Re-Evaluating Wine Vintages
Recently, The New York Times published an article about how critics and consumers should broaden their qualifications when evaluating a great vintage. All too often, a difficult growing season will cloud judgment and send a wine to the bargain bins. But critics pegged Northern California wines in 2011 as a lost year. Yet was it? Many notable producers were able to make wines that have since been mentioned as exceptional, surpassing "better" vintages based on their response to the circumstances.
If you don't remember, 2011 presented a difficult challenge to California vintners when "the dampness and humidity caused a great deal of mold and rot in the grapes, reducing the yield and the subsequent wine production." Compared to other years, the challenge to deliver a high-quality product that matched previous vintages presented a difficult predicament. But that's when the real vintner skills are put to the test. It is the blend that ultimately determines the outcome.
NYT notes that the good producers are "prouder of their wines in bad vintages when they had to work hard to achieve good quality than they are in great vintages, when the farming was relatively effortless."
In a difficult year, the outcome could surpass "better" vintages based on their blending approach and response to the circumstances. Preserving the reputation of the vineyard is at the utmost importance. So, if you believe in the vineyard and producer of the wine, you know that they are working extra hard to make a good wine in those off seasons.
Trust the skilled vintners over vintages. Get rid of that idea that a bad vintage is simply driven by weather conditions. And determine a good vintage in terms of "character than of quality."