To the uninitiated, the vintage of a wine may be irrelevant. It may be a mark of simply when it was made, it may give an indication as to how good it is, depending on how old it is.
To those who have dug a little deeper, they will understand that that last comment is fraught with danger, the second comment is true but it gives so many more clues to the drinker and of course with some wines, there may not be a reference to ne specific vintage or year at all!
Indeed, there are many homogenous wines that are made from batches of grapes from different vintages producing glugging products that are pleasant enough but give no sense of the background story to what’s in one’s glass.
The ‘older the better’ argument falls down depending on the colour, the grape, the region & even the vines involved in its incarnation. On the whole, there are more reds then whites that provide the structure for ageing although not exclusively at all. Within both whites and reds, certain grapes have a propensity to gather sophistication and austerity with age, some need time to develop their fruit characteristics. Wine making techniques in certain regions have perfected the craft of making wines that can age whereas others are only just starting to discover what they have available to them.
What may be also alien to the average wine drinker is the variation in vintages from region to region. Yes, people may here that such and such was a good year and you should look for anything with X year on the label. Yet the truth is, unless one is drinking wines of a similar style or quality from different vintages on a regular basis, it is difficult for people to believe there is great difference in the drink that is made by the same producers in the same country in large quantities from year to year.
Therefore, everybody should try the very simple test of trying the exact same wine, from the exact same winery, made by the exact same producer, in different vintages. What is more striking is if you can do it so they are 1 -2 years MAX apart to negate the ‘well that’s a lot older so it’s had a lot more time to change’ argument or the ones colder than the other so it’s bound to taste different mantra.
So this is what The Commandant & I decided to do the other evening (well in truth I decided to do it and she went along for the ride).
We took 2 bottles of Louis Jadot Macon-Villages, one from 2015 & one from 2016, chilled them side by side in the same fridge for the same amount of time and then tasted them side by side.
The results were striking, even with just a year between them and something The Commandant wasn’t expecting. The ’16 was delightful, pale lemon in colour with a fresh smell of minerally dry fruit. It was very much like a young Chablis and had the perfect ability to begin a party (after the fizz of course).
Turning to the ’15 and the age gap was as stark as you could wish to expect. Pale lemon had given way to rich golden hues, there was warmth on the nose that led you to believe the fruit would be more intense and the flintiness of the ’16 would no longer be there. It was albeit chastened somewhat by the roundness of the fruit and the lusciousness of the texture. This now would be the fish course wine, providing the dish was accompanied by some butter enriched sauce. The ’16 would be needed again if taking oysters or scallops.
So next time you’ve got some enthusiastic but sceptical wine drinkers coming round, try this type of experiment early evening and I’ll guarantee you have people smiling with surprise as they start to maybe believe some of that stuff you tell them.