The World’s Best Vintage Chart can only tell you so much. Here’s the latest advice on what to buy and what to drink in 2011 from our expert team of contributors.
The 2009 North Coast vintage was difficult due to rain and will require careful selection, especially when shopping for Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends. Focus buying on North Coast Cabs and blends from 2006-2008, which are still available and should prove ageworthy. Pinot Noirs from 2007 and 2008 are also good across the board, with the nod to the stellar 2007s, especially from Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. For current drinking, the 2006 Pinots are showing well, especially from Santa Barbara County. Syrah, Zinfandel and Chardonnay are not particularly ageable and can decline after a few years in the bottle. Until the 2009s are released, seek more recent vintages, such as 2007. –Steve Heimoff
2010 brought challenges but should be excellent for Merlot and Syrah; Cabs will be spotty. Effects of rot and mold may hurt the whites. Right now, the 2006 reds are coming out of their shells; the 2007s remain scultpted and stylish. The 2008 whites are often searingly acidic, but vivid and racy, delicious with oysters. –Paul Gregutt
The 2010 vintage was wet throughout the harvest season, so you’ll have to pick your producers carefully. The 2008 Pinots are getting good press, and deservedly so; but some real bargains can be found among the 2007s, and they are drinking well right now. The 2006 Pinots are a vintage to cellar, though quite enjoyable already. –P.G.
The summer of 2009 was cool, but perfect for lovers of aromatic high-acid Rieslings from the Finger Lakes. It was a great year for reds in 2008, and those wines are still on the market, but treasure hunters will be rewarded with some late-released Long Island and Finger Lake Merlots and Cab Francs from the 2004 and 2005 vintages. –Anna Lee Iijima
By all accounts, the 2010 vintage is promising, but 2009 is remarkably consistent and should offer top wines from all of the major growing regions, with the possible exception of the Yarra Valley. Heat spikes make 2008 wine more hit and miss. For drinking, crack open Clare Valley Rieslings from 2002 and 2005, but give the big reds from 2007 a little more time to shed their sometimes difficult tannins. Those reds from 1996 and 1998 continue to shine. –Joe Czerwinski
Most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs should be consumed within a year of the vintage, so drink up any remaining 2009s and look for the 2010s, which are streaming into the market. Pinot Noirs arrive a year later; the 2009s should be particularly good. –J.C.
In contrast to previous vintages, 2009 was a great year for both red and white wines. Buy high-end barrel-aged whites from 2009 or opt for fresher styles from 2010 (think Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chenin Blanc) to drink now. For reds, buy and hold 2009s (especially Shiraz, Pinotage and Bordeaux varieties), test the maturity of 2007 and 2006 selections and start drinking 2005s or older. –Lauren Buzzeo
The year 2010 will go down as one of Chile’s most incredible years ever, highlighted by the massive February earthquake and later the saga over the 33 trapped (and rescued) miners. As for wines, 2010 yielded a lower volume than average but was solid in terms of quality, with early release Sauvignon Blancs already showing better than in 2009. For fans of top-shelf Chilean reds from the Maipo, Cachapoal and Colchagua valleys, 2007 is the vintage to be drinking now. –Michael Schachner
By all accounts, 2010 was a very good year in Argentina, but maybe not quite as good as 2009, which Doña Paula winemaker Edy del Popolo labels “one of the best three vintages in recent years along with 2006 and 2002.” Adhering to del Popolo’s assessment, we recommend drinking 2006 high-end Malbecs and red blends, and then seeking 2009 Malbecs and other reds for everyday pleasure. If the white Torrontés grape is to your liking, then look for the freshest 2010 bottlings you can find and bypass the ’09s, which are fading. –M.S.
There was half as much rain in Bordeaux for the six months to the end of August as there was in 2009, itself a dry year. Producers are “very optimistic” about the wines that will be available as futures this spring. In Burgundy, the 2006 and 2004 whites are good to drink now. Chablis whites from 2004 and 2002 are tasting delicious. Start opening 2003 and 1999 reds, as well as lighter reds from 2001, 1997 and 1996. The top Loire dry Chenins from 2004 and 2002 are just showing signs of maturity, but wait on 2005 until next year. The top quality 2004 vintage in Alsace is just beginning to show its best, especially the Pinot Gris.
In the Rhône, 2009 looks good for current-drinking from the south and potentially great, long-lived Syrahs from the north; drink up most 2000s and snatch up any lingering 2007s from the south. From Languedoc, buy and cellar reds from 2006 and younger, and start drinking 2005s, although some may still require additional time. The ripe and concentrated 2009 whites are mostly ready to drink now though some, like grand cru wines from La Clape, Terrasses du Larzac and Limoux, can hold another year or two. –Roger Voss, J.C., L.B.
With several excellent vintages in the pipeline, there’s a strong argument to make that says Italian wine has never tasted better. Starting with 2004, the past six years have delivered a proud assembly of top wines from the tip to the toe of the boot-shaped peninsula. Focus immediate attention on the elegant 2005 Brunellos (on the market now), but save some money for the 2006s (released in January), which promise to be even better in terms of mouthfeel. The 2006 Barolos are showing enormous elegance and the 2007 Barbarescos deliver impressive brightness of fruit. Reds and whites from 2008 and 2009 boast both harmony and complexity thanks to favorable growing conditions. –Monica Larner
The 2010 harvest in Spain is a positive follow up to the well-regarded, somewhat warm 2009 vintage except in Priorat, where rains before and during harvest caused problems. For drinking now, if you had the foresight to put away higher-end Riojas, Ribera del Dueros, Priorat blends and other serious reds from 2001, those should be in ideal condition at 10 years of age; also start opening your 2004, ’05 and ’06 upper-tier reds to gauge progress. All were strong vintages, with 2004 being the most structured; 2005 the most opulent and 2006 the warmest and most easygoing of the three. As for 2007 and 2008, these were years with rain and other negative factors; the view here is that 2007 was the better year but that neither had the goods to produce classic wines. –M.S.
Quality is variable and quantities were down in 2010, but the 2009 vintage was excellent and should be the main focus of any buying during 2011. Drink up remaining kabinetts from prior to 2005, and check in on how any 2003s and 2006s are evolving—some of the wines from these years are developing rather quickly because of low acidity or botrytis. –J.C.
The classic Port vintages to start drinking now are 1997 and 2000, but also look for single Quinta Ports from 2004 and 2001. Of top red table wines from the last decade, 2003 and 2000 are the vintages to start opening. –R.V.
The best 2004 and 2001 sweet whites, always good value despite their rarity, are worth starting on, as are the dry whites from 2005 and 2004. Look at your reds from 2004, 2001 and 2000, especially the lighter Zweigelt. –R.V.