2011 Vintage - the one that was written off too soon!
Can you remember back to 2011 and certain wine regions in Australia dealing with an increase in rain and disease? Can you also remember the comments made before the fruit was picked that ‘Australia’ was going to be in for a disappointing vintage? And then as time rolled on generic comments made their way into the press, and some wine buyers started echoing those comments causing a backlash from the consumers who declared the 2011 a “dreadful vintage and one to avoid”……
I heard this exact comment at a public wine tasting last year and politely asked the person what they based their comment on. The response was media and wine buyers (both restaurant and retail), and no the person who made the comment had not purchased any 2011 wines. Imagine the state of the industry if we all boycotted a whole vintage - it would simply collapse. Growers and wineries would go under and in time this would have a knock on affect for restaurants and retailers.
Don’t get me wrong in thinking that 2011 was a magic vintage, because it wasn’t. What’s more the vintage is book-ended by two outstanding vintages (across Australia), where many wine regions will herald 2012 / 2013 as the best of the century! Whilst 2011 can’t compete, numerous wineries across a number of regions have produced wines that have come out the other slide with elegance and restraint. Patience has rewarded such wines with varietal and regional definition, where time in bottle has made the world of difference.
I struggled for nearly 12 months trying to market and sell a Pinot Noir from the 2011 vintage, however after 18 months in bottle the wine took on another dimension, showing savoury fruit characters with a little spice and lovely ‘natural’ acid. On the note of acid, I love it when it is natural because it serves as a purpose (assisting in structure and longevity) often extending the palate from front to back. Compare a wine with added ‘artificial’ acid and you have a completely different experience, which is often disjointed and short on the finish.
We must be cautious with generalisations in Australia, given we have 65 regions with approximately 114 Geographical Indications (GI), which identify wine as originating in a region or locality where quality, reputation and other characters are attributable to the geographical origin. And within these GI there are over 2,500 wineries, creating a mosaic that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. The more we focus on the origin of a wine / winery and the climatic features of vintage in that particular origin the more accurate we will be and the more we will realise that vintage variation is acceptable and in fact the norm contributing a quality to the final product that cannot be seen in other alcoholic beverages.
By the way - I do have various 2011 wines in my cellar - to drink now and over the next few years!