When to release…….
This question is one of the most important decisions a winemaker must embrace. There is so much that goes into it, the analytics of the wine, (science) the market place, (business) and the flavor profile (art). These are not listed in a specific order of importance, as the order changes based on each area of strength with each wine. Personally, I Find the release of my wines to be very fulfilling, like an accomplishment has been made where this place is presented to people in its most revealing way, like a prom, or a graduation, even an inauguration. (with no corruption!)
The science portion of the decision to release is very cut and dry, is the acid balanced with the fruit, oak, and tannins. These are tests that I run to see where the wine is compared to the same analytics at barreling and bottling. Most people don’t realize, wines are alive; they, like us, change throughout their lives, some changes are wonderful, some are detrimental, keeping the wines at the primary stage is a result of proper storage, protecting from temperature swings and oxidation inherently. Again, like us decisions made during our development have impact on our lives and what we will become!
The business decision on whether to release is very complex, the needs of inventory, the marketplace demand, cash flow, storage restrictions, barrel and bottle availability, all impact the release date. In harmony with the needs of the market, balancing the release of wine to have the most impact is very delicate, like the outcome of a college degree, or a sports event. When the event occurs can have long term effects on how the wine is received, and how successful it is in comparison to other releases.
Last, but definitely not least, the art portion of the wine release. As many of you know, I pride myself on very low sulfite content, varietal characteristics, and vintage personality of each wine. During my wine making process I continually evaluate how the wine personality will reveal itself in the most distinctive way. This is the portion where knowing your vineyard, understanding what occurred during the growing season, and realizing the potential of each wine is paramount. This is the largest differentiator of wine, winemakers, and character of wineries. This is the most difficult area to excel in, the most expensive, and the most heart wrenching activity in the business. This is where the grape crushes the winemaker. Everything you did, your successes and your mistakes come to fruition here. Some wineries want their wines to be the same every year, this may be their business model and where they excel. Our business model is to be “Vintage true” we try to enhance the differences in each vintage and capture the diverse character in each season.
So, to summarize, when asked when I will release vintage XYZ. No well that you may see this wine maker laugh, cry, or just rip out some hair, and move on. Or maybe, sit down, pour a glass of that vintage and discuss with you the history and battle cry that went with that vintage!