Often the variation that occurs in the same wine from one vintage to another is minor and limited to interesting variations on a theme. A cool spring…a drier than normal summer…a little too much rain in September…each can leave their imprint on a wine. But what happens when conditions are seriously bad?
You might think that there’s nothing much to be done when the weather just won’t cooperate—for example, when a late season hailstorm dramatically diminishes the crop or when rain during the harvest season dilutes the juice or engenders rot. In regions that experience these sorts of calamities, wine critics will suggest this is one vintage to just pass by.
It’s probably true that if you’re buying wine to impress your geek friends or with a view to collect or invest, then the quality and reputation of the vintage is an all important consideration. But from the winemaker’s perspective, the situation looks completely different. Except in a truly apocalyptic vintage, the man or woman whose living depends on cash received in exchange for finished wine can’t just shrug and walk away as critics, collectors, and consumers can. Given lemons, winemakers have to suck it up and do their best to make the wine equivalent of lemonade.
To understand this, let’s first explain what can turn a normal vintage into a problematic one.