1960s Archive

A Decade of Vintages: 1952-1962

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1962. A very good year which in certain districts could perhaps be called great. Thus the Pouilly-Fumés, Sancerres, and Quincys are wines of extraordinary fruit and bouquet, not too heavy, fresh and charming—the best balanced in nearly a decade. The Muscadets, Saumurs, Anjous, etc. are perhaps a shade less good than the ’61s but of excellent class. 16/20 to 18/20.

1961. A very good and consistent year, better in red wines (Chinon, Bourgueil, Champigny) than 1962; excellent in Vouvray and Anjou. 17/20.

1960. Just passable. Now off the market.

1959. Very ripe, full-bodied wines; attractive in their youth, they did not last, most of them being too high in alcohol. There arc a few exceptions among the red wines and the sweeter Anjous. 12/20 to 15/20.


1963. Probable quality (evaluation as of November 15): A large crop, not too far from 1961 and 1962 in quality. Fair to very good. On the average, perhaps 14/20.

1962. An outstanding year of light, fine, delicate, racy wines, Most of these are just now being bottled and will be shipped in the spring of 1964. 15/20.

1961. A good and pleasant year, quite in the class with 1962, but yielding somewhat fuller-bodied, riper wines. 14/20.

1960. Very large crop. Mediocre. 1½0 today.

1959. A very great year, as in Germany. Here in Alsace. however, the wines are almost too heavy, especially the Gewürztraminers, and lack sprightliness and charm. Some Rieslings of quite remarkable class. 15/20.


A detailed vintage chart for Champagne cannot help being a little ridiculous: in five years out of ten the wine never even pretends to go to the consumer in an unblended state, and admittedly would be less good if it did; and what proportion of which vintage goes into a nonvintage Champagne is a well-kept trade secret.

It is certainly more sensible, therefore, to reserve comment on what might be called the “buried” years—those chat disappeared into the nonvintage—and discuss only those that have been, or may be, presented as millésimer: 1962, 1961, 1959, 1957, 1955, 1953 and 1952. It is too early to comment on the quality of 1963, except to say that it will probably not carry a vintage. It will certainly be a very large crop, however, and the fifth large crop in successive years: the Champagne vineyards produced nearly as much wine in these five years as in the preceding ten. and there now appears to be some possible, eventual hope of a price reduction.

1962. An excellent, consistent, and copious year, fully equal in quality to 1961, perhaps the best since 1955 or even 1952. Since the wines are just now beginning to acquire their sparkle, it is too early to say more. As a guess. 17/20.

1961. Also an excellent year, and many houses, though perhaps not all, will present it as a vintage in 1965 or 1966. Again, about 17/20.

1959. A so-called “very great” year. It produced very big, full-bodied wines, so high' in alcohol that, without a judicious admixture of 1960, they could hardly have been refermented and made sparkling. There are some very good cuvées, others that are too heavy, and, in any case, hardly any as good as the best ’55s. With rare exceptions, they lack sprightliness, delicacy, and charm, and they are not likely to improve. 15/20.

1957. A pitifully small crop, not marketed as a vintage by most houses. The wines at the beginning were green and hard, but many have come round in better fashion than expected. 15/20.

1955. Although not a truly outstanding year, it has given wines that please everybody—sound, light, well balanced, with their full share of finesse and bouquet. They are racier and have more elegance than the ’53s and ’59s, and if they are not up to the ’52s—well, few Champagnes are or will be in our lifetime. 17/20. 1955. Highly touted and extravagantly praised, especially at the beginning, the ’53s have always been far below the ’52s in quality. Very full wines and, like the ’59s, high in alcohol, they now lack distinction and grace, and these are qualities that Champagnes rarely acquire as they grow older. To be drunk, not laid away. 14/20.

1952. An exceedingly great vintage, certainly the best of the past two decades, quite comparable to that “incomparable” year, 1928. The ’52s of top cuvées are practically unprocurable, but it is hard to see how they could be better than they still are today. 19/20.

Rhine and Moselle

1963. Probable quality (evaluation as of November 15): A very good year, one of the most copious since the last war. The estate-bottlings promise to be in the class with the ’62s. better on the Rhine than on the Moselle. 14/20 to 15/20, but a great deal of inferior wine of much lower quality.

1962. A very fine, light year, especially on the Rhine, where the wines are very like the ’61s in both character and quality, although a shade better in most cases. They are light, fragrant, pleasing, generally on the dry side, not great. 16/20. Less consistent on the Moselle where there was a large crop and many wines, thin and too low in alcohol, had to be sugared. Scattered vineyards, especially on the Star, produced natur wines of superior class, but in small quantity. About 14/20. At least 17/20 in Pfalz, however.

1961. A very good year, but by no means the remarkable vintage that it proved in France, The Rhines are fresh, graceful, and attractive, not unlike the ’58s, dry for the most part, and now quite ready. 15/20. The Moselles, bottled later as always, are just beginning to develop their full bouquet; they are light, charming, and typical. 16/20.

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