It wasn’t quite as bad as 2020 (yes, really) but 2021 was still a stinker of a year.
I’ve had three jabs, no positive tests, and barely a sniffle for 20 months. A face mask is a very minor inconvenience. But the global death toll from COVID-19 was more than 5 million by the end of 2021.
Surely 2022 cannot be worse than 2021? There is more cause than ever, during these gloomy times, to break bread and open bottles with family, friends and neighbours. How about an anniversary bottle?
The “2” vintages – with the exception of 1962 and 1982 – are a mixed bunch.
Here we go…
2012: Support Bubbles
For a tenth anniversary (not birthday) in 2022, it’s got to be champagne. Pol Roger’s 2012 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill was superb when tasted in July 2021.
For a twentieth birthday or anniversary, excellent wines were made in Germany and Austria in 2002, though the classic regions of France and Italy were undistinguished.
2001: A Sauternes Odyssey
No question about what the wine of the 2001 vintage is: Château d’Yquem, the ultimate sugar-rush.
Red Bordeaux is overshadowed by 2000, but I have good memories of 2001 Château Cheval Blanc, which Pierre Lurton described to me and other tasters over a decade ago as “good for ageing, but ready to drink… a lot of people lose this vintage after the great 2000”.
Château Margaux 2001 was reckoned by the late Paul Pontallier to be superior to many 1980s and 1970s vintages, even though it was considered to be a “weak” modern vintage.
Le Pin 2001 was tasted from a half-bottle at the winery itself in 2005. It was good – good enough, in fact, to silence my then (often cantankerous) girlfriend into contented silence.
The Rhône, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany all did well in 2001.
1997 and 1992: Sunshine and Showers
The 1997 Italian vintage was hyped at the time, the wines of which – especially in Tuscany – were explosively fruity, though some of them might not have endured 25 years.
1992? Oh dear oh dear oh dear… Most of Europe’s wine regions were drenched in rain and the resulting wines were egregious. No Yquem was made in 1992.
Léoville Barton 1992 was opened and drunk with some friends (one of whom was at Léoville / Langoa to witness the 1970 vintage) in October 2021. It wasn’t as bad as I feared but as the last of the wine remained I decided that I’d had enough of it…
However, 1992 is not a complete write-off. Some reasonable Port – like 1992 Fonseca – was made and Tokaji was good.
1982: The Year We Made Contact
This is probably the most sought-after Bordeaux vintageof the latter part of the 20th century. Lafite’s 1982 commands similar prices to its 1959 and 1945.
Well-cellared examples of 1982 Bordeaux can still be outstanding but if not properly stored – some ’82s have been round the planet more times than the International Space Station – they can be disappointing. And beware counterfeits – especially Lafite.
Burgundy was less distinguished in 1982. But Champagne, Piedmont, and Tuscany were all good. A fine year for Penfolds Grange, too.
1972: Slippery When Wet
Like 20 years later, it rained a lot in 1972. Red Bordeaux wines were mostly of dreadful quality and hopelessly overpriced when they first came out.
No Yquem again.
Again, Tokaji (especially) and Port are about as good as it gets for this poor vintage. Grange was alright, though apparently a batch was unintentionally oxidised during bottling so there is much bottle variation.
1962: Recycling Bins
This was a very good Bordeaux vintage that has always been eclipsed by the mighty 1961. Lafite 1962 is a fine example.
In Burgundy, DRC’s La Tâche was a masterpiece.
A few years ago, I was fortunate to have two glasses of Penfolds 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon-Kalimna Shiraz, which was Penfolds’ most successful show wine ever and is considered by some experts to be not just Penfolds’ but Australia’s greatest ever red wine. The first glass was a disappointment – dirty and woody – but with a wine of this age bottle variation is inevitable, and another bottle tasted from was much cleaner.
Rioja from 1962 has also given pleasure. CVNE’s 1962 Imperial Gran Reserva and 1962 Viña Real Gran Reserva were both good examples of aged, old-school red wine.
1952: White Horse Prophecy
The 1952 Bordeaux summer was cool and the wines don’t have the sun-drenched richness of 1947 and 1949, though they can be very good. Cheval Blanc 1952 that was sampled at an auction house over ten years ago was outstanding – still one of the best old clarets that I’ve been privileged to taste. Vieux Château Certan 1952 when last seen was powerful, virtuoso stuff. I’m looking forward to sampling 1952 Château Palmer, which came from a private cellar in East Anglia.
This was the first vintage of Romanée-Conti to be made from the young vines that were planted after the war. Tokaji and Champagne were both great.
Imperial Gran Reserva 1952 from CVNE was one of the finest old Imperials that I’ve had, almost honeyed in its opulence.
No Yquem in 1952…
1942: Sweet memories
Finally, a successful year for Yquem!
For the reds – well, it was better than 1941.
Port and Burgundy were quite good too.
Nothing to be said for 1932… Apologies to 90-year olds.
1922: The Waste Land
Rain ruined the Bordeaux vintage. Rioja might be worth a go.
I sold a bottle of 1922 Fonseca Vintage Port in April 2021.
It was a fine Port vintage that was declared by most shippers. The 1922 Port wines were soigné, similar to those produced in 1917.
It also worth noting that 1922 is referred to (on page 104) as a Declared Vintage by Fonseca in Wyndham Fletcher’s 1978 book Port: An Introduction to its History and Delights.
This near-centenarian came to Arden Fine Wines via one of our longstanding trade suppliers, who had purchased the bottle some time ago from another trade supplier, who had acquired it from a former employee of Percy Fox.
It was made at a time when there was great demand for Port. Indeed, the release of Fonseca’s 1920 vintage in 1922 was oversubscribed and many customers were unable to secure allocations. Demand was eased only slightly by the enactment of Prohibition in the United States in January 1920.
That it had survived unopened for so many years is remarkable.
1912 and 1802: Mind the icebergs
Centenarians can try Bordeaux, with Lafite good in 1912. As was often the case for the “2” vintages, Port and Tokaj were again good this year.
Otherwise, 100-year old wines are likely to have sunk like the Titanic.
The oldest “2” wine that I can mention is 1802 Barbeito Boal MBV, bottled in 2011 from a demijohn first owned by the late Mário Barbeito de Vasconcelos (MBV). It was very warm and spirity but still a beautiful wine of relentless, glowing length.
Reasons to be cheerful
On a happier 2021 note, the England football team was so near yet so far to winning the UEFA Euro 2020 (sic) tournament in July 2021, losing to Italy on penalties in the final.
If England wins the 2022 FIFA (football) World Cup and/or 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup, I might celebrate with one of the better wines mentioned above…