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Do not judge a book by its cover and do not judge a wine by its vintage. I was pleasantly reminded of this a couple of nights ago when enjoying a bottle of wine whose vintage had prepared me for being underwhelmed.
The 1998 vintage in Napa Valley, California, has been critically maligned in the press and by many winemakers. That year, a wet spring followed by a late summer and then pending rain during harvest time created a recipe for disaster. However, winemakers who did not panic by picking too early were rewarded with small clusters of elegant fruit capable of yielding a memorable wine.
My memorable experience revolves around a bottle of 1998 Franciscan Magnificat, a Bordeaux red-blend from Napa Valley. I long had been wondering how it would taste, and age, for that matter, given the questionable vintage. I wanted to share a glass of an elegant Cabernet-based wine with my father, who typically enjoys crisp, vibrant whites, but loves an occasional glass of red. This seemed like the ideal opportunity.
I decided not to decant the bottle and just poured it directly into Riedel Bordeaux stem glasses. After I did, a beautiful aroma of cassis, dried cherry and cedar permeated the air. On the palate, the dark fruit was still very evident, the tannins were beautifully integrated into the wine and the texture was velvety. It continued to evolve nicely over the next couple of hours during an enjoyable dinner with the family. This is the reward for saving a wine with great pedigree, even if the vintage is suspect.
Here are a few tips for buying and drinking wines from vintages that were rated poorly:
- High quality producers will almost always make a good wine, even in an “off” vintage.
- If the vintage is an older one, like my experience above, proper storage conditions are key in the wine evolving properly.
- The wines will not benefit from aging as long as wines from better vintages; drink sooner than later.
This week’s guest blog is by George Staikos, noted educator and founder of The Educated Grape, a company dedicated to interactive wine classes, tastings and special events.
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.