Wine Lingo: Vintage Vintages and Crazy Climates
Several months ago, we explored the 3 Vs of Winetasting. As promised in our last posting, today we’ll be exploring one of those Vs in great detail. Sorry car lovers, this week’s look at “vintage” does not include any Galaxies, Chevelles, or Hudsons. Instead, we’ll be talking about internet dating and what it has to do with wine.
But first, let’s review from our last description of vintage! Here are a few key points:
- All wines are not created equal, nor will every year produce the same wine.
- Generally speaking, the older the red wine, the better it will be (there are exceptions to this!).
- Warm years produce fruity wines, and cool years produce more ageable wines.
And that leads us straight to the crux. Why?
This, my friends, is where chemistry comes into play.
Climate and a vineyard are like a couple who’ve met on the internet. No one knows if they have any chemistry until they’ve gotten together in person a few times. When it comes to the growing season and how “into it” the vines are, the budding and immature grapes are checked periodically throughout the summer to check acid, pH, and sugar (brix) levels and much more frequently as harvest gets closer.
But what does that actually have to do with the wines?
Wines that come from warmer climates (like Central Washington and Napa Valley) produce fruits that are higher in sugars and lower in acid. Cooler climates (like Chablis, France and the Puget Sound) produce fruits lower in sugars and higher in acids.
Take two vintages of our Arch Terrace Sauvignon Blanc.
The 2011 vintage (which just sold out) was grown during the coldest year in the last 100 years. It was a very acidic wine, which translated into the wine’s bright quality and citrus palate.
“In cooler years, you get more grapefruit on the palate,” Winemaker Keith Pilgrim explained. “Warmer years show more lemon.”
The 2012 Arch Terrace Sauvignon Blanc, released last Sunday, was grown in a more typical year. Not a warm year, not an odd year, a typical year. So the season was, mostly, what we have come to expect from the area. Because of that and because Red Mountain has typically a very warm climate, the 2012 vintage of this wine is showing more grapefruit flavors in addition to a slightly more grassy nose.
Since we don’t like making the New Zealand style of Sauv. Blanc, Keith lets the grapes hang on the vine just a little bit longer, getting them a little more ripe to balance the sugars and acids in the grape, bringing out more of the lemon chiffon flavor that characterizes our Arch Terrach Sauv. Blanc.
That was a lot of technical information thrown at you. Really, the best way to see the differences that vintages can create is to try the same wines from different years. Like Sauv. Blanc, Merlot will taste different in a cooler year versus a warmer year, also because of the changing balance in acids and sugars.
If you want more detailed information about specific vintages, head on down to the Tasting Room and ask your Wine Educator! We’ve also released a new vintage of our Signature Series Block 5 Chardonnay! Stop by to taste the 2010 (a cold year), and see if you have a favorite vintage yet.
Veni, Vidi, Vinum!
P.S. You heard it here first! Drop by the Tasting Room this Thursday through Sunday for a 4th of July special. We’re getting patriotic with our Red, White, and Blue wine trio! For $58, you can walk away with a bottle each of 2009 Arch Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon (red), 2011 Arch Terrace Chardonnay (white), and 2008 Signature Series Merlot (blue).