Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Digital Drinking: Online Vintage Charts

Picking the right vintage isn't the most important factor in choosing a wine (a truly good producer will make good wine even in difficult years) but knowing your 'holy grails' from your 'wholly crap' years can come in handy.

This is especially true if you're on the lookout for something special, but even when it comes to everyday choices, it can be handy to know which years were particularly good (even if it just means you can drop 'oh, this was such a good vintage' into conversations over a glass, to make you look stuck-up super smart.)

But even the most seasoned wine nerd has trouble remembering every good recent vintage for every region or country, so it pays to know where to look, whether your memory just needs refreshing or you want to start making better-informed choices.

There are a multitude of publications and experts that demand you buy their books or pay a subscription to their site for this kind of info, but I've done some digging and found a fair few places you can get all this brilliant information for free! Here are the top resources:

1. Berry Brothers' Online Vintage Charts

There are so many reasons that Berry Bros just get their vintage chart SO RIGHT:

  • It goes back to 1978
  • Not only does it tell you if it's a good year, it tells you whether the wine is ready to drink/needs time/is way past its best
  • It is sleek and easy to use with a really obvious key
  • Each year/region is linked so, for instance, if you're looking for 2007 white Burgundy, it will take you to the ones they have in stock from that year.
  • IT INCLUDES THE NEW WORLD! No one else seems to think new world vintages are important...
  • It's completely up to date, even including 2013 vintage info where relevant (that's where the new world stuff comes in - their vintage was in April/May and is already on our shelves)
  • It's available on their iPhone app

2. The Wine Society's Vintage Chart

Think all of the above, and another sleek and easy-to-use resource, but with just a couple of differences:

1. They don't, unfortunately, include New World vintage information.
2. They do, however, have an Android app as well as an iPhone app - hooray!

Both BBR and The Wine Society have put a huge amount of time and effort into making something seriously handy, especially in app form, which means you can even get advice on a last-minute supermarket wine dash when you're trying to work out which bottle of Rioja or Chablis you should grab. Top marks to them both.

3. E-Robert Parker's Vintage Chart

From the big man of 'marking a wine out of 100' himself, you'd expect a pretty nifty vintage chart, and you won't be disappointed.

While it's not quite as user-friendly as BBR or The Wine Soc, it does tickle the fancy of those who like an extra-geeky dollop of detail in their vintage charts: it goes back to 1970 and splits the categories into much narrower fields.

 The Australia rankings, for instance (oh yes he does do New World - GO BOB!) are split into different regions (Barossa, New South Wales, Victoria) and in some cases rate specific grape varieties, and French regions like Bordeaux and Rhone are split into much finer appellations (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, although side by side on the right bank of Bordeaux, each has its own score, which does help if you're looking for something specific.)

Also, in typical Robert Parker fashion, you get a score out of 100 (it's colour-coded, which makes it easy to scan along and find the good stuff) and anything under 59 is described as 'appalling'. It's quite fun to scroll through and find the 'appalling' vintages. 2002 Chateauneuf is a no-go.

4. The Telegraph's Interactive Vintage Chart

For pure megalolz and ultimate geekery, you can not get better than this. The Telegraph and Berry Brothers teamed up and very cleverly made an interactive vintage chart (it only covers French wine regions, I'm afraid) that means you can get all your wine smarts whilst having fun and looking at something pretty.

Not particularly practical if you need something on the go, but COME ON, it's an interactive wine chart. Interactive wine charts are cool.

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