As I write this the 2013 Dodgy Brothers wines have just been finished. And by finished I mean they are pressed off and into barrel. The hard yards that make vintage what it is are done. The clock is no longer ticking. We can, for the next little while, let nature take its course with our wines and let the magic that is malo-lactic fermentation take place. Meaning we can now finally catch our breath, and get a good night’s sleep.
I think most people would tell you that it was a pretty hectic vintage this year. The fruit ripened rather quickly and I think it caught people off guard. Consequently, most were on the back foot from the word go. Not an enviable position. However we are a resilient bunch, and I’m sure that everyone made it through unscathed.
There was a fair bit of hype to the 2013 vintage as it approached. “Greatest Vintage Ever” and “Perfect Growing Season” were phrases that were tossed around fairly regularly. Now I will not dispute for one second that the 2013 vintage is a good, if not great vintage. But I have to admit that it isn’t one for the books. And here’s the thing – I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s been my observation that generally speaking the wine industry is afraid to admit that we do in fact have vintage variation here in Australia. I find this curious, if not puzzling. Like everything there is no effect without cause, and in this case I believe it comes from the wine buying public: consumers that have gotten so used to reliable, warm, disease free vintages here in Oz that they are unwilling to accept anything but. The curious part of this is that those same consumers are willing to accept that vintage variation in Old World wines is a fact of life, and it in fact adds to the character of the wines. I don’t get this double standard.
Growing grapes is an agricultural endeavour. It relies on, and from time to time is at the mercy of Mother Nature and her cousin the Weather. Sometimes they do not cooperate. 2011 is an excellent example. This is a vintage that has been collectively pooh poohed by the media in Australia. However there are some fantastic wines from that particular vintage. But don’t expect them to be the same as 2010’s, 09’s or ‘12’s for that matter.
While I was working in Bordeaux the proprietor of the Chateau I was at told me “In a good year, any idiot can make good wine – it makes itself. It’s in a bad year that you really get to see the skills and extra effort of the winemaker and his staff”. I think the same is true here. In the easy vintages everyone makes a good drop. But in the difficult vintages it’s the winemakers or producers that are able to put in that extra effort and commitment to make wines of superior quality and interest. The producers that have their hands tied by things like logistics and labour costs (like the big, multinational conglomerates) are unable to do the same, and that leads to where you should maybe be looking for your 2011 gems…
I suppose the point I’m trying to make is this: different does not = bad. In my book often the opposite is true. The 2011 vintage is different from most vintages we see in this region. And there are some shitty wines out there from it, no doubt. But if you were to ignore the wines produced in this year well then you’re really doing yourself a disservice. There are some fantastic wines out there from this vintage, let’s celebrate the fact that they’re a little different from the norm. Vintage variation is a good thing. As they say variety is the spice of life.