W’s determine wine’s destiny.
What grapes were used? Where were they grown? When were they grown? Who made the wine?
This week: when and who.
When grapes were grown, depending on location, makes a big difference. Generally, Old World wines (Europe) are more influenced by weather, making vintage (year grapes were grown) significant. New World wines (not Europe) tend to have less differences year-to-year, but different years still produce different wines.
As you might expect, no matter which continent, vintage means more for wines made from a single vineyard and less for wines made from grapes sourced from several locations.
Finally, who made the wine—who grew the grapes and who made decisions in the winery—is vitally important. At its core, wine is a human creation.
Grapes are an agricultural product. The grape grower (the farmer) is a critical influence. The better the harvested fruit—a result of attention to such details as choice of grape variety, vineyard location, crop yield, time of harvest, method of picking, and more—presents the winemaker either with juice upon which to work elegant magic or a challenge to make drinkable wine.
The winemaker takes grapes from the grower (they can be same person) and transforms fruit into wine. The grape grower makes a bunch of decisions about a living plant; the winemaker is pressed with choices about how to handle the harvest. The skills of the “who” make wine from exquisitely sublime to painful plonk. We enjoy (or not) the result.
• Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard 10 Red Wine. Delicious Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Grenache, Mourvédre blend by over-achieving sibling of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State’s dominant winemaker. Superb value. $7.50
• José Maria da Fonseca Terras do Sado Periquita. Easy-going silky, vivid flavors from dependable Portuguese maker. $10
• Bogle Phantom. Blend of about equal amounts Petite Sirah and Zinfandel—the two grapes Bogel does best—with dash of Mourvédre. Fruit-forward, fierce spice. $20