Many moons ago, just after I’d finished my first vintage, I made my way to The Ed, the local bottl’o’. ‘Cashed up’ I went nuts, spent the rent money, $640 later I had 4 bottles of what I thought was Filthy Good Vino in my hot little hands. The wine: 1990 Mouton-Rothschild, a 1st Growth from Pauillac in Bordeaux, one of the great wineries of the world. The Vintage was getting huge reviews, Parker scored the vintage an immense 98 out of 100. 10 years later I opened the first of the four bottles, decanted this treasure, poured it to share with a Filthy Good Vino loving mate. With great anticipation, we raised our glass, gave it a big whiff and looked across at my each other in horror! The wine was knackered, it had a winemaking fault, a spoilage yeast, Brettanomyces. This wine STD had dulled the fruit, delivering a hard, angular, metallic wine to my pained, devastated tastebuds.
What went wrong?
Simple, I chose the wine using the least imported info first and failed to use the most important info at all. At the grossest level, I had played the 98 out of 100 point Vintage first, then I had played the Winery and as the wine was not accessible to taste, I had not played the most important factor, the individual wine itself. This once again demonstrated that in the wine world, scores that excessively generalise, like Vintage Charts, are a waste of time. There are just too many variables to rely on Macro scores to help you make a decision on which wines to buy.
BEWARE, DANGER, … LIES AHEAD! THE VINTAGE CHART!
Vintage Charts are the grossest incarnation of attempting to quantify wine quality, yet, there are countless wine journals and writers publishing an anual chart. Check out these two examples and then read on to find out Why using a Vintage Chart to Pick a Wine SUCKS!
Let’s pretend you’re trying to work out whether or not to stock the cellar with 2006 reds from Victoria and you like Pinot, Shiraz and Sangiovese. What value do the above charts actually provide? Absolutely none! To the standout pieces of bullshit in these charts:
- Both charts rate the quality of the Vintage for the entirety of Victoria, the top one throwing Tasmania into the mix. A quick look at the map demonstrates that with a bit of squishing you could fit all of France and Portugal, or Perhaps German and Italy into Victoria. The bottom chart restricting its score to only Shiraz wines, clearly we don’t grow anything other than Shiraz in Victoria! At least they’ve broken France down into 6 regions and corresponding 15 sub-regions, a nominal area compared to the distance you’d need to drive to circumnavigate the wine regions of Victoria. To suggest uniformity of quality across such a vast area of differing terroirs, with great than 850 wineries is sheer insanity.
- One scores the vintage 93, the other 87 out of 100. The majority of vintage scores for both charts, sit between 85 and 95, in a 10 point range. Basically one score is suggesting an absolute cracker of a vintage and the other a catastrophic year. So, with one poorly placed stroke of the pen, the wines from an entire state itself bigger than France and Portugal combined are consigned to the dumpster.
These charts fail to recognise the difference between, region or even sub-regions in Victoria, let alone individual sites. One site with Pinot may be picked months before, another with Sangiovese. One site may be prone to frost, flooding, have higher rainfall, one vineyard may be over cropped, another vineyard perfectly balanced. Out of the Vineyard and into the Winery, one winemaker may be incompetent, another exceptional.
Even when they do provide greater granularity, like Parker’s Vintage Chart for Bordeaux, which breaks down the region into 6 sub-regions, scoring the Appelations of St Julien, St Estephe and Pauillac together, it won’t save you from the 1990 Mounton-Rothschild and its ultimate destiny … the drain!
Wine Spectators abysmal score of 84 for the 2002 Vintage Score in Victoria is just another case in point. If you chose not to buy wines based on this score you would have missed out on some cracking Shiraz wines from low yielding vineyards, produced by passionate dedicated Winemakers.
A better approach …
In a Nutshell
Coincidently just as this blog was about to go to press, Leanne DeBortoli posted “Wine of the Century … You Decide”. Included in her post was the best vintage chart I’ve every seen.
To which he also included the KERMIT LYNCH VINTAGE CHART. See below
Cut it out and save.
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