Was hunting for a bottle of wine earlier this summer and ended up emptying the whole thing and restacking. Was a good intellectual challenge – getting the right combination of young on the bottom and old on the top (a 1994 vintage port and a 2000 St Emilion are young, but some 2009’s are already middle aged).
Came across some great memories as I worked. Some curiosities, some wines that were once fashionable, some interesting verticals and of course some wines that I treasure and am prepared to wait 10 or 15 years to open.
So what? I hear you ask. Well, going through here has made real to me how much the sherry business is missing by not differentiating by vintage. I realise that I am far from the only voice grumbling about this – and I don’t pretend to make much of a contribution here, butI still think it is worth sharing.
Vintages are, in fact, beginning to appear. I am in fact expecting to receive two bottles of the first ever single vintage, single vineyard manzanilla – about which I am unreasonably excited – and am already planning my way to “cellaring” it so as to have enough for future generations (no chance). I have also tried a couple of the Gonzalez Byass vintage Palo Cortados – the 1974 and the 1982, but they are expensive – as you would expect for a wine that my have been 40 years in the making – and, indeed, they are not really comparable with a vintage as we would normally understand it – precisely for that same reason.
On the other hand, as I already wrote in my piece about Equipo Navazos and their Magic Numbers, it is increasingly common to find dated bottlings and sacas, labels with average ages, specified botas and numbered editions, and even to get into debates about bottle ageing (Criadera wrote a good piece on this – and your servant also has attempted a more modest contribution).
In short: vintages are both more interesting and more expensive and must be worth exploring further. I am not saying no to soleras – you certainly should maintain miraculous creations like La Panesa, Inocente and others – but it would be great to see how much can be achieved by paying attention to the fruit, the harvest, the production of a specific vineyard.
These concepts are so central to wine making everywhere that it is surprising that this argument even needs to be made, and it is no surprise to me that the brightest lights around today are people that have been around the world making wine, like Willy Perez and Ramiro Ibanez, or have a passion for wine of very kind, as Juanma Martin Hidalgo (of Emilio Hidalgo) clearly does.