Apr
09

Thoughts on vintages

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Every year wineries release a new set of wines.  As confusing as the myriad of labels can be to the average consumer, imagine trying to then sort through what the new vintage has in store.

The conditions of each growing season is always quite different which the resulting wines will showcase.  For other fruits like tomatoes or pineapple consumers don’t really pay much attention.  With grape varieties, however, we have many layers of aficionados who make a career in specializing on this very facet.

The wine press, for example, create vintage reports and charts to help the consumer to navigate through the pre-release quality of grapes & wine growing regions and thus giving them some insight into what to buy, at what price and a guestimate of the ageing potential.

Cellarmasters and retail buyers do like wise AND also try and determine what is sellable for the short as well as the long term.

Larger wineries who strive to deliver a consistent “house” style every year tailor shape their grape sourcing and later blending expertise to achieve their goal.

We are lucky to have all of this information available to help us all make more educated wine purchases.

In addition to all of this, it really would be helpful to you to see another side to vintage variations to minimize oversights like what has happened to me over the years.

I distinctly remember for instance how the 1972 vintage in Burgundy was completely overshadowed by the thunder created by the 1969 and 1971 vintages.  I therefore missed out on the 1972 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche and the 1972 La Tache, which both later proved to be 2 of my real favorite wines of all time.

Later on, I also originally did not buy any 1991 Zilliken Rieslings because of how lukewarm it was received by the media and a few of my friends.  Looking back the 1991 Zilliken auction Spatlese is one of my favorite wines from this great “house”.

What happened?  I followed the vintage charts and the inside scoop from people in the “know”.  Let me further add that this has sadly happened to me on many occasions.  How can one learn from my mistakes?

One of the truly brilliant wine minds of our time, Andre Ostertag has ingeniously created three categories of his wines—vin de pierre (wine of stones—or “terroir’); vin de fruits (wine of the grapes) and vin de climat (wine of the climate).  His reasoning on all three has greatly helped me to change my view on vintages and I hope will help you too.

In some vintages, like 2009 in Germany and France, the climate and growing conditions were nearly perfect and the resulting wines have great ripeness levels and therefore much impact out of the gates.  I would refer to these as vin de climat. 

There are other vintages (or wine growing regions or wine styles) which favored the grape variety.  These are the vin de fruits.

Finally there are years which are generally lukewarmly received which had some challenges during the growing season or in some cases get overlooked because of REAL ballyhooed years before or after and therefore were marked down by the Press because of that.  The 2006 vintage is Burgundy for Pinot Noir was like that and is what I would refer to as vin de pierre.  The 2008 vintage in Germany is another.  For me these are the kinds of vintages which I get really excited about.  They really do depict the vintages of the past, PRE-Global Warming and are very much about purity, refinement and transparency.

The point of all of this?  Don’t buy wines solely on what the vintage charts say.  Vintage charts are generalizations.  In addition, many are geared to a certain style of wine.  I work hard on trying to listen what a wine has to say, especially with those crafted by Masters from interesting appellations & grape varieties.

Can I not appreciate my son for who he is & my daughter for who she is & NOT compare?

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts

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