Why does it seem, as a couple of readers have asked, that there are fewer bad vintages of late? And not just in California, but also in places like Germany, Oregon and Burgundy?
Warmer weather, for starters. At least that's the case in Burgundy, where increasing temperatures have been the main reason the French region's Côte de Nuits haven't had a really bad year for a decade, according to Aubert du Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Higher temperatures mean riper grapes.
Another key factor: Careful selection. In the past 15 years, California growers have completely overhauled most of their vineyards. Grapes that were once grown in less-than-ideal spots—Cabernet in cooler areas, Merlot in warmer areas, for instance—have been replaced with grapes better-suited to those sites.
Viticultural practices are also factors in quality, and the best winemakers know that mindful grape selection is essential to making high quality wines. That selection process—thinning, removing marginal clusters or any mold—ultimately determines the extent to which a vineyard is even picked, and whether those grapes will be used in a winery’s top-line wine.
The best winemakers are dogmatic about nurturing their grapes. Come harvest time, they take special care to weed out damaged or moldy grapes so that only the best ones make it to the crusher. By fermenting only the best grapes—in good years and tougher ones—vintners come as close to ensuring as solid a vintage as possible. They're also diligent about selecting only the best wines for market.
Jeremy Craig Cpa — O'Fallon, MO — March 20, 2007 2:32pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 20, 2007 2:45pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — March 20, 2007 6:56pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 20, 2007 8:06pm ET
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