How to Think About Wine Vintages

But that was not the case in 2011. Spring was cold and wet, delaying the flowering of the vines and the ripening cycle of the grapes. The year stayed cool, and heavy storms near harvest time forced many growers to pick grapes earlier then they might have wished, not allowing them to achieve their vision of ripeness. The dampness and humidity caused a great deal of mold and rot in the grapes, reducing the yield and the subsequent wine production. The vintage forced many producers to make difficult decisions. They could make wines in a less overtly fruity style, taking what the year had given them. Or they could try to force the issue in the winery, using modern technologies to try to create greater concentration in the wines. “I’ve never seen a more difficult vintage,” said Ms. Corison of 2011, despite what she was able to achieve with the wines. Using its 100-point scale, Wine Spectator rated the vintage 86, the only vintage in Northern California from 2006 to 2016 that it scored below 94. Wine Advocate, another consumer publication, gave it an 82. It so happens that, regardless of the vintage, the three producers in our tasting all seek a more elegant, less jammy, lower-alcohol style of cabernet sauvignon. Their strengths were perhaps less affected by the vintage than those of other producers might have been, and they were each able to make wines in 2011 stylistically consistent with their aims, notwithstanding the adversity.