Wine: This Is the Year That Will Be

France's Minister of Agriculture Edgard Pisani set would-be wine lovers fermenting last July when he advised colleagues at a Cabinet meeting to lay in a few casks of 1964 because it was probably going to be the best vintage since 1921. To insiders, however, this showed him about as wine-wise as a gas-station attendant in Marseille.

In the first place, 1921 was not all that wonderful, and no one can accurately predict the quality of a vintage two months before the harvest. Even then, prognosis is difficult. The highly touted 1959s, for...