2005 was the second largest vintage in the history of the Rías Baixas appellation, with a yield of over 21 000 tonnes of grapes. According to Marisol Bueno, Chair of the Regulating Council, the year “made history both in quality and quantity”. This is the appellation’s second “excellent” year running.
These results are attributed to outstanding weather throughout the harvest season and the excellent health of grapes on arrival at the winery, “with high sugar content and balanced acidity”, according the Chair. “We took the decision after careful consideration, with a great sense of responsibility, since last year’s vintage was also rated excellent. The thing is, we also have extraordinary quality in 2005,” stresses Marisol Bueno.
I’ve only had the chance to taste a few of the 2005’s so far this year, for the most part they have been quite nice. On the other hand I do have a problem when the same group that is supposed to promote a regions wines is also the same group that is appraising the success or failure of a vintage. Going to their website D.O. RiasBaixas.com you can see that, according to them, all the way back to 1987 that there has never been a rating of a vintage below “good”. To go along with this you never see a explanation of what exactly a good, very good, or excellent vintage means. I’ve always been skeptical of vintage charts anyways. Often they make wine hard to sell when there is nothing wrong with it. Or they put over demand on a particular vintage leaving the market with a large hole to fill while it waits for the following vintage to arrive. The saying that I hear most often from any winemaker I talk to is this: Even in a bad year there are good wines made and even in the greatest of years there are terrible wines made. Usually stated a bit more elegantly, I find that this to be for the most part very true.
Next time you hear a winemaker, critic, or retailer tell you this year was great or terrible or whatever they say, remember only you can be the judge. Can vintage charts sometimes give you a hint to what you might expect to find, sure. But in reality you need to decide what motive might have been behind the person/group making the chart. In a hot overripe year you rarely hear that the wines are bad, but if you don’t like high alcohol wines with big fruit, then you might not agree. On the other hand a lean year as far as weather and yields may lead to wines that need more care when being elaborated and may yield wines that in the long run might age and develop with grace, or not.
There are fundamentals to what makes a good or bad vintage. But make sure when you hear a claim of excellence that you make sure to filter it by looking at who said it and what they may have invested in the product.
Oh and I am going to head out and try to some more Albarino’s to see if the 2005’s really are excellent. If you’ve had any let me know, I’d be interested in hearing what you think!