A few months ago, I went to a blind tasting with a colleague and we were served four bottles of aged California Cabernet Sauvignon. We decided to challenge ourselves to see whether we could guess which producers made each of them. I managed to identify three of the wines (Harlan Estate, Hundred Acre, and Dalla Valle), but we were both stumped on the fourth wine. This wine was racy, acidic, and so lively that I almost thought the sommelier had served us a much younger Cabernet by mistake. Neither of us was sure who the producer was. When the sommelier revealed the wine to be a bottle of 1981 Opus One, we were both surprised. I’d never had such an acidic example of Opus One before and it proved just how diverse in flavor these wines can be.
Designating one year as the best vintage year for Opus One is a difficult and subjective task; wines from two different years may both be fantastic in completely different ways. Some vintages are fruit-driven and intense in flavor, while others are delicate and bright. To pick the best vintages for your own collection, you’ll want to consider which of these two styles you prefer as well as whether you plan on reselling your bottles on the secondary market in the future. Our guide to the best Opus One vintages will help you narrow down your choices and build a rewarding collection of these iconic wines.
Intense, Concentrated Opus One Vintages
Some of the best vintage years for Opus One produced wines that are rich and opulent in style, with intense flavors that make a memorable first impression on the palate. However, even the biggest Opus One wines still aren’t as fruit-driven as the ones made by many other prestigious Californian producers. Jancis Robinson explains that Opus One wines have a drier flavor profile that is similar to Bordeaux. She says, “I don’t think you would ever mistake these wines for a top Bordeaux – they’re too ripe and sweet for that,” yet Opus One also never tastes too fruity or alcohol-heavy either. As a general rule, you can buy the most intense, concentrated examples of these wines without worrying about the wine being too fruit-forward or lacking complexity.
Generally, the more intense and fruit-driven an Opus One vintage is, the less age-worthy it will be.
Some of the finest vintages in this style are:
- 1980: Very rich and powerful, with complex layers of plum, leather, tobacco, and licorice, this wine may continue to develop some complexity over the next five years, but it is approaching peak maturity now. It is among the finest vintages Opus One has ever produced.
- 2002: A juicy, intense vintage. There are some floral aromatics and spice to balance out the sweetness of the fruit; however, the wine is still very fruit-driven. It won’t age as long as some of the other vintages on this list (it should reach peak maturity in the early 2020s) but it will develop greater complexity over the next few years.
- 2015: This vintage has been praised by critics for its decadent, voluptuous flavors. It’s juicy, with flavors of currant, plum, and blackberries, but it also has plenty of spice and even some floral notes, which keep it from tasting too fruit-forward. It will keep well through 2030.
Generally, the more intense and fruit-driven an Opus One vintage is, the less age-worthy it will be. There are exceptions to this rule, of course—the 1980 vintage is very powerful, yet it still continues to deepen in complexity to this day. However, for the most part, you can expect wines with these characteristics to age for 15 or 20 years, on average.
Opus One is famous for producing opulent, decadent wines, but this producer also makes more delicate, acidic vintages as well. If this style is more to your liking, consider investing in some of the producer’s brighter, livelier vintages.
Delicate, Lively Opus One Vintages
One of my friends recently went to a vertical tasting of Opus One vintages from the 1990s, and through this experience, he discovered that he prefers the taste of the estate’s more acidic, delicate wines. While he did enjoy richer vintages like the 1996, to his taste, the more acidic 1997 vintage had greater complexity and was more pleasurable to drink overall. My friend isn’t alone, either; many collectors prefer Opus One’s more acidic vintages because these wines age for decades and often make for a more interesting drinking experience.
Wines in this style tend to age for a longer period of time—an average of 20 to 30 years—due to their high acidity.
If you usually drink traditional Bordeaux or you like wines that are high in acidity, you’ll want to try the following wines, which are some of the best examples of this style:
- 1997: This year was a great year for Napa Cabernet overall, and Opus One is no exception. The 1997 is a lively wine that tastes younger than it actually is. Full of racy acidity, red cherry flavors, and licorice, this wine is energetic and thrilling. It will continue to mature through 2030, perhaps even longer, as it still tastes very young.
- 2007: In the early 2000s, Opus One made some changes to its winemaking techniques, including implementing dry farming and increasing clonal diversity. By 2007, these changes had finally paid off. A perfect growing season also contributed to this vintage’s excellent structure and aromatics. The 2007 vintage is rich, yet also quite delicate, with a floral nose and layers of spice. It should reach peak maturity within the next five years.
- 2010: Minerality helps this vintage stand out from its peers. Like all Opus One wines, this wine is powerful and full of dark cherry flavors, yet its intensity is balanced by elegant, complex flavors of graphite and cassis. As a result, it comes across as an elegant vintage overall, with a healthy acidity that will help it continue to develop in complexity through 2035.
- 2013: This is one of the greatest vintages Opus One has ever produced. With great tension and bright, vibrant acidity, this vintage is impressive in its youth and is expected to age for a very long period of time. It has layers of dark fruit, velvety tannins, and a hint of oak that make it an intriguing wine to drink. Robert Parker says it will likely continue to grow in complexity over the next 30 years.
Wines in this style tend to age for a longer period of time—an average of 20 to 30 years—due to their high acidity. For this reason, these vintages are a good choice for collectors who are looking for top-quality birth-year wines or wines to lay down for more than a decade.
The Best Opus One Vintage Year to Invest In
Another factor to consider when you’re shopping for a great Opus One vintage is whether you plan on reselling your bottles on the secondary market. All of the wines in the two lists above are valuable, but some are more valuable than others. Here are the best vintage years for Opus One ranked by increase in value:
- 2010: Worth $460 per bottle; has increased in price by about $70 per bottle in the past year.
- 1997: Worth $470 per bottle; has increased in price by about $60 per bottle in the past year.
- 2013: Worth $410 per bottle; has increased in price by about $50 per bottle in the past year.
- 2015: Worth $350 per bottle; has increased in price by about $50 per bottle in the past year.
- 2007: Worth $440 per bottle; has increased in price by about $20 per bottle in the past year.
- 1980: Worth $480 per bottle; has increased in price by about $10 per bottle in the past year.
- 2002: Worth $450 per bottle; has not increased in price in the past year (but has increased significantly in value over the past two years).
In order to get the highest return on your Opus One investment, buy bottles from a trustworthy retailer and keep them in professional storage until you’re ready to sell them.
The 1997 vintage costs less, on average, than the 1980 vintage, but it is increasing in value at a greater rate. This is likely due to the bottle’s age; the 1980 vintage is already at peak maturity and its value has plateaued as a result, while the 1997 vintage still hasn’t reached peak maturity and is expected to increase in value. Likewise, the 2013, 2010, and 2015 vintages are still very young, yet they are already worth nearly as much as older vintages like the 1997 and 1980. These are great vintages to invest in if you want to make a profit by reselling your wine, as they won’t reach peak maturity for another two decades and will likely increase significantly in price over the next few years.
In order to get the highest return on your Opus One investment, buy bottles from a trustworthy retailer and keep them in professional storage until you’re ready to sell them. This allows you to prove the provenance of your wines, which increases their overall value. However, even if you don’t plan on selling your Opus One collection, it’s still a good idea to store your bottles professionally until you’re ready to open them. Proper storage ensures that your wines mature under the best possible environmental conditions so that when the time comes to enjoy them, you’ll get to experience all of the nuanced, layered flavors without risk of spoilage. Drinking a top-quality bottle of Opus One is a special experience, and by taking great care of your collection, you can ensure that every subtle flavor comes through.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.