We've received a growing number of inquiries over the last few months about how our older wines are evolving in bottle from customers who have the wines in their cellars and are wondering if the wines are ready to drink. We've had a rudimentary vintage chart on our Web site for a while; you can see just how rudimentary it was in the post where I introduced it from December 2006. But, it didn't have our small-production wines, and it didn't capture all the complexity I wanted it to. Rhone wines, particularly those based on Mourvedre and Roussanne, go through stages of openness and closedness (if that's a word) depending on their evolution and the wine's inherent character. The model of a linear evolution for these wines, or even a simple bell curve (where a wine improves for a while, peaks, and then declines) doesn't capture the reality that we see.
So, I created some more categories in the vintage chart, including three different levels of maturity (early, peak and late) as well as two "hold" phases (too young, and closed phase). This is still shorthand, but it's hopefully a useful tool for people who are wondering what stage their wine is at at the moment. The basic chart is below (click on it for a larger image), or we also have a PDF-format vintage chart that can be printed for easy reference.
On a related note, I'm really pleased to be receiving this level of evidence that our customers are laying down our wines. We very much try to make wines that will grow in complexity and depth with time, and it's often discouraging to read how 90% of wines (or more) are drunk within a few weeks of purchase. Of course, most wines are really not built for aging, but I think that many people in the industry make the discouraging leap that it's therefore not worth making ageable wines. I would argue to opposite: that if you make ageworthy wines, there is an audience who will be excited to find you and who will support your efforts. Even ten percent of the US wine market is still enormous!