Friday, August 29, 2008

Post Sales Support

These days the interwebs are full of sites where you can find other peoples tasting notes on pretty much any wine that's out there. Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate have extensive online databases of their published scores and notes; collectors post comments on CellarTracker and Cork'd and discuss the wines in online forums (or is it fora?); consumers and retailers alike discuss the latest releases in their blogs.

But for any given wine, who opens the most bottles? Who knows the wine best? Obviously it's the people who made it. They are uniquely positioned to track the progress of a wine over the years; after all they've had it in ideal conditions since before it was even released.

The finest example in this regard is Penfolds of Australia. Every few years they hold a tasting of the entire library going back over 50 years and publish it on their website as "The Rewards Of Patience". For a collector, whether of the iconic Grange or the more affordable but still long-lived Bin series it's the ultimate resource.

Yet if you go to most other wineries web sites, 99% of the time the only thing you'll find information on is the latest and future releases. It's all about selling; where's the after sales support?

Recently Wes told me that a couple of years ago Jeff Emery had held a tasting and posted notes on the entire library of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard wines. Although I'd visited the site before I'd never noticed it because for some reason on my browser (Firefox) it shows up as black on black. But sure enough, the notes are there going back all the way to 1979, and they make interesting reading.

Take for example the rainy 1982 vintage; the Bates Ranch Cabernet is "Complex and soft, perhaps just past its peak. Drink now or last Tuesday" whereas the Estate Pinot Noir is "a HUGE wine that still needs time. Lots of tannin, but lots of deep fruit too. Hold until 2010 to 2015". Notes like these from the people who know the wines are a fantastic resource that will prevent you from opening a bottle too soon or keeping it too long, and I wish that more wineries would share them.