100ml, Bordeaux, France

1975 vintage Bordeaux: Claret Guide, Decanter 1976

If you are having a 40th birthday this year (& happy birthday, Angelina Jolie!), here is a vintage assessment of the 1975 Bordeaux vintage from Decanter in September 1976. Finally, it was a vintage to write home about:

It is certainly cheering and reassuring for all who love Bordeaux to know that at long last there is a really good vintage safely in the cellars once more. At the same time this does not mean, unfortunately, that all Bordeaux’s problems have disappeared and indeed many of the economic problems seem to be as persistent and deep-seated as ever.

This was a difficult economy for many industries including wine. The 1973 oil crisis could still be felt. Then there were a series of bad vintages in Bordeaux in the early 1970s and, without the technology we have today, there were consecutive years that could not be sold because they were simply undrinkable.

The 1975 vintage was initially quite tannic but it has mellowed out over the past ten years, and the fruit has petered out in the lesser wines.

Decanter 1976

1970s wine and spirits photography – a knife, a rose, a kilt

Glad to see there was no hype around the vintage back in the day… oh wait:

Firstly, one can say unequivocally that this is the best vintage since 1970 and that while there is a certain amount of unevenness, particularly in the lower quality level, it would be quite wrong to give any impression other than that this is a really good year.

At least “a really good year” is not as bombastic as “vintage of the century”. But could it be a vintage of the decade?

The general characteristics of the year are a really excellent colour, certainly comparable with 1970 and 1966, and a good deal of tannin in the wines, more than has been seen at this stage for some years. Certainly more tannic than the 1970s ever were. The very individuality of the wines and the difficulty in pinpointing a useful comparison within the last decade at least indicates in general terms the quality of the vintage.

What was brilliant about this era was the casual drinking of first growths. Much like property bought in the 1970s, these wines will set you back if you bought them today, even if “buying from the cask”. This was pre-Robert Parker’s inaugural 1982 vintage. Latour is worth a punt, and “surprisingly” Ausone was outstanding:

At this stage it is always difficult to single out individual growths but I was particularly impressed by the Latour which stood right out in a blind tasting of Médoc first growths and surprisingly in St. Emilion the Ausone was absolutely outstanding and must certainly be one of the very best wines  made in this Château since the war, a very definite rival this year to Cheval Blanc, while in Graves both Haut Brion and La Mission promise to be excellent.

When you don’t want to drink Latour during the week, how about some cheeky second growths:

Amongst second growths of the Médoc, the ones which impressed most favourable at this stage were Leoville Lascases, Leoville Barton, Lynch Bages, La Lagune and Brane Cantenac, from which it can be seen that very successful wines were made right through the region.

Overall, the 1975 vintage wine was a huge relief for everyone in the wine industry – except for a large number of firms. There was too much 1974 stock in the cellar. And 1975 was a good  time to buy a Chateaux by the number of “for sale” signs:

The undisguised and justified joy in the birth of such a robust and promising infant as the 1975 vintage unfortunately cannot dispel or conceal the basically unhealthy state of the Bordeaux market. A large number of firms have been, or are, in trouble.

The vintage assessment does not have the same swagger as writing today. For better or worse. Then again, this really was the golden era for copywriting:

wine advertising 1976

Mad men

The more things change, the more things stay the same. What to drink if you are born in 1975 (other than Bordeaux)?

  • Tuscany (especially Brunello di Montalcino)
  • German Riesling
  • Champagne (perfect for a birthday party!)

Have you tasted any wines from 1975 recently? Please leave a comment, to let us know how they are faring.

Article by David Peppercorn MW, Decanter magazine September 1976