Where Are The Real Vintage Charts?

The great hole in the world of wine information must certainly be the “Vintage Chart”.

Those who publish them (The Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast, etc.) try hard, but in the end are forced or choose to take short cuts by rating the vintage of an area so large as to make them fairly useless. California is the best example. The better charts seem to be the Wine Spectator Vintage Charts. When rating California’s Pinot Noir by vintage, they give separate ratings to Carneros, Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara. Other charts give a single rating to “North Coast” which includes Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino.

What’s really needed is a vintage chart for California that takes into account the reality of microclimates. A useful chart for North Coast Pinot Noir would include distinctions for Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Carneros, Cool Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and Anderson Valley. There is no technical reason why such a chart doesn’t exist. Certainly it is possible to taste through Pinots or cabs or chards from these various regions and come to an assessment. But no one does.

My theory as to why there are not vintage charts for smaller wine growing regions goes back to my theory on the relative uselessness of the California American Viticultural Area system and to my theory of tasting terroir: California AVAs are generally useless because they are marketing driven boarders that don’t take into account the possibility of identifying wine growing regions that actually have enough similarities to look at them as a whole. As for my theory on tasting terroir…I don’t think there are very many people in the world who could consistently identify a Carneros, Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley Pinot Noir in a blind tasting. Asking someone to additionally identify the vintage is just useless.

Nevertheless, being one who looks for marketing opportunities and one who really likes their information broken down into smaller bits, I would welcome vintage charts that acknowledge the fact that the quality of a vintage can be different from Temecula to Anderson Valley as well as being different from Carneros to Russian River Valley.

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