By Tim Rodgers
Counter-intuitively, a vineyard that’s experienced ideal plant growing conditions; such as sunshine, plenty of water, fertile soil, and a high yield of grapes will only produce an average wine. High crop yields attenuate the intensity of the flavor of the grapes. Conversely, vines under stress for whatever reason, that yield smaller crops struggling to grow, produce grapes with more concentrated flavors.
However, each grape has its own ideal crop yield. It depends on the variety and the location of the vineyard. Today, many vineyards attempt to emulate some classic vintages and regions such as Burgundy and Bordeaux in France. Ultimately, growers have much control of the soil quality, the irrigation system, pruning, and other constants, but it is the variable of the weather that determines vintages.
Whether it’s a cool spring, rain or hail, during flowering, a hot summer, or a rainy harvest, all could have a negative impact on the grape. Ideally, when the grapes are harvested the weather should be dry. Damp weather could cause mold and lowers sugar levels in the grapes. If the weather is too hot, it could cause the grapes to produce too much sugar causing a loss in acidity in the grapes. Nonetheless, most winemakers agree that choosing when to harvest the grapes is the most critical decision.
The bottom line for vintages is that the quality of the vintages determines how long a wine can be aged. Wines from the best vintages have the best aging potential, and wines from poorer vintages have less aging potential. Poorer vintages can still develop character and style over a shorter amount of time, and could possibly represent a better value. Vintages 101.