Is 1994 a good vintage?

by Lou Heriche

The 1994 vintage was of average quality throughout the French vineyards, even if it was better than the three previous vintages. 1994 was not an exceptional vintage, but some regions and winemakers were able to produce wines of good quality.

Bordeaux 1994: average vintage with superb successes in Pomerol & Saint-Emilion

First of all, despite a complicated climate, with a peak of coolness during the winter slowing down the budburst of the vines, and very heavy rainfall in September which soaked the grapes with water, reducing their ripeness and density, some Bordeaux wines are a great success.

In fact, on the left bank of the Gironde, in the Médoc vineyards, the gravel soils have allowed water to drain away. As a result, wines dominated by Merlot, and therefore fruit, are quite good.

Gravel soils in Bordeaux
©️ Bordeaux Magazine

On the other side of the river, where Cabernet Sauvignon predominates, tannins were abundant, and producers had to make a meticulous selection of grapes to avoid over-diluted bais and preserve fruit and aromas in the wine.

The best wines of the vintage are concentrated in aroma, tannic, with good ageing potential, and are mostly found in the Pomerol and Saint Emilion appellations.

As for the white wines, they are more balanced thanks to harvesting before the rains. Although the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are decent, they are short-keeping and not very famous that year.

Burgundy 1994: early harvests produced very good wines in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits

An icy winter followed by a hot, dry summer accompanied by violent storms produced wines of contrasting quality in both red and white.

Rot and dilution were the order of the day, resulting in a lack of acidity, concentration, structure and depth in many wines. A rigorous selection of grapes was required to produce quality wines.

Nuits-Saint Georges vineyards

Even if the red wines don’t have great ageing potential, the best have been produced in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, in the Vosne-Romanée and Nuits-Saint-Georges appellations for example, thanks in particular to early harvesting or harvesting after rain.

Last but not least, some white wines are refined, as in Chablis where the harvest had to be reduced to produce quality, and there are pleasant surprises in the white Grands Crus.

Vintage 1994: the northern Rhône Valley had an advantage over the south

Hopes of an exceptional vintage were dashed by heavy rains in mid-September after a very hot summer.

Moreover, the vineyards in the northern Rhône Valley are faring better than those in the southern Rhône. Although the wines are not always of the highest quality, the reds are aromatic and concentrated. The best reds and whites come from the Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage appellations, and are rich and fruity with good ageing potential.

Northern Côtes du Rhône

As for the south, some vineyards were waterlogged and the grapes were under-ripe, lacking acidity. Despite this, growers who were able to harvest early succeeded in producing very good, even excellent wines, such as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Champagne 1994: rainfall drowns out grape quality

Sunset over the Champagne vineyards (Reims mountain)

As in the rest of France, Champagne was hit by heavy rainfall in September, dashing all hopes of a great vintage. The small harvest produced wines of average quality.

The same was true of the Pinot Noir grapes, which struggled to ripen. The vineyards suffered from severe rot. As a result, the owners had to sort the grapes very carefully to ensure a quality wine.

Our Favourites of the 1990 Vintage



Rated 90/100 by Jean-Marc Quarin

“Beautiful dark red. Medium to good intensity. Evolved on the rim. On the first nose, it smells of very pleasant reduction notes bringing it closer to coffee and roasted dried fruit. It becomes finely spiced with agitation and finesse. The palate is surprisingly full. The wine becomes spherical and even powerful on the mid-palate, with fairly ripe tannins, even if the finish displays a slight, almost mineral austerity reminiscent of limestone. Normal length.”

Tasted in November 2005



Rated 95/100 by Jean-Marc Quarin

“Dark red color. Intense. Dark. Barely evolved. Intense, fine, fruity, fresh nose. New wood! What suavity on the attack, what pleasure in the middle! The wine glides along happily, offering fruit and flesh. Finishes juicy with a taste of licorice, complex, melting and almost ethereal. Great finesse. Powerful length.

Tasted in June 2004



Rated 93/100 by Jeff Leve – The Wine Cellar Insider

“At its peak, this beauty unfurled its sexy, uninterrupted kirsch notes on the nose and palate, accompanied by a cornucopia of fresh herbs and spices. Elegant, refined, medium-bodied and fresh, if you’ve got a bottle, blow it up because it’s not going to get any better. Although the wine lacks the depth and power of the best vintages, the Rayas style is unmistakable here. For a Rayas with age, this is probably the best bargain around.”

Tasted in July 2019



Rated 15/20 by La Revue du Vin de France

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