Balancing the 2010 Northern California Wine Vintage
I had the chance to meet with two pretty impressive wine minds this morning and an interesting topic emerged: How will the wine media in America portray the 2010 harvest/vintage in California/Napa/Sonoma?
Will they take the proper perspective, talk to numerous vintners and growers, take account of the different pace of ripenng for different varieties and give a balanced perspective?
Or will they undertake to paint with a brush so broad that upon speaking with one grower who described a difficult time or after looking only at one variety in one region or after tasting 4 two-month old barrel samples that don't provide enough power decide the entire vintage is a bust?
This is a critical issue for a number of reasons.
1. Important trade buyers take their cues from the top wine media.
2. Large media outlets without on-staff wine writers often write "harvest stories" based on the conclusions of major wine media
3. Despite the important impact of social media, wine buyers often draw conclusions about entire vintages based on the assessment of major wine media.
4. Producers, retailers and distributors can be mightily hurt by sweeping generalizations about a vintage that don't reflect the character of the wine inventory they hold.
5. Many thousands of jobs are at stake when a vintage is unnecessarily panned.
6. Consumers deserved a balanced assessment of a vintage that doesn't rely on screaming headlines while putting the details in buried paragraphs.
There is a lot at stake.
What I know so far is that many growers experienced both rot and mold in their vineyard as well as sunburn. That's bad. But, as my meeting mates pointed out, many growers in premium growing regions regulatory drop crop, meaning many of the affected grapes became soil nourishment and not wine, leavng fine grapes to be harvested.
I also know that many of the early ripening grapes like Pinot Noir experienced a tremendous set of conditions for slow, even ripening that will result in amazing wines.
I also know that some growers lost their entire crops during the rains last month.
There's also a lot I don't know. In fact, what I do know amounts to a minority of information that I could possess about this year's harvest. And while I'm no reporter, most wine reporters don't yet have much more information that I do.
There is a balance to be struck between the often cheery assessments that wine industry PR types have to offer and the often doom and gloom assessment that many reporters like to engage in.
I know one other thing too. The crop of top wine writers and reporters now writing in America's newspapers, magazines, journals and newsletters are, potentially, the best informed crop of writers we've ever had to give us the skinny on what's up and what's down in the world of wine. They have the tools to undertake a balanced assessment of 2010. And they also have the inclination to deliver that balanced assessment.