This is a question I posed myself while enjoying two very nice and interesting wines at the weekend. Both were Rioja Reservas from the same producer treated to the same oaking but distinctly different. How could either have been from a better Vintage? Yet according to vintage Charts one far outstripped the other!! But they didn’t taste that way, just two good wines, with some noticeable difference.  Why is Vintage so Important?
 
Well, to start with, it makes life exciting for both producers, sometimes dangerously so, as well as consumers.  On of the big lies of the any critics points system is that they rate the wine by the style the critic prefers, its only natural they’re human after all. Therefore certain vintages will outscore others because that wine in any given year will be more of what the critic likes. So for example if the critics you are reading prefer bigger, fruit driven wines, well the vintages that produce these wines will score better than those that don’t. My question is does that mean that it’s a better vintage??

Vintages can be easily described in various terms from opulent to lean, but to say that one vintage is simply better than another is, in my opinion a bit silly, its like saying one day is better than another or one finger is better than an other one, it’s all subjective (but then that’s wine in general).  Why is a vintage considered better simply because it produced wines that are fruit dominated, rich and full-bodied?

But that seems to be the case. For example what makes a ‘Great‘ vintage and are they that special seeing as we’ve had how many in the last decade? In general, a vintage is prematurely determined to be great because the growing season was ‘Great‘, allowing wines to concentrate sugars, polyphenols, tannins and acids, and all the other things winemakers turn into wine for us! Sometimes these various parts are in balance but very often they aren’t.

History has shown us that sometimes conditions that allow for ‘perfect’ fruit don’t always translate into the ‘Great’ wines. 1985, in Bordeaux and Piedmont, was hailed as a ‘great’ growing season. The wines that vintage produced are very good indeed, but have they really proven to be better than other wines, grown in more difficult vintages? Simple answer is No. So I ask again what makes a good vintage, is it the score the critic gave a wine? the growing conditions and the Fruit? The winemaker? Or is it a some of all these?