What did 1993 Red Burgs taste like upon release?

I bought a lot of 1993 Red Burgs upon release, but I bought mainly based upon wine reviews (at that point, mainly Tanzer) and unfortunately I did not taste most of those wines when they first arrived. Subsequently, 1993 has turned out to be my favorite mature vintage released during my wine buying “career”…that is, of the wines that I bought upon release (as opposed to backfilling earlier vintages), and that have had ample time to mature (therefore excluding 1999’s of which I bought a load), 1993 has absolutely been my favorite vintage.

So, I am wondering, since I have NO IDEA what they tasted like upon release, has there been any recent vintage that has had similar characteristics? In the ongoing debate over 2008 vs. 2009, are there any characteristics of 2008 that resemble 1993? Or is there any greater resemblance to 1996, a vintage where some wines have been excellent and some are still screechy with acid and I have not enjoyed it anywhere near as much as 1993. I feel that I have gotten more enjoyment at all stages of development from the 1993’s as compared to the 1996’s, for example, and I worry just a little that the 2008’s might display their acid for a long time, and I might be waiting for them 15 years from now just like I continue to wait for the 1996’s. At this stage in my wine buying, I am not wanting to wait for another 1996, but I sure would wait for another 1993. Now, don’t think that I am looking for a low acid riper vintage…you notice I am looking for 1993’s, and not 1990’s, 1997’s, 2003’s, etc. It seems that “everyone” (most serious Red Burg consumers) are lusting after the 2008’s over the 2009’s, but the one tasting I participated in just gave me the impression of medium weight fruit and prominent acid structure, and i wondered whether the depth of fruit was enough to outlast the acid. Perhaps I need to taste some more.

I figure 1993 must not have showed consistently so well early from barrel and early from bottle since it was not universally praised at first, and of course Parker and his minions dissed the wines at first (and, amazingly, they stuck with the party line for years to come for that matter), but in retrospect it was a great vintage. Are there any comparisons to be made with more recent vintages?

I’d like to know this answer to.

Actually, now that I think of it I think I once asked this question and got an answer. it maybe be on the evil empire’s board though. I’ll do a search.

Didn’t have them on release, but from a few recent samples I’d have to glibly say…

Pretty much the same as they do now!!

Robert–I was there and tasted some of them. Problem is, I don’t remember the 1990’s. (Joke)

Actually, I do not remember prominent acidity. What I do remember is that that they were not as showy as the 1990’s, seemed more structured, and I don’t remember much seductiveness and certainly no lushness or deliciousness. I do remember buying them on faith–sort of “well, if you say so” to Mr. McCarthy. I didn’t have a lot of vintages to compare with, and at that time, really didn’t know that it would take 15 years for this sort of wine to really mature. I drank most of mine too early,

I certainly wouldn’t compare them with 2008. I really can’t think of a vintage to compare 2008 with that seems to have the qualities we’re looking for and yet is so delicious at the moment. (except maybe some of the 2004 Northern Italian wines).

I would say the closest is 2001 in higher appellations, but it’s not that close and in general 01s have come forward much more quickly.

I didn’t taste them on release but a couple of years later they were - Very concentrated fruit, high acid and firmly tannic. The fruit character was unusual in that it was quite intense and powerful but not sweet or ripe at all.

Sounds a bit like 2005 but with more tannins maybe?

Both vintages were very concentrated but I think '93 had cooler fruit character while '05 was a bit riper/sweeter.
The less good '93s didn’t have enough fruit to balance the acid (sort of '96-like) while the less good '05s have some gritty/chunky tannin from drought.

Thanks. Maybe 1993 simply unique in modern vintages.

Most Burgundy vintages seem to have been unique in their own ways. Unfortunately I’m useless for the original question as the first vintage I tasted on release was 1995.

On release many of the 1993 Burgundies possessed considerable acidity, really dominating
the characteristics. Fruit levels were pretty high - a lot of crisp and tangy cherry - but needed
time to meld into the wine and soften the impact of the acidity on the palate. I remember talking with Georges Lignier at
the time about the vintage and he suggested 10 years would be an appropriate cellaring time.

Hank [cheers.gif]

The 1993s were very strong out of barrel, with almost everything that I tasted on my trip on the Spring of '95 showing a bit more black fruity in profile than might normally be expected in more generally red fruity villages like Chambolle or Volnay, but with really lovely balance of concentrated fruit, ripe acids and ripe, firm tannins. This was one of the first vintages where I heard comments about how the malos had been particularly late and that this in retrospective (in the spring of '95) seemed like a very good thing for the wines. Most of the vignerons I spoke with in the cellars on that trip commented that the wines started out tight and not particularly deep early on in their evolutions in the barrel, but just kept growing and deepening during the elevage. Almost everyone producing the wines commented that the eventual quality in the barrels at the end of the elevage really surprised them, as they had not expected such a high quality vintage, given the struggles against mildew all season long. I was a wine merchant in those days and this was the first really extended trip to Burgundy I had made, as I could not see any compelling reason on this trip to France to carve up my time between differnet wine-producing regions. I came back loving the style and quality of the vintage and offering a lot of the wines for the store.

When the wines arrived several months later to NY, they had really shut down from the botlting and were absolutely recalicitrant to taste, with the fruit buried and the acids and tannins revved up to almost painful levels. I really wondered if I had blown the assessment of the vintage out of barrel and wondered how my clients were going to react to these wines, as we had pre-sold most of the top wines prior to their arrival. It was at this time that Robert Parker’s assesment of the viintage came out, as he was embroiled in his libel suit with Francois Faiveley and did not taste the vintage in Burgundy, but waited for the wines to be shipped into the US before doing his tastings. What he described was pretty accurate for the wines right after shipping and it took a good year for the wines to really start to settle in and show again as they did from barrel. But after a year or so they again began to come back into balance after the mise and were quite similar to how they had been in barrel- black fruity, very pure and soil-driven, wtih ripe tannins and tangy acids. It did not take long after this to conclude that this was going to be the best vintage since 1978, as the 1990 reds at about the same time were starting to turn pruney in many cases and look a lot more overripe than had been the case right out of the blocks- when they were so delicious to drink and absolutely stunning young Burgs. There was a bit of a split between '90 lovers and '93 lovers in the NY Burgundy circles I hung out in back in those days of the later '90s, but the '93s were pretty much at the top of everyone’s lists by the end of the decade as the best vintage to come along (up until that point) since 1978, and it seems pretty clear that they remaiin there for almost all knowledgeable Burgundy fans to this day.

The 2008s are really not a whole lot like the 1993s were out of the blocks, but they also differ quite a bit from the '96s as well. To my palate, the 2008s seem to have signirficantly riper acids at this early stage than the '96s had at a similar point of develpment, but also not quite the same depth of sweet fruit that the '96 reds showed out of the blocks. The 1993s across the board were simply a stronger and more powerfully built vintage than either '96 or '08 when they first came out, but all three vintages share very strong signatures of terroir. My gut feeling at this early stage is that the 2008s are not likely to have issues with aggressive acidity having the upper hand in the wines at points in their evolutions in bottle, but as Burgundy does not age in anything resembling a linear manner, this is only a gut feeling at this point in time. But my view of the 2008s is generally colored by the producers who I have visited while covering the vintage, and there are of course likely to be other interpretations of the vintage that will not turn out as successfully as I hope the producers who I really liked in 2008 do in the fullness of time. Someone sent me some samples from producers I do not visit of their 2008s, and these were the first 2008s where I could see the criticisms of the vintage regarding inadequate ripeness and really screechy acidity. Not knowing when the samples had arrived in the US or how they had been handled, I did not review the wines, as this did not seem fair to the producers, but they were certainly wines that I would want no part of in my own cellar. But, I think that folks who stick to the most successful domaines in 2008 are very, very likely to be happy that they did so down the road, and like the 2001s, I would expect the 2008s to come forward a bit quicker than we initially thought and may start to really drink well towards the end of this decade.

All the Best,


If I remember correctly, 1993 was a closed, hard vintage on release. It didn’t open for about 15 years.

Great stuff John. Thanks for taking the time.


Thank you John! This is very insightful and much appreciated information.


I am not sure what you are saying. Are you saying that 93 is the best vintage in the period 79-93 or the best vintage in the period 79-2011? I was just curious if you put 1993 ahead of 1999, 2005 and 2010 (may not be fair asking about 2010 yet, although I was very impressed by the barrel samples I tasted this summer). I am not sure that it really matters - I would love to drink any well made Burgundy from these vintages and a whole lot of others, but we are geeks and so I am curious as to your thoughts.

I didn’t manage to taste from barrel, but the early released wines were quite hard to love - overwhelmingly because of their acidity - not particularly more acid than 2008 but often quite (more) strident. Definitely as John notes the fruit was more black than red, I though it took at least three years before I was enjoying a majority of the wines I opened. For me, 08 would be the closest vintage of the 200x decade to 93 but rather than take the easy ‘crutch’ of the acidity I would rather say because of the disparity between good and not good wines. In both 93 and 08 the difference between average and the best is quite immense, and not surprisingly the poor wines are usually in excess.

We look back on 93 with rose-tinted spectacles because it is only the better wines that made it through to today, most bottles that remain have mellowed (some) or are simply excellent. I think with 18 years of hindsight we might easily say the same of 2008. I cellar only a few dozen 93s but I haven’t made that mistake with 08 :wink:

I think John was saying that by the end of the 90s, his crowd viewed the 1993 vintage as the best since 1978 up to that point in time. This would be, I think, before the attributes of the 1999 vintage would be known or factored into the equation.

A little like Bill, I think we do look at 1993 through some “rose-colored” glasses/spectacles. I judge vintages on accross the board, not highest heights, criteria. And, to me, 1993 is a very irregular vintage: better at the trophier levels and the trophier towns on the Cote de Nuits. The “elephant in the room” that no one (including this thread) really talks about is the horrible conditions at harvest: torrential rains, winds and flooding (so bad that people in the Rhone Valley wine areas died). That explains the inconsistencies, I think.

Having said that, I think that the winemakers were surprised to recognize that the quality of their better wines was really extraordinary very early after the alcoholic fermentations that fall. Some were concerned that it was a terrible vintage, a figurative washout. So, they were shocked and didn’t trust themselves at first to evaluate it. I distinctly remember a well known winemaker (who visited us during Halloween weekend in 1993 for a few days; the Philliles lost the World Series the first night they were in town). During a walk with the husband , nearing the Liberty Bell, he told me how, after alcoholic fermentations were done, various people started calling each other to check whether they were hallucinating about the quality of what was in their vats. Only when they found others with the same surprise did they begin to feel 1993 was special…when well chosen. But, it was clearly very early in the game, way before the malos finished.

I didn’t get to Burgundy after that until spring 1996 and the wines were young in barrel. They were very tannic and , frankly, at some places, pretty inconsistent, especially in the Cote de Beaune, which seemed to have harvest in the rain.

I don’t know of the analogies to later vintages,as I’ve stopped paying attention to recent vintages, after 2006…and have stopped buying. But, I think '93 is more marked by tannins, unlike '96 that is marked by acidity.

I sort of look at '93 as most analogous to 1983…inconsistent, marked by horrible harvest conditions…and…surprising quality given the conditions-- though people didn’t recognize '83 as good quality until the wines were out of the market…and recognized '93 early enough. Choosing very well in both was/is key. And, the potential rewards in both vintages are very high.

I think '93 is a vintage that is still a while from peaking, too.

I take my chances weighing in on this after Gilman and Stuart- but here is my perspective coming from an avid amateur who was fairly new to burgundy at the time.

In terms of how the wines showed at release, the only other vintage since that I think presented the same early on was 2002. The vintages are very different in character- there is little to connect them- but at release both were a real crapshoot in terms of how the wines actually showed, even for wines from the same Domaine.

Some examples- at release 1993 DRC Grands Echezeaux was a marvel of a wine, young and racy, deep and wild. It was magnificent. The Richebourg on the other hand was hard and almost seemed to have too much oak and structure. I had the 1993 Richebourg a handful of times in its first few years, and it was about year 5-6 before it really began to shine. 1993 Roumier Bonnes-Mares- forget it, tight as a drum. Being so new at the time, I didn’t like it much at all. Bachelet- gorgeous Gevrey VV. Same story with 2002- Roumier Les Cras was completely unapproachable when I opened it. A few weeks later the Bonnes Mares was stunningly silky and approachable- though with much development ahead. I could go on, but you get the idea- the reality was there was just no telling what something would do on a given night, and I do find that degree of variability in approachability to be quite rare. In fact, I would say in my experience tasting wines at release (starting with 1992), 1993 and 2002 were the two vintages where it was very hard to know whether you were going to get some good insight at release or feel like you completely wasted the bottle by opening it.

More generally, in 1993 I found a depth and savagery in the best wines I have not seen since. 2001 is more digitally defined, 1999 will be a bit more opulent and I think 1995s will be memorable for their aromatics. But in 1993 there is a certain heft combined with all the nuance still under wraps that I have yet to see repeated. 2005 is of similar scale, but the wines seem more like “super-1999s” to me- it is hard to put into words, but to use Roumier Bonnes-Mares as an example, the 2005 is almost overwhelming in the luciousness of the fruit and violets. That was worth drinking at release. The 1993 is a big meaty monster- as a newbie at the time I had trouble understanding it, but tasting the vintage since I have come to appreciate 1993 Roumiers are incredible wines. From the very high level view- 1993 was about huge structure and 2005 was about huge fruit. Both have fruit and structure in droves, but I am speaking more to which was more prominent in youth.

Time will tell, and my experience with older burgs is certainly limited, but in 1993 I see many parallels with 1959- which is my absolute favorite mature vintage for both Bordeaux and Burgundy. 2001 is another personal favorite, as are 1995 and 1989. But none of those are going to go the distance 1993 will- nor with all the myriad of nuances that will come.