Sometimes, just like buses, one great Bordeaux vintage arrives after another in quick succession. So it was in the 1860s. Just a decade after the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, 1864 heralded the start of a pair of vintages culminating in the 1865, widely regarded as the greatest of all the pre-Phylloxera vintages of the late 19th century. Outside wine, 1864 saw the birth of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the publication of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’.

Michael Broadbent describes the 1864 as “one of the greatest vintages of the nineteenth century” and regards 1865 as “sturdier than the 1864” and “the most dependable vintage of this period”.

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Three years into the Civil War, the conflict’s outcome still hung in the balance. Abraham Lincoln faced a major political and strategic challenge: Could Northern forces move closer to victory by the November 1864 presidential election? Historian Edward Bonekemper examines a pivotal year during which the Union came very close to losing the war.


The first half of 1864 was inauspicious: Ulysses S. Grant, newly elevated to the Union’s general-in-chief, was joined by George G. Meade in the bloody Overland Campaign in which massive casualties tore into the Union’s fighting strength. After Grant and Meade settled into a siege of Richmond and Petersburg, William T. Sherman found himself stymied on his advance toward Atlanta. With all Union armies unable to achieve solid victories, by midsummer Lincoln’s political prospects looked dim.

Everything changed in the late summer and early fall, when Sherman took Atlanta, David (“Damn the torpedoes”) Farragut captured Mobile Harbor, and Phil Sheridan cleared the Rebels from the Shenandoah Valley. As a result, Lincoln defeated George B. McClellan to retain the presidency, Sherman marched to the sea, and Union success became a clearer certainty. The five months after his reelection—the last of his life—saw Lincoln lead the Union to the realization of that victory.

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The best wines of the 1864 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 Château Suduiraut 97.0 Château Suduiraut Bordeaux, France
2 Lafite-Rothschild 94.9 Château Lafite-Rothschild Bordeaux, France
3 Château Margaux 93.0 Château Margaux Bordeaux, France
4 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Auslese 92.0 Weingut Selbach-Oster Mosel, Germany
5 Marques de Riscal Reserva 89.0 Marqués de Riscal Rioja, Spain
6 Extra Age 0.0 Lanson Champagne, France
7 Brut Premiere Cuvée 0.0 Bruno Paillard Champagne, France
8 Extra Brut 0.0 Le Marchesine Lombardy, Italy


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