The Urge To Exhuberate
"Every year is a vintage year in California!"
This was the marketing cry among CA vintners for years. And for the most part it was true. And it’s even truer today when you consider the technology that vintners bring to bear on a tank of wine that might not be quite perfect.
Mike Steinberger has a terrific article on Slate about the silliness and the opportunity that results from some peoples’ and critics’ focus on vintage quality and vintage variation.
You don’t hear much talk of vintage variation when it comes to CA wine. It’s because it’s rare that a vintage becomes a washout. The last time CA wineries suffered from a vintage being panned was 1998. OH!! I can’t tell you how much pain was caused as a result of many critics declaring the vintage bad. Some tremendous wines were overlooked and many sold very slowly as a result.
Steinberger talks more about "The urge to exuberate" (a phase I pledge never to forget). He’s talking about the consequences of the critics and magazine’s much more common expressions of true love for a vintage. His message is a good one: other vintages that might not be getting true love from the critics probably offer great bargains as they are overlooked and are priced far lower than the vintage du jour. It all has to do with your proximity to the new greatest, must-have vintage.
One thing we don’t experience in CA is the sometimes extreme increases in price that come with vintages of high repute. In Bordeaux you can find absurd differences in pricing from one vintage to the next on some wines. In CA you more often see a regular ascent in price, vintage after vintage.
Yet, we still have opportunities in CA. If you are looking for good bargains, keep watch for the 2000 vintage. Many said it was sub par. Many are on the market here and there at really great prices.
Did you notice that Slate also has an article (by Fareed Zakaria, linked at the bottom of the Steinberger piece, http://www.slate.com/id/18546/) that says almost the exact opposite – that vintage is more important than vintner? Whew, no wonder beginners get confused!
Consider the source. Zakaria is a political writer, not a source of wine info.