Wine Word Wednesday: Vintage

Wine Word Wednesday: Vintage

Vintage is perhaps the most simple concept in wine.

Vintage is the year the grapes were harvested.

That's literally it. Vintage becomes relevant when we add in factors such as what the climate was the year, how many bottles were produced, and what year you are drinking that wine. 

What You Must Know about Vintage

  1. Vintage is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Although most critics may say Burgundy in 2016 was superior to Burgundy in 2015, this is subjective and done by people that live and breath wine - not the average drinker. Most consumers can't tell the difference from one year to the next, so there is not much value in hunting for certain famous vintages anyway. Unless, of course, you do have such a discerning palate. In which case you absolutely should explore what you like and invest in specifically that.
  2. Vintage matters because natural conditions in a particular place vary from year to year. Some years, like 2016 in Burgundy, had exceptional winemaking conditions. Others, like 2017 in California, were horrid. Those California fires not only killed a significant portion of the crop, but tainted others with gross smells from the smoke. If vintners weren't lucky enough to pick before the fires, their crop was likely destroyed and even the most casual wine drinker can still taste the smoke in many 2017 Napa and Sonoma wines.
  3. Most champagne is non-vintage (NV). This is because the weather is champagne is so awful it is difficult to get a harvest good enough to sell as a vintage. But when that rare year does come along, a "vintage champagne" is released and typically commands high prices for the higher quality. The same goes for port.

Good Vintages to Try

  • Champagne in 2012, 2013, and 2014
  • Burgundy in 2016, 2019, 2020
  • Napa in 2013, 2014, 2016
  • These are just three..what would you add?
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