1960s Archive

A Decade of Vintages: 1950-1960

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1958. Uneven, but fairly good. Some houses may ship it as a vintage but they will probably be in the minority. At least 13/20. possibly deserves more.

1957. Almost certainly will emerge as a vintage although the crop was pitifully small and the wines, so far, seem green and rather hard. Not a great year. 16/20.

1955. Extremely good, better than expected, soon to make their bow. Sound, well-balanced wines, with a good deal of finesse, more attractive in many cases than the '53s. 16/20.

1953. Highly touted and extravagantly praised, especially at the beginning, the '53s are now obviously far below the '52s in quality: very full wines, high in alcohol, they now lack distinction and grace, and these are qualities which Champagnes rarely acquire as they grow older. To be drunk, not laid away. A big year, but not an especially attractive wine. 16/20.

1952. A very great year, certainly the best of the past two decades, quite comparable to that “incomparable” year, 1928. The wines seem to have everything—great class, bouquet, a nice equilibrium of lightness and body, a charm which makes them immediately engaging, and other qualities which would seem to assure them long life. 19/20 as a minimum.


Engaging, fruity, fresh, eminently drinkable, Beaujolais is a wine that improves hardly at all with age. In Paris, as in Lyon. it is consumed (as “open wine”) cheerfully and copiously as soon as it reaches the precocious age of three months, and a Beaujolais three years old is considered past its prime. We in America must perforce be a little more patient, wait at least until the wine is bottled and can stand shipment, which takes from nine months to a year. But here, too, we can almost say “the younger, the better,” though with a few reservations, since a Beaujolais of a poor year, however delicious in a French bistro, rarely travels well.

1960. An enormous crop, one of the largest in history, but mostly just vins de comptoir, light wines that will be served by the glass and never bottled. A few, carefully selected, will be at least fair and some of them even good. 12/20.

1959. A great year, though less remarkable than in Burgundy proper. There were a few failures, but most of the wines are firm, sound, of truly excellent quality—they are ready now, bur the good ones will certainly hold for another two or three years. 17/20.

1958. Rather attractive at first, these have grievously disappointed us, and they are finished. 12/20.

1957. Sturdy, very full-bodied, perhaps lacking in fruit and that velvety quality which the French call gras, but long-lived. 16/20.

Of earlier years, a few of the very best '55s are still sound. The others need not concern us.

Côtes du Rhône

1960. The Rhone Valley wines do not follow, on the whole, the same vintage pattern as the rest of France, and 1960, at least in Tavel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, was a better year than 1959. The excellent rosés will be in bottle and ready to drink by September, and the reds are decidedly promising. 16/20.

1959. Of all the fine wine districts in Western Europe, only the province of Piedmont, in Italy, and the Rhone Valley, in France, failed to produce something outstanding in '59. Fairly good, 14/20, no more.

1958. Just passable. The red wines, much lighter than usual, are agreeable, fruity, now ready; the rosés are already showing signs of age. 12/20.

1957. A great year. Very small crop, high quality; big, full-bodied wines that are developing slowly and will be long-lived. 16/20 except for the rosés, which are already past their prime.

1956. Mediocre. 10/20.

1955. Very great. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape now at its superb peak; the Hermitage developing magnificently. 18/20.

NOTE: Authentic Rhone wines older than the 1955s are extremely rare, and bottles labeled “1949,” “1947,” “1945,” etc., should be regarded with skepticism, especially if the wine has not thrown a heavy sediment. When you can find them, the genuine 1952s are extraordinary, deserve 18/20 or even possibly 19/20.

Loire Valley

1960. Considerably better than in the rest of France. Quite satisfactory wines, especially in the Muscadet country, Anjou, and Saumur. Perhaps 14/20 on the average.

1959. A bounteous and wonderful vintage. Practically all of the Loire hillsides, from Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre down to Muscadet, shared in this good fortune, and produced fruity, finely balanced wines of great charm and breed. Not far from perfection, 19/20.

1958. Somewhat uneven. Wines rather dry and light, but many of them very pleasant. 13/20.

NOTE: A few older Loire wines are still of more than passing interest when they can be found, notably the 1953s. which were magnificent everywhere, the 1955 and 1957 red wines of Chinon and St. Nicholas-de-Bourgeuil, the dry but fragrant 1955 Vouvrays.


1960. Fair. Very large crop, wines rather on the light side. 13/20.

1959. An extremely great year, as in Germany. The Rieslings were particularly successful, racy, fruity, among the best since World War II. 19/20. The Gewürztraminers, as is often the case in warm, dry years, are a bit low in acid and have to be selected with great care, 16/20.

1958. A good year; wines fresh, light, and attractive, on the dry side. 15/20.

1957. The bigger wines, most particularly the Gewürztraminers, have developed beyond all expectations, and some of them can only be described as superb. The smaller wines, however, are hard and mediocre. To strike an average, perhaps 16/20.

NOTE: 1955, 1953, and 1952 were all three good years, but Alsatian wines never gain much by keeping, and, frankly, the younger wines are much better today.

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