The positive vibe around 2018 got me to thinking about the word vintage. Its literal meaning is the wine of a single year as opposed to a blend of various harvests. This is how we use it in the trade but, it also has a positive connotation as being applied to something of exceptional quality. Largely this comes from wines like Champagne and Port where the regular products are blends and traditionally they only made wine from a single vintage in the really good years. One thing that you do see is that when you get a really great vintage in one place, news spreads and people assume that it applies to all regions.
When I first started in the business we were selling the truly wonderful 1982 Bordeaux and on the back of it, demand for 1982 Burgundy increased despite them making pretty thin and dilute wines. In hot countries there is less variation in climate and so less variation between vintages and there’s a case for saying that due to global warming, the same is starting to happen in Europe. To take Bordeaux again, the really great years came around about once or possibly twice a decade if you were lucky. Since the great 2000 they have had 05, 09,10,15,16 all being declared “Vintage of the Century” with some of the ones in-between also being pretty tasty (01,03,06, 14, 17).
A Vintage Year.
Our small world of English Wine Making is all a in bit of a quiver. Potentially we’re facing the best harvest for a long time, certainly since 2009 and perhaps one of the best ever in our short history. That being said, the last month is the most important and so there’s still a way to go until we get those precious grapes into the winery. At a recent growers meeting we were all a bit flummoxed as to what to say to each other. Like all farmers, we like a good moan but nobody really had much to complain about.