A tale of two vintages

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Does the vintage (year) of a wine really make that much of a difference on the quality and taste? The answer is both yes and no. Mass-produced wines like Peller, Bodacious, Barefoot and Yellow Tail (among many others) aim for consistency so any juice/wine that they produce is blended in a large vat to retain the same flavor bottle to bottle. If you want to get the same flavor over and over again (consistency), then a product like this is ideal for you. Premium producers want their story to be told in the individual flavors from year to year meaning they risk losing consistency to authenticity and terroir and for that reason, some consumers may find the differences from vintage to vintage frustrating.

Wines that focus on terroir will quickly demonstrate why the conditions of the growing and harvesting season are so important to the final product. For instance, if the growing season has been cold and rainy then the resulting grapes will be watery and high in acidity; if that wine is produced naturally and without additives then the wine will lack concentration and will be highly acidic leading to an unpleasant drinking experience.

Since so many variables need to be taken into account when growing and harvesting grapes and nature doesn’t always like to cooperate, wineries will often save “reserve” wines for blending to add back into the current vintage. This helps smooth out the wine and help correct high or low acidity, lack of body/concentration etc. This process also helps with consistency as it gives the winery some form of control when growing conditions have not been ideal. At this point, the wine will lose some of its individuality from the specific year of production but will gain consistency. It’s an incredibly tenuous balancing act to get it just right.

The two wines I chose to compare this week are similar in more ways than they differ. They are both from Inniskillin Estate in Niagara Peninsula, they both share the same terroir (location or micro climate) and they are both made with the same grape, Pinot Noir. The only real differences when looking at the label are the vintage (2018 and 2019) and also the word “Select” on the 2018 bottle. The descriptions on the back label are also identical.

After sampling and taking notes, I found I enjoyed the 2018 vintage more than the 2019. The flavors seemed slightly more intense and interesting and the 2018 carried that BBQ twang along with intensely fruity notes. The 2019 had a mineral-driven character on the finish and the mid palate is shorter than the 2018. Which would you prefer? You will have to find out for yourself! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Select 2018: (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario). Dry red, medium ruby color. The nose is full of intense fruity scents like juicy red cherry, cooked raspberry, strawberry, cocoa, charred BBQ meat, toast edges and charcoal briquettes. This red is medium-bodied with a quick entry of juicy fruit and then the mid palate kicks in with a weighty, oaky spice and flavors of pressed skins/stems, warming baking spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, tea leaves and chewy tannins. While the tannins are high, this wine is still very smooth with gentle, medium acidity. The finish is long and full of spice while the fruity character lingers gently in the background. An excellent wine for burgers, ribs or pork chops. Very good! $16, 13% ABV

Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2019: (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario). Dry red, medium ruby color. The medium-intense nose of this Pinot starts with cooked/stewed dark and red cherries, strawberry, raspberry balsamic, herbs (rosemary & oregano), some mineral-like cola zip and hints of vanilla. On the palate, this red displays mainly red fruits with a touch of dark cherry and earth. The mid palate ends very quickly and transitions into a saline mineral finish full of soft black pepper, mineral (gravel, pebbles), touches of oak char, bread and cocoa/earth. The fruit component of this wine can still be tasted as it mixes with flavors of bread, earth and mineral. Tannins are medium with medium body and medium acidity. A simple wine that will pair well with cheeses and BBQ foods. Good! $23, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!