Well, to start with, it makes life exciting for both producers, sometimes dangerously so, as well as consumers. Quite simple the grapes that make wine are agricultural products and as such grow with slight variations from year to year and these variations have impacts on the wine, in good and bad years. But one of the massive problems with vintages now is how critics rate them, vintage is something that is rateable, now in numeric terms. Does this mean we what all vintages to preform uniformly and therefore have dull wine the same every year like your bottle of Coke!
Vintages certainly can be described as difficult or easy, but saying one vintage is simply better than another is, as a general rule, foolish. Why is a vintage considered better simply because it produced wines with more fruit dominance? You got me, but that certainly seems to be the rule of thumb when trying to sum-up a year’s worth of weather, farming and wine-making in some easy-to-digest, and particularly unsatisfying, score.
All interesting and complex questions are worth exploring, at least i think so. To begin with, I think we should take a look at what makes a vintage “great” and why that can be unhelpful. In general, a vintage is prematurely determined to be great because the growing season was great, allowing wines to concentrate sugars, tannins and acids, sometimes in balance but very often not.
What it really boils down to what you want to get out of that glass you’re drinking. If you enjoy what you got in hand does it matter what the vintage was supposed to be like or how many critics scored it with 90+ points.
But why is vintage variation a good thing? Simply put, it tells you more about the land and winemaker than consistent wines can ever do. In great vintages it’s relatively easy to make great wine, more difficult vintages help to separate out the masters from the students. At the same time, vintage variation is the single best lesson a consumer has to help understand the concept of terroir: why one vineyard might be better than vineyard next door and what each vineyard brings to the table. A very terroirfying concept indeed and one for another blog.