1960s Archive

A Decade of Vintages: 1952-1962

continued (page 2 of 5)

1954. This year produced wines very like the ’60s, although possibly less good. Charming and short-lived, most of them are over the hill, 1½0.

1953. A very great year, nor unlike 1959 in character, better in the Médoc than in St, Êmillion and Pomerol. Ten years, of course, is a great age for any wine save a very good one. and all except the really outstanding ’53s have long since been joyously consumed, liven the best are not far from their peak: drink them, 17/20.

Earlier years: Few are worth buying unless one can be sure of their origin and that they have been properly stored. The ’45s and ’49s in most cases arc still admirable; the ’47s less consistently so; 1952 has proved (with a few exceptions in St. Êmillion and Pomerol) good, not great, Most of the others are history.

White Bordeaux

1963. Probable quality (evaluation as of November 15): Poor, possibly with some exceptions among the dry Graves. 10/20 to 12/20.

1962. A very great year. Perhaps even belter than 1961, which is anything but faint praise, Both Graves and Sauternes are a bit lighter than in 1961, with great breed and fruit and charm. 19/20.

1961. A very great year, of classic excellence and character. Rather big, well-balanced, long-lived wines, the Graves now perfection, the Sauternes just coming on the market. 18/20.

1960. Mediocre. The dry wines often small and bitter. going downhill. A few fairly nice not-too-sweet Sauternes. 12/20.

1959. Very great in Sautertnes, where the wines are almost overwhelming in their richness and power. The Graves are golden, high in alcohol, a bit sweet, not for all palate. 13/20 to 18/20.

1958. Undistinguished. 13/20.

Older white Bordeaux are only interesting in the rather restricted sector of Sauternes. There are those who will think highly of the 1956 vintage, as I do, although it is generally rated poor, because the great Sauternes, including Yquem, are lighter and very racy and less sweet than usual. A few ’55 Graves have survived, but only those stored under ideal conditions; all other Graves older than the ’61s are poor risks.

Red Burgundy

1963. Probable quality (evaluation as of November 15): Spotty, but better than expected, fair to very good; doubtless some excellent values if carefully selected. 13/20 to 15/20.

1962. This, for which the outlook was utterly dismal until the end of June, proved to be the Year of the Wonderful Surprise—bountiful, of excellent quality. Eight weeks of perfect weather, lasting through the vintage, confounded all the pessimists, gave some of the best white wines of the past decade and reds that can properly and honestly be called “great”—an overworked adjective, this time deserved. They have developed and matured more successfully than any of us expected and are surprisingly close in quality to the ’61s; in certain wines, they are even to be preferred. 18/20.

1961. An exceedingly great year, better in average quality than even 1959, for the wines arc better balanced, firmer, slower to mature, and will be longer-lived. The production was very small and the wines are expensive, but it is hard to see how they could be any better, and there has not been a vintage since World War II that I would so unhesitatingly recommend for laying down. At the same time, the smaller wines, which have already been shipped and arc ready to drink, arc hardly less admirable in their class. 19/20,. and perhaps deserves the ultimate accolade of 20/20.

1960. Although good in white wines, produced reds so poor that they need hardly concern us. Few, if any, were estate bottled, and few shipped unblended. 10/20.

1959. Tin's year was immediately christened the “Vintage of the Century” and in many ways it was. It yielded, so far as we know, the largest crop of fine wine in the modern history of Burgundy; although the whites were too heavy and clearly less good, the reds were delicious and charming and ready to drink almost at once. I felt it my duty promptly to advise the readers of GOURMET to buy them, to enjoy them, but to consume all except the very best of them within five or six years, and things have worked out about as predicted. The very finest ’59s arc still improving, now superb; the others should be drunk before they lose their grace and charm—by 1965 at the latest. 17/20 or 18/20.

1958. Spotty and not much more than passable. 12/20. 1957. Big, firm, sturdy wines, harsh and unattractive when first presented. The really good ones, however, are beginning to come round and to fulfill their early promise. They will outlast the ’59s, and some of the fine Côtes de Nuits will prove extraordinary, following the evolution of the ’49s and ’45s. 16/20, some deserving more.

1956. Best forgotten.

1955. Pleasant wines which at their apogee almost deserved the term “great.” They arc tiring today and will not last. 14/20.

1954. Long since gone and no loss either.

1953. Charmers from the beginning, they are very like the ’59s; the big wines that were perfectly stored have retained all their softness and body; the others are growing old and some are throwing heavy sediment. 14/20. 1952. Less attractive than 1953 at the beginning, it has held belter, and is better today. If selected carefully, 15/20.

A few rare ’49s, the best ’47s, and certain ’45s arc still grandes bouteilles. Buy them only in small lots and from sure suppliers.


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 five 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.

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