Anniversary Wine Suggestions For 2022: What To Drink When The Year Is More Important Than The Price
by Ken Gargett
It never fails: pull out a bottle of wine from a friend or family member’s birth year and the entire event becomes just that little bit more special. Of course, the older we get the harder that becomes, but it is far from impossible. And, of course, if you were so fortunate as to have arrived on earth during a great “vintage,” so much the better.
Any anniversary will do. Any birthday. Any reason. After all, it seems highly unlikely that your ten-year-old is asking for a bottle of wine at his party (which doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your child’s birthday in style). A wedding anniversary is the perfect occasion. Pretty much any excuse, really.
How do you come by the perfect bottle if you don’t have an extensive cellar of your own? For older vintages, wine auctions are an excellent source. It also does not hurt to make enquiries at your favorite wineries as you just never know what is hidden in the cellars; they are often happy to help good customers – or those with deep pockets. Try the better wine stores in your regions. They’ll often have older vintages available and are likely to have better contacts with wineries to assist you in the search. If you have friends with good cellars, they may be able to find that perfect bottle.
But just because you are turning 30 in 2022, for example, that does not mean any wine from 1992 will do. You need to research which regions, wineries, and even individual wines stepped up that year. Hopefully this guide will help you find something to celebrate that special birthday or anniversary.
Frequent commenter Tam O’Banter had a great idea in the comments section of another article: try and do this with malt whiskies. Now that might be a tougher search.
Ten years: 2012
As soon as anyone mentions 2012 to me, I go straight to Champagne. This is one of the great vintages for that region. Even better, you’ll have little trouble finding great examples at any good wine store. Sure, some of the best prestige champagnes and vintage offerings have moved on to new vintages – Louis Roederer’s Cristal for example – but there are many more that are current and certainly some that are yet to be released. The choice is extensive.
This century opened well with the superb 2002 vintage. Since then, we have had two truly great years, 2008 and 2012. To be honest, you don’t need an anniversary or birthday to buy those vintages. Stock your cellars now. While there are some very good years following 2012, you’ll have to wait until 2018 hits the shelves before we have another legendary one according to all the hype from the region.
If you don’t want Champagne, 2012 was a decent year for reds in Bordeaux, especially the Right Bank wines. But it was pretty close to catastrophic in Sauternes. Burgundy is mixed but as usual, the top producers will exceed the vintage conditions.
The Rhône produced some superb wines. Italy had some success. Tuscany impressed, but this was a wonderful year for Barolo and many will be drinking magnificently now.
California excelled, though this vintage will appeal more to those who like big, exuberant wines. In Australia, some superb releases from 2012: the Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace are both superstars. Margaret River is another knockout – take it as read. Most Margaret River winemakers have never seen a poor vintage unless they have also worked elsewhere.
Twenty years: 2002
Two thousand two? Again, straight to Champagne. You may have to work to locate them, but it is far from impossible. Quite simply, a superb year, even if marginally short of ’08 and ’12, with the better wines hitting their peak right now, though well cellared examples have a long life ahead.
Beyond that, a little more problematic. California is the go-to region with a great year. Australia, a little cooler than usual in certain regions meant some wonderfully elegant wines. Again, a brilliant vintage for Grange, Hill of Grace, and many others.
Back in Europe, Bordeaux is not a region I’d look to. Ripeness an issue. Again, Sauternes was pretty much a write-off. Burgundy, on the other hand, had a cracker. This is the style of Burgundy I love, more elegant with more focus on finesse than we find with some years. Those who enjoy a more robust style may be less enamored.
Whites from Burgundy were solid. Rhônes? I wouldn’t bother. And in the most egregious manner of appalling generalizations, ditto for Spain, Italy, and Portugal. However, the Loire Valley was a star performer. Germany even more so. Good examples of their astonishing sweet wines will be sensational today.
I know what you are thinking: is he going to bang on about Champagne yet again? Well, I wish I could as what is more perfect for a twenty-first birthday party? Sadly, no. Avoid this vintage like the plague, although you’ll struggle to find any. Very few produced. For good reason.
Bordeaux was a pleasant rather than stellar year and pretty much the same could be said for Burgundy. This was a year to go Rhône if you want French reds. With whites, both Alsace and the Loire are worth the search and their good wines will be superb today.
For me, the absolute star from this vintage is Sauternes. The wines are mind-blowing. I’ve been fortunate to have tasted the 2001 Château d’Yquem far more often than would seem fair, and it never fails to stop me in my tracks. Glorious. I still think it is the greatest young wine I have ever tasted, though it is past that stage now. It will last a century and I have no doubt that it will be considered to be one of – if not the – greatest Yquems ever made.
Outside France, Europe stepped up in many regions. In Italy, both Tuscany and Piedmont had brilliant years. Spain and Germany likewise (yes, the generalizations are flowing faster than the wine but it is impossible to avoid).
If we leave Europe, 2001 is considered to be outstanding in California. Grab what you can find if well cellared. Australia was solid.
Twenty-five years: 1997
If this is for a birthday, 1997 is one of those years when I hope that you were born sometime between January and September. That way you can claim “year of conception” rather than “year of birth” and drink wines from 1996, much more superior across the board. Not all is lost, however.
There are some solid champagnes, though they are not often seen. Bollinger and Salon perhaps the stars. Burgundy has some pleasant wines, but sidestep Bordeaux. Sauternes and the Loire are standouts and do not hesitate. With reds, the Rhône again took the crown.
Piedmont and Tuscany had cracking vintages. Barolo is especially impressive. Germany was exciting (and still will be). Finally, I have a year where I can recommend vintage ports: 1997 is a great year for the Douro and they’ll be drinking beautifully now, though decades await.
Yet again, California had a seriously brilliant vintage. Napa Valley led the way. Australia perhaps not quite so thrilling.
Thirty years: 1992
Another “year of conception” if you can tweak it, though the same might be said of 1991. There are some great vintage ports: Taylors and Fonseca spring to mind, though they are hard to find (I know, I have long sought the 1992 Taylors and never managed to find one). It is perhaps a more mixed year than ’97.
Champagne had some pleasant releases – good for Dom Pérignon, if I recall. They will be hard to find and there are better years. I loved several ’92 Burgundies in the years following their release, but they were never considered long-living wines. Bordeaux was even less exciting. Forget the Rhône and Italy. Germany had a fine year and, at the risk of becoming the broken record, California had yet another cracker.
Forty years: 1982
If you are a fan of great Bordeaux and you are turning 40 this year, you are very lucky indeed as 1982 is a truly sensational year. The wines won’t be cheap – what is? But they are worth it. Whatever it takes and whatever you can find; 1982 Bordeaux is a wine legend.
Don’t worry about Sauternes. Burgundy was not at its best in this vintage. Indeed, there is no need to seek anything else from France from this vintage – some good reds from the Rhône – with one exception. It was also a brilliant year in Champagne. Well cellared bottles will be great examples of what a mature champagne can offer.
Italy and Spain had excellent years, especially Spain. I’ve seen reports praising the 1982 vintage for port. I have no idea why.
This is a year that South African winemakers love, though finding any might be tough. For once, 1982 in California is a below-average year. Australia had a year that was considered brilliant at the time, but in retrospect may not have reached the anticipated heights.
Fifty years: 1972
If 1972 is your year, my commiserations. A year that underwhelmed almost everywhere. One exception in Europe was Burgundy, though this is more a personal view than one shared by many of the vintage charts and rankings. Nineteen seventy-one was a great year in Burgundy and ’72 seemed to disappear in its shadow, but there were some really beautiful wines that lasted several decades. That said, I suspect only the very best would still impress.
Sixty years: 1962
Some good wines from Bordeaux (although following on from 1961, one of the greatest years of the century, was always going to be a tough gig), Burgundy and Italy, but this is not a year in Europe that screams must-have. Reports suggest some decent Barolo and Brunello, but I suspect your chances of finding a Brunello from that year would be in the wishful thinking basket.
There is, however, one truly great wine from this vintage that is a must for any bucket list if you can find it (it does pop up at auction occasionally but you’ll be paying five figures a bottle these days). Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz, a one-off from 1962. We have featured this wine before, and it is truly a “drink-on-bended-knee” wine.
Seventy years: 1952
Unless you have these wines in your cellar, your chances are slim. Perhaps a wine auction might assist. If you do seek a bottle from 1952, Bordeaux and Barolo are your best options, but neither are considered truly top of the tree.
Seventy-five years: 1947
There were some great years in the 1940s and this, along with 1945, is considered to be the pick of them. This is a legendary vintage for both Bordeaux and Burgundy.
The few I have seen have been thrilling wines. Château d’Yquem 1947 is also brilliant. An impressive year for vintage port, but they are rarely seen. Germany had a stunner.
One hundred years: 1922
Good luck with sourcing anything from this vintage, of course. If you do find something, it is likely to be Bordeaux. At one stage, 1922 looked like it might be a great year for the region, rivaling its predecessor (1921 is a cracking year), but the weather changed and it is now considered average at best. Reports suggest that Spain had an amazing year, but I can’t imagine many bottles remain.
Whatever year you embrace for your birthday, anniversary, celebration, or just to enjoy, hopefully these suggestions will assist.