A non/multi-vintage wine – the concept is not a new or unique one.
It is perfectly acceptable in sparkling wine where vintage blends are the norm and make up the bulk of production, likewise in fortified wines. But to think of a vintage blend in a still wine is a little far-fetched for many, something out of the norm and therefore a bit too risky. But why not pick up a multi-vintage still wine?
If price is any indicator of quality then wines such as Vega Sicilia in Spain, Cain in the USA and Penfolds with their G3 wine here in Australia, which are all multi-vintage still wines that fetch prices only accessible to the wealthiest would suggest they can sit amongst the highest quality wines of any category.
Maybe it is just a philosophical difference: are you a romantic or a hedonist?
Single vintage wines draw on the romance of wine to a certain extent – in the bottle is all the vagaries of year, much of the charm can often be found in the “blemishes” as much as the perfectly executed elements. It allows us to join the “journey” of a given wine by experiencing and understanding its character little by little with each vintage released.
On the other hand, a perfectionist is likely to pull every lever at their disposal if they can.
for many, the variation from vintage to vintage is a factor to be minimised and smoothed out by careful blending – the pursuit for the perfect wine where no factor is immune from being moderated or modified. blend grapes to balance each varieties character, blend barrels/vineyard/regions etc. for the same reason, and you can get closer to the “perfect” wine. Assuming you know what that is, and what it should look like.
Maybe it is simply a lack of awareness around the technique given it is not commonly promoted or championed by producers or sellers. As it stands, a wine with the vintage printed on the label only has to have a minimum 85 per cent of wine from that vintage, so you may well have had many wines with a splash or two of an older (or younger) vintages in the blend. It’s a valid technique, that can certainly contribute to a more enjoyable glass of wine than otherwise when applied properly (as with every technique and tool).
The reputation of a producer like Domaine de Marcoux in the Rhone Valley should eliminate any hesitation at picking up a non-vintage still wine. A producer so focused on constant improvement year-in year-out isn’t going to release a wine of less than stellar quality.
Their Raisin de Loup ($27) isn’t Chateauneuf-du-Pape and nor should it be, you need a delicious early drinking red that is simple in terms of being easy-drinking while still clearly showing the class of the fruit and the grower – both serve their purpose for different reasons. This is blended across two great years in the Rhone Valley, driven by Grenache for which the producer is famed along with some Shiraz and Carignan.
It’s lively and pure in nature driven by fleshy red and black berries, avoiding much of the barnyard funky notes that can dampen some wines in the region. It starts to show some earth, licorice, meat and pepper towards the back of the palate where it tightens up just enough with some fine tannins.