I'm looking to see if others have run into difficulties with the 2014 and 2015 vintages of neutral(ish) whites. The rain at harvest/rot/botrytis issues that affected the Northern Spain/Southern France/Northern Italy/Austria latitude band in the 2014 vintage seems to necessitate a slightly different strategy for approaching these wines, while the hot summer of 2015 seems to have had an opposite but equally worrying effect. (and just our luck that rain band in 14 pretty much covers Galicia, Niederosterreich and TAA/Friuli) In 2015 we've got Erste + Neue PG coming in at 14+% which is symptomatic of a blurring between Italian and Oregon PG structure calls, some elevated alcohol across the board in '15 Muscadet, some legitimately m+ to high acid in Alsace PG in '14, and legal acidification to balance out the heat in 2015 sancerre (to say nothing about extra-legal manipulation across these two vintages) and even some legal acidification recently in Vouvray.
It might be tempting to just bump your expected alcohol levels up for '15 and increase expected acid for '14, but that's a strategy that works better if we start thinking about vintage first in our final conclusion. When blind tasting, often the year is the last thing I decide on, once I'm convinced I've got the varietal and region, and merely moving the classic ranges for alcohol and acidity to fit our understanding of a vintage also doesn't really capture whats happening with rot, yield, and acidification in these vintages. I've noticed that others that I've tasted with are also putting together rarely seen calls in their primary, as they struggle to reconcile tasting and deduction. I also know it's unwise to make assumptions that we'd only be poured the most recent vintage of a white that is customarily drunk young, and similarly unwise to write off an entire vintage as not-testable simply because it had extreme growing conditions.
I suppose I'm asking directly for any strategies that folks might have employed when they sat tasting in the years that immediately followed flip flops like '08/09 or '02/'03 when we also saw the classic norms stretched. I also welcome others' observations about the effects of 14 and 15 on their own blind calls.
Great discussion, all. Indeed, these (seemingly increasingly) dramatic swings and shifts in overall regional markers from vintage to vintage are difficult to track for sommeliers serving guests. How do we let them know where a wine places in the spectrum of what they may expect? Do regions actually taste like themselves enough to support a taste for _______ (insert "Sancerre" per your example) in ________ (insert "2015" per your example)? THAT is what you ask yourself. Obviously, this is more about, "What could we see on an examination?" As we have stated as (hopefully) clearly as we can, know that the Court of Master Sommeliers looks for the most classic, established version of any wine we can find. This process is difficult enough when a "screamer" is in the glass; we want to be fair and know that you know the typicality of a wine. We always choose through the lens of what is established in the world as an exemplary and strongly defined example of a wine; available to the globe, identifiable to trained palates, around for enough years to make a mark, and with enough of a through line regardless of myriad producers/vintages in whatever region to expect the sommelier to point to with confidence and perspective. Not to say that all of this digging won't expand the "classic" definition...if it is true and profound, let it. That we all may be vital and exacting in our efforts to make the guest feel wonderful at the table.