Sleeper vintages – every vintage is not the same!
One of the great things about wine is that every new release is the result of the unique conditions from that growing season. While there will be some consistency from year to year rooted in the terroir and the house winemaking style, every wine is invariably a snapshot of the year in which it was grown.
One of the challenges we face as winemakers is what happens in the year following a ‘great’ vintage. Inevitably the trade views the wine in a comparative light and immediately we are on the back foot. We saw this ourselves when the 2008 Nautilus Pinot Noir followed the ‘great’ 2007 & we are seeing it again this year when we released the 2011 Nautilus Pinot Noir after the ‘great 2010’.
The reality is that the 2010 vintage was one of our top vintages to date so a side by side comparison inevitably favours the more upfront and generous 2010 over the more subtle perfume of the 2011. This is a completely normal situation, however we strongly believe in the 2011 wine (if we didn’t we wouldn’t have bottled it) and it deserves to be tasted on its own merits. Given this opportunity then the wine will shine.
This issue of ‘sleeper’ vintages was discussed at the recent International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon (I’m third from the right on the photo above!). IPNC is probably the most prestigious international Pinot Noir event in the world at the moment & was the inspiration for our own Wellington event. During the course of the celebration, internationally respected “Burghound” Alan Meadows moderated a panel discussion where six international wines from perceived ‘lesser’ vintages were presented. I presented our 2008 Nautilus Pinot Noir at this event and it was very well received. This was a unique opportunity to see wines that are not ‘show ponies’ and to share some of the stories that characterised & define each vintage – be it temperature, humidity, crop level or people. We must remember grapes are a grown in an agricultural environment and will always be subject to the vagaries of nature. This is part of what makes great wines so special – they cannot simply be churned out. Alan also commented that often Burgundy collectors seek out the stellar vintages that will often take years to mature – so what so you have to drink now? A ‘sleeper’ vintage may well provide you with wine to enjoy while your ‘show ponies’ mature.
We are very pleased with our 2011 Nautilus Pinot Noir and it shows delightful floral characteristics and the wine has elegance and poise. We expect it to blossom over the next 12 months & beyond. The wine is a much smaller blend and focused on our southern valleys Pinot sites (85.9%). It has a delightful fragrance and a subtle power, and like all quality Pinot Noir this wine will involve and engage you if you take the time to appreciate it.
We also featured this 2011 vintage at the general tasting at IPNC and in a line up of 70 international Pinot Noirs it was very well regarded and I received many favourable comments from our winemaking peers and passionate Pinot Noir consumers alike.
So remember rather than good or bad vintages most are just ‘different’ and that is part of what makes wine so interesting. We did have a ‘bad’ vintage once in Marlborough – it was 1995, almost 20 years ago. Haven’t had one since which shows what a great region Marlborough is to grow grapes.