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Dear Dr. Vinny,
With blended Scotch and most spirits, the taste is consistent year to year, over decades even. If I buy a bottle of 18-year Glenlivet, the taste I get will be almost exactly what I remember from every other time I've tasted it.
With wine, there are more variables and subtle differences year to year, yet we often tend to associate a specific taste with a specific label, even from different vintages. Do wineries attempt to match a specific flavor profile year to year? How do they do that if the grapes are subjected to different weather conditions, different percentages of grape varieties and other factors that go into the making of wine? They might even employ different winemakers over the years.
—Louis, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
This might seem complicated, but quite simply, most wineries have a “house style,” or at least a house philosophy regarding what style of wine they are trying to make. There are dozens of decisions in the vineyards and wineries that can be made to perpetuate this from year to year, to accommodate for the variables you mention. Winemakers want to keep their customers coming back year after year, so drastically changing the way things taste just won’t do.
So even though Mother Nature might throw a curveball, or a new winemaker might come on board, the decisions on when to pick the grapes, what methods are used for fermentation, what kind of oak barrels the wine is aged in, etc., can maintain some consistency even if the vintage conditions themselves aren’t consistent. Final decisions on what to bottle, and decisions on what the final blend will be can be crucial. To that end, I think you’ll find more consistency in wines that are blends versus ones that are single-vineyard expressions, which offer less room for adjustment.
I also think there’s something to be said for our own projection of our association with a brand. If I love a chateau, and purchase their wines year after year, I might be looking for the thread that makes them more similar (and validates my decision to be their customer) more than I’m looking for how different each vintage tastes from the next.
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