Our Wine Ambassador, Dave Lofstrom, discusses vintage and why he cares about it.
When it comes to wine there is, and there should be, a lot of discussion related to vintage. Good years, bad years, hot years, wet years, and so on. Not to be too blunt about it, but every year is different, and thus every wine is different.
We recently had a vertical tasting of Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah and Roussanne at our tasting room in Los Olivos, CA. Tastings like this one remind me how much I value the differences between each year and therefore each wine. The 2003 Syrah had powerful stewed-fruit aromas and more mature aromas than I expected (likely because it was a hotter than average year). The 2007 Roussanne was much lighter in body and lower in alcohol than the other vintages of Roussanne we tasted (likely due to the cold, rainy start to the summer that year). It was a tougher start to the year for that part of the Bien Nacido Vineyard, and despite that this wine is beautiful and interesting. The 2007 Roussanne is not like the other Roussanne we tasted, and in my mind that makes it a cool wine. Every vintage of wine is different and that makes it endlessly interesting!
There are many people out there who want a bottle of wine to taste the same every time they drink it, regardless of vintage, and more power to them. Wine is subjective, and there are no right or wrong preferences; everyone should drink what he or she wants. If someone wants their Chardonnay to taste the same as it did in 1983, there are producers out there that focus on that. Buy it, drink it, and enjoy it.
Personally, I want variation year to year. I want to taste a wine and be surprised by the difference from the year previous or five years previous. Maybe it was a cooler or warmer than normal year. Maybe one part of the vineyard developed differently, affecting the blending of the wine. You get the idea. These differences make wine an adventure. I won’t say that I like finding vintages of a wine that are not as good as other ones, but it certainly helps me to appreciate the good years all the more!
I’m also not saying that winemakers should make bad wine in tough growing years. It’s just the opposite. I think that winemakers should make the best wine they can every year, but that they should let the vineyard and the grapes tell the story of each vintage. This makes for a far more interesting experience. We can better appreciate wine, or anything for that matter, if it’s put into context. Knowing about the history or background of a wine, the challenges and successes, make wine more than just alcoholic grape juice.
My grandmother has a saying that is certainly a cliché but I think sums up wine quite nicely. Variety is the spice of life. Finding differences in wine year-to-year makes it all the more fun, and to me, more fulfilling.