Comparing the last five great Bordeaux vintages

Comparing the last five great Bordeaux vintages

How do 2016, 2015, 2010, 2009 and 2005 stack up against each other in terms of style, character and pricing? Jane Anson draws on fresh figures and analysis to provide an overview of some of the key points to consider.

With due apologies for my part in it, you are probably surrounded by an avalanche of notes for the recently bottled Bordeaux 2016 wines right now from merchants, journalists, bloggers and producers.

See tasting notes here:

Bordeaux 2016: How Right Bank wines taste now

Top Bordeaux 2016 wines: Full Médoc report

Perhaps you are wondering if it was wrong to miss out on buying the Bordeaux 2016 wines en primeur, or maybe you are suffering from buyer’s remorse and are interested in selling wines on.

With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to compare 2016 – in style but also in market enthusiasm – with the other top quality recent vintages that are competing for your attention and spend.

These other vintages are, I think we can agree, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2015. So five years in total, out of 13 harvests, that all have some claim to be called great, and that all required consumers to pay out more money than they did in the ‘classic’ years in between.

For perspective, I looked at brokers’ data here in Bordeaux, plus reports from Decanter and the Bordeaux School of Oenology.

Liv-ex provided some brilliant data on wider trends and the performance in the secondary market of individual estates, albeit the data below only shows price trends in pound sterling currency.

Styles and Weather Conditions

It’s easy to see a natural pairing between 2009 and 2015, plus 2010 and 2016.

The first two are warmer years with richer fruits, and the second two are more architectural, with high acidity and serious tannic structure.

For me, 2005 remains the most balanced of the five, although it has the benefit of 13 years in the bottle so perhaps has an unfair advantage in this assessment.

Appellation Highlights

2005: A 5-star vintage on both Right and Left Bank and one with great consistency, with many wines beginning to drink well today.

Small berries, high concentration, great fruit quality and balance from nights that were relatively cool – a combination that always seems to bring out the best in Bordeaux. Highlights include Margaux and Pomerol. This was a year that reminded Christian Moueix of 1982. 

2009: A 5-star vintage on both banks, with a slight leaning to the Right. Some excellent St-Emilion wines, particularly where limestone could temper the exuberance. Bordeaux 2009 majors on fruit-filled pleasure but has some high-alcohols, up to 15.5% in some cases. Coupled with low acidity, this gives rise to a risk of brett in some instances. Still, lots of pleasurable drinking ahead from now and over the next few decades, even if it is unlikely to last as long as the 2010 and 2016 in many cases. 

2010: 5-star on both banks, with rich, high drama wines that are still extremely young. Lots of sunshine with cool nights ensured plenty of thick skins, intense concentrated flavours and big, bold tannins. A great year for Pauillac and St-Julien, in particular, but still a long way from being ready to drink and will need patience. 

2015: 5-star on the Right Bank, and 4.5-star on the Left Bank. There were particular highlights in St-Emilion, Pomerol, Margaux and Pessac-Léognan. Alcohols went as high as 15%abv for some wines, but fruit flavours are rich, juicy and appetising. 

2016: 5-star on the Left Bank, but 4.5-star on Right Bank. Tastings so far show  particular highlights in Pauillac, St-Estèphe and St-Julien, with concentrated flavours and intense fruits. Will take their time to be ready to drink.

Perfect scores: 100 Point Wines

 Of wines from these five vintages that I have recently re-tasted in bottle, I gave 100 points to:

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Bordeaux 1989 vs 1990: Battle of the vintages 

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