When I first discovered wines, and inevitably wine books, I very quickly found myself hyper-focused on vintages. I was young and impressionable, what can I say! If I read somewhere that 1978 was exceptional in Bordeaux, I assumed 1978 must be a wonderful year everywhere. Wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. I was fortunate to have a mentor who taught me way back then, about 30 years ago, that not only was that not the case, but even qualifying an entire region (or even a sub-region) by the success of the top wines was not a good belief to subscribe to. He took it one step further, two steps in fact….and I swear even today what he told me stands true.
First, I should judge each wine, regardless of vintage, on what is in my glass, that every bottle of every wine was a little bit different than the others. So many other factors could influence my appreciation, that basing my like/dislike only on the year on the label was misleading. Wine changes every day….every bottle, every vintage, a little every day. Some days are better than others. Some bottles are better than others. He taught me to appreciate every wine as though it were my first time tasting it, and not worry about what the critics opinion was, or whether or not is was a ‘good year’.
….which brings me to his second point: Most estates will make a good wine in a good vintage, but the best winemakers will make a good wine even in difficult years. Case in point (funny how I always make my case with Bordeaux!) is Bordeaux. Some of the most enjoyable, affordable, useful vintages in Bordeaux are not the 1982s or the 2000s…vintages that will drain your bank accounts and run up massive bills at Bern’s Steakhouse.
Try wines from those ‘other’ vintages, like 1993 or 2002, what the press categorized as ‘off’ vintages or better yet, as ‘restaurant’ vintages. There is a reason they call them that. They often mature quicker, sell for less, and still offer every bit of AWE that those estates are known for… in the ‘Vintages of the Century’.
Shayne Hebert, Central Florida Wine Supervisor