By John ~ March 19th, 2010.
Recently, I’ve read posts from wine writers whose opinions I respect (Paul Gregutt and 1WineDude) discussing and mostly panning the importance of “vintage” in today’s wine world. Those posts got me thinking more about the issue and whether or not I find “vintage” as important as I used to.
What causes vintage variation? I believe the main cause is the weather: temperature, water, and sunshine. Can we control any of those any more today than we used to? Certainly we cannot control temperature, but to some extent good vineyard management can minimize the effects of sunshine variation, and with irrigation we can control water in some places such as here in the state of Washington. Today we also have tools in the winemaking process that can reduce vintage variation, but this presupposes that you have great winemaking skills, which is certainly not always the case.
So I’d have to say that I believe that “vintage” is still important, but maybe not as important as it was 50 years ago. Almost anyone can make good wine in a perfect weather year. However, in a challenging weather year, grapes from the well-managed vineyards that are going to producers with great winemaking skills can still result in great wine. But grapes from marginally managed vineyards going to mediocre winemakers aren’t likely to result in even good, much less great, wine.
Here’s how I would recommend that consumers use vintage ratings:
- What is generally regarded as a mediocre or poor vintage year is the year that you can use to identify the truly great winemakers, the ones whose wine you want to buy every year.
- In a great weather year, the wine consumer is in the catbird seat, because virtually everyone is making good wine, and you can find great values (more wines with good QPR) from more producers.
Two final points on the subject: I generally ignore vintage information from winery PR folks, because according to them everything is great at their winery all the time, every vintage. However, I have found vintage information from the major wine review publications helpful, and use them as I described previously.
As far as I’m concerned, “vintage” is still important.
Filed under: General Wine Information