In spite of global pandemics and other mind-blowing events we could –– but won’t, ‘cuz this is a food & wine blog — name, the 2021 vintage turned out to be a rather challenging one across the world.
As I document these events, do keep in mind that wine producers prepare for these eventualities. Insurance exists. Government support is a thing.
Yet, despite these measures, some estates could go belly-up as a result, some might choose to raise their prices to make up the difference in volume, and still others may simply have a limited release for the vintage year.
What you as the consumer can do for them:
- If prices do indeed rise and/or availability falls, realize that some of this may fall outside the producer’s control. They’re just trying to survive.
- If you love one of these regions, continue to buy their wines! Disasters and bad years are when they need you the most for their survival. Recommend favorites to friends, too, and consider sampling a wine from a new region that struggled this year. Who knows — you might discover a new cellar staple.
- If you can’t find these regions’ wines represented locally (and if you like them — key point), request them at your home wine shop. That way both you and others can partake, enjoy, and continue to offer the wineries business.
Gotta start in the home state, because Colorado makes some fantastic wine!
Harvest for 2021 begins very soon here, but many wineries will have very few grapes for vinification this year in the Grand Valley AVA, thanks to a deep winter freeze in late fall 2020 that caused irreparable damage to vineyards, destroying anywhere from 70-100% of vines.
This was more than enough for a disaster declaration by the governor, when winemakers already worried over the possibility of smoke taint from wildfires during the summer of 2020, as well as the ones currently affecting the western half of the state and, heck, the western half of the country.
California, Oregon, Washington
Fires, fires, fires.
Many west coast wineries have begun rebuilding after the horrible rash of blazes that pockmarked the country during 2020, but fire season for 2021 has yet to conclude, with new flare-ups to threaten local crops.
Vineyards are highly susceptible to fire, either through direct flames or smoke taint, which is when grapes absorb the chemicals and volatile phenols from contact with smoke. What’s worse is that once affected by smoke taint, there’s really no saving the grapes in most cases. Aromas and flavors can drastically change even before fruit forms on the vines; Wine Spectator’s 2017 article here goes more into the science of the subject.
For those harboring darker curiosities, yes, it is possible to get your hands on a bottle of smoke-tainted wine; some winemakers have opted to sell it as a novelty, as a means of helping recoup lost revenue. I’ve never seen a bottle for myself, but they do exist according to industry colleagues.
You can read more about the current situation via Oregon Public Broadcasting.
While Colorado’s frost occurred in October, France dealt with unseasonable cold during springtime, when grapevines had begun to bloom after a nice warm spell.
Vineyard managers across the country scrambled and organized as best they could whilst the freeze warnings mounted; the lighting of thousands of fires and giant candles between vineyard rows to try and fend of the worst of the cold, while stunning in aerial imagery, ultimately failed.
From Chablis to Champagne to the Rhône and even including Bordeaux, expect a lean year for French wine in 2021.
Sudden floods in the Ahr region during mid-July decimated homes, wineries and families alike. Over 200 lost their lives while fleeing in the rain, with many more missing and injured.
According to an article by Wine Enthusiast, not only the most current season’s grapes were lost, but also several vintages still ageing in barrels in numerous cellars throughout the region. Several years’ work lost in one night… it’s difficult to fathom.
Decanter notes some additional ways that people can help the region recover, for those who wish to do so.
While I could easily share additional news from throughout the world regarding the state of international wine, such as New Zealand’s shortage on juice and South Africa’s recent lifting of an on-again, off-again export sales ban on wine, suffice it to say that 2021 proved altogether a rough year for the industry, and we’ve still got a few months to go.
Although tonight’s wine was predetermined, my next few challenge-based posts will focus on wines from the above listed regions. I hope that you’ll join me in sampling what they have to offer.
Wine Challenge, Week 17: Stage Door Wine Company’s “Three Piece” GSM
Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre — a common red blend combination in the Rhône Valley of France, most notably in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Bold, with fuller body (thanks to Syrah), the presence of red and black fruit notes (courtesy of Grenache and Mourvèdre, respectively), and general food-friendliness, it’s no wonder GSMs of varied stripes are created throughout the world.
Australia, one should mark, calls two of these three grapes by different names: Syrah they call Shiraz and Mourvèdre instead Mataro.
While Syrahs in the Rhône tend towards savory, with flavors of pepper and spice, Australian Shiraz often shows jammier, bolder fruit, with smoked meat on the nose.
Producer: Stage Door Wine Company
Region: Barossa and Eden Valleys, Australia
Grapes: Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro
Clear, medium garnet.
Clean, with medium-plus intensity aromas of blackberry, black plum, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, bacon (!?), candied raspberry, cocoa, and red florals. This wine definitely comes with some complexity, and it is certainly developing.
Clean flavors of medium-plus intensity, including leather, black plum, dried blackcurrant, blackberry, eucalyptus, cedar, vanilla, and underripe raspberry. There’s also an underlying savory note that does remind me of dried meat. It’s kind of weird, but it works in combination with the mostly fruit-forward profile.
The “Three Piece” is dry, with high alcohol, medium-plus acidity, smooth & velvety medium-high tannins, and a medium-plus body with a long finish.
Oooh, man. What a smooth operator. I like me a good Rhône red, but this wine gives me shivers in the best possible way.
Balance? Heck yeah it has balance. Acidity and body may not match exactly, but they’re close enough to keep everything harmonious.
Length? Yup yup. Starts with bold fruit at a solid forte, then falls in a steady decrescendo into herbs and spices, and closes with a fermata of leather as it fades to nothingness. Gorgeous.
Intensity? Pretty good. The flavors pale somewhat in comparison to the nose, but only slightly. It’s not fair to expect higher melodies of florals and certain spices to recur on the tongue, as they don’t often translate.
Complexity? Ticks the boxes for primary with popping fruit at multiple levels, followed by evidence of oak use (secondary) with vanilla and cedar, while the dried fruit and leather indicate some graceful bottle age (tertiary).
Quality assessment? Very good, and just shy of outstanding. Greater intensity of aromas and flavors would have made the difference here.
It’s a pity that Labor Day has already passed, otherwise I’d recommend it as a grill pairing. Nonetheless, the “Three Piece” would blend well with dishes featuring warm (read: not chili) spices, vegan fare such as baked tempeh skewers with bell peppers, grilled tofu, or alongside smoked meats and cheeses.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, posting on Thursday night. Have a wine topic you want me to talk about in a future post? Let me know in the comments.
Like what you’re reading and want to show some support? Well, shucks, thank you much! Check out the donation page for details.