Consumer & Behavioral Science Consulting

Choosing a Year for French Wine

In further preparation for our trip to France (and also to have it here handy for my reference while in Paris), I was curious how to choose a wine.

We’ve been taking some French language classes and I’ve been using Earworms: Rapid French from Audible. Which is really useful, I must say.


…vin de la maison?

So now I feel pretty competent in how to order my wine. But not in what to order.


The Telegraph’s Interactive graphic: French wine map shows the best vintage, from 1978 to 2011.

“The quality of the wine each year depends on a number of factors, but the most important is the weather.”

So from this it looks like 2010, 2009, 2005, 2002, 2000… all pretty safe bets.  This infographic breaks it down for each region.  But I’m sure I’ll already be flustered with language.  So I’m looking for the safest bets on years.


Pocket Vintages

This is a pretty good guide for 2005 and earlier describing the why (which as a scientist, of course I want to know).

And it looks like 2005 is the way to go:

“2005 Vintage

Quite simply, this will be one of the greatest ever and best remembered vintages across the whole of France.  Conditions were exceptional and the wines produced exceptional.  Be prepared for very high prices which will put the top names way out of most people’s budgets.  The lesser known labels across Bordeaux and Burgundy are worth snapping up and laying down to be enjoyed for years to come.”

NYT: The Secret to buying excellent French wine right now

The boil it down pretty simply to:

“What to buy: Basically, Bordeaux.”

“Both 2010 and 2009 were great vintages in Bordeaux, producing rich, ripe, delicious wines, but the profiles of the two years are slightly different. The 2009s are smoother and more opulent, the 2010s more structured and reserved. If you want to drink your wines soon, opt for the 2009s; if you’re looking to cellar them, go for the 2010s.”

“Belle-Vue, Clément-Pichon, Lanessan, La Dauphine and Poujeaux are widely available, sometimes in either vintage, for less than 20 euros.”


Vintage Chart

Vintage 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Red Bordeaux very good good vintage good vintage very good good vintage best vintage
Red Burgundy good vintage good vintage very good very good good vintage very good
Sauternes good vintage best vintage good vintage very good good vintage best vintage
Rhone good vintage good vintage good vintage best vintage good vintage very good
Champagne good vintage good vintage very good good vintage good vintage very good
Italy good vintage very good good vintage good vintage good vintage very good
Spain good vintage best vintage good vintage good vintage very good very good
California good vintage good vintage good vintage very good good vintage very good
Australia good vintage very good best vintage good vintage very good very good
good vintage = good year very good = very good year best vintage = excellent year



Other useful links on ordering food and drink:

– it’s okay to order rosé! Which is good because I love a good rosé.



So… why do that?

Why swirl?

1. Swirling wines draws air into the wine. The mixture of air and wine releases and intensifies the aroma of the wine. It is customary to smell your wine prior to the first sip as part of the tasting experience. Not only is this fun to do, it gives you an idea of what you are about to taste.

2. Some wines are too dry for the consumers taste. This is usually due to tannic acids in the wine. Swirling the wine draws oxygen from the air into the wine. The oxygen reacts with the tannic acid causing the wine to mellow. You should only do this when you do not like the wine in it’s current state.

3.  Runing it up the sides of the glass gets an extra look at its color. The drops, or tears, that trickle back down tell lots about alcohol content. The color of the wine, both when still and when swirled, gives hints to its density, the type and quality of the grape and the condition of the wine. New wine often has brighter hues than older wine.

Why smell?

Here you can discern a wine’s primary and secondary aromas. All those frou-frou descriptions about scents of huckleberries and roses? That’s how we detect many of them. Smelling offers a preview of what you might taste, not just then, but also if you let the wine sit for a while and open up.

Scent also helps detect if a wine is spoiled. If you’re smelling damp cardboard or gym socks, there may be cork taint, the presence of a destructive little compound called trichloroanisole (TCA). That’s what we mean when we say a wine is “corked.”




One comment on “Choosing a Year for French Wine

  1. Workstation
    August 18, 2014

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This entry was posted on December 24, 2012 by .



The Nerdoscientist @nerdoscientism

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