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Wine Vintage

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | July 10, 2011

Wine vintage is a term used to classify wine and the year in which a wine was made. Grapes are an agricultural product and the vines on which they grow send out tendrils and shoots in the spring. Then flowers are produced around the month of June, and fruit develops during the summer months. The grapes are harvested in the autumn and then are vinified, which means to turn into wine. Grapes made into wine in the autumn of 2010 yield the vintage of 2010. Wine vintage describes the year in which 95 percent of the grapes were actually harvested.

Some wines are blended from more than one year. These are so called nonvintage wines, which do not carry a year on their label (some wines labeled as multi-vintage are a blend made from grapes produced in different years). They are identified as “N.V.”. Wine enthusiasts claim that the best wines are vintage wines, made entirely from the grapes of one harvest. Sophisticated wine tasters can often identify a particular vintage by its flavor characteristics, the traits that resulted from the kind of weather that occurred during that year as the grapes ripened. Wine vintages vary from region to region and reflect the personality of a season. Tasters can tell if it was cold, harsh, hot, rainy, dry and when the grapes were harvested. There are many other factors including the regions, micro climates and varying harvest times that can be different form vineyard to vineyard.

The multi-vintage designation is to reflect the fact that the vintners are purposefully blending wine from different years to achieve an improved flavor. It is often suggested that a vintage wine is one of superior quality, but that may not be necessarily true. Some vintages are simply considered better overall than others because the quality of the harvest varies from one year to another. An individual wine may be better or worse than others of a particular vintage because of the originating vineyard's climate or because of the winemaking process it underwent. An excellent year for a growing region translates to a generally superior quality, which means there are more choices for fine wines of that vintage. This means that consumers should view a vintage year only as a general guideline. In the end, each wine must be judged on its own merit. Sometimes your best bargain can be a sleeper from a generally known poor vintage.

Wine Vintage Charts

A wine vintage chart is a handy tool but it is important to recognize the associated limitations. You should take the generalizations of a vintage chart with more than a grain of salt. Excellent wines and great bargains often come from "off-vintages." The best use for a wine vintage chart is as an aging guide. You cannot assume these charts to be a tell-all as fact for any one defined wine region. Vintage charts are averages, and there are some very outstanding and some very poor wines included in almost any vintage year and from any region. Vintage charts are compiled by someone who has tastes and opinions which may or may not agree with yours. They are good guidelines, but not absolute guarantees of a good, or bad, wine drinking experience.

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