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james suckling uncorked

The Vintage Should Be the Vintage


Posted: Aug 7, 2007 4:40am ET

I have been thinking about my colleague James Laube’s blog of August 3 when he discussed the option for winemakers to produce more non-vintage wines. And it made me think about how many people are already doing this – legally and illegally.

In Italy, for example, producers often talk about “adjusting” a vintage. If I am not mistaken, European law allows up to 15 percent of another vintage in a vintage-dated wine. That’s a lot, in my humble opinion. I don’t think the law should allow any …

So, just as an example, a winemaker who insisted on bottling a 2002 Brunello may have added some 2003, 2004 or even 2005 to improve what was a pretty mediocre vintage. Unfortunately, this didn’t help most of them, since 2002 was so inferior. I didn’t find one wine worth 90 points in the vintage. Many well-known names received scores of less than 80 points with their 2002 Brunellos.

Then there are other producers who manipulate vintages even more. I remember stories about one famous château in Bordeaux that added up to 40 percent of its 1975 to the 1974, “Because the owner couldn’t bear the wine to be so bad.” In fact, it is one of the best 1974s out there, and still tastes very good. I don’t think that happens any more in Bordeaux…

Let’s not get into recorking wines, wherein some producer “top up” older vintages with new ones.

Anyway, I am against any adjusting of vintages unless a wine is labeled as non-vintage, like a non-vintage Champagne or Port. If the date is on the label, then it should be 100 percent from that year. Otherwise, it’s simply dishonest.


 

Ken Koonce
Dallas, Texas —  August 7, 2007 11:32am ET
But many regions allow for as much 10-20% of a varietally labeled wine to be something other than the variety on the label. What's the difference in vintage(s)? Less than 20% does seem to be a modest adjustment.
Errol R Kovitch
Michigan —  August 7, 2007 12:18pm ET
As a scientific experiment, I agree. But as a consumer that wants the best tasting product, do I care if my 2002 Chateauneuf du Pape has some 2003 in it? The more the better.
Robert Kim
Las Vegas, Nevada —  August 7, 2007 1:21pm ET
Cain is already doing this in California with its Cain Cuvee, a NV version of their wines. It's consistent and relatively cheap $20-30. It's not objectionable to me, just depends on marketing.
Susan Owens
August 7, 2007 2:35pm ET
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the majority of wine sold from California already NV? You may not think of it as "serious" wine, but it ain't sweet tea.
Jim Mcclure
DFW, Texas —  August 7, 2007 4:35pm ET
I have no problem with a wine having multiple vintages blended in, or multiple varietals, but I want it to be on the label. If it's good, we'll drink it regardless, but will do so knowing why it's so much better than it's peers of that region/vintage. My favorite wine is an estate blend, and the percentages of Cab, Merlot and Shiraz are listed on the back. I love Bordeaux wines, but wish they would do more labelling like this.
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  August 7, 2007 8:10pm ET
Agree 100% with you James! I'll appreciate my 2002 and 2003 Bordeaux...just not in the same bottle!
Fred Brown
August 7, 2007 9:38pm ET
I'll play the devil's advocate on this one. Only the quality of the wine itself matters in the end. The vintage on the label lets me know whether the bottle contains the wine I've previously tasted/seen reviewed, or whether it is a prior or subsequent (different) wine. Having all the grapes were grown in the same calender year is not important to me.

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