Remember Rod Stewart’s song, “Every Picture Tells a Story,” from his 1971 album of the same name?
The song tells the tale of Stewart’s adventures with various women around the world, with stops in Paris, Rome and Peking. Each encounter is unique, just as each woman is unique.
And so it is in the world of wine — you knew we were going to find a wine connection, didn’t you? — and it’s something we are reminded of with each new harvest season.
Milk tastes pretty much the same whether it’s made in Wisconsin or California. Orange juice doesn’t vary much from Florida to Brazil.
But wine is unlike any other beverage. Although large producers such as Gallo or Kendall-Jackson can normally blend to a “house style” each year — because they have so many grape sources in so many growing regions from which to draw — wines made by smaller estates are expressions of both time and place.
The place — that is, the vineyard — will stay basically the same from year to year, but the weather will vary, and that will impact the aromas and flavors in the grapes harvested.
Here in North America, the winegrape harvest is in full swing. In California, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes earmarked for sparkling wine began to be picked early this month, before their sugar levels started to spike. In vineyards where those and other varieties were destined for table (non-sparkling) wines, picking dates came later.
In the eastern United States, where temperatures are lower and sunny days fewer, it’s common for grapes to remain on the vines well into October. Grapes destined for “late harvest” wines or “ice wines” may stay on even longer in order to intensify their sugar content.
Vintners tend to remember the wines they make by year. Each wine creates a memory, and those memories are how vintages ultimately are compared.
Because, to paraphrase Rod Stewart, “Every vintage tells a story.”