The different regions of Bordeaux are favoured by different vintages. It is worth remembering that this is a huge region, producing massive amounts of wine – more than the whole of Australia.
2008, 2005, 2003 and 2000 vintages are generally accepted as great or classic vintages, with good quality across the board. This is good news for drinkers, as it means there will be many inexpensive wines from the lesser regions that offer good drinking for little expenditure. Recent good claret vintages include 1998 (right bank only), 1996 and 1995. The 1990, 1989 and 1988 vintages were all excellent, with 1990 having the edge. 1986 was tannic but good, better were 1985 (which produced wines with a characteristic supple elegance – a definite winner) and the stunning 1982. Also very good was 1983 (particularly Margaux). Steer well clear of wines from the 70s, a decade Bordeaux would sooner forget! Older vintages that should certainly be considered are 1962 and 1961, but bottles are scarce and expensive. Even in lesser vintages the top châteaux can produce lovely wines, with the advantage that they are usually more affordable and are ready for drinking earlier.
For Sauternes, some other vintages come into play. For example, 1997 was an early-drinking, “attractive” claret vintage, but an excellent year for Sauternes.