Off the Vine: Vintage does matter in wine

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Those of you who have actually read my wine column may have noticed that when I list the wines I am recommending I always start with a specific year. It is called the vintage year and is very important to know.

The vintage year of a wine is the year that all or a majority of the grapes were picked, crushed and stored in barrels or tanks to begin the process of making that wine.

The importance of knowing the vintage of a wine dates back to old world wines that were much more susceptible to the vagaries of the weather and winemakers had fewer tools to adjust for the impact of weather on the development of the grape.

Some years are too wet and leave the wine thin and austere while others are too cool and force the grape growers to harvest the grapes too soon in the development which leaves the grapes under developed and leaves the wine tasting “green.”

So as a consumer if you knew the vintage of the wine you would know to either not buy the wine, buy the wine but expect to drink it over a short period of time or to stock up on the wine and expect to have years of enjoyment of that wine as it develops with age.

Of course, because weather from country to country is different, the quality of a particular wine depends on what country a wine came from for a given year. This same effect also can extend to wines regions in the same country and even sub-regions within a particular wine region.

For instance, too much rain in Napa Valley can cause the cabernet sauvignon to lack the complexity and depth that has made that region famous while ideal weather that same year in Santa Barbara will allow the pinot noir develop great flavor and perfect balance.

Fortunately science is on our side in today’s wine industry. Both winemaking technology and viticulture science have advanced to such a degree that talented winemakers can make delicious wines even when Mother Nature is not cooperating.

This makes vintage differences merely character differences rather than allowing weather to render vintages virtually undrinkable.

The following wine recommendations are all from reasonably good vintages in the particular wine growing regions from which the come:

2010 Borsao Garnacha ($9.49 at Kokoman): This wine comes from the Campo de Borja region of Spain. It is made up of 85 percent Garnacha and 15 percent Tempranillo.

In the glass this wine is an inky purple color. As you bring the glass to your nose you will experience aromas of spice, violets, black raspberry and black cherry. When you taste this wine, flavors of sweet cherry, earthiness and muted black fruit with a hint of chocolate will greet your palate. The finish is concentrated and long lasting.

Good foods with this wine would be any spicy Spanish tapas like grilled chorizo or shrimp with a spicy/hot dipping sauce.

2009 Bula ($13.99 at Kokoman): This wine is produced in the Montsant region of Spain. It is comprised of 40 percent Mazuelo(Carinena), 40 percent Garnacha and 20 percent Syrah.

When you look at this wine is has a deep purple hue. As you smell the wine you will notice dark berries with notes of cocoa and smoke. The flavors are rich dark fruit like plum and blueberry. It finishes with excellent depth and good acidity.

Food pairings for the wine are smoky cured cheeses or, once again, most Spanish tapas.

2008 Shooting Star Blue Franc ($16.49 at The Wine Shop at the OBL): This wine comes from Washington State. It is made up of 100 percent Blaufrankish, a red wine grape native to Austria. It is produced in Washington State and bottled in Lake County, California.

In the glass it is a ruby color. Aromas that greet you as you approach the wine are various red and blue fruits. As you drink the wine you will notice the same compliment of fruit as in the nose with highlights of pepper, cherry and spice. The wine is medium body and finishes with a crisp, bright flourish.

This wine is a versatile food wine which would go well with appetizers, cheeses or grilled meats.

In closing just remember that vintage matters but through the wonders of technology and winemaking skills it has become more of a matter of character differences and personal taste than a matter of life and death.

Steve Nash, of Ranchos de Taos, writes about wine for The Taos News.

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