Vintage remains vital – Sept. 13, 2014 By Anthony Gismondi

The 2014 wine harvest is fast approaching in British Columbia, with some wineries are already harvesting sparkling wine grapes in the face of rising sugars and falling acids. As nerve-wracking as harvest time can be for producers it is equally exhilarating with an entire year of work coming to fruition that will determine the pedigree of your wine for years to come.

Over the last decade or two, the notion of vintage has taken a beating in some sectors of the wine business. More often than not it is the large commercial brands leading the non-vintage charge, noting that placing a vintage on their product is somehow onerous and limiting when you are making massive blends. Why not, when you dispense with putting a vintage on the label you are free to mix years and sell what you like? Many will argue a�� not me a�� that vintage means nothing to consumers so why go to the considerable expense to keep track of it?

Ita��s easy; the notion of vintage is integral to a winea��s DNA. Ita��s impossible to trace the life of every vintage, but when you hear things such as warm springs, or cold winters, a wet harvest, infestations of wasps or leaf hoppers, poor sets, terrific weather during flowering, a long warm, dry, fall or perfect sugar/acid balance, big crops, small crops, late crops: you get the picture; every growing season is dramatically different and in a business where wines are beginning to look alike, vintage is a simple way to delineate the difference.

The worst winter ever blanketed Ontario last year and to say 2014 is business as usual in Niagara is just not on. When hail or bears devastate a vineyard ita��s all part of the story. However, taste a wide spectrum of 2012 Okanagan reds and compare them with 2010 and 2011. The former was a warmer, much more balanced growing season and in almost no way do the previous cool years compare. Hence, when you are asked to spend plenty of money on a bottle of wine and you have a choice, vintage matters.

It once was that warm, benign, grape-growing regions in California, Australia. South Africa and Chile would suggest every year is good year. We now know different. We also know wineries have a rich, array of science and information to combat all that is thrown at them during the growing season. Interestingly, some are doing very little, working more naturally with rhythms of nature preferring to celebrate the differences of each growing season. Ita��s called letting the site express its terroir.

As for 2014 in B.C., ita��s too early to say anything definitive, but, hopes are high.

a�?Ita��s been a beautifully sun kissed vintage over-all, says Summerhill winemaker and viticulturalist Eric von Krosigk. a�?Wea��re harvesting about two weeks earlier than usual and the bigger reds will not be too far behind. The evenings have been cool, which preserves the acid, structure and flavours in the reds as well as the whites. Over-all, we look forward to a superior vintage year for red, white and sparkling wines at Summerhill.a�?

At Tinhorn Creek the ever cautious, 21-year veteran CEO and former winemaker, Sandra Oldfield says, a�?It is the calm before the inevitable storm. Wea��re looking at all our vineyard blocks, tracking their ripeness and loving the fruit flavours we are already seeing in the field. It should be an awesome 21st harvest for us.a�?

Whatever the outcome of the final weeks of the 2014 harvest, the vintage will be unique and in any scenario surrounding its future, it should be discussed as such. That means attaching the vintage to your wine name and price wherever it appears. If thata��s too finicky a prospect for your wine shop or website or wine list or blog perhaps, consider some other line of business. I hear widgets can be very uniform.

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