Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Here We Go Again

____ (fill in the year) is the greatest vintage ever for _____ (fill in the wine)

Yes, we're reading reports about the "greatest modern vintage ever" (whatever that means!) from one infamous wine writer reporting about new releases of Brunello di Montalcino. Then there's another even more celebrated wine writer who has gone gaga over the 2009 Bordeaux, awarding almost 20 of them with perfect 100-point scores in his publication. You may be able to figure out who these writers are, but I'm not about to name them to give them any more publicity.

Doubtless, there will be people out there who relish this sort of news, so if they want to spend their money on these wines, so be it. But let's sort this out. Regarding the new reports of greatness from Montalcino, 2006 and 2007 are excellent vintages; depending on whether you want a more approachable, elegant wine now (2007) or prefer a more classically structured vintage that will age longer (2006), your preference will fall in line with that stylistic difference.

But is either 2006 or 2007 for Brunello better than 2001 or 1999, two outstanding vintages in my opinion (as well as many other journalists that have been reporting on these wines for more than a decade)? One can argue that and of course, it's not a question of right or wrong. But let's face facts- you can't (with rare exception) buy the marvelous examples of Brunello di Montalcino from 1999 or 2001 anymore. Those wines, at least as far as current coverage, represent ancient history. That's in the past; it's 2006 and 2007 that are out there now, so those are the wines that all of a sudden are among the finest ever. Retailers love this as it's more sales for them in the short term and for the writers who publish this stuff, it's some immediate attention. Some of these writers have loyal followings, so they're the Pied Piper- anything they say, their minions will blindly believe. Yes, 2006 and 2007 are great years for Brunello, but they're not as good as 1999 and 2001. I'm repeating myself, but I want to emphasize how all of this stuff can occur in today's world of instant pleasure.

As for Bordeaux, perhaps this makes more sense, because very few people I know actually buy the first and second growths- who can afford them? So maybe these people need reassurance before they plunk down $400-700 a bottle. All I know is that you can't go higher than 100 points (at least not yet), so what happens the next time there's a vintage of the century in Bordeaux?

As for me, I think I'll try some wine from New Zealand tonight- funny how you never hear about "vintages of the century" there. It's just about the pleasure of trying these wines with food, as they were meant to be enjoyed.


  1. I wouldn't say either 2007 or 2006 is a "vintage of the century" for Brunello. The 2006 is wrapped tight as a hardball and is going to take a long time to unwind, while the 2007 is more skittish, and to be frank I think it's good but the jury is out on greatness and won't be in for a while.

    As for what is a "vintage of the century," I can say that something released in the past decade, no matter what the vintages of the decade have been like, is not it. Releases of the century take time to emerge, and I'll be happy to talk about 82, 85, and 90, and perhaps 99 Brunello, but wouldn't come much closer to the present. We all remember (or should remember) the hype that followed 1997, and look where it is now.


  2. Kyle: Thanks for your insightful comments.

    We agree that neither 2006 or 2007 is a "vintage of the century", but I do think they are excellent wines. You are absolutely correct that any discussion of greatness should only come after several years in the bottle. That's exactly my point in writing this post- the writers and retailers who are pushing these just-released wines realize that wines from 1999 and 1990 and older years are simply not available these days, so they have to deal with current offerings. It's clearly self-promotion on their part and the buyer- or reader - needs to be aware of this.

    This is also a sad reflection of our times. It's like the old quote about telling a big enough lie and enough people will believe it. Scream loud enough these days and enough people will hear you.