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When Vintage Matters and When It Doesn’t

easter island in Chile

One of the issues with being a small business…..sometimes you forget stuff. Like posting this from like 7 months ago.  Here’s some idea about when vintage matters and when it doesn’t.

Video Transcription:

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Adventures (edit: dear transcription folks, this seems like one you should get correct #justsaying), so I hope everybody’s having a good start to their week. Before we go any further, obviously, this is Chilean wine, it’s not the thing that’s going to show up in one of our wine club shipments, but I thought interesting … I’ve talked a lot about, I don’t think that it’s as important as some in the wine media and wine trade would tell you to focus exclusively on vintage when you’re buying wine, at least when it comes to domestic stuff. I think in large part, if you’re buying from smaller producers, there is something to be said as consumers that we accept that there is a sense of place that is inherent in the wine industry for vintages and for places where the stuff is grown.

If Napa has a cool year like 2011, does that mean that we avoid all Napa wines, no matter how small the guys are and no matter what that means for the long-term health and industry? I don’t believe that and I don’t think the average consumer believes that either. I think that good quality wine makers can make good wine with kind of substandard vintages, at least good enough that you’re not going to buy and put it in the cellar for thirty years, but that’s not how the average wine drinker drinks wine in the first place.

I think we have to get ourselves back into reality about how much vintage matters for the average person buying wine, and it’s frankly not as much as I think the wine trade will lead you to believe. That being said, I think when you’re dealing with international wine it is good to pick and choose. This is a 2013 Chilean Cabernet, I’m not the biggest Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon fan, I think they get too ripe and too overblown, it’s California Cabernet in the 80s which was kind of a wild, wild west of the more oak and the more ripeness you can get, the better. I think that the industry, thankfully, has moved away from that.

2013 though, in Chile was about the coldest growing year that they’ve ever had. At least in the past decade or two, it’s about the coldest it’s been. They said that even early ripening grapes, like Sauvignon Blanc didn’t actually get ripe all the way. That’s pretty much unheard of in most of South America, and it’s definitely unheard of in Chile, but when it comes for Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you’re somebody who likes a little bit more acidity, and a little bit more hang time on the vine, this was a vintage where you can buy a ten dollar bottle of Cabernet and you can say, “Wow, that was actually quite good,” and that was more as far as the style that I like, this was more consistent.

I think that’s where vintage matters and it doesn’t matter. I think we talk a lot about how as a wine trade we need to support smaller producers and everyone wants to know the story of the guy making the wine, but then again, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t want to support smaller producers but only in the best vintages. I think you have to choose to support your local winemaker, your local wine production facility, or wine region. Then I think when it comes to international stuff that’s being piped into the US market, and some of this stuff, Montes is definitely somebody who does this, wine made specifically for our market, I think it is okay to pick and choose and I think we should. I think we should hold international folks to a higher standard because the jobs aren’t staying here in the United States and they’re not supporting people that live down the street from you, or across the street, or next door.

I think, especially as we get to more and more urban tasting rooms, I think that becomes easier, but I think as a wine trade, and as a wine industry, and as consumers, we need to make smart, kind of reasonable choices about when we say, “Hey, vintage really matters and I can’t buy a 2011 Napa Cabernet,” but what does that mean for a Napa Cabernet producer that only produces five hundred cases? Do you want them to be able to produce a 2013? Then maybe we should … sure, buy less, and try it and see what it comes out. I bet you you’re going to be surprised. The average wine consumer does not sell their stuff for multiple, multiple years, the average bottle of wine is consumed … Or ninety-eight percent of wine is consumed within forty-eight hours of purchase and that probably sets up to what your habits are as a consumer in your household, I know it does mine.

Yeah, I think that’s about where we are as an industry. I think we can decide to treat international producers and our local stuff differently, and quite honestly I think that’s okay. Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Adventures, I hope you guys are having a good start to your week, and not a good fit for a wine club or a gift basket, but that’s okay too. I think it’s instructive to sometimes try stuff that’s out of our normal range. I never want to be somebody who, I end up with a case of confirmation bias and I think that wine should only taste like that that’s made in California or California and Washington, or California and Washington and Oregon, or what have you.

International folks produce good wine, this is an incredible value at ten dollars, and that’s kind of one of those things where I think knowing a little bit about the vintage helps a lot. This is a vintage that was panned internationally, but for most American wine consumers, this is going to be a better fit than what they get in the probably subsequent vintages from Montes. Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Adventures, hope that everybody’s having a good week so far and we’ll talk to you soon.


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