Anniversary Wines

Best celebratory wines from 1986


One of the most common questions I get deals with anniversary wines. By that I mean the kind of wines that one opens for milestone dates: 25th, 30th, even 21st.  Generally, people are looking to celebrate the passage of these days with a bottle from the same vintage. That’s always fun, but it’s not always the best idea.

The best plan for drinking well on these momentous days is to cellar it yourself, but that takes planning and sometimes patience, since the great cellaring wines of the world are generally released between one and five years after the vintage, birthdate, wedding, or what have you.

Today I’m going to take a quick look at some great 25th anniversary wines to celebrate with, and I’ll revisit more recent vintages in upcoming weeks!

Photo courtesy


Bordeaux had a banner year in 1986, producing deep, somewhat tough Cabernet-driven wines. These have aged very nicely and while they fail to wow some folks, they deliver a great aged Bordeaux experience and with proper storage, will continue to do so for another decade or two.

If you want to go all out, the first growth Lafite Rothschild is famed for its ‘86. It’ll set you back about $1600, the same as a Tandy 600 Portable Computer would have set you back in 1986 – and that bought you a computer that sported a 3.5-inch disk with 360k of memory, PLUS 32k of RAM (expandable to 224k).

Photo courtesy Lafite


Okay, so Lafite might be depressingly expensive, but there are many other great options in 1986. The Chateau Gruaud Larose is especially impressive and with a fairly impressive production, the wine is still readily available for around $200 a bottle.

While that might also be depressing, it may just keep your mind off of what you were listening to in 1986!

The top singles released in 1986 were:

1. Rock Me Amadeus by Falco
2. Papa Don't Preach by Madonna
3. The Final Countdown by Europe
4. Take My Breath Away by Berlin
5. West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys

California Cabernet

Like Bordeaux, California had a great year in 1986 and produced wines that have mostly stood the test of time. If you’re looking for a 1986 to celebrate with this year, I would recommend sticking to the tried and true performers who made wines to age.

The 1986 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain can often be found for $150 a bottle or less and it remains a monster of a wine. Still youthful and powerful with remarkable purity, much like a young Mike Tyson who became the youngest heavyweight champion in history in 1986. It’s a knockout!

Photo courtesy Palate Press

California Cabernet

If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, I would check out some of the folks who were doing crazy things in California in 1986, like trying to make wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains! Producers like Ahlgren, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards and Mount Eden were quietly producing wonderful, ageworthy wines that have proven their worth after all these years, yet continue to be undervalued, so it’s not unusual to pick these up for a song, or under $75.

Small producers like these joined together to build the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA and reputation, much like the 6.5 million people who joined hands across America in 1986 to shine a light on the problems of homelessness and poverty in America.

Photo courtesy BeatCrave


For decades Australia’s flagship wine, Penfolds Grange Hermitage, stood alone as the most amazing wine of this island nation. Perhaps Grange has some competition today, but if you want to find a rich, powerful Aussie wine from 1986, you need to look no further than Grange, which will set you back about $500 a bottle.

Yes, you might have to be a movie star to fork over that kind of dough, so check yourself and see if you were in any of 1986’s top movies.


Top 5 grossing films of 1986

1 - Top Gun
2 – Crocodile Dundee
3 – Platoon
4 – The Karate Kid II
5 – Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home

Photo courtesy The Antique Wine Company


Not feeling as flush as Richard Branson, who was already known for his alpha behavior as far back as 1986 when he piloted his 72-foot powerboat, the Virgin Challenger, across the Atlantic Ocean at a record-breaking dash? Well, don’t worry, Penfolds has always been a winery with every man in mind. Its Bin 389 may not reach the heights that Grange does, but it can often be found for around $100 a bottle, making it a veritable steal.

Photo courtesy

Want to Learn More?

Interested in other celebratory wines? Check out Greg's sparkling wine round-up here.

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  • Snooth User: Stephen Harvey
    Hand of Snooth
    220753 1,287

    I have been fortunate to try a number of 1986’s recently
    Chateau Mouton Rothschild - Pauillac, Bordeaux [Cabernet Sauvignon]
    Penfolds Grange - 87% Shiraz, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Kalimna and other Barossa vineyards, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Modbury near Adelaide. Matured in new American oak hogsheads for twenty months. Alcohol 13.90% Acidity 7.10g/L pH 3.41
    Penfolds Bin 389 - Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra. Cabernet Sauvignon (68%), Shiraz (32%). MATURATION This wine was matured for 12 months in seasoned and new (28%) American oak hogsheads. WINE ANALYSIS Alc/Vol: 12.8% Acidity: 5.8g/L pH: 3.48

    Penfolds Bin 707 - Coonawarra (74%), Barossa (15%), Willunga(11%).
    Cabernet Sauvignon MATURATION This wine was matured for 18 months in 100%
    new American oak hogsheads.WINE ANALYSIS Alc/Vol: 13.0%, Acidity: 6.70g/L,pH: 3.39

    Chateau d’Yquem
    Henschke Hill of Grace
    Next big event is 30th Wedding Anniversary next Feb
    Draft Line up at this stage will include [could change!]
    90 Salon
    96 Salon
    02 Trimbach Clos St Hune
    02 Grosset Polish Hill Clare Riesling
    06 Giaconda Beechworth Chardonnay
    99 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jaques
    86 Penfolds Grange
    86 Henschke Hill of Grace
    86 Penfolds Bin 707
    82 Leoville Las Cases St Julien
    76 Chateau d’Yquem

    Jul 18, 2011 at 11:02 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    Nice line-up!
    So how were the 86's you tried?

    Jul 18, 2011 at 12:09 PM

  • Snooth User: teddz
    880703 39

    I bought the Cordier lineup from 1986 on release and was not disappointed. The Meyney is long gone, but the Gruaud I had Chistmas before last was exactly as you say, with good depth, still some noticeable tannins and plenty of life left. Think I've got a bottle or two each of this and the Talbot left. Stored in a dark, cool corner of my cellar in Pennsylvania, without particularly good temp control (55 to 65 most yrs). Have never found cab based wines to suffer unduly in these conditions, though some would scoff at such a claim.

    Jul 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM

  • Snooth User: The Deeg
    107937 6

    A timely article, if a bit late for me. Recently, picked up a 1971 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo for a cousin's 40th anniversary. Mushroom on the nose, some nice fruit, but soft on the tannins and a short finish. It was nice to open a 40 year-old bottle, but perhaps a bordeaux would have been better. (Or an armagnac)

    Jul 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

  • Having got married in 1986 I slowly collected a bottle of each of the first growths + Petrus & Grange for our 25th wedding anniversary. we ended up with tooo many guests @ our anniversary to be able to serve the the these wines, instead we served all the wines in Magnums. The standout wine of the 1986 wines on the night was the Morris of Rutherglen Durif, followed closely by the Mission Haut Brion and Irvine Grand Merlot - all truly awesome -lively vibrant with years of life left in them. On Friday night with close friends from the wine industry we were bolwed over by the power & elegance of the 1986 Petrus - sheer magnificance.
    For the rest of this year we will be enjoying so wonderful 1986 wines- providing they aren't corked!!!!!!!
    Dan Traucki

    Jul 18, 2011 at 4:08 PM

  • Snooth User: Stephen Harvey
    Hand of Snooth
    220753 1,287

    Tasting Notes
    86 Grange - Fantasic Wine, ageing well, with good 10-20+ years. Exactly what an old Grange should be from a great vintage. Still plenty of primary fruit with a blackberry flavour supported by well integrated vanilla extract tannins from the American Oak. Definitely mid to upper 90’s and still not in plateau of maturity
    86 Bin 389 - Just into its plateau of maturity, with still good blackberry fruit and vanilla extract tannins. Certainly some good secondary flavours with chocolate and cigar box style overtones at $120ish at auction great example of the classic Aussie blend of Cabernet and Shiraz - Low to mid 90’s
    86 Bin 707 - Always a benchmark example of Aussie Cabernet made in the Penfolds house style of multi-regional fruit and american oak. Primary Fruit and vanilla tannins coming together to produce what a 25yo 707 from a great vintage should be. On the cusp of its plateau of maturity but still with plenty of life. Certainly not as long living as a Medoc from 86 but at a 6th of the cost….que… Mid 90’s
    86 Mouton - Rich, powerful and still in its youth, the comparison of the Bin 707 to the Mouton is a great example of the stylistic difference and the ageing capability of our wine to those of Pauillac. Maybe the 86 Mouton will live as long as the 59 & 61 [not tried sadly]. The wine needed a good hour+ to open up and evolved so amazingly in the glass. Concentration, power, length and well yes it is expensive, but its sensational, once in your glass the cost is but a mere pain in the pocket of the past!!!!! 98+
    86 Hill of Grace - So often comapred to Grange , yet so different, elegant like a great Rhone shiraz in the Guigal La La’s style, rather than powerful and intense fruit driven like the Penfolds house style, single vineyard compared to multi regional, low production by comparison, family owned for 3+ generations compared to listed pubic company ownership, more French than American Oak. A wine with plenty of time and still reching its plateau of maturity, should have another 15+ years with goood provenance. Definitely in the mid to upper 90’s
    86 d’Yquem - Okay I admit, I am a d’Yquem tart, the 86 is nearly in the same super rich, opulent class of the 88,89,90 trilogy and has everything a great d’Yquem should have, power, intense…really intense sweet flavour, its length…well it almost travels the length of thebody[a kind of anti matter version of the Southpark Lemmywinks episode!!!!] will last well past my time on planet earth [I pray one day I will get to try the 1846 d’Yquem] Definitely 98 points
    Dan T
    Intrigued by the rating of the Morris Durif [Petit Syrah for my American Colleagues] Pernod are a client and I have not tried the wine, must see if they have one hidden somewhere!!!
    Dinner must have been sensational
    55-65F not too bad if it is a gradual fluctuation over the year. lIne up looked good

    Jul 19, 2011 at 10:09 AM

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