Is it true that great vintages for Bordeaux reds are not so good for the whites, and vice-versa? If so, why?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it true that great vintages for Bordeaux reds are not so good for the whites, and vice-versa? If so, why?

—Arkay, Malaysia

Dear Arkay,

I heard this theory when I started learning about wine, and not just in regard to Bordeaux, but to winegrowing regions in general. But it's not true in every case.

I checked in with Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth, our lead taster for the wines of Bordeaux, to get his take. “White grapes (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle in Bordeaux) ripen earlier than red grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc). so weather patterns can affect the white and red grape wine harvests differently," he says. "However, they are not diametrically opposed. There are often harvests where both whites and reds are excellent—2011 and 2015 in Bordeaux, for example.”

I suspect this theory, as pertains to Bordeaux, might be because a cool, wet year is not ideal for red grapes, but can provide agreeable conditions for Botrytis cinerea, the "noble rot" that makes the dessert wines of Bordeaux's Sauternes and Barsac regions so special. But those late-harvested botrytis-affected white grapes for dessert wines are picked even later in the season than the red grapes, so it’s incorrect to assume that their quality is in opposition either.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Red Wines White Wines Bordeaux

More In Dr. Vinny

Once chilled, must a wine stay chilled? Is it ruined if it warms up again?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny debunks the myth that wine shouldn't be chilled and then …

Jun 27, 2022

Does Pinot Noir come in both red and white versions? Are they the same grape?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how red wines get their color. (Hint: It's not …

Jun 22, 2022

If you're supposed to hold a wineglass by the stem, why are stemless glasses so popular?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of stemless …

Jun 13, 2022

How much do our taste buds influence our perception of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains how taste sensitivity impacts our …

Jun 6, 2022

What's the shelf life of a box of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains why box wines aren't meant to …

May 31, 2022

Should I refill my own wineglass, or ask the host or server to?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the etiquette or wine service, for hosts and for …

May 23, 2022