As wineries try to keep a lid on prices—and at the same time aim for good-quality wines—many turn to the California appellation, and that’s often a good thing.
Blending grapes from multiple appellations makes sense, whether it’s for single varietals, such as Zinfandel or Sauvignon Blanc, or more diverse wines, such as Rhone-inspired reds.
One way wineries might make better (and more consistent) wines would be to do away with vintage dates. I know that will sound like heresy to some. But if wineries were to blend different vintages, they could achieve better balanced, more consistent and more complete wine, in many instances. Case in point: non-vintage Ports and Champagne; both mix various vintages to achieve complexity and consistency, and you don't hear many complaints about these wines.
Another example: Blending riper wine from a year such as 2004 or 2005 would soften the drier, harder tannins evident in many of the 2003 Cabernets, Merlots and Zinfandels.
I see blending and dropping vintage dates as a way of making better quality, more affordable wines. Whether it makes sense to consumers or producers is a hurdle that may be impossible to clear, given our belief that a wine with a vintage date is superior to a wine without one.
In the case of California, we could use more and better value wines. Perhaps we should give serious thought to dropping vintage dates and blending years (for California wines) to accomplish this goal. Huge crops in 2005, 2006 and soon 2007 will provide greater blending options, so maybe now is the time to act.