Vintage Dr. Vino: Finding birth year wines in Food & Wine magazine

Have you ever thought about having a wine from your birth year? Oddly, I never had until site reader Michael in Toronto asked me. Thanks, Michael!

That sent me on a quest to find a wine from my birth year. I wrote up the experience for the July issue of Food & Wine magazine.

In case the story piqued your interest in finding a wine for your birth year, check out the fabulous infographic that is the Robert Parker vintage chart. It only goes back to 1970 though so for older vintages, you might consider checking out Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wine.

And if you’re stopping by the blog for the first time because of the story, then consider subscribing to the site’s feed or monthly email updates on the right. And feel free to poke around and see some wine picks or explore any of the categories on the first sidebar!

If you haven’t seen the story in print (p. 156), or you’re curious to see which wine I drank and how much it cost, check out the magazine, which is hitting bookstores and mailboxes now. Or I suppose you could cheap out and see it online.

“Finding Wine of a Certain Age,” Food & Wine

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34 Responses to “Vintage Dr. Vino: Finding birth year wines in Food & Wine magazine”

  1. Damn, Tyler, you’re just a PUP. The first wine I drank a wine from my birth year (ahem, 1958) was an Italian red — Chianti Classico Riserva, I believe — that was absolute sewage water when uncorked back in 2001 or so. Yum. A subsequent Sauternes consumed a few years later was, at least, drinkable. 1971, huh? (Sigh … )

  2. Oh, yes. I got my wife a 1978 Pichon Lalande last year from the Chicago Wine Company. It was actually a little past its prime, maybe corked, but what a blast anyway!

  3. For my wedding day, my husband’s parents gave us a Bordeaux from his birth year (1978) that they had been saving for over two decades for that very day. It was one of the most meaningful presents we have ever gotten. They have bottles for the other two sons for their wedding days as well, and I’ve decided that this fun family tradition should be continued when my husband and I have children. I like the idea of choosing a wine you really enjoy (that can age well) and keeping it safe for your child’s wedding. Luckily for his parents, he and I both are wine nuts. The 1978 St Julien was a little past it’s prime but still quite enjoyable. The 1982 Chateau Le Gay they gave us as a engagement gift was far more delicious.

  4. I have a bottle from a friend’s birth year in our wine fridge. When she saw our collection she asked us if we could keep it for her and so it sits there. Every time I see it I think of how it was kept on the counter next to the window when she was in college, how it made at least two cross country trips in a hot car, and how it can’t possibly be drinkable….30 years later.
    Blech. That said, it’s a nice idea. 🙂 I wish I had kept a couple cases from our wedding…at least since then I’ve understood wine a bit better.

  5. Congrats on the Food and Wine piece (can’t wait to see it). 1965 was a terrible year for everything but port, or so the great links you suggest tell me. Oh well. Good think I like port!

  6. Hey Dr. I was born in 1972, one of the worst year in the wine history, not even the ports were good that year.

  7. In Europe, at least in Germany, it is quite common to lay up a case of wine on the occasion of a child being born. Something that will hold up to the passage of time, one hopes. When the child turns 21 the wine is drunk that year at a huge family gathering.

  8. Thanks for all these great comments with your own birth year information! Keep ’em coming! And if you have other resources for finding vintage info that you’d like to share, feel free to do that too.

  9. Can’t wait to see the article Tyler. Congrats! A note of encouragement for those born in “bad” years: there is always some good wine to be found from somewhere. I was born in ’77, but found some great well preserved Chianti, of course plenty of port, but also things that are producer specific.

    Turns out Diamond Creek’s ’77s still have a lot of time left in them, ’77 Ridge Monte Bello is great and Yquem’s dry white Ygrec is mind-blowing. Colheita port (vintage tawny) offers another choice, as it can be made in undeclared years or try vintage Madeira. Sometimes a Barca Velha, Unico, or old Aussie wine will be great from your year when Bordeaux and Burgundy fail.

    Gabrio, try the ’72 Tokajis or the Hermitage La Chapelle. Being from a lesser vintage also means we can find things less expensive than those born in ’47, ’59, and ’61. Look for the sleepers of a lesser vintage that might be better preserved than some of us!

  10. I had my eye on a bottle of Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d Abruzzo 1979 for a few months, but my local wine store sold it, any advice for another ’79?

  11. Sean Thackery gifted me a couple bottles of his Petite Sirah, when I started the PS I Love You group. They just arrived in the mail without nary a word. I thought, “What? There must be some mistake?” Being the honest spirit that I am, I called him to find out how to return them. He told me to keep them, they were for my enjoyment. There were (mine’s long gone) his 2000 Sirius. He told me he calls it Sirius, because it’s serious wine. I found out(naive at the time)that it was indeed serious, so I gifted the second bottle to my grandson, who was born in the year 2000. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be having the next one in 2018. (Yes, an 18 year old can sit with his grandmother and enjoy a Sirius bottle of wine and great conversation!)

  12. Tyler, I loved the article! I just enjoyed a bottle of 1983 Newton Unfiltered Cab…it was fantastic! Oh, in case I forgot to mention, 1983 was the year I was born and I drank it on my birthday to celebrate! Cheers and see you soon!

  13. Dr. Vino, great article! I haven’t given much thought into birth year wines aside from the anecdotes here and there from friends who have had some for their 21st birthdays. It just so happens I’m 1983 as well. I’m a big fan of cabs and Bordeaux. Does anyone have any personal favorites? Thanks!

  14. I wrote about this very topic back in May when I was facing the challenge of a 50th bday of one of our dearest friends. Alas, an Armagnac bottled in ’57 was the best that I could do.

  15. ’83 was a great vintage in the commune of Margaux in Bordeaux and many believe (including me) that the ’83 Palmer and Chateau Margaux are better than the ’82s.
    As for ’79, another outstanding Ygrec vintage, but that can be difficult to find. I have a bottle I might be willing to sell you for your 30th. Yquem was also good and easier to find. ’79 Cheval Blanc is very good, and all the Rhone Valley wines from good producers I’ve had have been tasty ’79s. As you know, many Italians including some great Tuscan wines are options as well. Enjoy.

  16. Great piece. Last year, I acquired a birth year wine (1949 Riesling Spatlese, Niersteiner Schnappenberg, Schmitt) at an Acker Merrall auction for $160. Despite what they told you, there are usually a few available each month at the online auction. Just remember to figure in the 19 percent commission and shipping. I am waiting for the big one, two years from now, to pop the cork. Fortunately, ’49 was a good year in Germany and Bordeaux, but most of the Bordeaux sell for $100 more than the Rieslings.

  17. Thanks much Dini! I will keep my eye out for a choice ’83 in good shape from margaux.

  18. Ryan – Contact Roberto at WineExpo in LA – I’m sure he can get it for you.
    (re: I had my eye on a bottle of Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d Abruzzo 1979 for a few months, but my local wine store sold it, any advice for another ‘79?

  19. I have to chime in since ’83 is my birthyear as well.

    I hear the sauterne’s were pretty good that year, but so far I’ve managed to collect a horizontal of ports from that year.

  20. On the weekend of the Coonawarra Caberenet Festival in October 2006, I attended the Barrel Cellar Dinner at Wynns. I was lucky enough to try their 1982 Cabernet that night. It was a special bottle, made even more magical by the fact that I was surrounded by some of my very best mates! (The 1965 we tried was also wonderful, but I was slightly more wowed by the ’82, being of that vintage myself.) Cheers!

  21. I’m getting a bottle of wine for my boss’ wedding, but he was born in ’45. What are the chances of finding anything drinkable from that year?! And the good Doctor suggested a bottle from the year of their wedding–this year–but that’s a little young. I’d like to spend around $80 or so. Any other suggestions?

  22. Indeed, the 07s aren’t yet off the vine, let alone in the bottle!

    Sadly, you can’t get a 1945 for $100 despite it being an excellent year in Bordeaux.

    How bout one of the lovely 2000s? Pontet-Canet? Lagrange? Those about about $70 – $80.

  23. Thanks, great suggestions, I will see if my local shoppe has any.

    If you will allow me to pick your brain a little more, which may require you to dig deeper for obscure information, my boss works in early childhood advocacy, and has a history in politics. Can you think of any nice French with an appropriate name or label? I remember a few years ago there was a wine from Costieres de Nimes that had a label designed by children. Of course it was only about $12.

  24. I think the idea of the parents storing a case until the child’s 21st birthday is a great idea. Beyond that, you might be talking about a serious investment in order to ensure the wine is still drinkable. On the other hand, who cares if it’s drinkable? I sort of like the idea of keeping it indefinitely. I’m not usually much for keeping trophy wines just to have them on display – wine is food, after all, and should be consumed – but there are the occasional exceptions.

  25. […] Grange, this time a 1971 vintage. As you may recall from a magazine article I once wrote about finding birth year wines, 1971 is always a vintage that I keep an eye out for. (The wine’s success in the auction […]

  26. […] Grange, this time a 1971 vintage. As you may recall from a magazine article I once wrote about finding birth year wines, 1971 is always a vintage that I keep an eye out for. (The wine’s success in the auction market […]

  27. Great article! I’ve been making my own wine lately, so I haven’t had a chance to even think about finding wine from my own birth date (1985)! Going to get on this now 🙂

  28. Some of us need to look for port or Cognac from our birth year.

  29. My lovely bride got me a Brunello from 1979. We opened it a little after my 30th last year, and it was fantastic! For most shoppers I recommend going with a Vintage Port or a high quality German Riesling if you’re shopping for your kids. First, they have a better chance of standing up to time compared to 99% of reds out there, and secondly, when your child or grandchild turns 21 and wants to open it up, they’re likely to enjoy a dessert more than a dry red.

  30. The hard thing is finding the stuff for sale, unless you’re willing to take the time to find a private broker. K&L does a decent job trying to stock some aged stuff, but there simply aren’t a ton of good options out there from retailers.

  31. It doesn’t make sense for retailers to carry ancient stock. The cost of holding inventory (storage, lost opportunity, etc.) is 15% per year, so let’s just say you have a $100 bottle of wine that you buy when it’s already 6 years old. That would be a 2006 vintage, today. If you hold it for 15 years before selling it, you need to sell for $1200, otherwise it’s not worth it. Do you want to go buy a 21 year old wine for $1200?

  32. […] this one from a friend who had cellared it since release. But a few years ago, I wrote a story for Food & Wine on finding birth year wines and it can definitely be worth the effort–especially if you can pull the (crumbly) cork and […]

  33. We bought bottles of wine for our daughters when they were still young children. It was a fun idea….but neither wine was good when they turned 21. Guess we should have done more research before selecting the wine.

  34. “Doc,”

    Advice given to me by Michael Broadbent, M.W.:

    If your birth year proves to be a dreadful vintage, and you were born within the first 9 months of the calendar year, then choose a vintage-earlier “conception year” wine.


    ~~ Bob


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