Why does buying wine have to be so damn hard? It’s bad enough that you have to select from thousands of possibilities but you also have to choose a wine from the right vintage. Vintage refers to the year that the wine was produced. Remember, most wines, at least the ones we want to drink, spend a certain amount of time in some sort of barrels. By the time the wine is on the shelves of our local wine merchant, a year and probably somewhat more, has passed. I’m not going to go thru every year and describe the wines of that vintage but here are a couple of hints on the better vintages in some of the wine growing regions since the start of this decade.
If you are looking for the best that France has to offer you will want to buy wines from the 2005 or 2000 vintage. Both of these years were outstanding and the wines from these years are, for the most part, great examples of how good French wines can be. A word of caution; because these vintages were so good, you can expect to pay more for wines from 2000 and 2005.
Italy is another very popular place for wine enthusiasts. There are several different wine growing areas in Italy with contrasting climates, so that one can not uniformily give the entire country one vintage rating. For now, we will just focus on Tuscany and the wines of Chianti. The best years of this decade were 2006 and 2004. Remember, when you are shopping for Chianti spend the extra money and always choose the Chianti Classico Riserva. It’s the good stuff!
If you are a fan of California Cabernets you might want to narrow your search to bottles from 2007, 2001, 2005, or 2002. This isn’t to say wines from other vintages aren’t good. It simply means these were the years that lent themselves, through good weather, to better grapes, allowing the wine makers to work their charms.
If Australian wines float your boat you should select from 2005, 2001, 2002 or 2006, in that order, especially wines from Barossa or McLaren Vale (see my earlier post on “my all-time favorite wine”, the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz). The wines of 2005 from this area are rated higher than both 01 and 02 but as good as the 05’s might be I honestly feel that the great wines from McLaren Vale in both 01 and 02, far surpass even the 05 in drinkability. Discovering the sheer power and balance of the that 2001 Shirvington was one of the great wine-tasting events in my life.
Wines from Spain are the new rage and the prices are, for the time being, very reasonable. In a few years, as their popularity increases, you can expect to pay more for Spanish wines. If you want to look for the better vintages I would suggest 2004 or 2001 with 2005 close behind. Unfortunately, wines from Spain don’t spend a lot of time on the shelves so it’s possible all you will see are bottles from newer vintages. Don’t let that deter you, as even the current wines can be a great compliments to all kinds of foods.
The Malbecs from Argentina have had outstanding ratings in each of the last five vintages, so for you, this is a no-brainer. Any bottle of Malbec from Argentina is from a good vintage, and many are available for $10.00 to $12.00. It’s up to you to try a few different producers and settle on the one you find most enjoyable.
For Oregon Pinot Noirs, the vintage now on most shelves, the 2008’s, are rated higher than any other vintage of this decade. Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varietals and the ones from Oregon are excellent. The more you are willing to spend for these, the better your chances of experiencing the true flavors of this grape varietal.
As you might have noticed, my preference is for red wines. I do acknowledge that there is room in life for white wines. With that in mind, if you like Chardonnay from sunny California, I would suggest the vintages from 2005 with 2007 and 2004 just slightly behind.
In Germany, the Rieslings from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 2005 vintage were outstanding with excellent wines also being produced in both 2006 and 2001.
There are many web sites online where you can find vintage charts. Some are downloadable as pocket fold-ups that can be carried in your wallet and used as a resource when you are browsing the wines shelves. Remember, good wines can come from any vintage. There are wine makers working all over the world who are talented enough to create good wines from bad vintages. Hopefully, the information I have given you here will help you find the best that each wine growing country has to offer.