Thursday, September 20, 2007

NV/MV: Nothing Wrong With That!

When you see NV (non vintage) on a wine bottle, what does it say to you? Does is say, "run away, this is a not very good wine?" Do you find yourself going past NV bottlings in wine stores in search of something with a vintage on it, even if you know nothing about vintages and aren't even sure that vintages matter in under $10 California syrah or chardonnay? Have you ever bought an NV wine that wasn't a sparkler?

It is my opinion, wine lovers, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with NV wines. I've had NV sparklers, reds, and whites. I don't recall that I've ever had a bottle that wasn't good to drink and awfully good value for the money. But NV wines still carry something of a stigma about them. To combat this prejudice, some vineyards are now labeling their formerly NV wines as "MV" wines--multiple vintage--to make the case that what you are drinking is actually a blend of juice made from grapes picked during different harvests. If you are already drinking blended varietals, why not blended vintages?

Now it is true that many NV or MV wines do not have the distinctive character that sets apart their vintage-designated siblings. Climate and growing conditions alter the quality and quantity of every harvest, and one of the things I love about drinking wine is that each vintage can differ from those that have preceded it. That's one of the reasons wine buffs love vertical tastings. But if you're looking for a good, everyday wine don't neglect the NV or MV bottles you might stumble across in the wine shops.

During the past year I've had more than 30 NV or MV wines, many of them sparkling wines from the US, France, and Italy. But I've also had some good still wines like the NV Sharpe Hill Vineyard Ballet of Angels, and the NV Saint-Cosme Little James's Basket Press. My most recent foray into NV still wines came about with the help of domaine547, who gave me a bottle of the NV Ojai Vineyards Ojai Red to try. ($19.99, domaine547) Ojai Vineyards make some superb syrah and pinot noir, which is outside of my normal, everyday wine price range so I was excited to be able to taste their much more affordable NV bottling. It was a very good mystery blend that clearly is based on syrah grapes. I thought it might contain some pinot noir, given its blueberry aromas, but domaine547 is sticking to the syrah theory! It's color was dark ruby, almost purple, and in addition to blueberries I smelled plums and rose petals. Tasting the wine, I detected blackberries and blueberries, freshly cracked pepper, and just a touch of cedar. The wine wrapped things up with a brambly finish of berries, herbs, and more cedar. This was a complex wine, and it took a while for it to open up and really shine, but when it did it was so enjoyable, and represented very good QPR.

So next time you see a NV or MV wine, don't just pass it by. Give it a try.


Richard A. said...

One of my favorite wines is NV, Sean Thackrey Pleaides. Though each new bottling is given a Roman numeral, the grapes are from different vintages. And this is certainly a wine where each bottling is very different and has much character. This is a NV wine that can stand up to vintage competition.

Wine Scamp said...

I really enjoy Sokol Blosser's blends: Meditrina and Evolution. They're multi-varietal, multi-state, multi-vintage bottles of yumminess! Really, if a wine is distinctive, well-made and tastes good, who am I to quibble about vintages?

Jill said...

richard...pleaides XVI coming soon!j

Richard A. said...

Great news Jill! I will definitely want to get a case of that when it comes out.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the reminders about some great wines I haven't had in a while! Thackrey--yum. Haven't had one in years, but I do remember loving them. And I've had Evolution, but not Meditrina. Have to look for that. The Thackrey reminds me of Gundlach-Bundschu Bearitage (also numbers) and Lolonis Ladybug (also numbers). Taste is the thing, though, as Wine Scamp points out.