines are solid and concentrated, with all the true classic flavours and aromas we expect from good Bordeaux. They have lots of tannic structure, and needed at least a decade to show their potential. Most wines from lesser chateaux should have been drunk by now, but the best examples of classed growths have made really fine old bones, and are now providing – in their fifth decade and probably near the end of their lives – exquisite pleasure.

1967: This was a year of lighter wines, and the vintage is now more or less forgotten. But I had many that gave me great pleasure for over a decade; they showed delicious fruit when young, and some of the more complex flavours that come with age began appearing quite early.

1968: The decade closed on a dismal note: two really bad vintages in a row. I can’t remember any ‘68s I really enjoyed; I bought hardly any and they are mercifully all gone.

1969: Another very weak year to close out the decade, although not quite as bad a ’68. The wines were thin and somewhat harsh. As is often the case, good classed growth were accessible very young and made attractive table wines for most of their first decade and perhaps more, but few are left today.

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