Any Bordeaux vintage of the 1990s has to be taken in the context of the great successes and failures of the decade; as far as the former goes, which vintage we turn to depends on how you wish to define the boundaries of the decade, and whether it begins in 1990 or ends in 2000. Whichever you choose, however, you have a great vintage on your hands, where all of the region’s appellations enjoyed broad success. As for the failures, the sad trio of 1991, 1992 and 1993 (accepting that there are always exceptions to the rule – I have tasted a handful of good wines made in 1993, for instance) are the vintages we should look to. After this trio came 1994, a vintage of relief for the vignerons and proprietors where decent wines could at least be made. It is a vintage that today divides opinion, some enjoying the tannic structure of the wines, and their leaner style, the antithesis of modern Bordeaux, whereas some wish they had just a little more flesh on their bones.
And then came 1995, a fine vintage in which many great wines were made. Some very established critics – I believe James Suckling is on record as saying this – today prefer the vintage to 1996, although I don’t share that opinion. Nevertheless this is certainly a vintage littered with wines of quality, and its reputation rests largely on those wines that originate from the right bank appellations of St Emilion and Pomerol. But it is by no means a failure on the left bank, and as my associated tasting notes show, there are in fact many delicious wines from the classic appellations of the Médoc such as Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux. They don’t match the purity and fine expression of typicité that the wines of the subsequent vintage show, however, and it is for this reason I prefer the wines of 1996.
But perhaps there is broader appeal in 1995? After all, if we consider 1995 as a ‘right-bank vintage’ in which there were also very good wines made on the left bank, suddenly 1996 does not do so well in comparison. The wines from the Médoc appellations of St Estèphe, St Julien, Pauillac and Margaux in 1996 are, without any doubt in my mind, superior to anything else produced between 1991 and 1999, but the wines originating from the right bank communes of St Emilion and Pomerol this year are much less successful. Certainly, those that I have tasted seem to me to have displayed the weakness of the vintage in these appellations. For the right bank, 1995 would be a ‘go-to’ vintage, second perhaps – restricting myself to the 1990s again – only to the 1998 vintage.
Sticking with 1995 though, there are certainly good wines in the vintage, and being a vintage relatively free of excessive hyperbole they have for many years offered good value. With that in mind, they are certainly wines I have added to the cellar over the years, and the associated tasting notes reflect this. These can be viewed via the links at the top of the page. Below, I provide some information on the vintage itself.