2007 – A bad year for vintage snobs

November 21st, 2007 | Uncategorized

“It is enough to make wine connoisseurs choke on their Pétrus. Hugh Johnson, the doyen of wine critics, has decreed that vintages hardly matter any more.

Johnson, 68, says that wine growers have developed so many clever techniques to compensate for bad weather or disease ruining their crops that almost any year is a perfectly good one for drinkers.”

The Times, London, 11th November 2007

It was almost a year ago now since I wrote about vintage guides, and how it is difficult to generalise about the quality of an entire harvest, by simply allocating a number of stars against the name of a particular region. In a round about way I guess that this is what Hugh Johnson is also implying – there will always be exceptions to the rule, and good wines will still be made even in what is deemed to be a ‘bad vintage’. We have the technology both in the vineyard and the cellar to make something good even when nature conspires against us.

He comments that the gap in quality between good vintages and bad is narrowing, and also hits out at some of the ridiculous prices being paid at auction for the top ‘names’, perhaps even questioning whether they are really worth the money being paid.

Of course we should not forget that the average wine consumer is sheltered from too many bad experiences. Inevitably the wine that he or she buys from the shop shelf will have been filtered through a series of extensive tastings by teams of highly competent wine buyers, all but eliminating unwelcome surprises.

By contrast Stephen Williams, managing director of the Antique Wine Company in London, disagreed: “Winemakers may have all this technology, but great vintages are made in the deckchair when mother nature shines and they don’t have to do anything.”

Clearly Mr Williams has never run a wine cellar!

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