Artisan Wine Review
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Vintage Charts

We here at Artisan Wine Review tend to treat vintage charts the same way that we treat rating scores from wine critics... cautiously.

When we see a vintage chart, we will first consider the reporting source before blindly accepting their rating of a wine region’s vintage.  That is because there are several matters to be weighed. 

When did the publication's assessment of the wine vintage occur?

In the ultra-competitive world of modern wine media there appears to be a pressing need to always be first to publish.   That sometimes results in only tasting a few samples from a select group of big name wine producers and then quickly publishing the results before many of the smaller wineries have even finished their work in the cellar.

The fact is that sometimes a winery will choose to hedge its bets and begin harvesting their grapes before the weather turns to rain.   Others will wait a few days longer, gambling that the good weather will continue and allowing the extra hang time needed for their grapes to fully ripen.   In such cases it is possible to get neighboring wineries to report two totally different opinions of one particular vintage. 

Does the publication revise their vintage charts once the wines are bottled and have entered the market?

If they do, then they deserve kudos for being willing to revisit their opinions.   While there is an art to tasting barrel samples and projecting out how the finished wine will taste in the future, it is not an exact science.   That is why a winemaker and his or her team will regularly taste their wine all the way through its aging process to the final bottling.   Similar to cooks tasting their sauce spoons, winemakers may discover a need to make small adjustments before they feel their wine is a finished product.   What that means: If a wine publication only uses their initial impressions when they rate a vintage, there is a good chance that some of the wines produced that year may wind up with entirely different levels of quality than they had predicted for the vintage. 

A great winery is capable of producing excellent wines even in the most difficult of vintages.

They just produce a lot less of it.   Using a variety of time honored techniques such as green harvesting, intensive grape sorting and vineyard declassification a wine-making team can still create limited amounts of exemplary wines that are worthy of the winery’s hard won reputation for quality.   

Bad weather conditions may only affect the vineyard next door.

We are sure you have had this experience at some time or another; you are driving along the highway when all of a sudden you see that one side of the road is in sunshine and on the other side of the road it’s raining cats and dogs.   The very same weather situation can happen to neighboring vineyards within a growing region.   One vineyard might get completely wiped out by hailstones while the vineyard across the road remains untouched.   In another scenario, the heavy rains that ruined the harvest in one part of a growing region may have only lightly touched another part of that same region.

A vintage chart is only a general guide.

Just as a reviewer’s score is only meant to be part of one’s due diligence when choosing a bottle of wine, so too is a vintage chart not the complete and final word on the subject.   This is why it is recommended that you find yourself a quality wine merchant to consult with, one that actually taste wines on a regular basis, because putting check marks on a spreadsheet may not accurately describe all the regional variables within a vintage.

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