People get excited just at the mention of 1998. Everyone seems to have heard that it’s good. I’m not going to argue with that view, as it was clearly a superior season in our region.The dry and fine but mild weather conditions extended throughout the ripening period, well on into autumn. This resulted in a small crop of intensely flavoured grapes that were harvested at the peak of ripeness, producing classic ripe but well structured wines with excellent cellaring potential.
Our full bodied reds achieved nearly the same spectacular degrees of ripeness and alcohol of the opulently ripe 1997s but with much higher natural balancing acidity due to the cooler conditions.
This has given the 1998s more backbone and structure for ageing whilst still delivering great richness and depth of ripe fruit flavour. In this respect the 1998s are more similar in style to 1996, perhaps a little more intense.
So we have been blessed with a trio of outstanding quality vintages, with ’96 and ’98 sharing similar qualities and ’97 producing opulent ripeness in a softer style.
“Whether 1998 is the best of the three (making it a candidate for the best of the decade with ’90 and ’91) we don’t yet know. Time, as always, will tell.” (extract from our 1999 New Releases newsletter)
With time I would say 1998 has proven to be the best of the trio for us (there will always be others with a different view because of their own circumstances). I love the richness and depth in the wines combined with a firm tannin structure. If we made these wines today I believe they would be even better as we have improved our winemaking techniques to gain more extraction along with more complexity but these wines reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the time and the season as do any wines (especially reds).
Seasons as perfect as this come along only once every 5-10 years.