Impressions of a Vintage - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Impressions of a Vintage

Ten days, late June, tasting wines from the 2014 vintage in Bordeaux and Burgundy with my friend, Fiona Morrison, MW. Fiona was recently back from South Africa, after visiting old-vine sites in Swartland with Rosa Kruger, who’s spurred a new generation of winemakers in the Cape with her discoveries. Morrison profiles Kruger in this issue, and the renaissance of Cape wines.

France, however, is no foreign land to Morrison, who makes wine in Pomerol, has lived in and around Bordeaux for two decades, and regularly travels to Burgundy. For me, France remains an open book. Unlike Morrison, I had not lived through the rain and the angst of 2014. In fact, when I arrived in Beaune, I had not read any vintage reports. I wanted the growers’ impressions, and I wanted to make my own. I wanted to taste, then verify.

“We prefer our 2013s,” Ghislaine Barthod told me in her cellar, as if to make an excuse for the wine she had drawn out of barrel. For Barthod and others, 2013 is a greater year for pinot noir. Yet I tasted many delicious, seductive wines from 2014.

What place is there for the o vintage in today’s world of “investment-grade” wine? It’s hard to imagine prices falling for 2014s. Demand is such that buyers with allocations from great producers, like the vignerons I visited in Vosne and Chambolle this past June, will keep those allocations for the right to buy the next year. And honestly, at least for producers at this level, when buyers drink the 2014s I don’t believe they will be sorry. But there are also affordable wines from 2014; a number caught my attention—including a Moulin-à-Vent Brusselions from Barthod’s partner, Louis Boillot—amidst a host of pricier Côte de Nuits.

I do not come to wine to invest in it, nor do I believe it responsible to suggest that others invest in wine. What I do suggest to friends and readers is that they invest some time in wine, choose wines, for whatever reason, that appeal to them, and take the time to get to know them, to make a connection. If I can’t connect with a wine, I move on, as, for me, wine is only about connections—to people at dinner tonight, to memories of the past, to the pleasure of the taste right now and the expectation of what that taste might become with time.

Those connections are often buried deep in the emotional center of my brain, where memory resides. Before I make a rational decision about a wine, I want to listen to that part of my brain.

In June, in Burgundy, I had the sense that I liked the wines a lot more than I was supposed to—that I connected with wines from a vintage the producers themselves were somewhat dismissive about. I expect that when we blind taste a wide range of 2014s from Burgundy for critical review, there will be a lot of wine I don’t connect with. But that is the case in many so-called great vintages as well.

I came away from these visits believing that first impressions matter—what sort of first impression we allow ourselves matters. That’s why we are working with Wine Australia to send 15 sommeliers to search out terroir-expressive wines for our next issue: It helps them, as it help us, to think about the process of tasting, about our preconceptions and our discoveries that crash through those preconceptions. It’s why we celebrate the Best New Sommeliers of 2015, five bright and talented wine professionals who come to this world with a fresh perspective and connect us with something new.

This story appears in the print issue of October 2015.
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