UNCOVERING THE VINTAGES SECTION

A personal anecdote

I had a chat with a friend of mine recently about wine. Knowing that I study the subject, she reached out for a recommendation of her favourite varietal – Pinot Grigio. I told her to check out what the Vintages section of her local store had to offer.

At first, I could sense there was some hesitation… isn’t the Vintages section for the nose-in-the-air connoisseur, willing to drop a couple green (CAD) bills on a single bottle?

In the end, she went for the usual Yellowtail – my frustration with her rash decision and expression of poor judgment was palpable. 

A couple weeks pass and I get a message from said friend. Excitedly, she wanted to inform me that she had mustered the courage to pop into the Vintages section of her local store, where she came face to face with a New Zealand Pinot Grigio, by Oyster Bay. Although she couldn’t see it at the time, my face lit up! I was so eager to hear what she thought of it.

It was night and day. The bottle was so good, she went back to the store later that night to grab another! A bonus – the bottle she found in the Vintages section was only a few dollars more than the Yellowtail. Like a proud parent watching his kid cross the stage, she was congratulated her display of bravery.

My partner works for the LCBO, and she can testify through first-hand experience that your average wine drinker is 100% intimidated by the Vintages section, which makes me sad.

What are “Vintages”??

This got me thinking, how many people actually know what it even means for a wine to be a “Vintage” wine?

There are a number of factors, but the most important is the indication of year. 

If you take a look at the Oyster Bay label, you’ll see that the label indicates a 2016 vintage. Pretty straightforward – all the grapes used to make this wine were harvested in 2016. Let’s unpack this a little further. A 2016 wine will also reflect the trials and tribulations of the growing season. It’s kind of like a diary of what occurred in that vineyard. If 2016 in Hawke’s Bay was a year with plenty of sunshine, dry conditions, with cooler nights, this edition of Pinot Grigio will express its full potential, displaying a variety of aromas and concentrated flavours, along with great acidity for added freshness. If 2016 was a cooler year with high precipitation, yields may not be as high, and the wine will express overtly herbaceous notes – perhaps an acidity that is out of balance as well.

When you speak with winemakers that have excelled at their craft for a while, their view of a bottle of wine is a little different than ours. They are taken back to 1983. Once they open the bottle and smell the perfume and flavours of the vintage, its as if they’re reading an excerpt from a journal entry – documenting not only the strife or joy they experience during that year, but they are reminded of the economic or political situations they were facing at that point in their lives.

Take a look at the Yellowtail logo. You don’t see a year on the label. When producing a non-vintage wine, winemakers are able to blend wines from different years. Why would they do this? Usually, this is done to achieve a desired “house style” – since you’re using various years in the blend. Your Yellowtail Pinot Grigio will taste the exact same year after year, and this is exactly what the producer, in this case Yellowtail, wants. Those picking up Yellowtail Pinot Grigio are a loyal clientele looking for the same simple style each time they crack open that screw cap.

Try it!

When looking for a bottle to impress friends and family over the holiday period, I challenge you to take a dip into the Vintages section. I guarantee you’ll be surprised not only with the affordability, but with the quality as well. Cheers!

Keep up to date on the latest LCBO Vintages offerings here: https://www.lcbo.com/content/lcbo/en/vintages.html

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