Yes, Vintage Matters


In this month’s Sacramento magazine, wine columnist Elaine Smith writes that “vintage matters.” What she means is that, even here in California, where vintage has traditionally not been seen as a big deal, the year that grapes were grown and harvested can have a notable effect on a wine’s style and flavor.

To test her theory, she conducted a little tasting at home, comparing two bottles of the same wine from two different vintages. Here’s an excerpt from her column:

“The other night, I opened bottles from the same winery, same vineyard, same grape, but different vintage: one from 1999, blessed with an Indian summer, and one from the ‘dismal’ 1998, with twice the normal rainfall. I found both wines delicious but quite different. Here are my notes:

1998 Vino Noceto Sangiovese Amador County, Shenandoah Valley
Color is typical light garnet with rim thinning to brick. Looks and smells fresh. Aromas of plum, plus tart small fruits like cherry, cranberry, pomegranate. Syrup underneath it all, and just a bit of mature complexity. Smell some oak aging, as vanilla, woodsy odor. On palate, sweet, bright fruit, plummy. Texture has become smooth and silky. What a surprise it aged this well.

1999 Vino Noceto Sangiovese Amador County, Shenandoah Valley
Bright garnet. Fruit-forward, strong, brandy-like alcohol in the nose. On palate, big fruit, cherry and raspberrry. Balanced acidity. Warm on palate and finish. Appealing, integrated fruit flavor with some oak influence. Nothing subtle about it: Big, loud, friendly wine.” 

Try it yourself. Get two bottles of the same wine, different vintages, and see if you can taste the difference. Let us know what you learn.