Face to Face With Inspector Clouseau
March 5, 2009
As I was perusing the aisles of a wine retailer recently, checking out their wine lists, I stumbled across a wine that I had mentally earmarked a few weeks back as one that I wanted to try. Even better, it was the vintage that I earmarked. It was what I would call a value wine for the quality, running around $18. The printed description of the wine taped on to the front of the wooden case holding the wines documented the vintage and the wine’s aromas and flavors along with a rating from one of the well known wine publishers (I think that it was 88 or 89 points). For me, this was a no brainer………the price…….the rating…….it was done deal. I grabbed a bottle out of the stack, checking the label as I usually do and found to my surprise that the vintage was from the following year. Certain that this bottle was misplaced, I grabbed for another…….oops…………………….. wrong year again…….and another, and another. In fact, all of the wines were from the following year. Disappointed, I searched out an employee who told me that in all likelihood, they had sold out of the advertised vintage year and replaced it with the following year. Now I don’t begrudge the retailer for selling out. In fact, in this economic climate, how wonderful to be in that position. However, if you exhaust the inventory, let the consumer know and change the advertising label to reflect the new product.
Not to be deterred, as I can usually make a case for some wine that I yearn for (ask my wife), I made my way to another aisle and once again, discovered a “needed” and better yet, an affordable, value wine. I reached for the bottle and……..you guessed it, it once again reflected the wrong vintage. Now smitten with intrigue, I began an Inspector Clouseau investigation of one aisle after another, one box after another in the name of justice. To my relief, I found no further discrepancies (I didn’t inspect the entire store) but it made me wonder how many people who purchase wine go home never recognizing nor appreciating the importance of the vintage year. For some, a wine is just a wine and the year is not important. For those of you who understand how the quality of a wine can vary from one vintage year to the next, you understand the importance of the concept. While one year may yield perfect weather at the right time, lifting all boats so to speak, Mother Nature may be unwilling to cooperate the following year, leaving the producer with little or no hope of producing anything beyond a mediocre product. If the consumer is unaware of which vintage is on the shelf, he may be depriving himself of experiencing the best of what the vintner and a stellar vintage year can produce. Perhaps I’m just doing a little whining about this, but I would like to know your feelings about this. Is the vintage important to you?