Vintage
Overview
 
Vintage, in wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

-making, is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product ( see Harvest (wine)
Harvest (wine)
The harvesting of wine grapes is one of the most crucial steps in the process of winemaking. The time of harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels with winemakers basing their decision to pick based on the style of wine they wish to...

) . A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can denote quality, as in Port wine
Port wine
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties...

, where Port houses make and declare vintage Port in their best years. From this tradition, a common, though incorrect, usage applies the term to any wine that is perceived to be particularly old or of a particularly high quality.

Most countries allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine that is not from the year denoted on the label.
Encyclopedia
Vintage, in wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

-making, is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product ( see Harvest (wine)
Harvest (wine)
The harvesting of wine grapes is one of the most crucial steps in the process of winemaking. The time of harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels with winemakers basing their decision to pick based on the style of wine they wish to...

) . A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can denote quality, as in Port wine
Port wine
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties...

, where Port houses make and declare vintage Port in their best years. From this tradition, a common, though incorrect, usage applies the term to any wine that is perceived to be particularly old or of a particularly high quality.

Most countries allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine that is not from the year denoted on the label. In Chile and South Africa, the requirement is 75% same-year content for vintage-dated wine. In Australia, New Zealand, and the member states of the European Union, the requirement is 85%. In the United States, the requirement is 85%, unless the wine is designated with an AVA
American Viticultural Area
An American Viticultural Area is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau , United States Department of the Treasury....

, (e.g., Napa Valley), in which case it is 95%. Technically, the 85% rule in the United States applies equally to imports, but there are obvious difficulties in enforcing the regulation.

The opposite of a vintage wine is a nonvintage wine (often seen on a wine list as NV), which is usually a blend from the produce of two or more years. This is a common practice for winemakers seeking a consistent style of wine, year on year.

The effect of vintage disputed

The importance of vintage, however, is both varied and disputed.

In wine produced on the colder limits of wine production, vintage is often very important, because some seasons will be much warmer and produce riper grapes and better wine for people to drink. On the other hand, a poor growing season can lead to grapes low in sugar, which lowers the quality of the resulting wine.

In many wine regions, especially in the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

, growing seasons are much more uniform. In dry regions, the systematic and controlled use of irrigation also contributes to uniform vintages. However, such wines are regularly labeled by vintage because of consumer demand.

Wines of superior vintages from prestigious producers and regions will often command much higher prices than those from average vintages. This is especially the case if wines are likely to improve further with some age in the bottle. Some wines are only labeled with a vintage in better-than-average years, to maintain their quality and reputation, while the vast majority of wines are produced to be drunk young and fresh. In such cases, a vintage is usually considered less important. However, it can serve to protect consumers against buying a wine that would not be expected to improve with age and could be past its best, such as with Beaujolais nouveau
Beaujolais nouveau
Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November...

, a wine style made to be consumed within months of its bottling.

The importance of vintage may sometimes be exaggerated. For example, New York Times wine columnist Frank J. Prial
Frank J. Prial
Frank J. Prial, who graduated from Georgetown University in 1951, was the wine columnist for The New York Times for 25 years, writing the weekly "Wine Talk" column since 1972 until his retirement in 2005....

 declared the vintage chart to be dead, writing that "winemakers of the world have rendered the vintage chart obsolete" (Prial), and Bill Marsano wrote that "winemakers now have the technology and skills to make good and even very good wines in undistinguished years" (Marsano). James Laube
James Laube
James Laube is an American wine critic, writing for Wine Spectator since 1980, a full-time staff writer since 1983, with expertise on California wine...

 of Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator is a lifestyle magazine that focuses on wine and wine culture. It publishes 15 issues per year with content that includes news, articles, profiles, and general entertainment pieces...

has asserted that "even an average vintage can yield some grand wines" (Laube).

Roman Weil, co-chairman of the Oenonomy Society of the US and Professor at the University of Chicago, tested the controversial hypothesis that experienced wine drinkers "cannot distinguish in blind tastings the wine of years rated high from those of years rated low, or, if they can, they do not agree with the vintage chart's preferences" (Weil).

Dr. Weil used wines ranging from four to 17 years beyond their vintage with 240 wine drinkers and found that the tasters could not distinguish between wines of good and bad vintages, (except for Bordeaux wine
Bordeaux wine
A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world...

s), and even when they could make a distinction, the match between the tasters' individual assessments and the charts' rankings were little better than tossing a coin. When the tests were replicated with wine experts, including French wine
French wine
French wine is produced in several regions throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year, or 7–8 billion bottles. France has the world's second-largest total vineyard area, behind Spain, and is in the position of being the world's largest wine producer...

 academics, the results were again the same as chance.

Weil does not consider a vintage chart to be useless. He suggests using one to help "find good buys in wine. Buy wine from the Appalling years," which may be priced far below actual quality.

The subject of the importance of vintage is one about which disagreement can be expected to continue.

Miscellaneous

  • In Spain
    Spanish wine
    Spanish wines are wines produced in the southwestern European country of Spain. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has over 2.9 million acres planted—making it the most widely planted wine producing nation but it is the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest...

    , wine regulators publish official classifications of each vintage.
  • A common Bordelais
    Bordelais
    Bordelais is a French term meaning "of Bordeaux" and can refer to* an inhabitant of the city Bordeaux* the area surrounding the city Bordeaux* an inhabitant of the commune Les Bordes-sur-Lez* Bordeaux wine, or the Bordeaux wine region...

     saying is "The best vintage is the vintage we have to sell" (Greene).
  • Vintage can also mean of or pertaining to the vine.

Further reading

  • Greene, Joshua. "Bordeaux 2005". Wine & Spirits, June 2006, 25(3), 24-26.
  • Laube, James. "A caveat for Cabernet". Wine Spectator, June 15, 2006, 31(4), 37.
  • Prial, Frank J. "Wine talk: So who needs vintage charts". New York Times, February 9, 2000, B1 & B14.
  • Marsano, Bill. "Vintage nonsense". Hemisphere (United Airlines
    United Airlines
    United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...

    ' inflight magazine), May 2001.
  • Weil, Roman L. "Parker v. Prial: The death of the vintage chart". Oenometrie VIII. Eighth annual meeting of the Vineyard Data Quantification Society (VDQS) in

External links

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