Birth Year Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine History, Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-10-2011

As I’ve become increasingly interested in wine, I’ve been bitten by the “birth year wine” bug. Because my non-wino parents didn’t have the foresight to predict my fascination with wine, I’m not one of the lucky few who inherited a stash of 1983 Lafite. So, in anticipation of my birthday, I did some research to determine which region of the world to turn to for a bottle of 1983 juice. I eventually settled on Bordeaux, as my experience with aged wine is limited and I wanted something reliable. The product of a good but not great vintage in Bordeaux, I figured a bottle of 1983 Chateau Clinet would be solid, if not spectacular while not breaking the bank. I was right.

Upon opening, I was surprised to find quite a bit of alcohol on the nose, somewhat masking the undercurrent of classic aged Bordeaux. In the mouth, the wine was dominated by burnt toast and smoked meat. It was much more primal and tannic than anticipated, especially given the notes on Cellar Tracker indicating the wine would be over the hill. Far from it, in my opinion.

Fast forward 30 minutes, and bright red fruits are prevalent, with an enjoyable earthy finish that lasts 30+ seconds. At this point I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t decant more of this as I’d already poured tastes for my family.

Ninety minutes in and the tart fruit is still present but the secondary characteristics of rocks and clay are really emerging as the dominant trait. This is clearly a mature wine, with earthy notes and toasted caramel overshadowing the fruit.

I’d have liked to follow this bottle a bit further but my family drank it down. While I wasn’t blown away by the bottle, and I wouldn’t buy another at the price I paid, it was fun addition to a fantastic birthday dinner. Next year I’ll get more adventurous with my selection! Any suggestions?

Comments (10)

  1. Speaking of birth year wines, check out the ’82 California cabs I had this past weekend!

  2. Any suggestions? Our son (first kid) was born last September. I’d love to buy 1-3 bottles that will age well so I can enjoy them with him when he reaches appropriate age. Was thinking of a Peter Michael, maybe a Bordeaux….

  3. That’s a fun topic! But don’t be coy: How much was it? What does a 1983 not-great-vintage Bordeaux go for?

    A good reminder to find a couple bottles for my kids…who are still young (read: affordable) enough.

  4. David, Robby, and I drank a 1991 Peter Michael earlier this year and it was the star of the night so I think that’d be a great choice. I think a good bet from Bordeaux would be Gruaud Larose (good value if there’s such a thing in Bdx). You could also look to well-made Barolo or, if interested in laying down a white, a Riesling from Alsace.

  5. Thanks

  6. David, maybe not as adventurous as you were considering but I would recommend a 1983 Ridge Monte Bello. As always, a quality wine and I understand they are drinking well. Cheers.

  7. Bin Bin: Purchasing a birth year wine for your child is a great idea.. but chances are, it’ll be for you more than him. Otherwise, you’re assuming that by the time he turns 21 (or 18) he’ll enjoy perfectly stored, perfectly aged Bordeaux, Cab, Riesling, etc. So my advice is to buy what you enjoy! If you like Napa Cab, but something from a producer with a record of aging well (Ridge Monte Bello; Diamond Creek; Peter Michael, Montelena; etc.) If you like Bordeaux, and budget is a concern, go with Gruaud Larose or La Lagune — two Chateaus that are both affordable and ageable. If Riesling is your wine, go with any Auslese from J J Prum. Hope this helps!

  8. As a fellow ’83-er, I can tell you it was an outstanding year for Vintage Port. Even better, great Ports last decades, so if you can find a few bottles at auction (or from a benevolent, older wine friend) you can enjoy them on your 30th, 40th or 50th birthday.

  9. I hope that no german or austrian new born child will get a 2010. Horrible year.

  10. Zelda – The Clinet cost $85. I’d certainly buy now in anticipation of your children’s 21st!