It is no secret: People in the wine business love to talk about vintages. In Bordeaux, for example, professionals in the industry, critics included, descend upon the region every spring to taste the recently made wines. It is the hope of the winemakers that these wines will be well-received, declaring “such-in-such” vintage one of great quality.
In particular, if a more prominent critic, such as Robert Parker, declares the vintage (the year the grapes were picked) a success, wine professionals, chateau owners, and consumers will cheer, driving up demand and prices.
While a great vintage in any region makes buying wine a little easier, it does not guarantee one will always enjoy the wines they select. In fact, I would argue that using this criterion alone greatly increases your chances of disappointment.
At the end of the day, a wine’s quality ultimately lies in the hands of skilled winemaker, either aided or challenged by Mother Nature in any given vintage.
Last week a guest of mine came into my store and asked if I would help him select a bottle from his wine locker for a special dinner. (ABC offers personal wine storage for guests, but more on that later.)
A few minutes into our search, we came across a bottle of 1997 Chateau Lafon Rochet from the region of Bordeaux. This was a challenging vintage, producing wines that were “light and pleasant,” according to Wine Spectator Magazine.
I was a bit skeptical, worried that this wine had passed its prime. The bottle’s condition, however, looked superb. It was clear to me that he had stored it very well, a key for keeping any wine for several years. Still fearing the worst and embarrassment in front of his guests, he asked if we could open the wine just to be sure. Not only was this 17-year-old wine still drinkable, it was delicious!
So how did a wine from a mediocre vintage, nearly 20 years old, still taste good? For one, Lafon Rochet is a solid producer, made in a region known for producing age-worthy wines. Even in a challenging vintage, their winemakers possess the skill set needed to produce a solid, well-rounded wine. It was clear that my customer had done his homework when deciding to purchase this bottle.
Second, it was stored under ideal conditions. At select ABC Fine Wine & Spirits locations, we offer personal temperature and humidity controlled wine storage in three, six and 12 case options. Guests provide their own locks and have access to their locker during normal store hours. The fee is nominal compared to other companies offering this service. If you do not have room for or want to purchase a wine cooler for your home, this is a perfect option for long-term storage of your treasured bottles.
Next time you visit ABC, look for the Direct To You symbol printed on the wine tags. These represent bottles selected by our wine buying team from skilled producers who offer outstanding value, even in difficult vintages. If you are interested in our wine storage service, just ask a store associate and they’ll be happy to assist you.
Until then, happy tasting and happy holidays!
Dave Malone, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine consultant
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinedavem