The Vintage Chart Debate
In recent years, some critics assert that vintage charts are obsolete, affirming winemakers have the technology and skills to make great wines even in the worst of years.
The quandary with this line of reasoning is that a great wine begins with a superior grape. As grapes are extremely sensitive to weather conditions, severe weather can directly damage a vineyard, resulting in disease and infestation. The weather also influences the flavor and character of the final product; that is why climate and weather conditions play a major part in making a great wine.
Winemakers may use the latest technologies to adjust inferior grapes, yet their results will rarely supersede a product made from a superior product. This is evident by looking at our vintage chart. Some years rate high, whereas others do not.
During the turn-of-the-century, California’s Northern Coast varietals scored 90+ ratings for many years. In recent years, the ratings have dipped as many as seven points. In 2003, the Southern Rhone region had a twenty-five point spread from one vintage to the next. In Bordeaux, a fifteen-point spread occurred within the last five years.
This year-to-year inconsistency confirms that making a great wine goes beyond technology. Although technology can play a big part in the winemaking process, many other factors come into play when making a great wine.
This is why vintage charts are invaluable. They show rough estimates of how a particular region’s reputation faired in any given year. This comes in handy when consumers need guidance on their buying decisions. If consumers have to decide between two vintages, the answer becomes more apparent with the help of a vintage chart.
These charts also provide a convenient indication of when to “hold” a wine versus when to “drink” a wine. Consumers appreciate the guidance to alert them when a wine is drinkable and when it is not.
Additionally, if vintage charts are dead, why do the big players like Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator continue to update and maintain their vintage charts? It’s because they continue to provide significant information for which consumers find invaluable.
Looking for the latest vintage chart? Click HERE.