When I was first introduced to wine as a beverage to consume it scarcely crossed my mind to ask when it had been made, as long as it contained alcohol, tasted pleasant to drink and wasn’t too expensive that was good enough for me.
Of course those more knowledgeable than myself always seemed to impress with their certainty that one vintage was superior to another but I was none the wiser till I joined the fine wine trade.
Now that I have vastly more experience about the importance of vintage I can discourse with more certainty. It is undoubtedly true that in the southern hemisphere vintage matters less because they tend to have less variation in their climate compared to the northern hemisphere. Plus technology and their more relaxed wine making rules ensure that they can generally be certain to produce uniform wines year after year. On the other hand the winemakers of Europe are more constricted by their stricter wine regulations. For instance they are mostly forbidden from irrigation so are open to the vagaries of climate. Yields, grape variety and alcoholic content are also strictly controlled. Thus they are always at the mercy of the elements.
However the vagaries of the weather mean that whilst there is rarely a dull vintage it always lends itself to an interesting variety of wine styles. Bordeaux in recent years has had the full range from the very light and early drinking style of 2007, to the forward, opulent 2009 to the tannic but classic 2010. Who knows what 2013 will bring ? The early reports are not too promising, a cold winter means yields will be the lowest for approximately 20 years, hail storms have destroyed vineyards but modern technology means that thetop chateaux (i.e. the First Growths and the Super Seconds in the Medoc and the top wines of the Right Bank) can throw money at the problem and produce consistently good wines. Once again it looks like 2013 will not be a stellar vintage and therefore investors will gravitate once again to 2009 and 2010.
Opinion on wine has always been subjective and vintage variation only increases, that for me is the distinctive and individual appeal of wine – It never stands still and is always affected by the vagaries of our ever-changing climate combined with our ever-increasing use of the latest technology. I am off to the UGC tasting of the 2011 Bordeaux vintage next week and it will be fascinating to see how that stacks up against 2009 and 2010. Roll on the 2013 vintage!