Summary of the French wine vintages on a year by year basis, with recommendations of wines to look out for. This section is updated regularly.
Generally a good vintage all round, but very good for red wine producers in Bordeaux. It wasn't the best weather for growing that year since August was so horribly damp, but things improved in September and somewhat saved the harvest. Medoc wines get a VG rating whereas St Emilion and Pomerol wines, did not do so well and only get a G rating.
In Burgundy, things were even better and this year was one of the best vintages in recent times, thanks to almost perfect weather patterns in the region - sunny but not too hot with cool winds keeping the grapes nice and dry on the vines. Definitely a year to remember, with the wines drinking very well now.
The good weather benefited the white Burgundy growers too, although because yields were high this year, the quality was probably not as good as it should have been and as usual when picking out Burgundy wines, it is the producer that matters the most and there is no easy way of ensuring you've bagged a good wine unless you are intimate with the producer.
In Rhone, this was a firm G, bordering on a VG, especially in Southern Rhone. Yields were again high, resulting in a mixed bag in some areas. Generally though, this year is a year for starting to drink now and for keeping longer, with the majority of wines benefitting from at least 10 to 15 years in the bottle before they realise their true potential.
Only a good year in Bordeaux, made difficult by a horrible May when most of the area suffered much lower than average temperatures and was decidely wet. The rain continued throughout the summer and this affected the overall quality. If you have an 97 Claret in your cellar then you can definitely drink it up now.
Burgundy growers fared better and with reduced yields some of the white Burgundies are incredibly rich in flavour.
In northern Rhone, conditions were very good throughout the season and this is a year to look out for if you fancy adding a case of Hermitage or two to your cellar - these will keep for many years thanks to the concentration achieved by growers.
An excellent year for wines from St Emilion and Pomerol that survived a cold and wet Spring and a very hot summer. Medoc wines suffered from adverse weather towards the end of September but are still worth hunting down and should be drinking nicely now.
In Burgundy, the growers were up against it with poor weather throughout the growing season resulting in lower than average yields. Reds are better than whites, especially if you are looking to hang on to them for a few more years.
Keep an eye out for southern Rhone wines from 1998 which enjoyed excellent weather conditions throughout the year, leading to amazingly fruit driven wines that will keep for years. Northern Rhone wines suffered from terrible weather around Easter which reduced crops, but benefited from near perfect harvesting conditions. The top appellations will keep well.
Challenging would be a good word to describe this Bordeaux vintage - the top vintages have produced some very good wines, especially in Medoc. Stick to the better respected Chateaux to be sure of a very good wine.
The 1999 Burgundy vintage is one of the best of the 90's with a 'perfect summer' four week period over August and September resulting in a decent harvest with wines that will wow you - the Pinot's are very fruity and drinking beautifully now.
In Rhone, conditions could not have been more perfect, benefiting both the Syrah and Grenache grapes and leading to outstanding wines in both northern and southern Rhone - keep an eye out for these ones!
A long hot summer and an excellent year for Bordeaux - a vintage to be proud of, in both Medoc and St Emilion regions. Buy and keep for the long term!
White Burgundy producers did better than Red Burgundy this year and the wines are complex and worth keeping, whereas the reds can be drunk up now.
A very hot August across northern and southern Rhone resulted in intense wines and another cracking vintage. Harvesting began earlier than usual and marked another great year for Rhone producers.
Not as good as the 2000 but still a vintage worth looking out for if you hope to back a good value Bordeaux. Some of the St Emilions and Pomerols have the edge over the Medocs.
In Burgundy, growers were caught out with severe hailstorms in August that damaged crops and affected the product of some growers although the ones that took the time to let the vines recover were rewarded with good conditions into mid September that allowed for longer ripening of berries and wines that have great ageing potential. General the whites are better than the reds and this year depends very much on you picking the right producer to guarantee a very good wine.
Another amazing year for Rhone growers, capping off four or five great years, with both northern and southern Rhone wines worth hunting down and keeping for many years to come.
One of the smallest crops for over 10 years in Bordeaux, with a horrible Spring significantly reducing yields and not being helped by rainy weather throughout July and August. A late hot summer helped salvage what could have been a disaster. The general view is that 2002 was a good but not great vintage for reds and a poor vintage for whites.
Whilst weather conditions across Burgundy were similar to Bordeaux, the conditions benefited the red growers whose crops continued to ripen throughout September and have resulted in very powerful, tannic wines that will keep for many years to come. Seek them out now but don't expect to drink them for at least 10 years. White Burgundy producers were also blessed with an excellent vintage and you will find some amazingly crisp 2002's around now.
Extensive flooding in Rhone made for a difficult harvest with the 2002 being rated as a Good for only the better producers. Keep your eye open because there are some bargains to be had, but you will be taking more of a risk with this vintage than with previous years.
Overall a very good vintage for red bordeaux growers. 2003 was one of the hottest on record and this has resulted in very rich, fruit driven wines that have great ageing potential. Lay down now for drinking from 2010 onwards.
Similar, extremely hot conditions in Burgundy presented challenges for growers with acid levels needing to be supplemented in some cases. Reds fared better than whites, which should be drunk up now.
Rhone also saw high temperatures throughout the summer and the southern Rhone wines, especially the Mourvedre based ones benefited from later harvesting and are rich, rounded and worth hanging on to.
A good, but not great vintage all round with both Bordeaux and Burgundy growers having to put up with cooler than average conditions throughout the summer, although things improved into September for those that could dodge the hailstorms. You should be able to find some good deals on all 2004 vintages since yields were up across the board and growers calling this vintage 'classic' but not saying much more...
In Rhone, conditions were much more favourable and 2004 is likely to produce some of the best wines of the decade.
Quite simply, this will be one of the greatest ever and best remembered vintages across the whole of France. Conditions were exceptional and the wines produced exceptional. Be prepared for very high prices which will put the top names way out of most people's budgets. The lesser known labels across Bordeaux and Burgundy are worth snapping up and laying down to be enjoyed for years to come.