Keeping inventory in a wine store can be quite tedious. Trying to find shelf space and keep the vintages separate can drive many people crazy which is why I decided to write about this subject. Vintage, …what is it? Is it really Important? Hopefully I can explain how sometimes vintage can mean something good but not in all situations.
Let’s start at the basics. The word vintage, especially when used to talk about fashion can mean old or outdated. Like a vintage vest from the seventies, sometimes trends and popularity might bring it back in style. With wine, it is a bit different. A vintage wine is a wine produced from a particular area in a particular year. Most wine labels will show a vintage although some countries do allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine not from that year. The percentages of the ratio allowed vary from country to country but it is anywhere from 75% to 95%. Sometimes this is allowed because it will help with the consistency of the taste of the wine. So the vintage expresses the year the wine was produced and all the vintages can be rated by a vintage chart.
A vintage chart is a list of all the vintages ranging from many years and determines which years were good years. Now there are a lot of factors that go into a vintage chart to determine what years were good or bad. Many of these factors include climate, region, weather, etc. Every year is different and seasons can affect the wine. Even the slightest change in temperature or an extended harvest, late harvest, or early harvest can determine if you are going to have a great wine. Many of these charts you can find through major wine publications such as: Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Etc. Sometimes major ecological changes or sudden acts of nature like hurricanes or tsunamis can affect the production and harvest of grapes and so many refer to these charts to pick wine.
If a particular region had a great vintage year, it doesn’t mean all the wine from that area is going to be great but it is an assumption that most likely the wine will be good. So it is possible to have a bad wine from a good vintage and the vintage chart is just an estimate and doesn’t guarantee great wines. Many use it as a guide with the combination of critic’s opinions and cross referenced, one can generally know which wine to try based on percentages.
Whether a vintage is important is debatable. Sometimes the importance can be exaggerated and through technological farming advances, it is possible to produce good wines in undistinguished years. Now how important this information matters depends on what wines you buy. Sometimes this vintage system can protect the pricing of aging popular wines and maintain quality. Other times vintage truly just doesn’t matter.
Wine that need to be consumed young and have no aging potential are generally the exception to the vintage charts. It really doesn’t matter what year your wine is from if it doesn’t have aging ability. Many times people come in asking for a 2008 Carlo Rossi which is comical because these table wines usually don’t list a vintage because of their short shelf life. So the importance of vintage matters on the wine. If you are a die hard collector and or buying a gift for someone who loves wine, then it is beneficial. If you are just buying a wine to drink with dinner, than it doesn’t really matter much. As always I wish you good eats, good friends, and great wine.
Further reading: Selecting the Right Wine Store