January 6th, 2007 – How important is the vintage?

Tonight, another perennial wine value…the Cotes du Ventoux by La Vieille Ferme, this time the 2007 vintage. This is a classic southern Rhone mix of Grenache and Syrah (with probably some Mourvedre as well)…nice, slightly dried cherry fruit, Provencal herbs and medium body. Again, not super complex, but for under $13.00, a very good deal, and perhaps even a little better than usual given the reputedly great vintage in 2007 in the southern Rhone.

In tasting this wine I was reminded of how the particular vintage can affect wines, both positively and negatively. Typically, the wine media overdo it when it comes to vintages (how many times have we heard about the “vintage of the century”?). Much of this is driven by the industry itself, as the more the hype, the greater the prices producers can charge.

The reality is – like anything in life – generalizing can usually get you in trouble. In the case of wine, just because conditions were good one year doesn’t mean everybody made great wines, or that average wines will all of a sudden become great wines. And the same with supposedly poor vintages.

Having said that (and at the risk of contradicting myself), there are occasions where the year (mostly meaning the weather) were so good that just about all the wines taste better. The Okanagan Valley in 1998 was one example of that. That was my first real introduction to BC wines and it really blew me away. At the high end of the scale, I remember the Burrowing Owl Merlot being so ripe I thought it was from California…to this day, that may be the best BC wine I have ever tasted (too bad I can’t say that about subsequent vintages of Burrowing Owl, but that is another story…). The same was true that year for the Nichol Syrah, the Blue Mountain Striped Label Pinot Noir and the Kettle Valley Pinot Noirs (Hayman, Reserve and Regular). Even everyday wines like Tinhorn Creek and Hester Creek were just beautiful.

So what is the lesson here? Well, I think you should use the vintage as just one of the factors in choosing our wines. If it is supposed to be a good vintage, it may provide an opportunity to try wines you haven’t before from that area. And if it is purportedly a bad vintage, it might be better to stick to the wines you consistently like, as chances are that “style” preference will still provide enjoyment for you.


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