Famous years for wines

A wine cliche is “Ah, yes. That was a good year for [wine type].”

Are there years that are iconic for the high quality wine that was produced?

It varies depending on the type of wine/grape/region. There is a cottage industry of guides and charts detailing these things, such as this one.

It’s localized. Certain regions have very good years and wines produced in that area from those years can be much higher quality. The weather is the key factor here.

For Port, for example, if there is a very good year the winery will declare a “vintage” year. All other years aren’t given a date.

Yes, but…
They are different for each country and often for different areas within a country. What was a great year for Bordeaux might have been a lousy year for Burgundy, and so on. You really can’t make that general a statement without a few dozen exceptions.

1982 was the main year that really popularized wine investing—due to the quality of the Bordeaux red wine from that year—and put Robert Parker’s name on the map as the most influential wine critic of his day.

The quality of different vintages depends strongly, almost entirely, on the weather during the growing season, as Telemark notes. Accordingly, since wine regions usually don’t have the same weather during the same year, the quality usually differs between regions during the same year. Consider also that the Southern Hemisphere’s growing season is going to be offset by six months from the Northern Hemisphere’s, and it gets tougher to definitively say which is a great year everywhere.

Without looking at the linked chart provided by DCnDC, I would’ve guessed 1989 as a year that was awesome pretty much everywhere other than California, though it looks like 1990 was a much better candidate for that title. Surprising how good 2005 was everywhere, though I am baffled by how it can be a good Cab year in CA and a terrible year for Zin at the same time. Late rains screwing over producers trying to get that last 1-2% of alcohol in the grapes, maybe?

A good friend of mine back in Rhode Island was a wine wholesaler. On his tip, My father, my sous chef, and I sunk a ton of money on 85 California Cabs.

Boy did it pay off. Not only did they age beautifully, our remaining bottles are worth a mint.

It can be as simple as that if the area is small enough. My BIL runs a winery on Long Island and in a marginal season one ill-timed rain storm can deal a severe blow to the quantity and quality at harvest. If they can’t run the harvesters due to mud the fruit can turn ugly quickly.

But that would rarely make the difference between a great year and a poor year. Great years start in early summer and conditions have to remain good until harvest.