Journal | November 12, 2018
Why No 2018 Reds?
There’s been some puzzlement and confusion coming from Virginia wine enthusiasts who have been following the 2018 vintage. Narratives from individual wineries are quite diverse. So I feel compelled to explain Linden’s reason for deciding to pass on making any red wines.
In August, before ripening even began, we knew we would be greatly handicapped from our ultimate goal of producing concentrated, complex, long-lived, single vineyard reds. Sustained vigorous shoot growth signaled that the vines were not going to settle down and focus on ripening fruit. Instead, they continued to put their energy into vegetative growth.
As our hopes for a miraculous September weather turn-around waned, it became apparent that dedicating a large part of the red grape crop to rosé would be a smart option.
As harvest unfolds, if the weather turns uncooperative, winegrowers have to make quick and very critical “battlefield decisions.” Well into harvest we get physically and mentally fatigued. Decision-making becomes reactionary and intuitive. At this stage we rely heavily on our experiences from past vintages. This is one of the reasons that most vintners keep a library of older vintages. We can taste the results of our past decisions. This is especially useful in challenging vintages. Frankly, I did not care for the examples that came from rainy vintages. In those days I tried to “hang” the grapes through the rains hoping for additional ripening. But the wines had an unattractive “sweet/sour” note that comes from rot degradation of the clusters.
We held out hope that at least our best blocks could make serviceable Claret. Then came the prediction of yet another monsoon event. Every vineyard was walked and evaluated. Grapes were tasted. We unanimously declared 2018 would be 100% rosé.
So what triggered such a confident decision? The flavors were not ripe enough. The resulting red wine would taste green and vegetal. The juice was watery and dilute: any attempt at making a red wine with pleasurable mid-palate weight and texture was considered impossible. Skin tannins were underdeveloped depriving any potential red wine of length or suppleness. Finally, rot was just starting to appear in the more compact clusters. The fuse had been lit and the clock was ticking.
Linden’s decision to make no red wines reinforces our concept of terroir winemaking vs. cellar intervention. The wine is defined by the grapes.