Asimov on vintages

Shocked this hasn’t already appeared on the board, or maybe I missed it… I generally agree with Asimov on this topic, so I’m probably an outlier here in that I rarely use vintage in making purchase decisions, leaning much more towards region/producer/varietal. Thoughts?

Thanks for sharing. Great article, as expected from Asimov.
I tend to focus on the hyped-up years, and yet my tastes often fall for the less-acclaimed vintages. I still find myself making purchasing decisions first on vintage, then region/producer. But maybe this will finally push me to reevaluate :slight_smile:

I am becoming more focused on specific producers, and regions, so I assume I agree with Asimov’s (can’t access article) and your general premise.

I, on the other hand, consider the vintage to be of great importance.

I, too, purchase by region, producer or variety, but since I dislike ripe / soft / sweet / jammy wines, I tend to skip the warmer vintages. Unless I get to taste the wines beforehand, I often skip the vintages that are warm or hot and concentrate on the cooler vintages. However, I really don’t care about vintage ratings, as vintages I like are seldom rated high. However, quite often vintages that are universally rated as top vintages are of high quality in my books as well.

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Anybody else notice the swipe at 2005 Burgundy?

As for vintages, I love the variations. I may buy less or more based on conditions, but I tend to be an annual buyer of the wines I enjoy. I like seeing what happens under different circumstances.

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Vintages are such an interesting thing.

To taste a region’s or producer’s wines across the spectrum of vintages, both “good” and “bad”, is, to me, the only true way to understand them. You get a sense for how grapes in a region behave depending on the vintage conditions as well as how producers adjust to the various challenges unique to each growing season.

That said, I do think there is something to be said about vintages, especially from a consumer perspective. If one wants to part with their limited financial resources, assuming price across closely grouped vintages have relatively little variance, there is always an impetus to purchase wines that one perceives as coming from a better vintage and wine (however you chose to define better vintage and better wine)

Nothing too surprising here. Generally we Berserkers are focused on Producer above all else. For sure I buy more in some vintages than others.

But overall I try to use all the information at hand - producer, vintage, appellation, my tasting experience, comments from reviewers I respect, friends’ preferences, what I read here. Then I make cool, well reasoned purely rational decisions. Always.

Almost complete agreement, except there are not really many “bad” vintages these days. Maybe “less good” at worst, with rare exceptions.

I’m in complete agreement with you actually. With changes in climate and increased knowledge in agriculture and winemaking nowadays there aren’t really “bad” vintages. Just ones that are more or less optimal for what a winemaker is looking looking to achieve in their wines and for what a consumer may want in a wine. Hence why I put “good” and “bad” in quotes. It’s all relative, and one person’s “good” vintage might be another’s “bad” depending on their personal preferences, but across the board most vintages in most wine regions are able to produce some some pretty high quality wines, although maybe not always in someone’s personal preferences

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*****In the Côtes de Nuits, the prime source for great red Burgundies, the 2000, 2007, 2014 and 2017 vintages were generally rated lower than 2005, 2009 and 2015. Still each of those lower-rated vintages offered wines that were almost immediately enjoyable and delicious, for less money than the higher-rated years.

Those vintages deemed superior are either still evolving or, in the case of 2005, never quite developed as anticipated. The 2000 reds, judged to be modest, continue to offer great pleasure 20 years later.

Partly, this is because vintages are often evaluated according to how long the wines are expected to age. Wines that are immediately accessible are often thought to be less serious — likable rather than formidable.****

Thanks for the link. I love what he said …( above ) and totally agree.

I will keep on drinking the 2014 and 2017 while waiting the 2005 and 2015…( or let someone else to drink them ).

There is no bad vintage in Burgundy if you buy wines from you prefer producers.

The crux is we should focus on the character of a vintage rather than compare with others, trying to rank by quality. That some gorgeous early drinking vintages are considered inferior to “great” vintages, where the wines are “still evolving” (was that the “swipe” at 2005 Burg?) many years down the road. Some examples of top producers of 2011 CA Cab whose wines are glorious right now. That with so many factors involved, slapping down some number isn’t very helpful.

Oh, and Wine Spectator made some glaringly bad calls. [berserker.gif] [berserker.gif] [berserker.gif]

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I’ve actually become more vintage focused as wine prices go up. With cheaper bottlings that I am a fan of (alberdi, cubillo, felsina cc, briords, etc) I will buy without thinking much about vintage.

Do people rely so heavily on vintage charts??
That was something people did in the 70s but I thought we were over it. You can taste before you buy these days.

I have always noted that vintage charts make mistakes. It took a long time for people to realize how good '75 was in Napa and that not all '74s were genius. 1972 was under rated in Burgundy.

One thing about 2011: everyone bulked out the crap. So what you tasted at the winery was not all of what they originally made. Of course, if your standard for wine is something over 15% alc, then maybe 2011 is not for you.

I have really enjoyed 2 2011 Pinot Noir from Rhys lately. The Bearwallow and Family Farm are in a very good place now.

Maybe you can. I have limited opportunities to do so, and will have fewer going forward.

It’s not really about vintage charts. Look at all the discussion here about vintages before a single bottle is sold. “Oh, that will be too ripe” or “looks like an off vintage” comments start based on rumors.

I enjoyed the article, makes some good points. I think he made quite a few swipes in there lol.

Time passing and knowing more of myself, age-ability has become less of a concern. I pop wines from old to young enjoying the spectrum. Just different experiences offered in each bottle. I go more and more by notes of a specific bottle than vintage. And I do love the value of vintages given lesser love.

Unless/until I saw producers and the supply chain stop changing prices based on vintages, I’m not going to change my vintage dependent purchasing habits.

It looks like the event that Asimov mentioned - where a bunch of 2011 Cabs are sampled - is the same one that got written up in the Robb Report article I linked to a while back. My belief remains the same: producers are chatting up 2011 cabs, and sending bottles to publicists, to get that ‘library stock’ out of their cellars.

I don’t think a normal space & money constrained WB needs to expend great efforts on off vintages - in the ordinary course of life they’ll get plenty of chances to consume them. Those are BTG in hospitality situations; those are poured in the travel industry in lounges, planes, cruises etc. Heck even if one is purchasing wine online, if a mistake is made when the order is pulled, most of the time if its a vintage glitch its going to be the slow moving off year that gets put in the styro shipper rather than the sold out on pre order big year.


I think its also different for a wine professional in this regard than a typical consumer. The Asimovs of the world likely taste thousands of wines a year. Maybe the ordinary enthusiast without a high end local tasting group might drink (not taste) 150-200 btls a year. I’d think one in the latter situation would want to tilt the odds of enjoyment more in their favor, and if producers seem to think vintages matter, why not buy/drink the ones they believe in too?

Oh, BS. Right off the bat, a friend who was consulting in Napa that year said so many made their best wines. Preference, maybe. It certainly recalls an earlier vintage that noted people were forced to make good wine, despite their ill-informed desire. The cynical thing quite a few Napa folks did that year was to fight the vintage, add concentrate and so forth, trying to force great wine to the expected house style, degrading the quality.

It’s fine if less ripe, less big, but more expressive (and perhaps younger drinking) wines aren’t your style. But, to some palates, some Napa producers made their best wines that year.

Since Glenn mentioned Rhys: I was at an open house there, which happened to be the day Josh Raynolds (iirc) had tasted earlier. Kevin invited a few of us to a conference room to taste through the open bottles of '11s. My overall impression was those were a huge step up over previous vintages.

It seems the mentality is this:

Good vintage: producer ratchets up price, VOTC hype
Bad vintage: no adjustment downward, rage at the consumer that they can’t understand the vintage, library stock & publicists summoned!

I get that some regions have different styles in how the weather affects the end product so perhaps good/bad Manichean classifications are too crude.

But personally, I don’t see why anyone should be beholden to some estate region year in/out. That’s an issue for someone in the trade, not the end consumer.


Always interesting to consider. It seems to me that what makes the most sense is to concentrate on the top producers in every vintage, and enjoy and appreciate the different characteristics and traits of each vintage for what they are.

And yet, through my years of buying and cellaring Burgundy, I have done the opposite. I have saved my money during “lesser” vintages so that I could afford the better wines from the top producers in the vintages that would, supposedly at least, reward cellaring the most…and more of them, to boot.
And, when it became apparent that a relatively overlooked vintage was better than initially thought, I backfilled…and usually at more reasonable prices.

And yet, I realize that this might not have been the best course to follow. (Will I live to see all those 2005’s mature? I hope so.)
But unless you have an unlimited budget, some concessions have to be made. Even in lesser vintages, the grand crus from top producers are pricey, and you may have to choose between fewer vintages or fewer producers or fewer bottles.

Am I glad I bought heavily in 1999? Yes. Am I glad I bought some but carefully in 1995 and 1998? Yes. Do I wish I had purchased some 2000’s? Yes. Am I glad I could find and backfill the 2001’s I skipped? Yes. Was I right to go crazy in 2005? I hope so, but we shall see. Was I right to go crazy in 2010? I believe so. Am I glad I skipped 2004 entirely? YES! Was I so worn out after 2005 that I pretty much skipped 2006 and 2007? Yes. Am I glad I skipped 2008 because they for the most part did not do it for me? Yes.

Again, I’m not saying this is the ideal approach, but just how I chose to allocate my funds…for better or worse.