Does ‘vintage’ matter?

I thoroughly enjoyed this 2009 Tronquoy-Lalande last evening.  The wine was inky in color thanks to the addition of Petit Verdot in this St. Estephe Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Tight at first, the nose opened up to black cherries, dark berries, tobacco with a hint of French roasted coffee and minerality.  The oak structure was present but soft and the oak was well integrated in the wine.  On the palate, it still had primary fruit flavors with good structure and soft tannins. The finish was long and all the elements described were evident in the finale.  A really good bottle of Left Bank Bordeaux!

The media touted 2009 as a great vintage just to turn around in 2010 and claim it as the better of the two.  The 2009 vintage had almost perfect weather and growing conditions producing wines that are a bit softer in tannin and more approachable in their youth.  The 2009 Tronquoy-Lalande from St. Estephe (at 10 years of age) was a good representation of the deliciousness of this vintage.  As for the 2010 vintage, the conditions were somewhat variable and although it is considered a classic vintage as well, the 2010 wines are more tannic and will take more time to soften and integrate.  I suspect some may lose their fruit before the transformation occurs.

So, does vintage matter?  Yes!  Maybe not if you are purchasing ‘Wednesday wines’ to enjoy with your pizza tonight, but certainly if you are investing your money in wines to hold for a while.  I consider ‘Wednesday wines’ to be good quality wine, ready to drink now and not intended to age.  For the cellar, I purchase classic examples of wines of good quality, not ready to drink now but to hold as these should improve with age…hopefully.

To borrow (and tweak) a line from Forrest Gump, ‘Wine is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.”  It’s the journey that really counts and you can be sure you will always learn something and enjoy yourself along the way!



8 thoughts on “Does ‘vintage’ matter?

  1. Vintage always matters. Even commercially produced wines differ. Wine is an agricultural product. As much as there are attempts to maintain consistency for some wines, unless there are blended vintages, there will be variation. That’s why wine is so interesting!


  2. Just caught your POV repropagated on LocalWineEvents news blast . . .

    Ah, that pesky word Petit / Petite!

    Why is one grape spelled Petite Sirah (sometimes Petite Syrah)?

    Whereas that other grape is spelled Petit [no “e’] Verdot.

    ‘Tiz a puzzlement . . . and a vexation.


  3. A wine’s vintage definitely mattered here: 2011 North Coast California wines.

    California wine reviewers James (Wine Spectator) Laube and Steve (Wine Enthusiast) Heimoff both “called out” the wines for being afflicted with mold and mildew.




    • Thank you, Bob, for these articles. While every vintage has winners and losers, I concur that 2011 was a challenging year. My son was married when the 2011 vintage was released and it was the 2011 vintage of wines being offered by the wedding venue. Gratefully, the winery worked with us to come up with an alternative offering as, along with the moldy aspect, the wine showed a strong pyrazine character (like green bell pepper). I suspect that green quality was due to underripe fruit because of the damp growing season.


      • A comment reproduced from Steve Heimoff’s wine blog:

        Bill Dyer says:
        December 18, 2013 at 6:52 am

        “In the midst of all the ‘not our site’ and ‘sorting saved the day’ type comments, our experience was quite different. In spite of our normal shoot thinning, cluster thinning, and green drop (in other words, few clusters, good exposure, open canopy) the October rains hit us hard, followed by a fog that would not go away. We made more passes in the vineyard, dropping compromised clusters, then sorted both pre and post crusher. In the barrel the wine looked pretty good, and we optimistically took the wine through two years of barrel aging, before having to admit that is just wasn’t up to our normal quality level and style. SO NO DYER CABERNET IN 2011. Hasten to add that this does not pertain to everyone on Diamond Mountain — different elevations and different exposures gave different results.”

        [CAPITALIZATION added for emphasis. ~~ Bob]

        That’s a painful decision to give up the entire income from a vintage. But more vintner’s need to do so to protect their brand’s professional reputation for quality.

        Next calamity to be addressed: smoke taint in North Coast wines.

        For those who can access Wall Street Journal articles behind their “pay wall,” here’s a history lesson from the 2008 wildfires in Anderson Valley:

        From The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
        (April 1, 2010, Page A1ff):

        “Sipping These Wines Is Like Smoking And Drinking at the Same Time;
        Forest Fires Taint the Pinot Noir;
        Trying to Filter Out the ‘Wet Ashtray’ Taste”


        By Ben Worthen
        Staff Reporter

        . . .

        The 2008 pinot noirs from here in California’s Anderson Valley are starting to show up in stores. But severe forest fires during the growing season hit the grape crop that year. The fires left much of the resulting wine with “smoke taint,” according to many local winemakers, a condition similar to that in a “corked” bottle in which one unwanted taste overwhelms everything else.

        . . .


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