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If you experienced the 2011 vintage, you may have a few more gray hairs than you did at the beginning of the growing season. 2011 was one of the coolest vintages on record, reminiscent of the harrowing 1999 vintage.
With a cool, wet spring, the vines were behind right from the start of the growing season with budbreak occurring one to three weeks late in most areas. Even at this early stage, many vintners and grape growers were already taking precautions in the vineyard to ensure a ripe crop later on. Spring was followed by a warm, dry summer but the temperatures were not hot enough to speed the ripening process. Although the temperatures increased in August and early September, it was too late to fully catch up. The first grapes of 2011 were harvested September 15, but the majority of the fruit was not picked until the end of October and the late harvest finally wrapped in mid-November.
In spite of the cooler-than-average vintage, the wines that are emerging from this year are truly spectacular. The 2011 whites are now hitting the shelves and consumers should expect balanced wines with expressive fruit flavours and the vibrant natural acidity that the Wines of British Columbia are known for. Some of the standout whites will be Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling.
The majority of the 2011 reds will not be released until next year, but they will be worth the wait. At the 2011 wine makers and viticulturists’ forum last year, Sandra Oldfield, president and winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, noted that the early phenolic ripeness of the fruit was key for this vintage.
Because of the cooler vintage, the wines have lower alcohol levels that will result in more elegant, balanced wines with great ageability. Some of the reds to look forward to are Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah.
On the note of ageability, Master of Wine Rhys Pender has conducted several library tastings over the past few years and noted that the wines from the cool 1999 vintage have aged very well and he anticipates the 2011 vintage will do the same. So often people think that B.C. wines are only to be consumed young and fresh, but these library tastings have proven that the Wines of British Columbia are very cellar worthy.
Sparkling wines, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Meritage blends are particularly ageworthy wines. Next time you’re purchasing a wine with ageing potential, don’t just snap up one bottle, buy multiples (perhaps even a case or two) and try a bottle every couple of years to see how the wine is maturing. We think you’ll be surprised and impressed by the results.