Quick Sips — 08 January 2016
Why some vintage years always will be better

By Bob Hosmon

In 1968 Barbra Streisand won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her role in Funny Girl. The Beatles were awarded the Album of the Year Grammy for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  It was a very good year for some; but not for all.

For many wineries, 1968 was a disastrous year.

Before the 1968 harvest in Bordeaux, which was forecast to be huge, the rains came – and seemed to never stop.  Indeed, it was the wettest year in Bordeaux since 1951 and the rain-soaked grapes produced wines that were thin and uncharacteristic of the region.  When those wines were put on the market (some were never released), they were often exiled to discount bins.  I remember seeing a1968 Château Lafite Rothschild on sale for six dollars.

Could a harvest like 1968 happen again?  Some maintain that, with today’s technology and methods of vintification, the odds are against it.  So, why should anyone care about the ranking of vintages?  While we may never – or rarely – see a terrible vintage like 1968 again, there are always some vintages that are better than others.

In recent years, the better vintages from Bordeaux – those generally scoring 90 points or more – include 2000, 2005, 2006 and 2010; and in Burgundy, some of the best have been 2005, 2009 and 2010.  In Napa, the best scoring years for cabernet sauvignon include 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

The general consumer who’s looking at wines priced above $50 will be a smarter shopper knowing that a wine from a vintage scored in the 80s should be less expensive than the same wine from a vintage scored in the 90s. Serious collectors, who intend to cellar their wines, know that the better the vintage, the longer the wine can be aged.  For those buying cases of wine – to cellar to toast the annual anniversary of a birth or a marriage – vintage quality does matter.

Those interested in annual ratings can find lots of lists through a Google search. And those who do will see how rare it is for a vintage to be rated in the 70s or below or even the low 80s. Those are the wines you may want to avoid.

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