THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON

The Year of the Dragon has historically been very kind to the world of wine. A plethora of incredible vintage years from across the world and through the ages has made choosing standouts rather difficult and provided much debate in the CV office. We could easily have chosen a dozen more wines, and what follows is by no means the definitive list … for example, there is no mention of Italy here, which surprised even me! This shortlist does however contain some iconic, era defining, experiential wines which seem to embody the hallmarks of the Year of the Dragon – Good Luck, Power, Strength and Wisdom.

Petrus 1964

The “Greatest Debut Ever”. And no, we are not talking about the first foray of The Beatles into the USA! In 1964, another maestro was entering the world stage with aplomb, in the form of Petrus and the stellar vintage that this château produced.

“A testament to Jean-Claude Berrouet” is how Neal Martin described this wine upon tasting in 2019, and how right he is. Still a baby at 60 years old, the ’64 is a behemoth of a wine. Often judged against the ’61, it more than holds its own – power, grace, elegance and class, Petrus 1964 has it all. There are no worries about this falling off a cliff, either. In fact, it’ll most likely outlive many of us.

An honourable and personal mention must go to Cheval Blanc ’64, tasted in July 2023 at the château and another standout in a line-up of true greats. A memory and privilege I will never forget.

Grange 1976

The 25th edition of this now globally famous Shiraz was the first ever Aussie wine to be priced at over AUS$20 per bottle! At the time, this bold move shocked the wine world, and whilst this ambitious price was balked at by many in the beginning, the joke is now on them. What began as an experiment by Max Shubert went on to create perhaps Australia’s most iconic wine and pushed the boundaries for Australian wines, helping to firmly establish the country as a fine wine player.  Less than 1,000 cases were made of the ’76 – the vintage has remained consistently high-scoring over its lifetime, which, along with its relative scarcity, has made this a true icon of the wine world.

We love anything antipodean at CV, so at least one had to make the list. Whilst the ’76 is probably at the end of its drinking window, you’d be hard pressed to find a bad Grange in the ensuing years (but don’t expect to pay AUS$20!).  A benchmark, pioneer, and icon.

Louis Roederer Cristal 1988

1988 was a monumental year for British/French relations as work began to join the two nations via a brand new underwater tunnel … not only did this make it easier for holidaymakers to head abroad, but it also meant that wine lovers were closer to their favourite vineyards! The first stop on the wine tour route after leaving the tunnel usually begins in Champagne, which in 1988 was experiencing an equally monumental year. The most difficult task here is choosing just one wine from such a superb vintage… however, for many it has to be 1988 Cristal, a wine which if anything is still gaining in quality even now.

Low yields and a difficult flowering season meant the best grapes were incredibly concentrated, which Jean-Baptise Lecaillon noted as ‘one of the keys for making great Champagne’ at a tasting in 2020. At 36 years old, Cristal ’88 remains one of the great champagnes of the vintage, and long may it continue to age gracefully. It’s living proof of the fact that even when the weather throws everything at you, with a little bit of wisdom the year can still result in a plethora of amazing fizz.

Lafleur 2000

Y2K proved nothing more than a hoax, and by the time the harvest in Bordeaux came around, the worries about worldwide shutdowns and the Millennium Bug were but a distant memory.  Instead, rumours had been spreading through the wine world of the potential greatness of the Bordeaux vintage … and how right they were. Iconic bottle designs aside (this was the year of Mouton’s iconic golden sheep) the Bordelaise were more than happy with the resulting harvest.

Lafleur could have been could have been forgiven for feeling that they missed out on the millennium party, given the lukewarm initial reception that this vintage received. However, for many of us the move from adolescence to adulthood shows us what we are truly capable of … and at 24 years old, Lafleur is now proving this point and showing us that the old saying ‘maturing like a fine wine’ really is the case. A monumental young adult of a wine which will continue to grow up gracefully.

Screaming Eagle 2012

My first year in fine wine … a baptism of fire, given that 2011 Bordeaux was released that year!  Fortunately for me, 2012 was also the first of a run of back-to-back great vintages for California which saw Robert Parker dish out more than thirty perfect 100-point scores. Inevitably, choosing just one is tough, but one name stands out – Screaming Eagle. This was the very first vintage of this icon that I was able to taste and offer to clients, an eye-opening experience which showed me there was wine in the New World that could truly compete with the Old. 2012 was not the first time that this wine had scored 100 points, but given the excellence of the vintage, it has since gone on to be one of the most iconic.

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