I helped develop this interactive map, which lets you find good years for wine in each of the major French regions at a swoosh of the mouse.
Many thanks to Joss Fowler with his help with the accompanying article which what makes a good year for vinyards.
Graphic is best viewed on the Telegraph website here, but full text can also be found below.
Interactive graphic: French wine map shows the best vintage, from 1978 to 2011
By Cal Flyn, graphic by Mark Oliver and Dan Palmer
The Daily Telegraph, 24 Apr 2012
Berry Bros and Rudd also suggest whether you should drink the wine now, or lay it down to mature in your cellar.
The quality of the wine each year depends on a number of factors, but the most important is the weather.
A sunny growing season, with occasional showers – particularly when the vines are in bud – is vital. Too much rain and the fruity “extract” in the wine will be diluted; too much sun and the grapes could be burnt.
Joss Fowler, from Berry Bros and Rudd’s fine wine department, said: “2010 was a brilliant vintage. The wine has lots of acidity and alcohol, lots of extract and lots of tannin – the key ingredients are in a high volume and the perfect balance. It will also improve over time – over the years those ingredients will interplay with each other and the wine will develop, soften and gain complexity.
“Tannins are key – the same as you get in tea – which soften and ‘eat themselves’ over time, and the wine will get lighter. That’s what produces the deposit that you find in the bottom of the bottle – a good sign.”Top years include 1990, a year in which eight of the nine regions are given full marks, and 2005, when Loire, Alsace and the reds from Burgundy and Bordeaux are each awarded a ten.
Other years are more mixed, while 1984 was a “pretty terrible” vintage in the major European regions – hence its absence from Berry Bros and Rudd’s wine ratings, and the chart above.
Of course, vintage charts are summaries that may hide exceptional wines from poor years – and occasionally the opposite.
Many of the best quality wines can take years to fully mature, and this depends on the characteristics of the region and the different grape varieties. Some Bordeaux reds, for example, might take twenty or thirty years to reach their peak.
Fowler said: “In a brilliant vintage, such as 2010, everything tends to over perform. So you don’t need to spend hundred of pounds on a case: smaller properties will still have made good wine. For example, I’d recommend a 2010 Chateau Batailley from Pauillac, Bord, which sells for £300 a case, before tax. Drink it in ten or twenty years.
“In poorer years, the wine is by no means the same quality – it might lack extract or fruit. But the best, drunk earlier, are still good.
“For example, if you bought the 2007 Batailley, you should drink the bottle now and it would still be delicious, but there would be little point in laying it down.
“As a rule, stick to the more established vineyards in a poor year.”
Many vineyards sell wine en primeur – or while it is still maturing in the barrel – more than a year before the vintage is bottled and officially released.
Keen purchasers make their decisions based on the preliminary scores given during the spring after the grapes have been harvested. The 2011 Bordeaux tastings took place earlier this month.
High scores will prompt higher prices for the developing wine, but buyers should proceed with care – prices may fall again in the future after the wine has had an opportunity to mature.
Last week the leading Bordeaux estate Chateau Latour, owned by billionaire Francois Pinault, announced it would be pulling out of this ‘futures market’, adding that its wines will only be available when bottled and aged.
Previously Chateau Latour wines had proven to be a savvy investment. The 1982 vintage was sold at £250 for a case en primeur in 1983, but by 2007 this was valued at £9,000.
But experts have said that the deci-sion could be good news for wine collectors, as buying already-bottled wine will take some of the uncertainty out of the process.
Scores are averaged for regions which produce both white and red wines.