Even at a high-quality vineyard, not all vintages are created equal. Even when wine is harvested from grapes grown on the same vine, differences in temperature and rainfall from season to season can change the wine. A good, experienced winemaker can negate this somewhat by mixing in wine from older vintages, holding bottles to age for a bit longer, or harvesting/crushing fruit earlier or later than normal. The goal is to create a consistent product year-in and year-out — though some variance is always to be expected.
To check out the differences in vintages, I’m reviewing the 2011 imprint of Arboreto’s Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, after having reviewed the 2010 imprint earlier this year. We’ll look at what changes, and what doesn’t.
How’s it look? This 2011 Arboreto is a half-transparent magenta, with a thin body and very slight legs. So we’re expecting something light and dry. Seems like the 2010 looked darker (almost indigo, I said), but otherwise had similar characteristics.
How’s it smell? The nose of the 2011 is dominated by tart, ripe fruits — plum, apple, tangerine. That’s rounded out by some floral tannins. The nose of the 2010 was similar.
But how does it taste? The 2011 does have the sour apple and tangerine flavors I noted on the nose, but they’re muted by a generic acidic flavor (almost lemony). That tart acidic bite also eliminates any tannins, but there’s a bit of bitter chocolate, leather and juniper on the finish. Here’s where the 2010 is much different. The taste was simpler in the 2010, with the fruit flavors still being tart, but much more present. The fun stuff I note on the finish wasn’t there in the 2010, suggesting that this wine loses a lot of its complexity as it ages.
What does it all mean? First, that barring any major weather disasters or changes in soil, grape harvests can be similar from year to year; second, and maybe more important, that when it comes to wine, older isn’t always better. Some vintages are better if left to mellow, but this one, in particular, was much more interesting when it was young. (Please don’t take that as a metaphor for your life story or assume I present it as a metaphor for mine.)